Pregnancy Exercise Tips & Preventing Leg Swelling with Fitness Expert Leah Keller

I’ve been extremely MIA on this blog, in the third trimester of my pregnancy. Once I wobbled into month six, the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. Now, with about twenty days left to go, a serge of energy has washed over my body. If you haven’t been following me on twitter (one of the few things I have managed to maintain), then we have a LOT of catching up to do.

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Leah Keller, an expert in pre- and postnatal fitness with a proven track record of restoring clients to fitness levels that surpass their pre-baby shape. “Sign me up,” I told my friend Anna, who handles Leah’s PR. If you’re not in NYC, have no fear. This Mother’s Day, Leah is launching The Dia Method(tm), a home exercise system that equips every mom to embrace the best body of her life.
Leah Keller, Pre- and Postnatal Fitness Expert

With access to such a wonderful fitness guru, I had to pick her brain on what we belly bump babes can do to maintain our sexy figures during pregnancy. You’ll notice, many questions revolve around my personal pet peeve – leg cramps and swelling!

Pamela Pekerman: My motto is Never Surrender, so I’ve been very conscious to avoid swelling by eating plenty of potassium rich foods and also staying active. What exercises tips do you preach for pregnant women to help prevent leg swelling?
Leah Keller: Moderate cardio is essential. It can be as simple as a brisk, 30-minute walk six days a week. If you have access to a pool, alternate brisk walking days with 30-minutes of swimming. Frequent, moderate cardiovascular exercise does wonders for circulation and blood flow. **

PP:How about all-over body water retention?

LK:Water retention during pregnancy is usually a sign of inadequate protein and, as counter-intuitive as this sounds, inadequate consumption of salts and water. This all relates to albumin synthesis in the liver and how it changes during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is retaining water, I recommend consuming 80-120 grams of protein per day, adding one cup of salty (not low-sodium) soup broth to the daily diet, and drinking more water. **

If pregnant, but not retaining water, continue to salt food to taste (trust your body to tell you how much salt it needs and monitor your protein consumption for a few days. If you’re consistently eating under 80 grams, add a little more protein to the diet as a preventative measure. And, continue drinking plenty of water. **

PP:Is there exercise we can do in the last month?

LK:During the final month of pregnancy, many of my clients feel great continuing with the workouts we performed together all along. This typically includes resistance training, moderate cardio, and light stretching. However, every pregnancy is different, so please listen to your body, consult your doctor, and adjust accordingly. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. **

PP:What exercise should women avoid, especially in the third trimester?

LK:I’m not a fan of jogging during pregnancy because of hormone-induced joint laxity, which increases the risk of a sudden fall, but also because it strains the uterine ligaments. The impact of running or jumping combined with the weight of the uterus (during 3rd trimester, estimate 13 lbs. for baby + placenta + amniotic fluid, etc.) will easily overstretch the uterine ligaments. This dramatically increases your risk of uterine prolapse, a condition I would do everything in my power to avoid.

PP:Any other tips to help with pesky pregnancy issues woman may encounter?

LK:Elevating the legs for 10 minutes a day is helpful, especially after work or after a lot of standing. For severe leg swelling, compression tights help dramatically. **

PP:I’ve actually tested those out, myself. Preggers by Theraform is a great option to help with swelling and improve circulation. What else?
LK:Well, many of my clients also notice improvement when they soak in a warm (not hot) bath with Epsom salt for 10 minutes about twice a week. Magnesium from the Epsom salt absorbs through the skin to relax leg muscles and banish those excruciating calf cramps. **
PP:Please share your top exercises every pregnant woman should be doing to help stay fit and sexy throughout her pregnancy.
LK:First, Core Compressions, which is a foundational exercise of The Dia Method. Sit upright, either on the floor with your legs crossed or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keep the spine lengthened and perfectly still. Rest both hands on your belly, upper and lower.
The Dia Method, by Leah Keller

Exhale as you tighten your abdominal muscles toward the spine. Repeatedly pulse the abdominal muscles tight to tighter, tight to tighter, exhaling with each slow and controlled squeeze. Close your eyes, and envision hugging your baby to the spine with each exhalation. This is a deep, subtle movement – yet powerfully effective. Start with 5 minutes a day. After one week, work up to 10 minutes a day (either 10 minutes all at once or 5 minutes twice a day). You are powerfully strengthening your core to keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy, labor with strength and bounce back fast. My second recommendation is Kegels. Work that pelvic floor! Lastly, do moderate cardio.**

PP: What are some great Kegel exercises to keep it right downstairs?

LK:During pregnancy, the muscle release is as important as the squeeze when it comes to Kegels. Always be sure that you’re completely opening and relaxing the pelvic floor between each muscle contraction. I recommend my clients perform 2-3 minutes a day of each kind of Kegel:

  • Elevator KegelsSlowly draw your entire pelvic floor up and in, holding it as high and tight as you can (feels like you’re trying not to pee your pants) for 10 seconds. Then slowly release and relax completely. Imagine yourself opening like a flower. Then repeat, squeezing your pelvic floor closed and up, up, up inside you. Hold for 10 seconds. Then soften, release, lower and open completely. Perform 10 elevator Kegels daily (about 2-3 minutes) to strengthen the endurance muscle fibers.
  • Sprint KegelsThese are power moves, working the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your pelvic floor. Squeeze as hard as you can, drawing quickly up and in. Then release completely. (Note: never bulge your pelvic floor forcefully downward.) Always draw ‘up & in’ when engaging the muscle and then simply allow it to relax and fall open between squeezes. Aim for 50 sprint Kegels (2-3 minutes) each day. **

PP:How can exercise aid in sleep disorders during pregnancy? And, what specifically would you recommend?

LK:No matter what you do, sleep can be frustratingly elusive during pregnancy, especially towards the end, as it’s virtually impossible to find a truly comfortable position and you’re getting up several times a night to empty your bladder. That said healthy activity during the day improves sleep quality. Exercise can help your body settle into biorhythms that help you fall asleep more easily and rest more deeply. I recommend working out early in the day, anytime up until about 4:00 pm. A very light workout can be fine later in the day, but avoid vigorous workouts that rev up your energy as bedtime draws near. Incorporating the following into your weekly routine: moderate cardiovascular exercise, resistance training that targets the postural imbalances of pregnancy, and light stretching. Perform core compressions and Kegels daily. **
** Consult your doctor before starting any exercises. The above is not meant to substitute instructions from your doctor/obg-yn.

Elisa Dahan Interview, Mackage Co-Creative Director, Stylish Mom & MILF Mom Is Looking Fabulous

With today being the official kickoff for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, here in New York, I’m thrilled to feature Mackage Co-Creative Director and uber-stylish mom of two Elisa Dahan. This Canadian-born designer is committed to crafting outwear that is sexy and sleek with a modern twist, and Elisa applied that alluring philosophy to her pregnancy and post-belly style routine. As you’ll see, she’s certainly early the MILF (Mom Is Looking Fabulous) title.

Elisa Dahan, Co-Creative Director Mackage

Pamela Pekerman: My motto on pregnancy and motherhood is: never surrender! How do you embody this motto in your life?

Elisa Dahan:Pregnancy is beautiful and sexy – show it off!
PP: What tips do you have for women who want to maintain their style while pregnant?
ED: Stretch fabrics will become your best friend throughout these nine months. The worst thing you can do to your bump is wear baggy clothing—bodycon pieces celebrate your belly and show off your curves.
PP: What was your biggest beauty issue during pregnancy?
ED: Stretch marks were most definitely something I wanted to avoid so I took preventative measures! Mama Mio creams work wonders – trust me!
PP: No need to convince me. I’m a huge fan, as well. Their Tummy Rub Oil and Boob Tube are part of my nightly ritual. Switching back to style, your specialty, what was your go-to outfit/item while pregnant, that made you feel fabulous?
Elisa Dahan with her husband and kids

ED: I would wear bodycon dresses or short shorts with a fitted blouse. Drawing attention to my legs made me feel sexy during my pregnancy. I think that all women should find one asset they love and flaunt it during their pregnancy

PP: We’re cut from the same cloth.  I don’t understand why a woman would want to all of a sudden drape herself in oversized, asexual clothing. Embrace the bellybody it’s key for your self-esteem and, of course, it keeps the chemistry in your relationship at full sizzle!
ED: Yes!
PP: Now, how do you teach your children the value of style, personal grooming and appearance, which clearly matter to you?
ED: My son is absorbing our sense of style and he wants to be just like us. All it takes is a little encouragement and your kids will be on board. My three year old son enjoys when I try clothes on him. When I dress him up, the first thing he’ll do is pull up his sleeves for an edgier look and then he’ll go to the mirror to check himself out.
PP: I hate the word “balance”, but you certainly have a on your plate. How do you incorporate motherhood, being a wife and a successful designer at Mackage, into your life?
ED: I love a challenge. If you want it all, it’s about making the time for what is important to you. I work hard, but I am also very domestic. To date, I have not bought pre-made baby food for my babies and I make dinner for my hubby almost every night, even after a long day at work. I love having a career, being a wife and a mom; it fulfills me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
PP: I noticed you mentioned wife before mom. I often say that my husband is number one, and without that solid, romantic connection everything else can’t work, namely having a happy family. How do you make sure that you and your relationship are part of the equation, and it’s not just about the kids?  
ED: The key is to have date night with your other half weekly. It gives you both a chance to stop and reconnect. However, it is equally important to focus on yourself; I treat myself to a manicure every week and don’t know what’d I do without those 30 minutes.
Elisa Dahan

PP: In two lines, express your feelings about motherhood?

ED: There is absolutely nothing more genuine than the love of your kids. Being a mom is amazing and scary at the same time, because you are responsible to help shape your children and they trust you blindly. I lost my mother at a young age. I know how important the role is, as I missed having that warm person it every day.
PS Check out Elise’s blog