With nearly 20 years’ experience as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and educator, Farel Hruska has been with FIT4MOM since March 2002. Joining founder Lisa Druxman shortly following the launch of Stroller Strides® - the first FIT4MOM program - Hruska has become the Global Fitness Director. Hruska manages all fitness-related programs and initiatives for FIT4MOM, supporting thousands of instructors and franchisees nationwide in addition to supervising Instructor Certifications through the FIT4MOM Academy program for Stroller Strides, Fit4Baby®, Stroller Barre® and Body Back®. Hruska is also an international presenter and educator at numerous fitness conferences including EMPOWER, FitFest, SCW, Asia Fitness Conference (Bangkok), MEFIT PRO (Dubai), Fitness Festival (China) and IDEA WORLD & PTI numerous times, covering the topic of pre- and post-natal fitness as well as, overall fitness education. Having been a regular contributor to Active.com for her expertise on moms returning to running or starting for the first time after having a baby, Hruska has been featured by numerous press outlets for her fitness expertise, including The New York Times, WebMD, Women's Running Magazine, SheKnows.com, Pregnancy.com, Shape.com and many more. Hruska is an approved Continuing Education Provider for ACE and AFAA. Hruska graduated from Pepperdine University and is the mother of three daughters.
Oh, Baby! Advice For Health and Exercise Pros Going Back to Work After Having a Baby
Being in the fitness industry is a unique and fulfilling career path that brings interesting challenges on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. Sharing knowledge and inspiration with all those around you is a primary bullet point in the massive job description. But what happens when a health and exercise professional becomes a mom? How does she strike a balance between her new (and additional) job description with the one she has known prior? How can she navigate being in the workforce and truly enjoying being a mom? There’s no question that it’s going to be a challenge, but with the hard-earned advice of others who have a forged this path themselves, the transition can be a smooth one.
I became a mom after being in the fitness industry for about five years and, truth be told, it rocked my world! I felt like my entire life had been turned upside down and I felt lost and alone. Over the years that followed, thanks to the advice of some pretty remarkable women around me, I discovered both peace of mind and a path forward that made it possible to combine my work with being a mom.
The following tips come from women who have navigated, or are still navigating, this motherhood transition in their lives and careers. These women cover everything from returning to both work and fitness to motherhood in general. Here is their best advice, including the tips and insights they wish someone had shared with them while on their journey.
Accept Help When Offered
“When my son was born I felt I should be able to ‘do it all.’ And [so I] turned down many requests from people to watch him so I could nap, shower, get work done, etc. That led to some scary postpartum depression, anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed,” describes Shana Verstegen, ACE Certified Professional and Master Trainer, TRX Master Instructor and mom to three-year-old Greyson and newborn Clark. “I quickly learned that it really does take a village and people actually enjoyed helping! What a difference that made in my life.”
TIP: Ask for time…to nap, to get out of the house alone for a walk, to take a shower by yourself and to just step away to take some deep breaths.
The expression that it “takes a village to raise a child” is particularly relevant when you are in the trenches of new motherhood. It also takes a village to raise a mom. This new role is just that—new! Many come into motherhood with a false belief that they should know what to do and how to do it. But like any other new task in life, there is a learning curve and learning everything you need to know on your own is hard. Asking for help—and, importantly, accepting it—is critical for both your sanity and your ability to maintain connections with others. They want to help, so let them.
It’s O.K. to Put Yourself First
“Growing a child and raising a child can change your body drastically,” says Stacey Van de Mark, C.S.C.S., a physical therapist, personal trainer and mom to seven-year-old Duke, five-year-old Ayla and two-year-old Nolan. “Nursing a baby can change your body drastically…and it’s possible to lose your sense of self. It’s so important to regain that and reclaim your body as your own and not just a vessel for your children.”
TIP: Make and keep a schedule of self-care. Put your workouts, your alone time and your time with your spouse or partner on a calendar for the family to see. Schedule time for yourself to recharge and reboot.
“In the fitness industry, we are constantly giving to others—our energy, time and brainpower. We do the same as moms,” says Verstegen. You can’t give what you don’t have—and you don’t have much when you wear yourself out. You owe it to all those around you to be sure your cup is filled first, to make it possible for you to pour into others.
Take Your Time—and Make the Time—for Your Workouts
“As athletes and fitness professionals, we may feel this need to rush to get back to our former fitness levels, but pregnancy, labor and delivery are no easy tasks, and it all takes time,” urges Verstegen. “Your body needs to heal and you need to take time to learn a new routine, recover and possibly even sleep. Those six weeks (at least!) of rest and recovery after baby are essential, and pushing it too hard can possibly lead to health complications and more unnecessary stress. Your body will come back, although potentially different and showing off the proud fact that it grew a new life.”
TIP: Start with basic and gentle reconditioning.
Consider working with a physical therapist for alignment and pelvic floor reconditioning. Your workouts will progress in parallel to your baby’s growth and development. No one ever feels like they need to rush a baby to roll over, crawl or walk. It just happens in time. When we can be as patient and persistent with our own recovery as we are with our children’s progression, we will navigate this journey with a little more grace.
Prioritize Your Workouts and Work Around Time With Baby
“Some days I head to the gym when my husband gets home and other days I sweat in the garage while wearing my baby—it just depends on how busy my life is at the time,” explains Keli Garrett, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, TRX-certified trainer and mom to 10-month-old Ty. “I work from home while my son is napping, and then I teach and sub part-time at nights or on the weekend. Our favorite mom and son time together is our beach runs. I get to work up a sweat and he gets fresh air and sunshine.”
TIP: Begin with baby steps.
Your work and workout routines will, necessarily, change from what they were before baby and that’s O.K. “My main workout time is 8:15 pm,” adds Van de Mark. “I put the kids to bed at 7:30 so they still get me for prayers and snuggles. Then I get my sweat on.” Having a plan—and then being flexible with that plan—is critical.
“I always tell moms that I put myself on the schedule,” says Anna Woods, a personal trainer, founder of sheSTRENGTH and mom to 12-year-old Leah, eight-year-old Blake and seven-year-old Autumn. “I communicate that boundary of time around my workout to my kids, and they understand and see the importance of exercise in my life, which I hope translates to them at some point. I used to have a box of toys that were labeled “Mommy’s Workout Time,” and my kids only got to use them while I worked out. That was a special time and they respected that—and still do as they've gotten older.”
Verstegen echoes the need to communicate clearly with your family. “As a family, we make communication a priority, so if one of us really needs time to work on a project, the other parent will step up interaction time.”
You Do You. Unapologetically.
There is no RIGHT WAY to mother, to return to work after becoming a mom or what both will look like from person to person. Keli adds, “I work from home but I've added teaching/training to my schedule slowly and I'm pretty happy with the merge. I've realized that not everyone's schedule will work with my family's and I am ok with that.
TIP: Try something new, such as a different nap schedule, a 20-minute workout instead of an hour, or setting different work hours, and see how it feels for both you and your baby. If it doesn’t work, you don't fail…you learn, you gain insight and then you adjust.
Every working mom finds her own rhythm. Just remember that the choices you make don’t have to look like the mom next to you. Or like the “perfect” moms on social media.
“Don't lose track of yourself and your goals in the midst of being mom,” urges Woods. “Your only identity isn’t your kids, so make sure to keep doing things you love and are passionate about. And keep your own health a priority—you’ll be better all the way around because of it!”
Garrett wishes someone had told her that motherhood is not a competition. “I have a 10-month-old son and I spent the first six months of his life comparing his growth to other babies I knew,” confesses Garrett. “I would worry if he wasn’t clapping, babbling or rolling over around the same times as others his age. I’m sad that I spent so much time worrying about his progress when I should have just soaked up each moment with him. Social media certainly didn't help with feeling competitive, but backing off from it for a while helped put things into perspective.”
Van de Mark agrees. “Do you. Know your needs and stick up for yourself. It’s also O.K. to not be perfect! Own the experience and appreciate the journey.”
In other words, heed the advice you probably give your own clients all the time: Stop comparing, be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t quite live up to your own high expectations.