Tag Archives: Pregnancy


Guest Post:  David Smith
Having a baby can be a very exciting time, but the toll it takes on your body is not likely something many women embrace. The body’s process of preparing to give birth (not to mention the actual birthing process itself) can make even the fittest woman feel like she took a giant step backwards in terms of fitness.
How can a new mom get back into her fitness groove? 
When is it okay to start exercising?
Which exercises should a new mom choose?
Those are the questions we answer in this Guide to Postpartum Exercise. This step-by-step plan will help new moms ease back into exercise and then work their way towards your pre-pregnancy shape. The chosen exercises are safe and especially effective for developing core strength (which is crucial for any mom, especially those who had a cesarian section or difficult time giving birth). 

Be sure to listen to your body and to have patience as you progress through each of these 6-weeks stages. Enjoy!
 Dave Smith has been a personal trainer since 2001 and was recently named “Top Fitness Professional in Canada”. Dave offers free online fitness training at Make Your Body Work and also spends much of his time helping other personal trainers improve their training techniques and business success. Check out his free resources, videos, and fitness programs at makeyourbodywork.com.

BEFORE & AFTER story – Merry Sedlak

Meet my new friend, Merry.  The first time I met her I said, “WOW, YOU HAVE SO MUCH ENERGY!”  I couldn’t help but say that out loud (weird thing to say first off maybe… but I couldn’t help it… she DID).  She was overflowing with joy, passion, excitement and I wanted to know her story.  So many people seem to have a dark cloud over their life from stress, lack, sickness, depression and discouragement… but not this girl!  I found out this wasn’t always the case…

“January 17, 2012 – Physically, emotionally and financially we were broken we prayed for a solution.  We were introduced to Advocare from our dear friends and heard HOPE that our situation could be different!  We decided right then and there to make a change.  We started the Advocare 24 Day Challenge and had AMAZING results.  I lost 14 lbs and 17 inches and Anthony lost 20 lbs and 20 inches!  Needless to say we knew everyone could add value to their life, health and finances through this vehicle so we got very intentional to share our story and help as many people as we could.  Fast forward 2 years and a miraculous pregnancy (we struggled for 8 years and tried every medical intervention possible).  We had our son via IVF  in 2008 but had not been able to sustain a pregnancy until Advocare helped my body to do what it’s created to do.  Advocare does not make medical claims and I know that the Lord blessed us with Genevieve but I also know that Advocare enabled my body to do what it had previously not been able to do.  Anthony and I have lost over 100 lbs combine and have been able to help hundreds of people find physical and financial freedom.” Merry Sedlak

Thank you Merry for sharing your story and encouraging us!!! 

Merry lost 50 lbs in 2013 and she will loose 30-40 lbs in 2014 AND run a 1/2 marathon!!!  You go girl!

If you need a kickstart or maybe even a new start, take the 24 Day Challenge and start writing YOUR story.  We want to see you succeed.  Email ashley@ashleybensonfitness.com for a free evaluation and we will get you set up on what you need to reach your health & wellness goals!


Pregnancy: Exercise Guidelines


Exercising During PREGNANCY

If you exercised before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation. Don’t push yourself like you did before you were pregnant.

Low impact aerobics are encouraged over high impact.

Keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute.

Do not lie on your back to exercise after the 1st trimester.

Listen to your body!

If you have not exercised prior, you can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy after consulting with your health care provider, but do not try a new, strenuous activity. 
Walking is considered safe to initiate when pregnant.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days of the week, unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication.

Also, wear comfortable clothes, drink plenty of water, warm-up and cool-down properly and don’t stand up quickly!

Who Should Not Exercise During Pregnancy?
If you have a medical problem, such as asthmaheart disease, or diabetes, exercise may not be advisable. Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as:

  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Low placenta
  • Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
  • Previous premature births or history of early labor
  • Weak cervix
according to WebMD

Talk with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. Your health care provider can also give you personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history.

Advantages of working out during Pregnancy

  1.  Boost your energy
  2. Sleep better
  3. Reduce pregnancy discomfort
  4. Prepare for childbirth
  5.  Reduce stress and lift your spirits
  6.  Improve your self-image
  7.  Get your body back faster after childbirth

according to babycenter.com

Pregnancy Weight Gain:

So 25-35 pounds is considered a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

So if you are like I was, you are thinking,

“Ok, so the baby weighs under 10 lbs – hopefully 🙂 – so why am I so heavy???”

 This extra weight can sure mess with our heads!

 So let’s break it down:

  • 7.5 pounds: average baby’s weight
  • 7 pounds: extra stored protein, fat, and other nutrients
  • 4 pounds: extra blood
  • 4 pounds: other extra body fluids
  • 2 pounds: breast enlargement
  • 2 pounds: enlargement of your uterus
  • 2 pounds: amniotic fluid surrounding your baby
  • 1.5 pounds: the placenta
                                                                                          according to KidsHealth.org

It’s all good and necessary, so DON’T FREAK OUT and enjoy this special time  🙂

Vitamins and Supplements

It’s very very important to supplement your diet with a GOOD multivitamin during pregnancy.  This will fill in the gaps of nutritional requirements you and your baby have that will get missed in your food.

I used a WHOLE FOOD PRENATAL VITAMIN I got from Swanson Health Products.

  • Does not contain artificial colors or preservatives
  • Vegetarian and hypoallergenic
  • Made from whole food extracts in an all-natural, enzyme-activated, vegetarian formula for optimal health and energy.
I still like this one, but that was 7 years ago and there are many new options that are awesome.  Swansons offers the variety in RAW Whole Foods and Organic!
Check it out and find what’s best for you and your baby.

It’s also important to take a Folic Acid supplement.

 Folic acid really should be taken during our child-bearing time.  It plays a huge role in cell growth and development, as well as tissue formation.

And of course you can also take the prenatal vitamin your doctor prescribes.  If you choose to use a different one, be sure to take it to your appointment and let your doctor check it out, along with any other supplements you are taking.

For itchy, stretching skin, try

Perfect Prenatal Trimester & Shea ButterPerfect Butter


WholeMega Prenatal & Hand & Foot Cream


That May Help Support a Healthy,

Comfortable Pregnancy

  • Red Raspberry Leaf – Rich in iron, this herb has helped tone the uterus, increase milk production, decrease nausea, and ease labor pains. Some studies have even reported that using red raspberry leaf during pregnancy can reduce complications and the use of interventions during birth.  You may see pregnancy teas that are made from red raspberry leaf to help promote uterine health during pregnancy.
      There is some controversy about whether this should be used throughout pregnancy or just in the second and third trimester, so many health care providers remain cautious and only recommend using it after the first trimester.
  • Peppermint Leaf – Helpful in relieving nausea/morning sickness and flatulence
  • Ginger Root – Helps relieve nausea and vomiting
  • Slippery Elm Bark – (when the inner bark is used orally in amounts used in foods) Used to help relieve nausea, heartburn, and vaginal irritations
  • Oats & Oat Straw – Rich in calcium and magnesium; helps relieve anxiety, restlessness, and irritated skin

Herbs To Avoid During Pregnancy!

  • Saw Palmetto – when used orally, has hormonal activity
  • Goldenseal – when used orally, may cross the placenta
  • Dong Quai – when used orally, due to uterine stimulant and relaxant effects
  • Ephedra – when used orally
  • Yohimbe – when used orally
  • Pay D’ Arco – when used orally in large doses; contraindicated
  • Passion Flower – when used orally
  • Black Cohosh – when used orally in pregnant women who are not at term
  • Blue Cohosh – when used orally; uterine stimulant and can induce labor
  • Roman Chamomile – when used orally in medicinal amounts
  • Pennyroyal – when used orally or topically

To All My Prego Friends Part 2

This is my personal experience with exercise during pregnancy.

Round 1

Prior to my first pregnancy, I was working at the Memorial Hermann Wellness Center in Houston, Tx.  I worked as a fitness specialist and also taught various group exercise classes like step aerobics, ball & band classes, and abs and stretching.  I was in good shape.  When I became pregnant, I kept the same exercise schedule for a while.

A friend of ours was a massage therapist, certified to work with pregnancy, and worked on me a few times during that 9 month period.  Early on I had a little sciatic pain that he was able to help relieve.  I continued teaching – following the pregnancy guidelines.  I do remember that it was much harder for me to teach while pregnant.

 At the end of my 5th month I went back to my massage friend with quite a bit of sciatic pain.

He said I was too strong to be having this pain and asked what all I was doing.  When I told him I was still teaching step aerobics, his eyes grew large and he said, “STOP THAT!”  All of the knee lifts were doing a number on my back.

 Gradually I weaned my way off of my classes and in my 7th month got promoted to a

“Sit and Be Fit” class!  LOL  The sad part for me was that this class even became hard!  It was hard to bend and twist… even sitting down!

The last month I found my way to the water.

I started attending some water classes and LOVED it!  It was just what I needed.  I felt better on the days I swam and I slept better on those nights.

Labor and Birth

I went into labor in the spring of 2001.  I chose to have a natural birth and had prepared for it mentally as best as I could.  My doctor was not supportive of my choices, but I stuck with her anyway not realizing I had a choice.

I labored for 8 painful hours and pushed for 7 minutes.  That was a LONG 7 minutes.  It was hard and it hurt!  After it was all said and done, I found out that I had been given regular doses of pitocin… a medication given to induce labor.  Instead of my body contracting at its own pace,  the medication was controlling the contractions.  Pitocin is supposed to be given with an epidural…  I WAS NOT GIVEN AN EPIDURAL!
Well, it hurt worse than it had to, but I did it!
My baby girl was born 🙂

The 6 Week “Go Ahead”

I recovered quickly after having Taylor.  I was up and moving in no time.  It felt like it took forever, but finally I had my 6 week checkup and the doctor said I could start exercising again!  Yay!

So THAT night I attended a kickboxing class……..


My brain thought I was right back where I was before pregnancy.  My body was not!

What I thought I looked like.

What I thought I looked like.     

What I ACTUALLY looked like.

Parents Square

I remember hardly being able to jump off the ground.  I remember my heart rate being high and my feet not moving quickly.  I also remember having to leave class a few times for the bathroom 🙂

It made me mad that I couldn’t do it like the other women, so I pushed harder…..

 I hardly made it home.  The rest of the day I laid on the couch and couldn’t get up.
 I felt BAD.
I learned to start back slowly and not to expect to be like I was right away before pregnancy!

A Year Later

I stayed home with my baby for the first year and began teaching classes again after her 1st birthday.

 At this point I was weaning her off of nursing and ready to get out of the house,
so I started back teaching my exercise classes.
Soon after, my boss began training me in Pilates.

After a few months of studying and teaching this type of exercise, I decided to stop teaching the high impact exercise for good and focus only on pilates.

5 Years Later — Round 2 

During the time I was blessed with our second child,

I was teaching only pilates classes throughout the week.

I continued instructing until the end of my 1st trimester.  At this point it was not smart to lie on my back anymore.  The first half of my class was performed lying on our back, while a good portion required us to lie on our stomach… not great either!

In the 2nd trimester, the uterus gets bigger and when you lie on your back, it puts pressure on the vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart. This could interfere with the flow of blood & nutrients to the placenta & your baby.

The 2nd Trimester

When I stopped teaching pilates, I began weight lifting.  This was not new, I had consistently lifted weights long before my pregnancy.  I began having braxton hicks contractions during weight lifting in my 5th month.  I kinda ignored them and continued lifting.

We also moved during this time.  Me being me couldn’t wait for my husband to come home and decided to unpack and rearrange all the furniture… by my self.  Again, NOT SMART!

In the beginning of my 6th month, my contractions were VERY regular and I was told to avoid ANYTHING that caused contractions!  WOW, what didn’t????  I wised up and took it easy from this point on.  I even had to walk slower to avoid contractions.

Labor & Delivery

My baby and I made it to full term!  This time around I knew that I had a choice in doctors and found one who supported my natural birth plans.  He was a great doctor and I had a great day.  I labored easy from 6 am to 4 pm.  Then I labored hard from 4-5:15, and then I met my son!
It was such an easy experience.  First of all, not being shot up with pitocin made all the difference.  Second, my body was a rock star in pushing my baby out.  3 pushes and ta-da!!!!   When the baby popped out, my nurse turned to my mother and asked, “What does she do?”  As I was delivering my afterbirth
(I hope this is not TMI for you… it’s just reality!),
I explained what pilates is and how it has changed my body.

The Future

I don’t know what the future holds for us.  I am so happy with the way my family is right now, but if we were to grow in number, it would thrill me!
What I DO know is that I will learn from my mistakes!
I hope my mistakes can help you have a healthy, blessed pregnancy.

Enjoy this unique season!

To All My Prego Friends

 Time I have spent with my pregnant friends lately has reminded me of the miracle of life and the beauty of our beginning.  Being a part of something so monumental will always be one of my favorite experiences in this life.

From the question of  “Could I be pregnant?” to hearing the heartbeat and feeling that first flutter to meeting this “mini me” is such a thrill!  Like the diversity in every human being, so is the pregnancy experience.  I love hearing stories and telling my own.  What a fascinating, whimsical  time.  It’s a season filled with NAUSEA, funny food CRAVINGS, curious DREAMS,  NO ENERGY at times, night sweats, CRAZY emotions, WEIGHT gain, and STRANGE changes within your body –  all within a short period of time.  And can we talk about feeling overwhelmed?  It’s so hard to grasp the fact that your family as you know it, whether it’s just you and your hubby or the 4 kids you’ve already had, is about to change.
I remember when we just had our first-born, Taylor.
It was the 3 of us.
We were a perfect family.  Life was sweet.
Then we prayed for a second baby and before we knew it, I was waddling around all big, emotional, and swollen.
We were all so excited about the new addition!
We all began to prepare in our own way.  Jeremy stayed calm and cool and just enjoyed Prego Ashley.  He understood and loved witnessing the miracle that was happening in me.  I also think he was amused by the
“new wife” he all of a sudden had!  🙂
It’s important for the husband to understand the changes happening within the woman.  If he can appreciate the wonder that is taking place, he can be more supportive and enjoy this time.
I went into my super mom mode of nesting and nurturing.
Taylor took on her new roll as big sister and began practicing.
I LOVED watching Taylor turn into a big sister.  She prayed for a brother or sister and knew this baby was a gift to our family!
I do have to admit, however, that there was a small unspoken part of me that was sad that the 3 of us would never be this way again.  I could not wrap my head around this “new” family… but I couldn’t wait for it to begin!
Well, on a September morning we found ourselves at the hospital
and that afternoon we got to meet our son for the first time.
It was one of my favorite days of my life.  In a moment, my family was now different… better…more complete.  Now it was the 4 of us.
It was perfect.  I love the four of us- Team Benson!  Now I cannot imagine “us” without every person.
So here are a few tips that might make your pregnancy a little more Comfortable and Enjoyable!
  • Eat small, nutritious  meals often
  • Stay updated with the growth and development of your baby.  It’s so cool to realize that when you eat spinach, for example, you are actually giving your baby what it needs for healthy skin, eyes, bones, and more!  This can change the way you look at food!
  • Pack your underwire bras away until you are finished supporting your baby!
  • Be cute, but be comfortable!
  • If you start swelling, watch your salt intake and drink lots of water.
  • When your ankles start swelling, put your feet up!
  • Read So That’s What They’re For  by Janet Tamaro for breastfeeding… GREAT BOOK! 
  • Exercise during pregnancy can help with energy, stamina, posture, and decrease back pain and fatigue.   It can also help you sleep better and can make all the difference in having an enjoyable, comfortable pregnancy.  Being active  may prevent  gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and prepare your body for labor and delivery.
  • Swim as much as possible… especially in the last trimester.  Take a break from the gravitational pull on your body in the water!
  • Other types of exercise safe for pregnancy:  walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines,  low-impact aerobics, stretching and strength training.
  • Pilates is good as long as you don’t do any exercises lying on your back after the 1st trimester.  I do have to add that Pilates is the BEST thing you can do to prepare your body for  pregnancy, and the BEST thing you can do postpartum!  After having a natural birth to my son, the nurse that was with me during the hard labor and delivery asked, “What DO you do?”  She was amazed with my strength and how quickly I was able to push out my baby!  I totally sold her on Pilates that day!  She saw the benefits!  I will also add – while I’m at it – that I recovered very quickly from my pregnancy.
I will write a new post  on my own personal experience with exercise and pregnancy soon!  I will also talk about exercise guidelines and prenatal supplements,
including what herbs are good, and which ones to avoid while pregnant!