Instagram would have you believe that #fitness means abs, bikinis and sexy poses - and that you get a trophy for looking like your pre-pregnancy self as fast as possible.
True fitness is the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task. True fitness is building a body that can handle anything, ward off acute + chronic conditions and keep you strong, healthy + happy for life.
Before you set out in any post partum fitness program, it's important to evaluate where you are right now.
Your body is different than it was one year ago, or five years ago, and it looks & feels much different than the body you'll have in three years time.
This is all fine.
The body you have today is yours - move it & love it.
Why not just any fitness program?
You are different from everyone else in that group class.
That trainer you hired may not truly understand what diastasis rectus means.
Cardio without strength will not do the things for your body that you truly need.
You've spent the last 10 months transforming your body.
Things have shifted, and look and feel different than they once did.
Establishing a solid foundation rooted in exercise science in which to layer fitness upon is vital to your longevity.
A post partum fitness program should not solely be focused on aesthetics, on how you look, on the body "bounce-back." While it is ok to be training for aesthetics, this should not be the sole focus.
I'll admit, in the final weeks of my pregnancy, at 190lbs from 150lbs, I have been reminiscing on old workout videos, PRs and what my body looked like last year. I've whispered "I'll be back soon" to my closet full of my beautiful, untouched clothes. It's taken intentional thought to stop myself from body negativity, or want to speed life up to be back in my "old body."
The fact is - you and I need specialized fitness training before we get back to our old training ways. We need to build a solid foundation upon which we can layer additional fitness. We need to ensure we get more than a quick checkmark from an MD that were "cleared for exercise."
Before getting started with the ANCHOR post partum fitness program, you will have a consultation with Dr. Alli.
Things that will be covered in your initial consult
- type + time of birth
- pain medication used at the time of birth
- activity level prior to birth
- complication during pregnancy or birth
- current injuries
...this is all to ensure you are starting into fitness at an appropriate time for you.
I believe in movement.
I believe in self care.
I believe in bringing baby to life with you!
I believe in being patient with yourself.
Most of all, I believe in physical, mental and emotional wellness to achieve top quality of life.
- Dr. Alli Cain
I've gotten this question so many times over the 10 year course of my chiropractic & fitness professional career...
First - Yay! Congrats - you're pregnant!
Second - What are you doing for fitness now?
For the most part - you get to keep doing what you're doing!
What can I do during pregnancy?
Strength training is one of the most important things you can do during pregnancy. There is SO much a pregnant woman can do, and it's important to focus on all of the can do's rather than the few movements you cannot do.
Contrary to popular opinion, even if you're not currently training, you can start incorporating intentional movement. Be sure to seek out a supportive environment and a knowledgable coach.
Do: quality functional movement
What can I not do during pregnancy?
To the last point - just the other day I posted a video of myself doing a rope climb. I received a ton of commentary from people ranging from "you are a total badass" to "oh my god, should you be doing that in your condition."
At 32 weeks pregnant able to manage 1-3 higher intensity workouts per week, and in that workout I was feeling particularly strong + empowered. What I didn't show in that 30 second instagram clip, was me scaling the work every other round, and taking long breaks before attempting some of the harder skills.
Third - set your intention for fitness during pregnancy.
Your training goals have now changed: you are training for birth.
Your goals should still revolve around strength, stamina, balance, endurance, flexibility etc. but the outcome is not centred on setting PRs, or weight loss - it's now on building a strong body for pregnancy, birth and post-partum.
I'm launching my post partum fitness series in spring 2018.
Be the first to know when registration is live and subscribe to my newsletter below!
- Dr. Alli Cain
online diary of my pregnancy, originally written October 2017
Just like any woman, and especially when it's her first time being pregnant, I am, of course concerned with the process of being pregnant. One of my biggest moments of concern was the day I learned I was pregnant and I had just done the hero workout "murph" RX the day before... and PR'd my time!
However, while it's important to be mindful of the stress you are putting your body under when pregnant, pregnancy should not be viewed as a handicap. There's a lot of fear associated with pregnancy - a terrifying list of do's and don'ts. I'm not suggesting there are no justifiable fears - I just think that people could drive themselves crazy trying to be perfect during their pregnancy and adhere to every single contradictory "rule."
That's why I decided to document my pregnancy. Maybe mine looks a lot like yours, maybe there are no similarities at all. There's no need to compare... this is just my experience.
There have been several noticeable changes throughout these weeks!
Week 8 - we told our family + friends using the 'bun in the oven' method ;)
Week 12 - Jordan and I decided to make our "Instagram official announcement"
Week 16 - I had to stop running due to back pain - I've subbed in other modalities to replace running. Given that I am on my feet all day for work, it just isn't worth aggravating any areas of my body. I was a bit disappointed, as I've witnessed so many others run well into their pregnancy... but it just wasn't in the cards for me.
(more on pregnancy and back pain later)
Week 19 - we found out the gender, and revealed to our friends + family + the world....
see gender reveal
Week 20 - I had set a (foolish) goal that I was going to try to go the duration of my pregnancy without buying maternity clothing. I thought for sure my lululemons would stand the test of my belly growth!
However, this week, despite my refusal, it was time to give up my regular clothes and switch into some maternity clothing. I am not a good shopper on the best of days, and it took all of my strength not to have a toddler-sized temper tantrum as my husband and mother-in-law took me to Kohl's in Port Huron to do some maternity clothing shopping.....
(got some good deals, though)
Weeks 12-20 - give me all the carbs, let me sleep and please do not touch my stomach without asking first.
I found myself searching instragram with the hashtags of "19weekspregnant" or whatever the week is, and comparing other woman's size to my own. I don't know why I am doing this - I guess reassurance that I'm growing normally - not too fast, not too slow?
I'm also feeling odd in my own body + clothes. I'm not ready to commit to maternity clothes yet, but I'm just barely squeezing into my regular clothes. From week 12-20 I gained about 6lbs, but it's more the change in body composition that I've noticed.
I've started getting pregnancy advice, and having moms share their birth stories with me. I actually love this! Everyone's story is so unique - which just leads me to believe that our bodies are going to do whatever they want to do.
In week 12 I made some major decisions regarding my health care. When I had presented to my MD in week 5, I felt thoroughly dismissed in my appointment. There had been nothing more than an exchange of my telling her "I'm pregnant!" and her doing a quick calculation to determine my due date. I had expressed a legitimate concern I had with genetics and my family history and it was completely ignored. I would have liked to have an overview of what to expect to come - timeline of anticipated ultrasounds among other pregnancy milestones.
No, the only advice I got from my doctor was "don't lift anything heavy or do anything that causes more than a light sweat" ..... really? REALLY!
I decided to leave my MD and switch to a nurse practitioner, and also go under the care of a midwife.
Having a nurse practitioner and a midwife meant more support, more education and more opportunity to feel like I had control over my own body. An opportunity to ask questions and to feel like I am still me, while I rent out my uterus for 39 weeks. I left both of these appointments with information on what to expect over the next several weeks, and plenty of support material.
Being empowered during pregnancy is critical.
Being active is not the same thing as being careless
Living in a pregnancy bubble is not the same thing as being careful and mindful of your health
There is a difference between sensible caution and fear mongering
Dr. Alli Cain
Online diary of my pregnancy: originally written August 2017
In late June, I woke up at 5am, like usual, to coach the 6am CrossFit class at ANCHOR.
I've been feeling a little bit more tired than usual, and instead of springing out of bed, I am giving myself an extra 15 minutes of rest. No biggie, I live 5 minutes from work and since I am no longer drinking coffee in the morning, the 15 minutes is better spend with my eyes shut!
Today, I felt a little off, though. I woke up having full knowledge that I had a dream I had had a miscarriage. I've been having crazy vivid dreams over the past 3 weeks. I actually asked myself when I was coaching "what is my body trying to tell me" and "do I feel empty?"
As the morning progressed I perked up, and even convinced myself to do a 20 minute WOD including box jumps (I stepped), wall balls and rowing. I felt amazing after I was done and left to get to work at Align Health Centre.
I had a fully booked day, starting off with a new patient. Just as I was getting started with this patient, I felt a nauseous dizzy and odd sensation that caused me to step out of the room.
I was bleeding profusely.
I let out a silent scream, but in my slight disorientation I quickly pulled myself together and went back to attend to my patient.
About 5 minutes later, I knew that I was so worried about myself, that I would not be able to take effective care of this person if I was not OK. Although difficult, I stepped out of the room, and asked another practitioner to take over for me and decided to go to the hospital.
My team at Align and ANCHOR stepped up and covered my day which I was so thankful for. Sometimes, admitting you are unwell and need help is a hard thing to do - especially when you're the doctor.
The hospital was great with me. The nurses were comforting as I was visibly upset, and they got me in for an ultrasound within 30 minutes, but for those 30 minutes I was waiting, I was sure I was going to find out I had miscarried. I was mentally preparing myself to accept this, as it is a common occurrence under 12 weeks, and if this were the case it simply meant the fetus was not viable and my body was doing the right thing.
As I lay getting the ultrasound, the technician turned the screen towards me and showed me that everything seemed to be ok with the fetus!
I went back to the room, still waiting for the results of the cause of the bleed. It was a large subchorionic hematoma* in the gestational sac, but that the fetus was OK.
*more information on this here: https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/complications/subchorionic-bleeding.aspx
The recommendations for healing in my case was simply resting, and to let the body heal itself. This meant no workouts until I was cleared.
So, weeks 8-12 were spent doing very gentle yoga and lots of walks.
When I had my follow up ultrasound a few weeks later, it showed healing of the tear, and that the baby was healthy. Still feeling the effects of being vulnerable in these early stages of pregnancy, I slowly added back in movement at the gym - mostly consisting of body weight movements.
How I'm feeling //
Relieved that the baby is fine.
A little restless that I can't workout, but not upset.
Anxious to ensure that I heal properly.
I'm coaching the 6am and 8:30am classes at ANCHOR, and while getting up at 5am is not problem, towards the end of coaching the 6am class I feel ready to go back to bed. I am sneaking a nap in between classes, all the while doing some positive self talk "you will not throw up, you will not throw up" sometimes this works, other times - not so good. My coach cheering yell has turned into a coach cheering normal indoor speaking voice as anytime I get my heart rate up I feel like I will vomit.
Advice I've received //
I did not do anything to cause the subchorionic hematoma - it wasn't the workout that I did, or that my job is physical. While hematomas are not normal in pregnancy, they are common and most women who experience them go on to have healthy pregnancies.
Changes I've made //
No formal workouts until I am cleared.
How I'm eating //
The smell of eggs, vegetables and meat disgusts me. I can smell it 2 floors away!
I go through hours of not being able to eat, and then moments of rolling through the kitchen consuming every carb in sight (see picture above - a sign I made for a co-worker who left her bagel sitting unattended in the staff room!)
- Dr. Alli
Photo: workout at 6 weeks pregnant at ANCHOR / crossfit. yoga. lifestyle.
Online diary of my pregnancy: originally written June 17, 2017
I decided to keep an online diary of my pregnancy around week 8.
Jordan and I knew that we wanted to start trying for a baby soon after our wedding on NYE december 31, 2016. I found out on June 2nd that I was pregnant. I immediately download the baby centre app that tracks your pregnancy and gives you a food comparison. I am currently carrying a lentil!
The reality of what's to come in ~8 months hasn't sunk in yet. I'm hosting a big party on Saturday and somehow have to avoid people noticing I'm not drinking. Jordan's on it with some pre-made non-alcoholic mimosas, though :)
First steps after finding out I was pregnant --
The first appointment I made after my positive pregnancy test was with my naturopath.
I then applied online for a midwife.
I also booked in for a chiropractic adjustment and let my Chiro know I would be seeing her monthly (or maybe more thoughout my pregnancy).
How I'm feeling --
Slightly more hungry, very tired and thirsty all the time. Also trying to be extremely in tune with my body as I navigate my day to day life which typically includes coaching the 6am and 8:30am crossfit class, seeing patients from 9:30-11, a noon workout and then seeing patients 3-7pm (as well as managing my online business).
I'm starting to think about what the future looks like with a child, and how our life will adapt. I'm hoping that Jordan will cover my maternity leave at Align, and that I can find someone for my patients at ANCHOR.
Advice I received --
- keep things to a light sweat (medical doctor)
- start supplementing (naturopathic doctor)
- stop resting your laptop on your stomach! (sister)
- stop the caffeine (on to decaf!)
Changes I've made --
- listen to my body, kept doing things I normally do, didn't push into any PRs or new skills
- took more breaks in my workouts
- was way more conscious of my hydration level
- took the following supplements each day
- prenatal, coQ10, fish oil, nacetyl, vitamin C, vitamin D
- got a lot more sleep
- stopped resting my laptop on my stomach
How I'm eating //
I already had myself at maintenance level macros, and I tacked on an extra 150. I'm tracking because I want to make sure this is the absolutely best my nutrition has ever been.
I'm super bloated, gassy and constipated. Feeling some odd pinch sensations bilaterally for the first time, just inside of where my hip flexors would be.
Still feeling pretty much normal though and not too many people know!
- Dr. Alli
the basics of nutrition --
macronutrients • carbs/fat/protein —
these are the nutrients that your body requires in large amounts everyday. Alcohol is technically the fourth macro.
protein • necessary to build + repair tissue. Important for bones, muscle, cartilage, skin & blood. Look to lean animal protein (know your source) and non-animal protein such as tofu, quinoa, broccoli etc.
carbs • provide the body with the majority of the energy needed for the demands you place on it. A carbohydrate can be either 'simple' or 'complex.' Simple carbs are a single sugar molecule called a monosaccharide or two simple sugars linked called a disaccharide. Complex carbs are multiple sugar molecules linked together and are called polysaccharides. Get the majority of your carbohydrates from vegetables, nuts & seeds, fruit and legumes.
fat • dietary fat is necessary in your diet for hormone function among other physiological processes. Look to extra virgin olive oil, butter, nuts + seeds, whole eggs etc., for your source of fat.
To learn more about tracking your macros pick up my macros e-book MINDSHIFT MACROS
"... But I can't eat carbs after 8pm?"
"Isn't breakfast the most important meal of the day?"
"I want to go vegetarian, but I'm worried about protein deficiency"
These are just some of the questions that come up each time I do a nutrition workshop.
Sometimes the thought that optimal nutrition can actually be so simple is hard for people to hear.
We've been overwhelmed with the nuances of nutrition from supplement companies focused on selling you a product, rather than a solid nutrition strategy that truly works.
When it comes to optimizing your body composition, focusing on the pillars of nutrition is where most of your energy + effort should lie - that is: your total daily caloric consumption & eating adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat that support your goals.
Let's focus less on the nitty gritty details, and lock down the basics of nutrition, first.
- Dr. Alli Cain
Same caloric intake, but just LOOK at all the food you can eat on the left!
Trail mix is convenient, but so easy to overeat. Have you ever truly measured out a serving size? They also don't contain near enough protein - although many people make the mistake of believing they do.
So while caloric dense food like the nuts + dried fruit might be an easy snack, it will not leave you feeling full. I prefer to eat more food volume because it assists with satiety, reduces the feeling of starvation and enhances compliance with macros when working with reduced calories.
Other culprits guilty of stealing your macros are things like protein bars. I know from experience that it can be so easy to trick yourself into thinking a protein bar is a healthy choice, but in reality you're just eating a lot of unnecessary sugar and calories that won't leave you feeling full. If you're trying to lose weight, or get a better understanding of how food fuels your workouts, try weighing or measuring your food for a day or two to see how on or off you are about your daily consumption.
I am an advocate for "if it fits your macros"/ flexible dieting because it is sustainable and promotes a healthier relationship with food. There is no food that in isolation causes weight gain/loss. Learning to have a variety of foods in your diet is key to long-term success.
Sometimes, in order to hit your goals, you must follow a lower macro number to get there. However, this should never be permanent. The key to long-term success is short cuts and long periods of maintenance as it pertains to your goals.
When following lower macro targets, it is important that you maximize that amount of food that you eat in order to avoid being chronically hungry. Here are some ways to boost the volume of food you eat in a day without exceeding your macro numbers.
1. High volume/low calorie VEGGIES.
The most effective way to feel full is to eat a lot of food. When you're on a cut with your macros, you'll want to do whatever you can to avoid feeling hungry. Filling your meals with low calorie, high volume veggies is a great way to feel satiated. Foods like
2. Eat your fat.
When beginning flexible dieting, your fat target can easily run out early as a byproduct of the protein and carbs you are consuming. It is a good idea to "eat your fat" as opposed to just letting it run out from the protein/carbs you eat. Eating leaner meats, and being aware of the fat content in your carb-dense food will be key. Chicken, lean beef, lean turkey, egg whites are all excellent sources of low fat protein - this will make it possible to add more mono/poly unsaturated fats to your diet like nuts, seeds, nut butter etc. You will be more aware of the fat you are consuming and less likely to overeat this macro.
3. Be aware of sauces and dressing
During a lower macro cycle, boring and bland food may make a regular appearance in your diet. Dressings like BBQ sauce, ketchup, mayo, ranch sauce may be necessary in order to keep your excitement for your meals. Be sure that you are carefully measuring and tracking these if you choose to add them to your meal. Another option is to substitute things to dress up your food that are lower carb/calorie like mustard or hot sauce.
4. Don't drink your calories
Drinking high-calorie and/or high-sugar drinks usually does not lead to you feeling as full as eating them. Limit alcohol, fruit juice, coffee with added cream/sugar and replace them with water. Use this extra room to eat-up! You will be able to fit a lot more food volume in + feel much more full overall.
5. Get enough water!
Working with 100s of nutrition clients, I've noticed that many who complain of hunger simply are not drinking enough water. Since we're tracking our macronutrients, we should also be tracking another aspect of our overall health - our hydration. Invest in a large water bottle and fill it up - you'll know exactly how much you've consumed and how much you need to hit your water target.
Dr. Alli Cain
I love this infographic from precision nutrition because it's real.
Unfortunately, REAL isn't the image the fitness industry is selling.
We're taught to
EXERCISE FOR ENDLESS HOURS A DAY
RESTRICT YOUR CALORES
IF YOU DON'T EAT PROTEIN WITHIN 30 MIN POST WORKOUT - DID YOU EVEN WORKOUT?
STOCK UP ON SUPPLEMENTS
...and taught that we can only ever feel successful when we are at certain % body fat, and have visible abs.
There's no moderation when it comes to how the fitness industry sells to us.
....and that's why when I recently asked my clients what frustrates them most about the fitness industry it was "the overwhelming amount of information" and "not being able to decipher what they should actually do for their body."
I decided a long time ago to use my platform as a doctor, nutrition consultant + coach to preach moderation.
Truthfully, I probably miss out on helping a large part of the population because moderation is not sexy.
"Eat your vegetables and move your body" isn't going to turn heads or sell books.
Moderation doesn't come with a fancy catch phrase, or cute tupperware, or a supplements protocol with a $300/month price tag.
But moderation is what WORKS.
Moderation is what's REAL.
If you can find ways to move your body daily, eat vegetables in abundance, know where your produce + meat come from and get rid of the added sugar-filled drinks + snacks....... you are doing a GREAT job working on your fitness + nutrition.
If you get it... share the info to help people better understand that you don't need to give up your life just for the sake of looking a certain way.
Dr. Alli Cain Team
Our mission is to act as a catalyst for as many people as possible to make a meaningful change to their health.