Monday, January 25, 2010

Active Pregnant Women Tend to Stay Healthier

Another great article showing the benefits of exercise during pregancy, backed by the research of Dr James Clapp, III.

Vigorous Exercise and Pregnancy: Scientific evidence it's safe

Dr James Clapp III, emeritus professor of reproductive biology at Case Western University in Ohio has been researching the effects of exercise in pregnancy for 20+ years. And, in the following article written for USA Today in 2007, you can read about women he has studied who stay extremely active during their pregnancies and still have wonderful, healthy babies and minimal complications.

For example, one woman ran a half-marathan at 7 months pregnancy and then ran another half marathon 6 weeks after delivery. (Six weeks! That's great!!) By staying this active, women reduce the amount of weight they gain (excess body fat weight that is, not weight of the baby), which means they have less to take off after baby is born and are less likely to retain this weight indefinitely afterwards.

When doctors push women to not exercise because they're pregnant, they really are pushing for more harm than good. Women who stay active during their pregnancies are more likely to encourage their children to be active with them, which leads to fewer obese and unhealthy children. They also are at a much lower risk for diabetes both during and after pregnancy.

I'm sharing this information with you all because recently I was doubting my intense activity regimin due to some negative comments by some on-lookers. With this information though, I'm going to continue being active and feeling great - I hope you all do the same (the pregnant ladies, that is).

Check out this great article here: No Pregnant Pause

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fit Mommy Secrets Interview

Galina Talkington, the creator of Fit Mommy Secrets, and a contributor to the latest book, the The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises, recently interviewed me for her Mommy site.

Nutrition and Exercise for the Fit Mommy

In this web interview you'll read why choline is so important for mommy and baby during pregnancy, why training for labor is like training for any athletic event, crazy pregnancy food cravings and their hormonal connection, and my top recommended pregnancy books.

Also, while you're visiting her site, check out her new e-book, Fit Mommy Secrets, which was created to help women get their bodies back safely and effectively after delivery. Galina has many years of experience training women after delivery to get their hot bods back and this book really has a ton of great information you can easily follow. I'll be reviewing this book shortly in the next week.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Interview by Krista Scott-Dixon is now Live!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with Krista Scott-Dixon on Skype for more than an hour for an interview she did on me for her site (which, by the way is a wicked site for women who love to lift).

Krista was one of my idols when it came to strong and smart women and so it was an honor to speak with her that day.

Through this conversation we also are brainstorming to develop a seminar this year just for women all about lifting heavy, thinking smart and knowing more about what makes us awesome as a gender. Stay posted for news on that one, because we're looking at this summer to make it happen!

To hear the interview and hear our thoughts on lifting while pregnant, my book, The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and disordered eating in women, click here.

Thanks Krista!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Benefits of Exercise During Late Pregnancy

30 weeks and still going strong!!

It's hard to believe that I only have about 10 weeks left of this pregnancy to go! Each day my belly seems to get bigger and bigger, but (thankfully) my total body weight hasn't moved a pinch! So far, my total gain is about ~14 lbs and it's been over the last 8 weeks that it's stayed totally stable.

I know that may seem weird to some people, but as long as my baby is growing, the body fat I accumulated in the first trimester will not be missed at all!

You can see from the two pictures here that I look relatively normal for a fit pregnant woman, and I feel really fantastic! Yes, I have my off days, but for the most part, I've been able to train really hard at least once a day if not twice or three times (depends on how many times a day I am required to teach boot camps).

Yesterday and today were just single workout sessions, but they were pretty intense. Both were boot camp classes that involved 20:10 Tabata rounds for 20 mins followed by 50:10 intervals for another 22 minutes. Proceeding and following those rounds were active dynamic warmup followed by an active cool down and stretching.

Here is an example of what I did for one of the days of Tabata rounds:
Round 1 - eight 20 second repeats with 10 second rests of TRX jackknife pushups (4 mins)
Round 2 - as above, Med Ball Slam Downs with a 12 lb Dynamax Ball (4 mins)
Round 3 - ", Four point rows with 12 lbs DBs (4 mins)
Round 4 - ", Reverse Lunges (same leg 4x) with DB bicep curls (4 mins)
One minute rest between each round for about 20 mins.

Then, for the 50:10s:
1) Burpees
2) Speed Skaters
3) Slow Mtn Climbers
4) Body Weight Front Squats
5) High Knee Runs (for me, these were modified to High Knee to Elbow Touches because the pressure on my bladder from baby and the pressure on my lower belly was a bit intense)
This was repeated 4 times for about 22 mins.

Previously, before pregnancy, I still trained hard, but this type of interval training is amazing and so gratifying. I'm looking forward to continuing this after I deliver (probably following a bit of a break, if you know what I mean) and am excited to watch the fat melt off my body. Hey, if it can curtail fat gain during pregnancy when my fat storage hormones are surging and my sweet tooth is somewhat aggressive, I can just imagine what it'll do when I reach a normal baseline.

To all you pregnant ladies out there: we're learning each and every day how and why training during your pregnancy is so good for you AND your baby (NOTE: this information comes from one of the most prominent pregnancy and exercise researchers, Dr James Clapp III, who has studied many pregnant competitive Olympic athletes):
  • you accumulate less body fat
  • you have a positive sense of well-being and vigor when you might tend to be pessimistic, depressed or lethargic
  • you have a reduced incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (colds, sinusitis, etc)
  • you'll tend to have an easier, shorter and less complicated labour
  • you can actually IMPROVE your fitness level and physical performance (I can attest to that!)
  • your baby has developed an improved tolerance to stress and as such, can handle the stress of labour much better than a baby of a sedentary woman (i.e., fewer drops in heart rate with each contraction)
  • your baby has less body fat, but is still able to maintain it's body temperature
  • your baby will most likely be more mature at birth, meaning, they respond readily to environmental cues and will self-quiet themselves if disturbed when napping
  • your baby will also be a better sleeper (less likely to wake easily)
  • your baby will probably perform better on standardized intelligence tests as they advance in age
  • your baby will grow to be a less-fat adult (which is great news in our society of excess overweightness)
Remember: there's a balance between enough exercise for you and baby and too much. If you start feeling unwell during exercise, back off. For me, I've found a few exercises that make me sick: Swiss ball jackknife crunches make me a bit nauseous, so I've stopped doing them; too many jumping jacks or jump rope seem to put a lot of stress on my belly, so I've curtailed how much I do (same with high knee runs); prone positions are getting a lot harder to do (like prone T-raises), so I'm starting to take them out of my program.

Bottom Line: Exercise if you can, exercise if you're healthy. Not every woman is in this situation, but if you're well and have no complications, there should be no reason for you to give up something you love doing.

Stay strong!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January Special from Manitoba Harvest

My favorite hemp foods company, Manitoba Harvest, has a great online special for January:

Just enter the code, NLJan10 on your next order of Organic Vanilla Hemp Protein powder and receive 15% off this product!!! Yumm!!!

While you're at it, put in a order for the hemp seed butter. It's like peanut butter, but without the allergen potential and pesticides! I love mine slathered on a piece of toasted Ezekial Bread and topped with a dollup of all-natural fruit spread. Delicious!!!

Check out Manitoba Harvest here!

Monday, January 11, 2010

8 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex

Yes, sex can lead to pregnancy but there are other benefits you'll be happy to learn about. In the following article from Woman's Day magazine by Sarah Jio, Dr Desmond Ebanks explains more reasons for you to get intimate tonight with your loved one.

8 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex
Find out how getting intimate can improve your well-being

By Sarah Jio Posted January 04, 2010 from

Of course sex is healthy, but did you know that a good sex life can provide specific health benefits? We spoke to the experts to find out just how sex improves our health (not that you needed any convincing).

1. It May Make You Thinner
Dread working out? Don’t break up with your treadmill just yet. But if it’s late and you haven’t made it to the gym, don’t forget that sex counts as exercise, too! “Sex burns between 75 and 150 calories per half-hour,” says Desmond Ebanks, MD, founder and medical director of Alternity Healthcare in West Hartford, Connecticut. It’s comparable to other physical activities, he says, like yoga (114 calories per half-hour), dancing (129 calories per half-hour) or walking (153 calories per half-hour).
Bonus: Sex may also help your muscles stay lean in the process. “Sexual arousal and orgasm releases the hormone testosterone, which, among other things, is necessary to build and maintain bone and lean muscle tissue,” he adds.

2. It May Improve Your Heart Health
You’re probably already aware that heart disease is the number-one killer of women. Eating a healthy diet, and keeping your cholesterol low and sodium in check are great ways to stay on top of heart health, but so is having sex. “Sex is exercise that raises heart rate and blood flow,” says Dr. Ebanks. “In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers found that having sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half.” While the study results were focused on men, Dr. Ebanks suspects similar effects for women, too.

3. It Can Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep
What do you do to help you sleep? When chamomile tea and other remedies aren’t doing the job, sex may help—especially if you’re having trouble sleeping due to anxiety or stress. “People having frequent sex often report that they handle stress better,” notes Dr. Ebanks. “The profound relaxation that typically follows orgasm for women and ejaculation or orgasm for men may be one of the few times people actually allow themselves to completely relax. Many indicate that they sleep more deeply and restfully after satisfying lovemaking.”

4. It Can Boost Your Immune System
With all the concerns about cold and flu viruses, combating germs can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Surprisingly, there may be something you can do in the bedroom to keep your immune system strong, says Dr. Ebanks, who points to a study by researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. “Individuals who have sex once or twice a week show 30 percent higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which is known to boost the immune system,” he says. So, make this your new cold-and-flu season mantra: Wash your hands and make a bedroom date with your sweetie—often!

5. It Can Improve Your Mental Health
The quickest way to boost your mood, fight depression and beat anxiety? Patricia Tan, MD, a board-certified internist in Arizona and medical expert for, says the answer is simple: sex (in a loving, committed relationship, of course). “Psychologically, sex improves one’s mental health by building intimacy and reducing stress,” she says. “The stress reduction component lowers a person's cortisol level, thereby reducing the chances of increased blood pressure, hyperglycemia and increased acidity in the abdomen.”

6. It Can Help Relieve Pain
You might change “Not tonight, honey, I have a headache” to “Yes, tonight, honey, I have a headache,” or so says Dr. Ebanks, who believes there’s a real correlation between sex and pain management. “Through sexual arousal and orgasm the hormone oxytocin is secreted in your body, which in turn causes the release of endorphins,” he explains. “Because of these natural opiates, sex acts as a powerful analgesic.”

7. It Can Help You with Bladder Control
It may sound weird—the idea that sex can help you minimize incontinence—but it’s true, say experts. Sex therapists have long recommended that women do Kegel exercises (flexing the muscles in your pelvic floor) throughout the day, but also during sex. Why? Not only can the exercises help increase pleasure, they also strengthen the muscles associated with incontinence. You can do Kegels anywhere (including during intercourse), so don’t be shy! Gently flex and tighten your pelvic floor muscles in the same way you would to stop the flow of urine. Hold for three seconds, then release.

8. It May Give You Healthier Skin
Could sex make you more beautiful? It sounds far-fetched, but Eric Braverman, MD, founder of PATH Medical Center in New York City, says having sex releases a key compound in the body that is good for all kinds of things—including improving your complexion. During sex, your body produces a hormone called DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). “It can boost the immune system, give you healthier skin and even decrease depression,” he says. So much for the $79 night cream!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pregnancy Insomnia

This past Wednesday my husband and I attended our first baby-care class. It went from 630pm to 9pm and was stocked full of very helpful information. Everything ranging from care of the umbilical cord to the sleeping habits of your baby.

Speaking of sleeping habits, we learned that babies tend to be nocturnal creatures. The instructor asked us when our babies were most active and most of us said at night before bed.

Well, apparently, this behavior doesn't stop once these little humans are born. Apparently babies tend to be more active throughout the night, which isn't great news for all of us who enjoy our night-time slumber.

I kind of already kind of knew I was going to be kissing my solid night sleeps goodbye, but now, I'm totally convinced.

I don't know if it's from this new news or not, but the past 2 nights, I've been waking up at 330-4am and have not been able to sleep at all. Too many thoughts go racing through my head and so I end up doing something like cleaning the house, working on the computer or reading just because I can't sleep. And, all during this time, my baby is dancing in my belly. Seriously, last night I looked down at my tummy and it was moving all over the place. It was wild (but slightly annoying because I would have rather been sleeping... oh well).

If any mothers out there have any tips on how to improve the sleeping habits of my future baby, I'm all ears. Of, if you want to just let me know there is no solution and I'm just going to have to live with it for awhile, I'll take that too.

Well, it's now 8am and I've been up for 4 hours. Now it's time for me to go teach boot camp and hope I fall asleep sometime this afternoon.

10 more weeks to go! Exciting!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another study showing the benefit of choline for pregnancy

When I first got pregnant, I wanted to know what I supposed to eat to grow the healthiest baby possible. Luckily, right before I conceived, I spoke at the 2009 American Egg Board's Annual Meeting in Chicago and got the chance to learn the benefits of choline for a healthy and smart baby.

Choline is not an essential nutrient technically because your body can make it on it's own. However, you need much more than your body can make both for your own brain health and your baby's.

Recently, Science Daily news published a summary of a recent scientific investigation showing more evidence for the importance of choline in pregnancy.

In summary: a new research study published in the January 2010 print issue of the FASEB Journal by a team of University of North Carolina researchers shows that choline plays a critical role in helping fetal brains develop regions associated with memory.

"Our study in mice indicates that the diet of a pregnant mother, especially choline in that diet, can change the epigenetic switches that control brain development in the fetus," said Steven Zeisel, the senior scientist involved in the work and a senior member of the FASEB Journal's editorial board. "Understanding more about how diet modifies our genes could be very important for assuring optimal development."

To read the rest of the story click here.

Although the title of this story is, "Finally, an excuse for pregnant women to eat bacon and eggs", which I think is just silly because why the heck CAN'T a pregnant women eat bacon and eggs in the first place? Because of the fat? Oh yes, that's right... fat is bad and it's going to kill us. Give me a break.

In any matter, egg yolks are one of the richest sources of choline a mother can get in her diet. Each yolk contains ~125 mg of choline, where the recommended dose of choline for women (humans) is at least 450 mg per day. This is why I recommended pregnant women eat two eggs a day in a blog post I wrote July 2009.

Other than the benefits for your child's memory and brain development, choline is also necessary to help prevent any neural tube defects in a growing fetus - yes, even with adequate folic acid in the diet.

So, sure, you can eat bacon (nitrite free would be best), but don't forget about those eggs and their yolks! It'll help you produce a little baby Einstein... and who wouldn't love a child that could pay their own way through college due to amazing brain power? Heck, I would!

For more information on choline, check out these reports:

Choline, the new essential nutrient

Eggs: a good choice for moms to be

Sources of choline

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A video to make you laugh!

NROL4W girl versus Average girl video

One of my clients, Kayla, sent me this video she made about lifting and women. I laughed so hard and thought you all would like it too.

For those following this from Facebook, I've pasted the URL above too.

Enjoy! Thanks Kayla!

Picture Time!

My fellow blogspot mommy-to-be Nicole in Australia at YummyMummyProject posted some recent pics of her belly on her blog and this has inspired me to share a few with all of you.

I follow Nicole's blog because she's a workout mama like myself AND because her and I are due almost the same time. It's pretty cool to see how her pregnancy is going compared to mine... and the fact that's she across the globe! I love the internet :)

I've posted pics on Facebook, but since not all my readers are FB'ers, I'll share here too. First is a side pic of my belly post-workout. You can't really tell, but my belly button has almost turned into an outie.

Second picture is from New Years Eve, right before my hubby and I headed out for a party at one of our friend's house. (disclaimer... all I did was eat... no alcohol of course).
For exercise today, well, I've been battling a cold for about a week. I swear, I've not been sick for longer than 2 days in a LONG LONG time. But, this one was one that just didn't want to leave. I trained really hard yesterday doing a metabolic circuit for an hour after I taught boot camp, but today all I did was go for a walk, wash the floors and shovel... no lifting because I was now just finally feeling better. I guess pregnancy really does depress the immune system. Thankfully I'm only battling a cold and nothing more serious.

Hope everyone is looking forward to a great week back at reality! Now that the holiday season has passed, there is a lot to do in 2010.

Best, Cass

Friday, January 1, 2010

Second Trimester Exercise Experiences

The third trimester is here! And, boy, my second trimester was a great one! Yep, I'm now at 28 weeks and a few days and am definitely looking pregnant (instead of just chubby...haha). However, for the most part, I wouldn't even know I was pregnant except for when I look in the mirror - I feel great!

My second trimester was just awesome. I taught boot camps 8 times a week (three on Tuesdays and Thursdays, one on Friday and one on Saturday) and for the most part, actually physically did teach them and had no issues what-so-ever! My classes consisted of everything from high intensity Tabata training, to battle ropes and prowler pushes (as seen in the you tube video above), to weight lifting circuits and kettlebell intervals. So, pretty serious and nothing pink and fluffy.

The second trimester started in the month of October (I became pregnant pretty much exactly on July 1st). By this time all my nausea had left and my energy came back. My strength was also very similar to pre-pregnancy except for a few things, which I'll outline below.

In summary, here's how my second trimester was in terms of exercise and training:

1) Energy
As I said, my energy came back at about the 10 to 12 week mark and I took that as a sign to start kicking up the intensity. Which I did. My first few days of teaching Tabata classes were a bit rough, but once my endurance improved in a few weeks, I was doing better than some of my class participants.

2) Strength
I'm amazed at how strong I've stayed, other than for many body weight exercises. Because of my increasing body weight (I've gained about 14 lbs to date), exercises such as pull-ups, inverted rows, and now, even pushups, are a lot more difficult. I definitely am unable to do an pure unassisted pull-up, and lately, my pushups have been lame. However, my lower body and back strength in lifts like the deadlift and squat are pretty awesome. Even my bench press still rocks at a max of 135 lbs (yes, I'm still doing supine work because it doesn't bother me at all - my OBGYN even approves).

3) Endurance
I will have to say that my endurance now is better than it was pre-pregnancy. But, that wasn't hard to improve: prior to becoming pregnant I was both finishing my PhD dissertation and RD internship, so rarely had time to workout hard at all. Now, with all my HIIT training in my classes, my endurance is excellent.

4) Body Heat Regulation
Thankfully I'm progressing through my pregnancy in the winter, so keeping my body temp in a safe range while exercising is not an issue. When it's been hot outside or when I have too many layers on, I do definitely feel uncomfortable.

5) Recovery
My recovery still leaves a bit to be desired. Whenever I lift heavy, I pay for it for a few days. I've tried a few different nutritional tactics to try and improve this, but I'm pretty sure it's just the fact that I'm growing another human that my recovery isn't so great. But, I still push myself hard and just make sure to take more time to relax after.

6) Body Composition
Interestingly, my belly is definitely growing, but I haven't gained a pound in the last 4 weeks (during my 6th month I've stayed at 150lbs). My husband has told me that he noticed that my body is looking leaner, especially in my butt and thighs. He said it's because I'm finally eating better - in my first four months, I was craving sugar and food like I'd just come back from a hard outdoor excursion. Now, my cravings and appetite are so much more manageable. This combined with my exercise routine probably is leading to some fat loss (yes, fat loss during pregnancy is possible!).
One of my girlfriends who just had her baby this past February 2009 told me that she didn't gain anything in the last 3 months and her arms, thighs and butt shrank. Her baby was born at a healthy 8lbs and had no issues at all. So, I'm hoping I'll have something similar happen because I did pile some fat on my legs in the first trimester from my outta control sugar binges.

7) Aches and Pains
With my back issues (spondylolithesis), I thought I was going to be in much more pain by this point in my pregnancy. But, with all the core strengthening work I do and the absence of exercises that hurt my back (like back squats and ultra-heavy deadlifts), I've been pretty much pain-free. There were a few weeks where I had sciatica pain, but I think that was due to the baby, because it just magically disappeared one day. Now, I'm experiencing rib pain from my expanding rib cage, but, unfortunately, there's not much I can do about it. I just try to ignore it and working out actually helps me forget about it.

8) Goals for the next three months:
Well, given that I feel great and have almost no issues doing what I'm doing now, I'll continue to train hard for as long as my body will let me. A lot of people ask if I'm going to lighten up, but I've told them that I'll only do that if I have to (i.e., I hurt, I'm feeling sick, etc). Other than that, why do I have to reduce my intensity if everything is progressing in a healthy direction? My baby and belly are growing at the proper rate, my health is great (yes, I am fighting off a slight cold right now, but it is the winter and I was bound to get a bit sick at some point), and my energy is wonderful. What else could I ask for?

Now, just keep in mind: every woman is different, and every woman has to listen to her own body and make the best decisions for her and her baby. Just because I'm staying really active doesn't mean every woman has that luxury. Be smart, listen if your body says stop and ensure you fuel it with the best foods possible.