Mighty Moms

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Teresa McCoy and Kristina Kessler empower pregnant women to exercise

When Kristina Kessler went for runs while expecting, she received frequent criticism from people trying to look out for her baby. They’d often tell her that she shouldn’t be running while pregnant, or think that it would harm her child. By the way people approached her, it was easy to start to believe that those negative connotations were true.

But what many people don’t know is that exercise – when practiced safely and with a doctor’s permission – can actually ease the process of carrying, delivering, and even recovering from the birth of a child.

Teresa McCoy and Kristina Kessler, both certified personal trainers and moms who have had healthy, fit pregnancies have made it their mission to help pregnant women become the healthiest they can be, all while providing a supportive community and breaking down common misconceptions.

To do this, they teamed up with the Aberdeen Family YMCA to create a pre-natal fitness program as well as a post-partum program. They are currently holding small group training sessions two to four times a week, depending on the individual’s choice.

During each 60-minute session, Teresa and Kristina lead total body workouts that help women tone and strengthen their bodies safely and effectively throughout the stages of pregnancy.

“Carrying a baby obviously adds on a lot of extra weight, and it’s very front-centered and heavy,” Kristina explained. “A lot of women find that their glutes and lower backs are sore. And when you’re nursing, your upper back gets sore.” For this reason, a heavy emphasis is placed on the muscles that aid in correct posture and are used during labor and delivery.

“And then the more you’re good at controlling your muscles and working out properly, the faster you’ll recover and the stronger you’ll be,” Teresa added.

The benefits of staying fit during pregnancy are abundant. In addition to a faster recovery from labor and delivery, exercise can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension, increase energy and result in better sleep, decrease the need for pain relief during delivery, and lower the chance of getting postpartum depression.

However, Kristina and Teresa recognize that not everyone may be at the same fitness level. By keeping the classes small, they can devote their attention to making sure each woman is getting the help she needs. “Some women might have no experience, so we can help them safely start up,” Teresa said. “I think some people get scared of working out, especially when they’re pregnant. But we want to let you know it’s okay, and even if you have no experience, we can help you.”

It’s also important to know when to stop. Anything that makes you feel light-headed is too much. A good test to see if you’re pushing yourself too hard is to see whether you are still capable of talking while exercising. “If you’re beyond the point of talking, you’re pushing yourself too hard,” Kristina explained.

During their warm-ups, they also provide educational lessons about nearly every aspect of pregnancy, ranging from nutrition to breast-feeding and even how to fight off the ailments that come with pregnancy and post-pregnancy.

Although fitness may be the reason for their gathering, the main goal of the program is to empower women to work out while pregnant and provide them with a solid support group. “It helps to have a community of women in which you can share your fears and worries,” Teresa said.

Due to their own positive experiences, Teresa and Kristina are full of nothing but enthusiasm for the program. “We hope that our passion can spread to people coming to the class,” Kristina explained. “It’s important to know that this is safe, that this is okay.”

According to Teresa, empowering pregnant women to exercise is still a relatively new movement in Aberdeen and even America. “People are starting to recognize that, hey, this is good, and not only is it good, it’s really important, healthy, and safe.”

Women in the program have the option of attending either two sessions a week on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. If they choose the unlimited plan, they can attend all four sessions Monday through Thursday.

Now that their program has taken flight, Kristina and Teresa want to keep working on building a program that will be here for the long haul. In October, they will begin their first post-partum classes, and by next spring they hope to offer a class that involves a stroller boot camp where moms come with their babies. Eventually, they hope to be able to have a class for moms of all ages.

Above all, they want to continue to educate the community that there are safe ways to exercise during pregnancy and safe ways to come back from having a baby. “Moms who are trying to be athletic should know that they can come join us and have support,” Teresa said. “You are not alone.”

Women who are expecting or have just had a baby are encouraged to come check the program out. Teresa and Kristina are more than willing to meet with anyone who may have questions or want to know more about the program. // – Becca Simon

To learn more, email Kristina and Teresa at [email protected]