Taking ZOOM+Performance for a Test Drive

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Most of us think about going to the doctor when we’re sick in order to get better. But what about checking in with your doctor when you’re well in order to enhance your health and actively try to prevent some of those acute illness or chronic injury visits in the future?

That’s exactly the concept behind ZOOM+Performance, one of three primary care platforms offered by ZOOM+Performance Health Insurance, a company right here in Portland, Ore., that’s committed to revolutionizing the American healthcare system. What started in 2006 (under the name ZoomCare) as state-of-the-art neighborhood urgent care clinics in Oregon, Washington and Idaho is now called ZOOM+ (as of 2015) and has transformed into a complete healthcare system with health insurance built in.

What’s brilliant, though, is that it goes beyond what is traditionally offered in healthcare delivery systems to play a critical role in preventing chronic illnesses that require costly interventions down the road. ZOOM+Performance, in particular, caught my eye because it’s geared toward people who want to optimize their human performance using food, movement and relationship as medicine.

ZOOM+’s mantra is “Twice the health at half the cost and 10 times the delight.” So when they invited me in last week for one of their signature wellness assessments, I decided to put that mission to the test.

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After checking in and filling out a few forms, Dr. Natasha Kassam whisked me off to a private room to get my vitals and take my health history. She white-boarded my information as we walked through current conditions, concerns and goals together (i.e. have a healthy baby and resume my normal level of activity when it’s safe!).

She explained that ZOOM+Performance’s assessment is aimed at helping people improve athletic performance, mental-focus and creative energy. After doing some deep brain, cell and body tests, including VO2 Max, Neuroagility and Body Comp (typically there are some labs, as well, but not for the purposes of this visit), we’d regroup and she would prescribe food and movement to help me achieve my potential.

Brain & Nervous System Function

First up was Heart Rate Variability testing, which measures the balance and function of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. A balanced system, meaning both the “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” sides are responding equally well, supports optimal cognitive and physical function.

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I sat down in a big, comfy chair while Dr. Kassam hooked me up with a monitor that attached painlessly to my ear lobe. Math problems and puzzled flashed on the screen for a few seconds each, followed by a breathing exercise which helped set a baseline for measuring the ebb and flow of my two branches.

Body Composition

From there, we moved to another room with an alien-looking egg-shaped vessel in it called the BodPod. The BodPod is considered the Gold Standard in body comp tests because it delivers a highly-accurate measurement of body fat percentage using air displacement and body density as markers.

British Olympic diver and television personality Tom Daley testing his body composition (courtesy of BodPod)

British Olympic diver and television personality Tom Daley testing his body composition (courtesy of BodPod)

Although we knew my results would be skewed, it’s completely safe — even for preggos — so I decided to give it a shot to get a feel for the experience. After stripping down to my skivvies and donning a swim cap, Dr. Kassam locked me in (don’t worry; there’s an emergency release in case you get claustrophobic) for two rounds of measurements.

It was quick and painless, although I will admit it takes some getting used to! Expect to hear a rush of air and some thumping, plus you’ll feel a bit of pressure in your ears; but just sit still, stay calm and relax — it’s over before you know it.

Neuroagility

Next up was my favorite part of the session: Neuroagility. Thanks to infrared sensors, you get to interact with the neuroagility wall, which is an experimental assessment of neuromuscular coordination and gross-motor ability.

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Step one is to stand in front of the wall to get everything calibrated. Step two is a short practice run; it takes a moment or two to get a feel for how the system responds to your movements. And step three is the actual test where you’ll have a few seconds to “touch” orbs that appear in different positions on the wall.

You feel like you’re in a video game, and as the orbs appear and disappear more rapidly toward the end, you’ll be running back and forth like a crazy cat trying to follow a pointer on the wall. Now try doing this while pregnant — i.e. carrying extra weight, off balance and out of breath — and, well, you get the picture.

VO2 Max

For the final test, we went over to a bike that was wired up to a machine for the VO2 Max assessment. ZOOM+’s cycle test is a quick way for them to get the calculation, which is an indicator of aerobic efficiency and endurance.

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Dr. Kassam instructed me to pedal slowly and steadily on the bike while keeping an eye on one of the metrics (I forget which one it was — most likely cadence — but my instructions were to keep it around 60 despite changes in resistance). Meanwhile, they’d be tracking my heart rate and other stats to come up with a final score.

My Results & Recommendations

Brain & Nervous System Function: Although I was able to bring my system into equilibrium during the breathing exercise, the “stress” of the first part of the test threw me more into the “fight of flight” mode, so Dr. Kassam recommended daily meditation or mindful breathing to bring more awareness to my breath.

She recommended some useful apps and exercises, in addition to trying out rhythmic breathing while walking, running and biking in order to raise my performance threshold when under stress. As far as I’m concerned, she nailed this right on the head because it’s something that I currently neglect as part of my training regimen, but could help me perform better going forward.

Body Composition: Dr. Kassam warned me that this measurement wouldn’t be valid due to me being pregnant, and it was. I guess the machine doesn’t account for all things baby because I fell into the “Excess Fat” category, whoops!

But even though these results were skewed, it was well worth the experience so I know what it’ll be like next time around. I’m planning on going back post-baby to check in again so I can get some baseline metrics and make a game plan for getting back in shape.

Neuroagility: Oddly enough, despite having to lug around 15-20 extra pounds which left me feeling less than agile, I was able to score in the “Good” range here. I’ll be interested to see, though, if I can make it into the “Excellent” category post-baby when I feel a little less inhibited with my movement.

VO2 Max: Yes, I know I’m pregnant. And, yes, I know my heart rate is elevated, my lung capacity feels like it’s decreased and my endurance is lower due to these factors, as well as not being able to work out as hard or as long as I’m used to.

But I’ve got to admit that the “Average” rating here was, personally, a bit of a bummer. Of all the metrics, I figured it wouldn’t be too far of from my normal range…but I keep reminding myself that it’s all about the big picture right now.

And it just goes to show you how much of an impact pregnancy has on all of your systems. Don’t get me wrong; I’m more than happy to be able to divert any extra oomph toward Baby H, although I’ve got to admit that I’m excited to get back to work on this when I’m able to safely start training again!

The Verdict

After my tests were completed, Dr. Kassam and I met back up in the first room to discuss results, as well as her recommendations for moving forward. Of course, since things are a little out of whack at the moment, I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary in terms of next steps; however, her insight really impressed me.

In addition to the mindfulness and breathing awareness exercises, she suggested that I try alternating in a high-dose probiotic with my usual probiotic supplement. The ideas is to flush and re-populate my GI tract — not only to aid with digestion, but also to keep my system in tip-top shape prior to delivery.

Dr. Kassam was also enthusiastic about the idea of adding gyrotonic workouts to my regimen. Gyrotonic utilizes three planes of movement for exercise sequences that are composed of spiraling, circular movements. These carefully-choreographed sequences are designed to create balance, efficiency, strength and flexibility — not to mention improve posture, regulate breathing and strengthen the core and pelvic floor (super important for moms-to-be!).

If I were on the ZOOM+ plan, the next steps would be for Dr. Kassam and I to set some measurable goals and design a 90-day sprint in which we’d make a game plan for how to go about reaching those goals. We’d meet monthly to check in on progress and tweak the approach, as needed.

This kind of accountability, along with the thoughtfulness and relevance of her suggestions, would no doubt produce some great results. In fact, even though I’m not doing the traditional sprint-and-follow-up format with ZOOM+, I am following through on her recommendations and look forward to going in for another assessment to get a more accurate baseline after Baby H comes this spring.

If you’re in the Portland area, it’s something I’d advise checking out because it’s both empowering and enlightening to be able to take your health into your own hands. Not to mention that getting ahead of the curve when it comes to healthcare is no longer something any of us can afford to ignore.

For more information about ZOOM+, visit ZoomCare.com.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary performance assessment to try. All opinions (and geeking out over the associated metrics) are my own, however. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Kinetic Fix!

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November Goal Check-In

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It’s hard to believe that just a little over a month from now we’ll be talking 2016. But for the time being, I’m focused on closing out the current year on a high note with respect to the goals I’ve been tracking the past 11 months.

Of course, things have been evolving with Baby H on board, but I wanted to use this post to check back in on my original plans for 2015. It’s never too late to shift course — even with 30 days left in this final push — and there’s no time like the present to figure out how to make the most of the upcoming month.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

My original goal here was “quality over quantity” for the year, and I put it into practice this month while doing another round of travel. Long flights, time zone changes and family obligations meant that “training” had to be modified, which I used to view as a setback but now see as an opportunity to rest, recover and challenge by body in new ways (like keeping up with my toddler nephew in the snow!).

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Literally speaking, however, the “balance” theme has also been evolving to include learning how to use my new, ever-changing body. From knocking things off store shelves thanks to new dimensions to resorting to trial and error when it comes to which workouts work, it’s continuing to be a learning experience.

2. Training Smarter

My hope here was to experiment with my training repertoire to build on last season’s lessons rather than run myself into the ground doing things the same old way. I’ve been keeping up my functional fitness and cross training, but oddly enough it took getting pregnant to get me to finally slow my roll when it comes to doing one of my favorite activities: running.

All the massages, foam rolling, stretching, eating healthy and whatever other add-ons I’ve tried in the past weren’t helping to rid me of some lingering issues — namely plantar fasciitis and SI joint pain. So I’m trying to view these next few months of forced rest as something that will help me come back stronger next season.

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But just because regular runs are now off the table doesn’t mean that I can’t keep moving. On the contrary, I’ve been just as active as ever, delving into more baby-body-friendly classes, such as my MYMA Mama prenatal movement class, as well as the Mod-Mama class at Mod Physique, to help build those “mommy muscles” in anticipation of what’s to come this March.

3. Facing Fears

I declared 2014 as the year of #bikelove, but I wasn’t going to go so far as to use that same strong language for 2015 when it came to swimming. However, I’m happy to report that pregnancy has also been helping me out here; after months of talking about it, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have been consistent with weekly swim workouts since week 20 of pregnancy!

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Of course, the purchase of a brand spankin’ new Coeur swimsuit to cover my growing curves helped. As did reading about all the benefits of swimming while pregnant.

Something that temporarily relieves me of the extra weight I’m carrying and can help keep side effects such as swelling and excess weight gain at bay? Sign me up.

4. Pushing Myself

Since I wasn’t in peak training mode going in, I knew that this pregnancy wouldn’t be a time to pursue that duathlon, next ultramarathon or century ride that I’d hoped this year would bring. But it hasn’t completely kept me from being competitive — even if my race-day game plans have gone from “Can I get a new personal record?” to “Can I run the whole way without walking?”

Case in point: Last weeks’ Corvallis Turkey Trot in which I opted to drop down to a 5k from my original 10k. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but I’m happy to report that I was able to jog the whole 3.1 miles, despite having to pull over several times to adjust that darn pregnancy support belt!

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And, yes, although I said I was done with races for the year…I am still toying with the idea of a holiday 5k. Just for fun, of course, and schedule permitting! But we shall see where December takes us; right now, I’m approaching things one day at a time.

5. Giving Back

Technically, this goal was met and exceeded for the year back in October — BOOM! — but since there was a lot of interest, we’ve been holding biweekly LUNA off-season workouts. The lovely Vanessa has graciously offered to lead them in my absence, but I hope to get out there soon to join the ladies and head up a hiking group while they hit the trails for a run.

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We’re also taking applications for next season’s team leaders (just a few spots remain!), so email me at tlcportlandrun (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested. All levels are welcome (walkers, runners), and if you want to see what we’re all about you can check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Baby H: 24-Week Update

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And just like that, this little wiggle-worm and I are starting the sixth month of pregnancy. Here’s where we’re at for the 24-week “bumpdate” for Baby H…

Month Six: Probably TMI, but here’s a fun fact: Apparently my uterus is now the size of a soccer ball and s/he is as big as an ear of corn, weighting about a pound and a half and measuring roughly a foot long if it were stretched out from head to toe. I’m pretty sure I’ve officially “popped,” although people don’t seem to feel quite comfortable/confident enough yet to ask if I’m pregnant…ha!

Weight Gained: Between 14-15 pounds, and my doctor says I’m right on track. She did issue one warning, though, that it’s a lot easier to pack it on in the second half of pregnancy, so I should be extra careful to not overindulge too much over the holidays (I won’t talk about Halloween’s candy-fest…oops). We don’t own a scale, so I don’t monitor my weight in between check-ups. Honestly, I thought I would feel the extra weight a lot more that I do, but I’m not sure if that’s because it comes on so gradually or if it’s just all the other bodily changes that are more distracting!

Workouts: I’m still keeping up my weekly cardio and cross-training sessions, as I’m trying to make the most of the energy I have while I have it. Of note this month, though, is that running is looking like it’ll be off the table for the immediate future. Following an incredible-feeling six-miler earlier this month with friends, I strained a round ligament on the left side of my groin and could barely walk. I’ve alternated rest and a few attempts at slow jogs since then, but frankly it’s becoming more trouble that it’s worth. My current plan is to give it a week or so of complete rest, and then my doctor said I could try doubling up on the support before making the final call to call it quits for the time being. It’s been an emotional process letting go of certain expectations, but I’m grateful for what I am still able to do, plus I’m taking the advice of this article to heart and keeping things in perspective.

Symptoms: Thanks to the bump making it’s official debut this month, it’s been all about the round ligament pain as my midsection stretches. Oh, and frequent bathroom breaks throughout the day.

Food Aversions: None. But my sense of smell is still super sensitive; I can’t stand the scents of cigarettes or any kind of alcohol on people’s breath.

Food Cravings: My sweet tooth has gone into overdrive, thanks to Halloween and the upcoming holidays. So I’m really trying to limit the treats and make sure I’m filling up on nutrient-dense foods and good fats first. Other than that, hot soups have been my jam now that Portland’s been cold and rainy for the past few weeks.

Sleep: I get up once or twice to hit the bathroom, but if I can MacGuyver a fort of pillows around myself each evening, I’ll usually stay relatively comfortable while dozing on my side.

Looking Forward To: The holidays! It’s always been my favorite time of year…and having our (very active) little jumping bean along for the ride is making 2015 even more special. What am I not looking forward to? The dreaded glucose test and a few shots at my next appointment. But you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

Boy/Girl Suspicions: Still no clue! But can’t wait to find out come March.

Any Fun Stories? Baby H’s movements (i.e. flips, kicks, flops and flutters) have become stronger, more frequent and even a bit more predictable. I can’t help but wonder if there are any early indication of his/her personality. Baby H always seems to be up right as I settle into bed, after my middle-of-the-night bathroom trip and again when my alarm goes off in the morning, so it seems like s/he doesn’t want to be missing out on anything!

Stay tuned for the month seven update in a few weeks…

Portland Fit Fix: Strengthening ‘Mommy’ Muscles at Mod Physique

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Entering into a new phase of fitness has taught me a lot these past few months, not the least of which being that there’s a serious lack of attention paid to prenatal programs for women who want to work out — thoroughly, safely and effectively — while pregnant. From what I’ve seen, most of the options out there seem to fall into one of two camps: Either wing it in your usual classes, trying to modify and keep up where you can, or hit up a prenatal yoga class, which ends up just being a lot of slow stretching.

That feels lovely, yes, but I can’t help but wonder about the functionality beyond learning to control breathing and practicing relaxation techniques. Both are important tools for labor, sure, but what about properly prepping the body and strengthening those special muscles to aid in getting Baby from point A to point B on delivery day?

This is something I’ve been especially focused on during my weekly MYMA Mama prenatal movement classes; both the exercises we do and don’t do come with the specific purpose of helping to ease our bodies into the idea of labor. So when my friend, fellow blogger and LUNA teammate Tiffany mentioned she’d heard about a new series of similar prenatal workouts in the area, we both jumped at the chance to check ’em out.

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Tiffany’s about 19 weeks along, and I’m 24 weeks, so we’ve both hit what I’ve been calling the “sweet spot” of the second trimester where workouts are fun again — and not just an energy suck like those first few months where our bodies were working overtime to turn a tiny ball of cells into something! We both also enjoy a good workout; so when Jessa Freeman, founder and owner of Mod Physique, invited us to her studio last weekend to take a Mod-Mama class, we hoped it’d hit the mark when it came to expectations.

The first thing I noticed when we stepped into the room was a lack of mirrors. This is by design, as Mod Physique prefers that students gain more body awareness by able to “feel the movement” in their bodies versus being distracted by their reflections.

Fair enough, especially now with an expanding belly — once in a while I’ll catch a passing glimpse in a mirror and have to to a double-take because I don’t recognize my shape-shifting self!

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Instructor (and soon-to-be-new-mom!) Kerri Maskol started the class by explaining that we’d be addressing some of the alignment and postural changes that occur during pregnancy. That means strengthening the core to help support the lower back and getting those glutes firing to help balance things out as the pelvis starts its forward tilt.

In layman’s terms, this means ballet barre and Pilates-based mat and resistance training with props — all of which are done with the philosophy that “just because you can’t do crunches doesn’t mean you can’t keep your core strong and your body healthy.” Amen to that. 

After leading us through a gentle, cardio-based warm-up to help loosen up our muscles, Kerri wasted no time in getting us into some of the more advanced (read: challenging!) moves. Think upper body strength work for holding baby, core and pelvic floor work to prepare for pushing and recovery, hip stabilization from fine-tuning surrounding muscles, as well as some soft stretches in between.

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This was no walk-in-the-park prenatal class by any means, though. Both Tiffany and I were laughing as we found ourselves doused in sweat and grunting as we felt the burn of the isometric holds and floundered our way through the stability work while trying to navigate our now-changing centers of balance.

Kerri kept a keen eye on form throughout, slightly adjusting us during each exercise for maximum impact and safety. And at the start of each exercise, she’d remind us to “hug baby in” in order to keep our cores engaged and lower backs out of the equation. This turned out to be a really helpful cue!

We ended class with a 90-second squat at the barre, which she reminded us would be the length of a contraction during the more intense part of labor (Huh?! Cue slight wave of panic). It’s not only a thigh-burner of a stretch now, but it’s also a great position to practice for later when we want to help open up the hips so baby can more easily pass through.

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I appreciated the variety in class, as well as the fact that “prenatal” didn’t translate to “we’ll just sit and stretch.” And I’m even more excited to have found another fitness option to add to my pregnancy repertoire.

The lesson in all of this? It is possible to get an awesome workout that’ll challenge your body, as well as help prepare it for what’s to come in just a few short months.

And despite not getting down on the mat to do traditional ab work, my core was pleasantly sore the next day. They’ve also got a post-natal series, which I’m looking forward to checking out once Baby H makes his/her debut in the spring.

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Oh, and the only responsible thing for two preggos to do after burning a bunch of calories during a weekend workout is to re-fuel, right? At least this was Tiffany’s and my reasoning when we stopped off at Pip’s Original on the way home…

Pips’ has earned the reputation of being one of Portland’s best doughnuts shops; I usually don’t buy into the hype, but after trying them I’d wholeheartedly have to agree. Made-to-order, these mini bites of heaven are perfectly spiced and crispy on the outside with a nice, fluffy cake-like center.

They remind me of my favorite cider mill doughnuts back home in the Midwest. Totally worth the wait (and there usually is one) if you’re in Portland anytime soon!

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Have you found any good ‘prenatal’ workouts? And, more importantly, what’s your favorite way to refuel afterwards?

My Pregnancy Fitness Philosophy and “Training” Plan

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my pregnancy workout routine and how “training” has changed over the course of the past few months, so I figured I’d do a post on the topic. It’s interesting to look back on how things have evolved now that I’m sweating for two, although it’s important to remember that everyone has and/or will have a different experience; this is just what I happen to be going through, so take it for what it’s worth!

Let’s start at the beginning: Pre-pregnancy, I was what I call in “maintenance training mode” — meaning, I’d set a specific training plan for a major event (i.e. last fall’s marathon) but otherwise would try to maintain a level of fitness that’d allow me to not have to start from scratch each time. It’s an approach I highly recommend; building slow and steady means fewer injuries, and maintenance in between allows you to push harder with each cycle.

After lots of racing in 2014 (marathon, Olympic-distance triathlon, ultramarathon and more), I knew 2015 would be a year filled with more reflection, recovery…and, apparently, reproduction! I had dialed back the aggressive goals early on — not only to keep myself from getting sidetracked while adjusting to the first year in a new city, but also to keep from burning out, which I felt close to towards the end of last year.

Fast forward a few months, and we got the big surprise-on-a-stick! And, for better or worse, almost immediately I could tell my body was in the process of changing (I think years of tuning in — and out — during training and racing have honed these skills). I was determined, though, to find my personal form of “pregnancy maintenance mode” where I could challenge myself without causing injury to myself or harm to Baby H.

Little did I know that what I was aiming for would be a moving target!

Here’s one week’s worth of workouts I logged from very early on during my first trimester — while I was still trying to keep up “maintenance mode:”

  • Monday: 45-minute indoor cycling class
  • Tuesday: 30-minute elliptical + yoga class
  • Wednesday: Portland Trail Series 5-mile race
  • Thursday: 30-minute run + barre class
  • Friday: Strength training class + 60 minutes of walking to/from meetings
  • Saturday: 3-mile run + prenatal movement class
  • Sunday: OFF

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As I look back through my logs, I see that during the later weeks of my first trimester (once the pregnancy symptoms really hit) most of my cardio was walking. Running just felt “off;” my bladder was heavy, and I was out of breath about 10 seconds into a run. That, combined with sheer exhaustion, and I knew I was lucky to be able to continue some kind — any kind — of activity, even if it wasn’t at my usual intensity.

Here’s a week from my log during that time — I call it “survival mode:”

  • Monday: 30-minute walk with dogs + Pilates class
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes of walking to/from meetings + yoga class
  • Wednesday: 30-minute elliptical + some bodyweight exercises
  • Thursday: 60 minutes of walking to/from errands
  • Friday: Strength training class
  • Saturday: OFF
  • Sunday: 5-mile run

Around week 17 I hit a sweet spot, though, where running felt great again. I was hitting the pavement (or the trails) two or three times a week, and my goal was to do at least a six-miler each weekend to keep my mileage up.

That lasted for all of maybe six weeks.

Now, as I’m creeping toward the end of the second trimester, running (at least at the moment) isn’t working for me anymore. I ran an awesome six-miler with friends on Nov. 1, but later that afternoon got blindsided with what felt like a strained a ligament in my groin and could barely walk for two days.

Physically, I get it; my body’s got a lot going on, and something’s gotta give. But it’s been much more difficult, mentally and emotionally, to detach from my “happy place.”

With pregnancy comes a lot of uncertainty, and who knows what will feel good a few weeks from now, let along a few months down the road. But it’s an excellent lesson in learning to roll with the punches, look at the bigger picture, get creative and be grateful for what you can do rather than what you cannot.

So here’s where I was as of last week, which I’m calling “the new normal mode:”

  • Monday: 60-minute walk during lunch + prenatal yoga class
  • Tuesday: 30-minute elliptical + barre class
  • Wednesday: 30-minute stair stepper + prenatal movement class
  • Thursday: 30-minute laps in the pool + barre class
  • Friday: 45-minute indoor cycling class
  • Saturday: OFF
  • Sunday: 3-mile run (painful!)

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And in the meantime, I’m keeping things fluid, taking it day-by-day and approaching fitness with a more pregnancy-friendly set of principles:

  1. Listen to my body. I modify like nobody’s business, and if I’m not up for something, I don’t do it. It’s as simple as that!
  2. Keep it a priority. Fitness has always been and always will be important to me. I make it work around other commitments.
  3. Keep it in perspective. Races and PRs will be there waiting for me. Right now, I want to stay in the moment and enjoy this time.
  4. Have fun. Whether it’s meeting up with friends or trying a new class, I love having more freedom to experiment.
  5. Mix things up. Even if my new default is walking, I’m trying to get as much variety as I can to keep my mind and body engaged.
  6. Re-think “training.” As in, my immediate focus is getting through childbirth come March, then being healthy enough to chase a kiddo.
  7. Stay curious. Gone are strict training schedules for the time being, so I’m just enjoying figuring out how to work this “new” body.
  8. Be grateful. I’ll do whatever I can for as long as I’m able. It feels good to move, and I want to honor my body where it’s at as this process progresses.

And, on the bright side, I’m also hoping that if I do have to take a good chunk of time off of running, I might finally heal some nagging injuries (old: SI joint, new: ligaments/groin). For example, my plantar fasciitis is almost a distant memory now that I’ve dialed down the impact activities, which I’ll take as a win.

So where will I go from here? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll keep you posted.

How did your perspective on fitness change during pregnancy? 

Navigating a Changing Pregnancy Body and Preparing for Birth with an Open Mind

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Courtesy of MYMA

In my last post, I introduced Angi Purinton McClure and her longevity-based workout program, MYMA Movement. Today I’m posting the second part of our chat, which delves deeper into her work with mamas-to-be — yours truly included! — from exercises to help avoid injury to self-massage techniques to relieve common aches and pains.

Angi believes that pre-natal maintenance is important during pregnancy because it helps bring the focus inward and discover a new, changing body. Her MYMA Mama classes connect the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ to movement during such rapid change.

Not only does she develop a pre-natal movement routine that will rejuvenate her clients’ bodies during pregnancy, but she also helps us prepare for birth with an open mind. Something easier said than done, in some cases, I’m sure!

I’ve been working with Angi for a few months now, and I can’t say enough about how great it is to have someone to lean on who is both super knowledgeable about the body, as well as focused on long-term, sustainable results. Here’s her take on the ins and outs — and do’s and don’ts of pre-natal fitness.

5. Whats your overall philosophy on pregnancy & fitness?

While many women hear “make sure you exercise” during the pregnancy, many are misguided in wondering ‘what type of exercise’ and ‘what is right for my body?’

Unfortunately, there aren’t many smart, safe, and balanced Mama pre-natal classes. So what happens is that many women continue exercising they way they have been, not knowing how to listen to their changing body until there’s pain — or many women will jump into a pre-natal yoga class thinking this is their only option.

It’s not true. There’s a balance. If you work out, you need to know that you have to predict how to soften your routines while your body changes. You need movement, but it has to be kind movement that will help your body feel open, loved, and prepared for the birth.

6. We hear a lot about “body after baby,” but you emphasize pre-natal movement. Why’s that piece so important?

We need to move. We need to mentally, emotionally and physically connect before we give birth. This is the time in a woman’s life when she learns more about her body in a nine month period than most do in a lifetime.

Moving and maintaining the body during pregnancy will not only help you during the labor experience and help you heal faster postpartum, but it also benefits the body during the pregnancy. Exercise during pregnancy will help fetal development, connect you to you baby, and it will also aid in a healthy pregnancy and lessen aches and pain.

Besides, what a fun time to get to know your body while you’re growing a baby! So exciting and empowering.

Courtesy of MYMA

Courtesy of MYMA

7. Walk us through what goes on in one of your MYMA Mama classes.

In a MYMA Mama class, we exercise with corrective exercises to keep your body strong and loose. We address aches and pains and move through some self-massage exercises that you can take home to use whenever you need. We also open up the conversation of how the body is changing and how you can adapt through: sleeping positioning, partner massage, self-massage, acupressure points, mantras, pre-birth education and more.

We move, we roll, we laugh, and we share stories. It’s a beautiful time in a woman’s life to learn the life-long skills for body care and body awareness. It’s always an honor to meet women and learn their stories, fears, questions, hopes and, of course, meet their baby later on!

8. What are the most common misconceptions you’ve run across when it comes to pregnancy & fitness?

A common misconception that I witness is to ‘take it easy’ and ‘don’t exercise.’ You should always listen to your body (and some have doctors order for bed-rest) and know that if you don’t feel like exercising that day, fine. However, don’t make a habit out of it; walking is good, stairs (going up) are great for opening up the pelvis, and dancing is great, too.

Our bodies are changing and getting tighter, so don’t allow muscles to get weaker at the same time. Move in moderation, move within a time frame that doesn’t fatigue you. Movement should invigorate you. Be it a quick dance with a song you love or choosing to take a 15-minute walk with a set of stairs, you should feel like you got a breath of fresh air and you don’t ache as much. It’s minimal but so, so important to keep moving.

9. Which exercises are the biggest no-no’s that make you cringe when you see pregnant women doing them?

Well, crunches make me cringe but for many who feel their womb grow, it becomes a no-brainer. So the other no-no is over-exercise. People sometimes like to start a new fitness routine while pregnant. It may seem bizarre but it’s true.

I had a client who came to MYMA Mama after a terrible injury while learning kettlebells at 26 weeks pregnant. Yes. They are out there.

If you have been running, weight lifting, biking, etc. before you got pregnant, keep going! Just do it in moderation and listen to your body. Know that you won’t move the same while pregnant, but allow yourself to exercise your mentality by slowing things down. If it feel enjoyable, continue.

Courtesy of MYMA

Courtesy of MYMA

10. What should all moms-to-be be doing more of in their pre-natal fitness routines?

More maintenance work. Those who come to my MYMA Mama class leave with tools for at-home self-care, and they need it.

My moms always thank me as their back pain lessens from the MYMA Mama classes. Their swelling went down because they knew the methods to calm the body. Their labors were more empowered due to faith they restored in their body as they learned how their body has the power to heal (and give birth).

I also feel that pre-natal fitness needs more mental preparation, such as mantras to soothe the mind and open the body.

11. If nothing else, what’s the one exercise moms should be doing during pregnancy & why?

First I have to say, that you should always consult your doctor because certain exercises won’t be good for certain bodies.

That said, my main exercise that women forget to do is Kegels. Yes, even during the pregnancy, you want that Qi (“chee”) or energy of intention to move upward to hold the baby and pelvic floor. If you have pubic symphysis, you’ll love this even more because you want to keep a strong pelvic floor.

Don’t worry — you won’t get so tight that the baby can’t come out! This is the beauty of our bodies. They adapt. Balanced, our bodies are to be loose and strong.

Kegels can also help with breathing: Breathe out and let go of the body, then with the next inhalation, feel the pelvic floor lift. (It’s as if you are going to the bathroom and then you stop the flow of urine.) As you inhale, keep the body relaxed as you feel the ‘lift’. Hold the lift as you exhale, then slowly and gently let it go until the next inhale. Don’t ‘drop it’ — you would never just collapse after a squat, so don’t just ‘drop’ the pelvic floor. Think of it like an elevator lifting and taking time to go down as you release.

This is such an amazing time for a woman. These exercises are so important in our later years and to begin them NOW is a head start on living a long, healthy, happy life!

To learn more about Angi’s MYMA Movement and related classes, visit MYMAMovement.com.

Have you added smart, safe balanced movement as part of your workout routine?

Learn How to ‘Make Your Mind Aware’ with MYMA Movement

Courtesy of MYMA

Courtesy of MYMA

“Ok, can I tell you something?” I said between labored breaths mid-run with my friend Anabel a few months back.

It was before I officially broke my own pregnancy news, but she was already a few months along herself. And since we’re both pretty in-tune with our bodies, I figured it’d be nice to commiserate with each other about our usually-predictable systems going somewhat haywire while growing tiny humans.

Since then, we’ve swapped stories, traded tips, and I’ve listened to her advice with all ears since she’s got a few months’ heads up on how this whole thing works. Sharing this experience together has created a special bond, but having a “pregnancy mentor” who isn’t afraid to show you the ropes and call it like it is has proved invaluable.

Case in point: Early on, Anabel introduced me to Angi Purinton McClure, creator of MYMA Movement here in Portland. Like me, Anabel’s eager to get back on the proverbial “race” horse post-baby (her: triathlon, me: running), but we both know that it’s going to take some planning and preparation ahead of time — not to mention some recovery, rehab and ramping up after.

Luckily, Angi’s come to our rescue. Not only is she a licensed massage therapist, fitness instructor and trained doula, but her use of Chinese Medicine, evidence-based exercises, and self-massage techniques also translate to a more innovative and balanced approach to fitness.

But best of all? This ain’t your mama’s prenatal workout; while Angi does work with new mamas and mamas-to-be, what she really specializes in is working with people through every phase of their life in order to make them more aware of their bodies and help them learn how to properly move so they can move forever.

Angi calls it ‘body longevity,’ and I wanted to pick her brain more about the topic, so we sat down to chat about her approach in a two-part interview. Read on for more on the importance of adding safe, smart and balanced movement into your fitness routine!

1. Tell us about MYMA and your mentality towards fitness.

MYMA is an acronym for Make Your Mind Aware, it’s a movement-based education service that focuses on body longevity. Based around fitness theory and Chinese Medicine, MYMA offers classes, workshops and online programs to help empower your body awareness so you can move in a smart, safe and balanced manner.

I feel that there’s a gap when it comes to long-term movement and fitness. We see 21-day results as a natural outcome from dedicated fitness efforts; however, no one is looking into the future wondering, how can we continue to move well as we age?

We need to learn balance in our movement and maintenance within our fitness routines. And MYMA is here to offer the tools and knowledge to set you on the right path. What we do today shapes our future, so let’s move now to move forever.

2. Your work blends Eastern and Western modalities; what’s the benefit to that approach?

I love to talk about balance, and Chinese Medicine is the root of how we move and care for our bodies. Within the fitness industry, many people can better relate to science-based methods; however, it is important to understand that the individual cannot be measured as a whole, so it’s vital that we learn how our minds and bodies may benefit from ALL perspectives of both eastern and western philosophy.

Besides, Chinese Medicine is the missing piece towards healing movement. Many use Chinese movement methods throughout the world, yet it’s not incorporated in our western fitness society. Until MYMA.

Courtesy of MYMA

Courtesy of MYMA

3. In a world of quick-fix gurus, why did you choose to focus on things like longevity, self-care and maintenance?

Working with seniors for over a decade now, I have ‘seen our future’ or so I like to say. If we are short-sighted in our approach to health, we’ll expend all our energy in our youth. Over-exercise, burnout, adrenal fatigue, injury, wear and tear, etc. are just a few instances of where we are headed in our bodies. I tell my clients, I want to continue standing to put on my underwear (a task that is not easy in your later years!).

Balance, suppleness, strength, proprioception, foot health, back health, etc. all apply to the ability of putting on underwear while standing, and yet many of my 30 year-old clients are sitting to put their shoes on after a session. This gets you thinking…you realize how in the ripe age of thirty people are already on their way to sitting down while dressing.

We have to think long-term in our movement and self-care.

4. You’re a holistic movement therapist, licensed massage therapist and doula — how did your MYMA Mama program come about?

While I was attending Pacific College of Oriental Medicine I was also teaching as a fitness instructor. While training to become a bodyworker I was also training in my own time to become a holistic movement educator because I realized people were not balanced in their ideas of fitness.

MYMA was the base I needed for people to have access to self-care tools, workout tips and mental guidance for those who knew that they needed to alter their current fitness habits and rethink how they want to continue to move in their later years.

Courtesy of MYMA

Courtesy of MYMA

Stay tuned for part two of my interview with Angi — in Friday’s post, we’ll be talking specifically about her recommendations for mamas-to-be with pre-natal prep and post-natal maintenance.

And if you’re interested in more information on Angi’s MYMA Movement in the meantime, check out MYMAMovement.com for details.

Are you thinking long-term when it comes to your health and fitness?