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How To Release and Relax Through Your Core

Learning how to release and relax through your core during pregnancy is extremely important for properly strengthening your deep core, preventing diastasis recti and preparing your body for labor, delivery and recovery postpartum. 

I see women all the time trying so hard to activate their pelvic floor that they end up gripping in their glutes or sucking their belly to their spine. These actions shut off the pelvic floor and can cause more harm than good (think incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction + more).

Instead, I want you to embrace the idea that less is more. When you go through this exercise, I want you to listen to your body and not force anything. If you don’t feel the connection right away, that is completely ok! Visualization is a powerful tool because once the mind understands what the body should be doing, the body is quick to follow!

Breath Exercise

I want you to sit up tall and take a deep breath into your belly, pelvis and pelvic floor.

On your exhale, let your ribs, hips, pelvis and pelvic floor relax as you are finding space in your body with your breath.

If you are tight in certain areas (ex: obliques), breathe deep into those muscles and tell them that it’s okay to relax.

Feel connected with your body?

Good! Now, let’s dive into some movement. Here are two exercises you can do to help create space in your body, lengthen that fascia and begin strengthening your pelvic floor.

Arch + Rounds

You are first going to want to get on your knees and double up your mat or put a towel underneath your knees if needed.

While on all fours, send your sitz bones back (boney part of your bum) and remember…DON’T tuck your pelvis.

Place your heels together while reaching your arms forward and letting your head just hang.

On your inhale, do a pelvic tilt as you slightly round your back and then on your exhale, go back to neutral.

As always, keep a light pelvic floor connection as you move through this exercise.

Mermaid Stretch

Place one arm behind you as you activate your glutes and lightly zip up from your pelvic floor.

Press up and extend your arm if that feels good for your body. On your inhale, you’re going to visualize your breath going down the sides of your body.

Stay in that position and take a few breaths before you come back down. Repeat this movement 3-5 times on each side.

Learning how to release and relax through your core during pregnancy can not only help you during pregnancy, but postpartum as well! For more information, workouts, nutrition information and more, check out my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership!

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What Your Mucus Plug Has To Do With Labor

As a Birth Doula, I love a well-timed call to let me know that my client has lost her mucus plug!

Just, me? Okay moving on!

This is one of the first signs of true labor and a great indication that the baby will be arriving soon. However, I use the term “soon” loosely as it can still be a few hours or days.

Here’s What A Mucus Plug Is:

According to AmericanPregnancy.org, a mucus plug blocks the opening of the cervix to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus.

As the cervical blood vessels rupture and the cervix begins to thin and dilate, the plug will fall out, ideally, between 37-41 weeks. If you think your plug has fallen out early (before 37 weeks or full term) make sure to notify your care team. 

The mucus plug will either come out in pieces or one large chunk and can be various shades and colors. Pink, yellow, white, and brown-tinged mucus is considered normal. If you are experiencing any bleeding, red-colored mucus or a big increase in discharge along with or in addition to the plug, I recommend you call and send a picture to your care team. 

Here’s How Your Mucus Plug Relates To Labor:

The time between plug loss and active labor will vary from mother to mother. Some mamas can lose their plug, their water breaks and then they can deliver the baby within hours. Some will see weeks pass from plug loss to labor.

If you experience a large time frame from when you lose your mucus plug to your due date, you’ll want to ask your care team a couple things: 

  • Is it safe to bathe after plug loss?
  • Is it safe to have sex after plug loss?
  • Is it safe to swim after plug loss?

Some providers do not recommend these activities because of the risk of infection. 

In general, after plug loss, it’s a good idea to stay released and relaxed. Make sure your bag is packed and your birth ball is inflated because baby is coming soon!

Is there anything else you’d like to learn more about from me? Let me know on Instagram or in the Knocked-Up Fitness private members community!

To learn more about our monthly membership that helps pregnant mamas prepare their bodies for pregnancy, birth and postpartum recovery, click >>HERE<<.

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Side-Lying Leg Lifts

Ladies, I am a huuuuge fan of mixing up your movement practice during pregnancy.

I mean we all know how pregnancy goes, one day you want to eat the whole jar of pickles and the next you can barely stand the smell of them!

What I’m saying is our body craves variety when it comes to movement and during pregnancy, it’s no different.

So today I want to show you a hip strengthening exercise that I LOVE.

These side-lying leg lifts are great because they are great in helping to minimize (and even prevent) back pain + hip pain. Even better news is that this movement can be done throughout your ENTIRE pregnancy as well as postpartum.

Side-Lying Leg Lifts
  • Lay down on your mat
  • Relaxing your head and neck
  • Your bottom knee is bent
  • Your top leg is out
  • Do your best to keep your hips stacked
    • If you are in your third trimester, you can put a pillow under your belly (make sure you are still connecting through your deep core)
  • Lightly zip up through your pelvic floor and deep core
  • Reach long through your heel
  • Reach out and lift
    • ONLY work through a range of motion that feels good for your body
    • If you feel ANY stress in your low back, decrease your range of motion
  • Control your movement on the way up as well as the way down
    • Controlling your movement on the way down is an excellent way to get stronger, faster!
  • Do 10-12 reps and then switch sides 
    • When you come up, make sure you use your arms to push you up! 

Make sure you are staying connected through your pelvic floor as you move through these side-lying leg lifts. If you feel any tension creeping into your back, take a break and then do a couple more. 

Side-lying leg lifts are a great movement for increasing stability, strengthening those outer hips and preventing any hip or back pain from creeping in! 

For more exercise breakdowns, easy to follow workout schedule and more, join us in our Knocked-Up Fitness® Prenatal Membership >>HERE!<<

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Everything You Need To Know About Using Coffee As A Pre-Workout Supplement

I get a kick out of working out and I love it – who’s with me?

From weight training to running outdoors, you just can’t beat the endorphin hit that follows a great training session.

Without giving it much consideration, my morning routine has always been: wake up, cup of black coffee, then off to the gym or out for a run – the buzz it gives me takes me from a groggy, bleary eyed mess to energised and ready for action.

As my fitness journey has progressed, I’ve often looked into pre-workout alternatives but continued to wonder: is coffee actually a valid choice before a workout?

Can you use coffee instead of pre-workout? Is coffee a healthy choice?

Well, I’ve done my research. In this article, you’ll find out why and how coffee could help you secure those sought-after gains.

What is pre-workout?

The first thing we need to address here is:

What actually is pre-workout? What is it made of?

Pre-workout is a dietary supplement you can take to help aid your performance in the gym, out on a run or before any exercise you enjoy.

The idea is that it gives you a powerful energy boost to kick start your activity, and helps you to perform at your best, every time.

Pre-workout, like most supplements, generally comes in powdered form or in capsules. It’s usually best to take them about an hour before your workout to receive all the benefits. But what’s the magic ingredient that supposedly gives you all this energy and performance power?

The truth is, there isn’t one.

That being said, there is a core list of components that are often found in pre-workouts, although the amount of each varies. These compounds are: caffeine, creatine, amino acids, and B vitamins.

Oh – and, if the product is powdered, you’ll likely find it contains artificial sweeteners so that it doesn’t taste awful.

Why coffee works as a pre-workout supplement

The most useful ingredient in coffee for using it as a pre-workout is – you guessed it – caffeine. Let’s dive in a little deeper.

How much caffeine is in coffee?

A typical cup of filter coffee contains, on average, 120mg of caffeine. Instant coffee pulls this figure back to around 75mg and an espresso shot is only around 63mg (but that’s in a much smaller volume of water!).

What does caffeine do to the body?

Focus shot of a man with pliers on his tongue with a caption, When you run out of pre-workout and have to improvise, useless suppliements

Caffeine works at a cellular level, interrupting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase, which normally breaks down cAMP (Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate).

This means you end up with more cAMP in your cells, which leads to increased activity in heart muscle cells, more activity in brain cognitive processing, increased muscle glycogen breakdown (delivering more energy to your muscles) and it even promotes enzymes that break up fat tissue.

How does this relate to my workout?

As you know, caffeine causes your heart to beat faster. This allows oxygen to travel around the body quicker for energy metabolism wherever it’s needed. You also think clearer, sharper and react faster.

You feel like a superhuman.

Your muscles are able to use stored energy from food (glycogen to work harder. Your body breaks down more fat tissue for energy during the workout, which is great for athletic performance and weight loss.

For all intents and purposes, you are kinda superhuman, temporarily.

Are there any other health benefits in coffee?

Short answer: Yes, loads.

Diterpenes

Cafestol and Kahweol are two diterpenes found in coffee – and the former has been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, by increasing cells’ sensitivity to insulin and improving cell uptake of glucose. This lowers blood glucose and, therefore, the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, an epidemiological study has also proposed Cafestol and Kahweol are protective against cancer.

The studies they looked at showed that these diterpenes help produce enzymes that support the body in producing protective antioxidants. They not only protect the cells but also play a role in repairing damaged DNA and killing off defective cells that can’t be repaired.

This is hugely significant as DNA damage is the first step towards cancer developing in the body.

Melanoidins

Melanoidins are large, deep brown coloured molecules found in coffee and have been linked to tons of positive health benefits.

Similar to diterpenes, they help contribute to antioxidant cell protection. They act in your gut to help maintain the balance of good bacteria and help prevent harmful bacteria growing.

In laboratory studies, melanoidins have been shown to suppress cancer cell growth. If all this isn’t enough already, they also help modulate your body’s detoxification system to remove harmful substances.

Trigonelline

Convinced yet? Here’s another one for you.

Trigonelline is found in lots of different plants, veg and grains (like fenugreek, peas, oats) but most importantly it’s found in coffee – of course.

It’s been shown to protect against diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity-related ailments, by lowering blood glucose and blood triglycerides. As with diterpenes and melanoidins, it also displays plenty of antioxidant properties.

How do antioxidants help my workout?

These components might not directly affect your workout capacity.

However:

We’re playing the long game with these benefits.

In order for your muscles to grow, when you work out, they have to suffer lots of impact and microdamage so they can heal stronger than before. Your body works hard to repair your muscles post-workout and needs plenty of supplies in order to do so.

This is where antioxidants help.

They prevent the negative effects of cell damage and remove toxic by-products from your system. Alongside a healthy, balanced diet, a cup of coffee can give you that much needed antioxidant boost to help you recover faster and get back in the gym again.

Can you drink too much coffee?

Caffeine causes a temporary increase in blood pressure, which was once thought to be negatively associated with cardiovascular disease. However, this effect seems to have little impact on cardiovascular health.

Caffeine is a mild stimulant, so if you suffer from insomnia then coffee certainly won’t help.

Caffeine normally takes five hours to clear from your system but, for some people, it can take up to nine hours – so maybe go easy on the lattes if you find it difficult to nod off or, at least, stop after 2pm.

It’s also an important watch out that most pre-workout mixtures contain higher levels of caffeine than your average cup of joe too, so bear this in mind if you’re trying alternatives.

Another issue with caffeine is anxiety. The jittery, stimulant effects of caffeine can worsen symptoms associated with anxiety and, in rare cases, can lead to panic attacks. If you suffer with these symptoms, then a pre-workout is probably not ideal for you.

Finally let’s discuss digestive upsets. Coffee is a diuretic but also has activity on your guts. If you neglect to drink enough water with coffee you can become dehydrated which can lead to constipation. Not ideal for overall health and certainly not helpful for exercise performance.

The point is that diuretics do not cause diarrhea, they cause excess urination, which can lead to dehydration. So I recommend saying either “coffee is a diuretic so can lead to you needing a wee during your workout” or “coffee has activity on your guts so, yes, it can lead to the runs” and just leave out the diuretic part.

Not ideal for overall health and certainly not helpful when you’re in the middle of benching your PB.

How much coffee is best before a workout?

So, we’ve discussed all the benefits and potential risks of introducing a cup of coffee prior to a workout. The next point to cover is how much coffee will give you the optimum caffeine boost without risking the jitters.

As this study suggests, 300-400mg of caffeine per day is the safe upper limit. That’s just over three cups of filter coffee (at 120mg per cup), just over five cups of instant (75mg per cup) or 6 espresso shots (63mg caffeine).

That’s your total consumption for the day – but, remember, people metabolise caffeine differently so higher levels can be safer in different people. The type and brew of coffee can also affect these values too.

Generally, you can follow this rule for drinking coffee before a workout: 3-6mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. So, for a 68kg individual (150 pounds) 200-400mg is ideal.

It also normally takes about half an hour for the caffeine in coffee to be fully absorbed in your system, but can take up to 90 minutes. For the best results, drink a cup about an hour before you plan to start working out.

How should I take my coffee?

The answer here comes back to personal preference. How do you like your coffee brewed?

Whether it’s freshly ground and made into an espresso or quick and instant, just monitor how much caffeine you’re drinking and you’re good to go.

As for adding extras, it’s generally considered that black is best. Pure, unadulterated coffee contains all the benefits you need for an energetic workout. If black coffee just isn’t for you, then adding a dash of milk shouldn’t have much of a negative affect – just don’t turn it into a big, creamy latte.

And that’s it, all you need to know about using coffee as a pre-workout supplement. Experiment with what works for you and your body – then go forth and use it to go hard at your workouts. Enjoy the ride.

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3 Exercises To Get Rid Of Back Pain

As a prenatal exercise specialist, hundreds of women come to me to help them in decreasing their aches and pains.

*I work with neck pain…hip pain…and that all too common low back pain.*

So, I’m going to share with you 3 exercises to get rid of back pain, sciatica pain and hip pain during pregnancy.

These movements are great for all trimesters and can be done from the comfort of your own home. Okay…grab your soft foam roller and let’s break it down!

Wiggle Stretch
  • Start with your foam roller up by your tail bone
  • Open up across your chest
  • Really lengthen tall, using your mid-back muscles
  • As you roll, round your spine
  • When you come up, be sure to lengthen tall and lift across your chest
  • Repeat a couple of times
  • Now, start to wiggle back and forth
  • Push gently into your foam roller and work up towards your low back, down toward your tail bone
  • If you feel some restriction in your fascia, this is great for helping to release those areas
Upper Glute Release
  • Place the foam roller at an angle on your hip
  • Round your sine and gently push into your upper glute
  • Massage it down the hip
  • These are really great for opening up those upper glutes and hips
Hip Rolls
  • Place your foam roller off to the side
  • If you’re not comfortable being on your back, you can do a standing cat cow with a chair
  • Roll down onto your side, then onto your back
  • Place your legs out wide with your toes pointed in
  • Your knees can lightly touch each other
  • Lightly activate your pelvic floor and deep core
  • Move into your pelvic tilt
  • Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings lightly and roll up one vertebra at a time
  • Wrap around those ribs
  • Do a few pulses 
  • Slowly roll down one vertebra at a time
  • Do a few more of these 
  • Roll to your side then come up

So there you have it, mama: 3 exercises to get rid of back pain.

By doing these movements on a daily basis, you will help to keep mobility in your low back, alleviate pain and maintain good posture throughout your pregnancy.

For more pregnancy safe workouts, small group coaching calls and more, join us in our Knocked-Up Fitness® Prenatal Membership >>HERE!<<

For more exercises, workouts and pregnancy information, check out my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership.

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Kneeling Side Reaches

I love kneeling side reaches because they are great for creating space and opposition throughout the body and opening up those hips + chest. AND…you can do these throughout your entire pregnancy! 

To get started, grab a mat. If you’re on a hard surface, you might want to think about doubling up your mats for some additional cushion. 

Full Kneeling Side Reaches
  1. Take your bottom leg and really wrap around your hip
  2. Actively open up the front of your hips
  3. Lightly connect through your pelvic floor + deep core
    1. Lightly hugging your baby
  4. Place your hand on the floor, opening up across your chest
  5. Think about getting that expansion across your shoulders
  6. Take your top leg and top arm up, creating that great opposition throughout your body
  7. On your exhale, bring your elbow and leg toward each other
  8. Use your glutes so you don’t dump into your low back
  9. NOTE: If you’re in your 3rd trimester, focus on rounding your back and only moving through a range of motion that feels good for your body
  10. On your inhale, open up, staying connected through your body 
  11. Look up towards your fingertips for even more opposition
  12. On your exhale, look down and repeat 
  13. Do 5-10 reps on each side
  14. You can add a few side lying leg lifts for some additional work!
Modifications
  1. Option 1: Instead of doing kneeling side reaches, you can lie on your side and just do 10-20 side lying leg lifts on each side. 
  2. Option 2: Mermaid. These are great for some upper body work as well as getting that opposition throughout your body.

Remember to only work through a range of motion that feels good for your body and stay connected through your deep core + pelvic floor!

If you are ready for more prenatal movements like this one, you need to join us in my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership.

It includes weekly workout schedules, TONS of workouts to choose from and access to our prenatal coaches whenever you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed. Join us >>HERE!<<

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Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant

Getting pregnant and staying pregnant affects more women than you may think. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, around 6.1 million women in the United States have difficulty becoming pregnant or staying pregnant.  

Because this is a topic that affects so many women, I invited Dr. Gleaton, a certified OBGYN and Medical Director of Natalist, to talk about all-things fertility and pregnancy-related. 

Nobody expects to have a journey of infertility. When this happens, women oftentimes feel isolated and ashamed. Ladies…if you are struggling with getting pregnant or staying pregnant, we have a great resource for you! Natalist was created to educate women in all stages of motherhood. It is a free resource that is fact-checked and backed by science!

“No matter your journey to motherhood, we are here to support you through it. As moms and doctors, we promise to provide you with only the best evidence-based products.” ~Dr. Gleaton

Throughout my interview with Dr. Gleaton, we talk about a variety of topics and answer a lot of your questions: 

  1. What is infertility
  2. How can you boost your fertility
  3. What factors impact fertility
  4. What can cause infertility
  5. Why more women struggling with infertility

If you’re ready to learn more, I highly recommend listening to this interview and checking out Natalist!

Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

IG: @kenoshagleatonmd

Website: www.natalist.com

Bio: Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board certified in gynecology and obstetrics. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Gleaton is a Scrubs Camp instructor, a program to increase student entry in healthcare, and serves as a Compassion International adoptive parent. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women. 

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Single Leg Booty Reaches

Single leg booty reaches are a great exercise to do during pregnancy because they help to strengthen the booty, hips and keep pain out of the low back! 

I recommend using a chair for these to help support your body during this movement. Let’s get started!!

  • Lightly activate your pelvic floor 
  • Bring your left leg up and through, keeping your right leg soft
  • Extend your left leg back, really reaching through your toes
  • Make sure you are staying activated through your pelvic floor and deep core
  • Pulse three times
  • Swivel your hip around and bring your leg through
  • Repeat 3-5 times and then switch sides

I highly recommend incorporating these side leg booty reaches into your daily routine to help keep your body strong during your pregnancy! Keeping your body strong is SO important because it helps to prevent aches + pains, prepare your body for labor + delivery and sets you up for a faster recovery postpartum. 

For all things pregnancy-related, check out my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership. As a member you get:

  • An on-boarding call with one of the prenatal coaches
  • Opportunity to join monthly group coaching calls
  • Workouts
  • Tutorials
  • Trimester guides
  • Nutrition information
  • Recipes
  • Meal plans
  • Erica’s Push Prep Method
  • Access to the exclusive support group
  • AND SO MUCH MORE!

Are you ready to get moving?

If so, join us in our Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership. Not only does it come with everything listed above, but you will stay confident, strong + feeling your best during your entire pregnancy. Learn more >>HERE!<<

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Postpartum Recovery with Dr. Christine Maren

Listen closely ladies: postpartum recovery is not limited to one year after having your baby.

I know so many of us are convinced that you are no longer considered postpartum after one year of having baby. AND some of you even strive to reach that one-year mark because it’s thought that all postpartum symptoms will just go away. I mean, that would just make our lives easier right? BUT…postpartum recovery AND postpartum health aren’t that simple.

I invited board-certified physician, Dr. Christine Maren, on the Core Connections podcast to teach you how to thrive postpartum and beyond.

Instead of learning to live with the “new normal”, you CAN take control of your postpartum recovery! Becoming your own health advocate, learning new lifestyle habits and wellness practices can make a drastic improvement in how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally!

Ladies, being aware, being knowledgable and being on top of your health can allow you not only heal symptoms in your body but prevent them from ever happening.

So this is Dr. Maren and I sharing our knowledge with you…not only as women’s health professionals but as moms who want you to get your life back to thriving postpartum + beyond.

If you’re ready to hear how to find better solutions, plug-in those headphones and take a listen. Things are about to get real good and it all starts with clicking play >>HERE!<<

IG: @drchristinemaren

Website: www.drchristinemaren.com

Bio: Christine Maren D.O. is a board-certified physician and the founder of an innovative, virtual functional medicine practice in Colorado, Michigan and Texas. She is also the co-founder of Hey Mami (pronounced: “Mommy”), a platform dedicated to helping women throughout the stages of motherhood.

Dr. Maren was introduced to functional medicine after struggling with pregnancy complications and recurrent miscarriages. A functional medicine approach helped her address her own underlying health issues associated with gut infections, hypothyroidism, hormone imbalance and mold toxicity.

Now a mother of three, she’s devoted her professional life to helping other modern day moms optimize their health before pregnancy, thrive postpartum and get their life back. Dr. Maren is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP). She is a compassionate clinician, speaker and wellness advocate. She is married to a surgeon and together they balance rewarding careers with raising three beautiful children. Learn more at drchristinemaren.com.

Looking For This? Ideal thyroid lab parameters that were talked about in this episode can be found >>HERE<<.

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Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

Spaghetti squash may be a signature fall and winter veggie, but we are here for it becoming a summer staple thanks to this non-traditional spin on Pad Thai — a light and colorful family fave!

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Minimize + Heal Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy

I have talked to thousands of women about diastasis recti during pregnancy. You know the most common question I get about it?

No, mama, it’s not how to pronounce it…because to each their own on that one!

>>How can I test to see if I have diastasis recti during pregnancy?<<

I don’t test any of my pregnant clients and I don’t recommend you test yourself either. You are ideally going to want to wait until you are 8-10 weeks postpartum before you try to test for diastasis recti for yourself.

But, before we go any further, let’s reframe the way we talk about diastasis. Instead of attaching fear to the topic of diastasis recti, I want you to start thinking about this as something you can work to prevent, minimize and heal.

Here are a few key items to pay attention to:

1. Coning of the belly. If you experience any coning of the belly (ridge or bump instead of your round belly), this is your body’s way of telling you that you are putting too much pressure on your Linea Alba (the fibrous structure that runs down the midline of your abdominals). If this occurs, stop doing that particular exercise temporarily.

2. Use your breath. Your breath has a huge impact on how you feel physically, mentally + emotionally. I want you to sit on a mat, chair or ball at home and just breathe. On your inhale, visualize your breath going deep into your low back and pelvis. On your exhale, visualize all the tension leaving your body. Repeat this several times. Using this exercise throughout your day can help you destress, relax and alleviate tension throughout your body.

3. Connect through your pelvic floor + deep core. Knowing how to properly engage and release your pelvic floor and low belly is key to minimizing, preventing and healing Diastasis Recti. AND…the best time to learn this is during pregnancy because you have that tactile feedback from your baby. 

At the end of the day, what it comes down to is if you are bringing awareness to the way you are holding your bump.

If the answer is yes, then you are on the right track.

And when you start to make these connections in your body, I hope you begin to understand the potential of being able to feel better stronger and more empowered after baby.

Because you’ve got this mama.

If you’d like even MORE information on diastasis recti during pregnancy, check out my Knocked-Up Fitness® Membership! It is full of educational tutorials, workouts, trimester guides, nutrition information, recipes, meal plans, my Push Prep Method designed to help ease your labor and delivery process and SO much more. We can’t wait for you to join us >>HERE!<<

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The Best Mileage & Time-Tracking Apps + Gadgets for Running & Walking

Whether you’re looking to go for a casual jog or walk around the block with your kids for fun, want to run a few miles solo to help your anxiety and/or stress levels, run with a mission to fuel your body and your mind for Strength in Motherhood™, or are looking to train for an upcoming race (pssstt…sign up for our First Annual Community in Motherhood Virtual Run for Charity HERE), it’s a great idea to track your time and distance. It’s motivating, empowering, and can help you stay accountable (we suggest having a friend or group to text mileage to if you’re training or have weight-loss goals); it’s so helpful to stay on top of your goals when you have a gang who’s rooting for you.

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Toning Arms While Pregnant

Let’s start toning arms while pregnant!

Listen, we know that pregnancy is full of changes, so we are here to help you through those postural shifts, minimize your neck pain and say bye-bye to low back pain.

But before we get started, the number one thing that we want you to remember when performing these movements is to lightly connect through your deep core and low belly FIRST!

Now, grab a pair of lightweights (or no weights at all) and let’s get moving!

Triceps Kickbacks
  1. Take your legs shoulder-width apart
  2. Lightly connect through your pelvic floor and deep core
  3. Soften your knees and stick your booty back
    • Make sure you are not tucking your bum
  4. Open up across your chest
  5. Place your elbows at your side
  6. Squeeze your triceps and press
  7. Make sure you are using your mid-back muscles 
  8. Release and repeat for 10-15 reps 
Shoulder Raises
  1. Lightly connect through your pelvic floor and deep core
  2. Lengthen tall through the top of your head
  3. Open up across your chest
    • Make sure you avoid rolling your shoulders forward
  4. Scoop your elbows down and up as you lift them
  5. Lead with your elbows
  6. Control your movement on the way up as well as on the way down
  7. Release and repeat for 10-15 reps 
Reverse Flyes
  1. Take your legs shoulder-width apart
  2. Lightly connect through your pelvic floor and deep core
  3. Soften your knees and stick your booty back
    • Make sure you are not tucking your bum
  4. Open up across your chest
  5. Lift your arms back
  6. Make sure your mid-back is doing the majority of the work
  7. Release and repeat for 10-15 reps 

When you go to stand up from each of the exercises, make sure you are using your deep core and staying out of your low back. 

As you can see, working toning arms while pregnant can help you stay strong during this bumpin’ time and help to avoid those nagging aches + pains.

Now before you take what you’ve learned here with you throughout your day, we want to invite you to join us in this FREE pregnancy workout that is bump approved!

The post Toning Arms While Pregnant appeared first on Knocked-Up Fitness®.

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Important Tips For Lifting During Pregnancy

Do you ever look down at your bump and ask yourself how you are going to be able to do lifting during pregnancy when you can’t even see the floor?

Don’t let your bump hold you back!

That bump can seem to be in the way of a lot of things, but through this 2-minute video, you are going to learn that it doesn’t have to hold you back from picking things up off the ground!

Follow these steps to properly lift and avoid dumping into your back:
  • On your exhale, lightly connect through your pelvic floor and deep core
    • Properly connecting through your pelvic floor and low belly provides your low back with additional support and can help you avoid those nagging aches + pains
  • Stagger your stance by putting one foot in front of the other
    • Switch up which foot is forward to help keep your body balanced 
  • Lower down
  • Remain lengthened through the base of your pelvis to the top of your head 
    • Avoid leaning forward because all the weight will go to your lower back
  • On your inhale, use your hamstrings and glutes to help lift you up

See ladies, back pain can be avoided during pregnancy.

The more you use these important tips for lifting during pregnancy, the stronger your body can get and the more you can avoid those aches + pains during pregnancy.

That’s what we are all about here at Knocked-Up Fitness®. We are here to want to ensure that you and your bump are supported during every step of your pregnancy.

Sound like something you need in your life?

We know that you want more from us, so sign up for our FREE Pregnancy Workout Video! Not only are the movements safe and effective, but it’s bump approved! Sign up for the workout >>HERE!<<

The post Important Tips For Lifting During Pregnancy appeared first on Knocked-Up Fitness®.

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7 Instant Pot Vegetarian Recipes

I’ve put together a list of seven vegetarian recipes I like to cook using my Instant Pot. I like using a multicooker (instead of a regular stove-top) because it’s faster, simpler, and the cooking technique keeps nutrients in the dish.

So, if you want to keep living healthy and enjoy life as a vegetarian, here are some recipes for you to try:

1 Baked Potatoes

This is a recipe for baked potatoes, and since we’re using an Instant Pot, the time needed for cooking is cut in half. So, you won’t have to wait by the oven and keep checking on the potatoes to make sure they’re at the right temperature all the time!

You can find the ingredients and full recipe here, but the process is quite simple. You simply put halved red potatoes in the inner pot of your IP cooker and set the pot according to instructions. When the cooking is done, you’ll have a delicious meal that can be served with a salad or any other side dish you want.

2 Tacos

food-for-fitness-tacos

Who said you can’t have good fast-food when you’re a vegetarian? I know that many big food chains offer vegetarian versions of their menus, but the taste is never up to standards (at least that’s how I see it).

So, why not make your own fast-food that’s healthy, fresh, and tastes amazing? This Instant Pot tacos recipe proves you can do it without too much fuss over ingredients. In addition, you don’t have to fight over who does the dishes after you eat – it all goes in the Instant Pot!

3 Hummus

food-for-fitness-hummus

It’s delicious, nutritious, and makes you think of exotic places kissed by the sun and blessed by rich cultural habits. Hummus is a wonderful dish that doesn’t require too much effort to make but brings a variety of nutrients in your diet!

Luckily, it’s easy to make using an Instant Pot so you can enjoy it whenever you want. Still, keep in mind that moderation is important when you’re trying to have a healthy lifestyle!

4 Mac & Cheese

It’s easy to make but it can be a lot of work when you’re making it using standard methods. But if you follow this Instant Pot vegetarian recipe, you’ll see it takes less to get this creamy, cheesy dish steaming hot on your plate. In addition, there will be fewer dishes to clean, since you’ll only be using the pot to cook the pasta and the sauce.

If you want to add to this classic dish, you can always combine some broccoli (or other veggies you consider useful) in the cheese sauce.

5 Portobello Pot Roast

food-for-fitness-portobello-pot-roast

Most people think about beef and slow cookers when you say pot roast. While it’s true that this is a dish that requires time to have all the flavors blend together in a symphony of taste, you can get the same result in half the time by using an Instant Pot.

Also, the beef can be replaced with portobello mushrooms, like this blogger did, and you are good to go! Of course, you can use other types of mushrooms, as long as they are meaty and retain their texture when pressure-cooked.

The good news is that you can serve this pot roast as is or as a side dish next to pasta or rice. Not to mention that it’s a flavorful vegetarian recipe that the entire family can enjoy!

6 Lentil Stew

food-for-fitness-lentil-stew

There’s nothing more soothing like a hearty stew when it’s cold outside! Be it rain or snow, this dish is a fantastic idea for lunch or dinner, especially when you’re sharing it with friends and family.

In addition, this lentil stew is so versatile that everyone can enjoy it. You can cook it vegetarian, and people who eat animal products can simply add smoked sausages in their bowl, to make it more to their taste.

Lastly, this delicious recipe (available here) doesn’t require fancy ingredients. Most of them are already in your cupboard or fridge.

7 Pad Thai Stir Fry

pad-thai-stir-fry

You can still enjoy delicious foods, like Pad Thai, even if you don’t add chicken or animal-based sauces! According to this recipe, you can make a fantastic Instant Pot vegetarian and gluten-free version without dirtying any other dishes and tools (except for the inner pot of the IP, of course!)

In addition, it reduces your activity in the kitchen, since you won’t have to take care of the noodles in one pot and stir the vegetables in another pot! So, follow the recipe and enjoy the result with your guests – who I promise, will be impressed with your cooking skills!

Wrap Up

It’s not that bad to make the switch to veggies after all. It only takes a bit of imagination and reliable cooking tools (like the Instant Pot) to enrich your culinary life. So, as long as you make sure your food is not boring and you keep up with the required daily protein and fiber intake, you’ll be healthier and happier for your choice!

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4 Effective Training Strategies For Unlocking Your True Running Speed Potential

It’s not all about distance – these tips will have you building explosive power in half the time.

Whether you’ve just taken up running or you’re prepping for your first marathon, improving your running speed is going to be high up the list. It’s a common goal among runners from all backgrounds and training goals.

The kicker?

If you normally log miles for distance, trying to increase your overall speed is going to be a VERY welcome change to your training program. Prepare to enjoy.

Here we go.

Interval Running

Once reserved for top athletes, interval training is now the go-to training option for everyone, from newbies to elite fitness buffs.

Interval training consists of mixing bursts of intense exercise and intervals of lighter activity as recovery. This training method is best described as a series of peaks and valleys – you go hard at the peaks and slow it down at the valleys.

The typical interval run is a mix of sprinting, jogging, and/or walking for recovery. The length and intensity of each period depends mainly on your fitness level and training goals.

For example, beginners should start with shorter sprints at mild intensity, whereas elite runners may design an interval routine that fits with their specific racing goals. How?

Start with a proper warm-up to prepare your body

Do five to 10 minutes of cardio-based movement, such as jogging or spinning, to get your heart rate and body temperature up. Next, perform a series of dynamic warm-up exercises for another five minutes. Think inchworms, squats, lunges, leg swings and arm swings.

Once you’re warmed up, sprint at 85-95% of your maximum power for 30 seconds, then jog or walk for one minute to recover.

Repeat the cycle for 15 to 20 minutes then finish it off with a five minute cool-down jog.

Job DONE.

Hill Workouts

Want to build explosive strength and speed? Head to the hills.

The extra resistance of going up and down hills places a much higher demand on your body than running on a flat surface. I hope you’re ready.

Sure, this might not be your favourite thing to do, but here’s what you stand to gain by tackling more hills:

  • Build better economical form
  • Build more power than running on a flat surface
  • Improved VO2 max.
  • Increased stride power
  • Improved running economy and efficiency
  • Reduced impact forces on your muscles and joints thanks to working against gravity

You in? Here’s how to do hill reps right.

Find a hill that’s roughly 100-200m in length. Make sure the incline is hard but not too challenging that you won’t be able to keep good form throughout the climb.

Before you tackle the hill, perform a 10 to 15 minutes warm-up on flat terrain.

Once you’re ready, sprint up the hill at 85-95% of your maximum effort, then jog or walk down for recovery. Repeat the cycle eight to ten times, then finish it off with a 10-minute cool-down jog or walk.

But pace and form also matter on this one:

Try running up the hill at your 5K pace, or slightly faster, shooting for the amount of exertion throughout the climb. Make it your goal to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but don’t let your form go south. Keep a consistent effort up the hill.

Focus on the ground roughly 15 to 20 feet ahead of you – and avoid staring at your feet or gazing way up to the top of the hill, especially on steep inclines. This will help you keep your eyes on the prize.

As you get fitter, try tackling more challenging hills with a wider range of grades and lengths.

Go ‘Plyo’

Also known as explosive or jump training, plyometrics are another great way to target your fast-twitch muscle fibres and build explosive speed even a Lamborghini driver would glance twice at.

Plyometric exercises consist of fast and powerful movements starting with an eccentric action – muscle lengthening – and ending up with a concentric action – muscle shortening. These are key for any speed training program.

And I’m not just talking out of anecdotal evidence—research actually backs this up, too.

A study, reported by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, revealed that middle and long-distance runners who performed plyometric exercises for six weeks improved their 2400m race results by roughly 4%. That’s huge.

It might not seem like much, but it might also be the exact thing you need to achieve your next PB.

Use this list of examples (but this is entirely not exclusive) of plyometric exercises that work very well for improving speed:

  • Box jumps
  • Power cleans
  • Squat jumps
  • Standing long jumps
  • Med ball tosses
  • Snatches
  • Frog jumps
  • Plyo pushups
  • 2-leg bound
  • Depth jumps
  • Box squats

Start by choosing a few of these exercises and adding them to either your post-run ritual or as part of your cross-training workouts.

Plyo training is technically more challenging and demanding, so it’s even more crucial that you perform them correctly to avoid injury and wasting your time.

I highly urge you to hire a coach or personal trainer to assess your technique or to film yourself, so you catch any mistakes.

Listen to your body

Training hard is key for success, but so is paying attention to your body and taking plenty of recovery when recovery is needed. Otherwise, you‘re asking for injury and burnouts.

As a general rule, follow hard workouts – think intervals and hill reps –with at least one or, ideally, two easier training days. Then, take a full day off training at least once a week.

In other words: Don’t chew more than you can swallow.

To know when you need rest, you need to know the signs. So, here are a few of the most common:

  • Persistent aches and pains
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Elevated heart rate.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Undesired weight loss
  • Chronic dehydration
  • Loss of performance
  • Lack of sleep
  • Sickness and the common flu

 

And that, folks, is it.

Your guide to improving your running speed. Incorporate these speedwork guidelines into your workout plan, then it’s a matter of time and practice. Just remember to keep track of everything and remember not to do too much too soon.

Happy sprinting.

The post 4 Effective Training Strategies For Unlocking Your True Running Speed Potential appeared first on Food For Fitness.