Pregnancy

This Gym for Pregnant Women Is Long Overdue

by Lisa René LeClair

Photograph by Twenty20

Expectant moms are tough, and they can do things, too, like hold an 8-pound baby in one arm while scrubbing counters with the other, or reorganize an entire room in a single afternoon without sleeping a wink. But for some reason, whenever a pregnant woman enters a workout facility, everyone stops to stare.

Well, guess what? Pregnant women can do a lot more than sit around waiting for the baby to arrive. They can learn how to treat their bodies right—before, during and after pregnancy—in a safe environment with other women going through the same thing.

Carolina Gunnarsson and Joanie Johnson are co-founders of FPC, a newly launched prenatal fitness studio in Manhattan's Soho district. After discussing the shortage of fitness options available to pregnant women, the two came up with a plan to teach new moms and moms-to-be how to exercise their ever-changing bodies.

Gunnarsson, who says she gained a significant amount of weight during her first pregnancy, decided to hire a personal trainer (not specialized in prenatal fitness) to help with the second. In a recent interview with Fast Company, she admits that while her second delivery was better, she came out of it with a postpartum abdominal condition called diastasis, which the doctors later blamed on “overworking” the muscles.

Johnson, a postnatal corrective exercise specialist and certified Pilates instructor, also struggled with wanting to stay fit while pregnant and recalls what it was like going to a regular gym to work out.

“You always know that you’re the pregnant person in the room,” she tells the magazine. “You’re always getting told a modification ... the industry treats us like we are ill. They tend to be overcautious in with us.”

Although most workout facilities now offer some form of prenatal class for expectant moms, they tend to play it safe with basic yoga, but not FPC (which stands for Fit Pregnancy Club). The owners pride themselves on training instructors to provide real workouts with fast-paced movements while offering constant water and bathroom breaks. But that’s not the best part. What makes FPC special is its commitment to creating a safe place for women to open up and talk about pregnancy.

“There was a gap in the market for something like [FPC],” says Gunnarsson, “where you can educate yourself on your workout and be with a community of women who are going through exactly the same stage of their life—with the same problems, the same concerns—and have a challenging, fun group atmosphere.”

What makes FPC special is its commitment to creating a safe place for women to open up and talk about pregnancy.

The studio offers three classes: a foundation class to properly integrate the entire core from the diaphragm to the pelvic floor; prenatal yoga combined with strength training; and a “signature” class of cardio, dance, barre, yoga and interval training—each of which highlight diaphragm breathing and belly exercises to better engage midline muscles.

Despite Gunnarsson’s firm belief that “Childbirth is a lot harder than a marathon,” both she and Johnson agree that their mission is not to help women lose weight, but rather to enhance their fitness goals.

“We’re training the specific muscles you need for pregnancy and delivery,” explains Johnson. “So many times, women are just told, ‘Yeah, new moms just have aches and pains.’ Well, there’s a way to prevent all this and to make her core fully functional during and after birth.”

And for anyone questioning the qualifications of FPC instructors, you will be comforted to know that all are certified in prenatal fitness and are either doulas or lactation experts.

Take it from this dynamic duo: "The time has come for a prenatal fitness revolution."

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