When we last chatted with NYC fitness fave Jenny Holahan, she was transitioning from Bari’s to SLT. Now, she’s deep into her time at the slow-twitch haven, and she's also a sought-after personal trainer. But, along with her work changes, she’s gone through another—much bigger—shift: She’s pregnant!
While thrilled and getting ready to welcome her own little one, she’s helping pre-natal clients at SLT and beyond, while also dealing with the wide-ranging journey of pregnancy. Read on for her tips for pre-natal clients, as well as her very candid account of her own challenges on the way to mommyhood.
SBS: What are some happy surprises and challenges about your new job/schedule?
Jenny Holahan: Now that I am no longer leading cardio-based classes, I have a lot more time and energy for my own workouts, which has been amazing! Also, having scaled back a bit on my schedule in general, I am much less stressed and enjoying this time getting ready for baby!
The one challenge is that teaching three or four classes in a row while pregnant has become much more difficult in terms of my stamina. I have to make it more of a priority to take water, snack and pee breaks between classes.
SBS: How has your pregnancy been going?
JH: I'm currently 29 weeks, and to be honest, my pregnancy has been going pretty smoothly so far. The hardest part for me was the first trimester because I had nausea about 75% of the time, and I was unbelievably fatigued. Also, I wasn't sharing the news yet, so I had to feel awful in secret!
This time was especially difficult for me personally, because as a health and fitness professional, I was really determined to overcome these challenges with a 'mind over matter' attitude and sticking to my regularly scheduled programming.
Unfortunately, the nausea (and therefore food aversions) would only allow me to eat certain foods that were generally not the healthiest choices... usually carbs, cheese and sugar. I also pulled way back from my normal workout schedule, which only made me feel worse. Because of this, I put on more weight in my first trimester than I would have liked, as well as than what is generally recommended, which took me to a bad place mentally. Luckily, second trimester came and I turned a corner: The nausea was gone, my energy levels went back up, I picked back up with my workouts, and I therefore had a more positive attitude and felt great. (Yay, workout endorphins!) I was surprised at how hard it was for me during that first trimester and was disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to overcome those challenges in the way I had hoped. Now I can look back and see that I dealt with it the best I could, and I’m just proud of the amazing things my body is doing every day!
SBS: How has your teaching evolved/adjusted per your pregnancy?
JH: Even though I am not doing the class while teaching at SLT, I am still a very physical instructor. I often like to mimic the move or use very large, exaggerated gestures to help support the cues and explanations I am giving. While I keep telling myself that I will eventually have to pull back a bit on this style of teaching, I have yet to do so. I feel it is what makes my classes successful and makes the clients feel like I am really part of what is happening. As I mentioned, I am definitely much more fatigued (and sometimes sweaty!) after teaching, but I hope to keep the energy going as long as I am teaching!
SBS: How has your own fitness/wellness routine evolved and changed during your pregnancy?
JH: This has been a difficult adjustment for me as well. For the most part, I have continued my normal workout routine (or rather resumed in second trimester), but I only do full workouts three to five times a week instead of my usual five to six, though I still try to be active in some way on my rest days. But, being someone who normally takes every challenge offered and loves to push myself to the limit, it has been a challenge to shift that mentality.
My focus is now on what is safe for me/baby and when should I listen to my body and pull back a bit. I also cut back the intensity and changed the types of cardio I was doing to incorporate more modified strength training, focusing on things that I know will keep me strong and healthy during my pregnancy. In terms of nutrition and wellness, I have adjusted my diet to eating small balanced meals throughout the day to keep my energy up and avoid indigestion. I am also a lot more focused on staying hydrated and now add electrolytes to my water a couple times a day. I still hit up some of my fave workouts like bounce or sculpt classes at Fithouse or The Ness, Rumble Boxing, and of course SLT, but I’ve added classes at FPC (Fit Pregnancy Club) which are specifically designed for pre- and post-natal clients.
SBS: What are the essential tips/modifications you give to pre-natal clients?
JH: First, listen to your body. If something really does not feel right, you feel dizzy, nauseas or lightheaded, stop!
Two: Remember that pregnancy is not the time to push yourself during workouts. Your focus should be on staying active, strong, healthy and safe. So don't be afraid to take breaks or pull back when you need.
Three: Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe. Be extra attentive to continuous breathing during your workout and never hold your breath
Four: Stop doing crunches and sit-ups sooner rather than later. Most definitely stop once you notice even the tiniest baby bump, but honestly, as soon as you know you're pregnant, there is no reason to continue strengthening those six pack muscles. So (unfortunately) say your goodbyes to them, and you can be reunited after your baby is born.
Five: No extreme twisting beginning around the start of second trimester. Every woman is different, so start date for this can vary, but better to be safe and avoid it if you're unsure.
Six: Laying down on your back is safe for most pregnant women for short periods of time, but if you start to feel dizzy or nauseous, roll over onto your side.
Seven: Speaking of which, always roll onto your side to transition to or from lying on your back, rather than laying straight down or sitting straight up (a sit-up).
Eight: There comes a point where holding a plank position for too long is not beneficial and can even have negative effects on the body if done incorrectly.
Nine: Always make sure you tell your class instructor/trainer that you are pregnant and how far along you are!
Ten: Don't be afraid to modify if you are unsure about the safety of an exercise. No one will judge you in a fitness class if they see you doing something different. You are making another human!
SBS: Are there any modifications that fitness professionals used to give that have been debunked?
JH: The belief used to be that for all pregnant women, heart rate should not be kept above 140 bpm for an extended period of time. Today, medical professionals recommend at least 150 min a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, but without any specific heart rate limits!
Also, pregnant women who were previously engaging in high intensity aerobic activity, or who are extremely active, can continue their activities, provided they remain healthy and have the approval of their doctor. Again, the rule of thumb is to listen to your body and continue on if you feel good, or pull back if you don't, but there is no longer a specific limit set for heart rate. A good way to gauge this (and what I tell my clients) is if you are too winded and unable to speak a full sentence somewhat normally, you should take it down a notch.
SBS: What advice do you give to prenatal clients continuing on a fitness journey? What about those newer to fitness?
JH: If you are continuing a fitness journey, remember that there are lots of changes happening in your body and there should also be a shift in your focus and goals during your workouts. Being consistent and pushing yourself a little bit will make you feel better both physically and mentally, but don't feel like you need to push yourself to the max. In fact, you probably shouldn't. Also, try not to be hard on yourself if you miss a few workouts, and get back on track when you can!
If you are a mama-to-be and newer to fitness, you definitely need to be more careful about what you choose to do. Staying active during your pregnancy is very important, but you have to ensure the activities you choose are safe for you and baby. Starting something new or too intense during pregnancy is not ideal and not recommended. If you are really uncertain about what to do, working with a prenatal certified personal trainer would be the ideal option. If that's not a possibility for you, there are also lots of wonderful resources out there with simple, safe, and effective exercises and suggestions to get you moving. Check out: What to Expect, The Bump, The Bloom Method and Obé Fitness. Also, don't underestimate the effectiveness of walking! And lastly, more and more studios are starting to offer specific prenatal classes, which ideally will always be a safe and effective choice! (If you live in NYC, try FPC, Core Pilates and Pronatal.)
SBS: What are a few of your fave pre-natal exercises?
JH: Some options are:
-Bird Dog: On all fours, reach your opposite arm and leg out. Alternate sides. This can be done with both the arm and leg, or modify with just the leg.
-Modified Side Plank on forearm and knees
-Clamshells: Lay on your side with knees bent. Open the top knee up toward the ceiling, then close the legs again. Make sure you keep the hips still and stacked.
-Bent Over Rows and Reverse Flies with five to 10-pound weights.
SBS: What are common mistakes you see pre-natal clients making?
JH: Honestly, it comes back to just pushing themselves too hard, or not taking modifications or adjustments when they should. It can feel awkward in a group fitness class to do something different than the rest of the class, but it's really the opposite! Other clients are usually impressed when they see prenatal clients owning those modifications and looking strong while they do it! Also, crunches and sit-ups past the point where they are effective could possibly be damaging your body.
SBS: What else should pre-natal fitness enthusiasts know?
JH: I encourage any pregnant woman (no matter their fitness level) to do their research before trying out a new workout class or trainer. A lot of workouts are safe or could be modified and made safe for pregnant women, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they’re the most beneficial for what your body needs during such an important time.
You also never know what level of prenatal fitness knowledge a group instructor will have, so it's smart to make sure you have educated yourself, at least a little bit, before heading to a class or instructor you haven't tried before. If you’re really unsure about what is safe to do during your pregnancy and you live in NYC, (again) I will again suggest FPC (Fit Pregnancy Club) because their entire focus is on providing a safe space for prenatal fitness. The instructors are extremely knowledgeable, encouraging, and also know how to kick your butt in just the right (and safe) way!
Jenny’s NYC Pre-Natal Faves:
Maternity Clothes: Pink Blush Maternity, Old Navy and H&M
Maternity Fitness Clothing: Lululemon Align Legging, We Over Me and Old Navy
Healthy Restaurant: Sweetgreen, Mulberry & Vine
Splurge Restaurant: Grey Dog, Bareburger
Pre-Natal Pampering/Massage: Body Mechanics NYC and Bliss Spa
Pre-Natal Workout: FPC and Core Pilates Prenatal Classes
Calming Activity: Napping
Pre-Natal Books: What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, How to Exercise When You're Expecting by Lindsay Brin, Sh!t No One Tells You About Pregnancy by Dawn Dais
Pre-Natal Online Resources: The Bump, What to Expect and Lucie's List
The best, zaniest part about your pregnancy: This belly! It's both amazing and sometimes slightly terrifying to see it growing and feel baby moving inside me.
Jenny’s Pre-Natal SBS Mantra: Be Brave! While I’m extremely excited to become a mom, there is a lot of fear that goes along with pregnancy, the birth, and becoming responsible for another human being. When I have moments where I start to let those feelings overwhelm me, I remember how many amazing women around me have done it and are nailing it. I use their inspiration to remind me to Be Brave. I plan to wear my Be Brave Sticky Be Socks when I go to the hospital to deliver, so I can look at them as a reminder when I am struggling!