Getting fit together

From left to right: Sabrina Fabian, Karen Fong and Wendy Dolik. On the floor are Ella Cherry, Liam Gu and Elana Liberman. Photo: Jessica Emin

Since I became a mom, several new expressions have become part of my vocabulary: baby-led weaning, hooter hider and tabatas, for example. Tabatas have nothing to do with babies, you say? In my world, they did. They’re an intense fat-burning workout that I did alongside my baby.

Tabata is a term that was unknown to me until last year when I joined a mom and baby exercise class at Halifax’s downtown workout studio, Cyclone Group Fitness. It involves holding a difficult muscle-burning pose such as plank for 20 seconds then getting a 10-second break. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Parker MacQueen helps mom Ally out with a plank. Photo: Jessica Emin

Parker MacQueen helps mom Ally out with a plank. Photo: Jessica Emin

As any mom will tell you unabashedly, after you have a baby, your body becomes almost foreign to you. You’re pudgy in places where you were toned before, you need a sports bra just to run up the stairs, and your arms are increasingly sore from carrying your growing bundle of joy. Your body aches in your nether-regions and you figure you’ll never look and feel quite right again.

Getting my body back in shape after having my baby was one of the most fun and liberating things about becoming a new mom. That was largely thanks to Elana Liberman, owner of Cyclone Group Fitness and instructor of a two-day a week workshop.

I was fairly active before having my baby. But after baby, I kept putting off any form of exercise that didn’t include walking. The truth is I wasn’t entirely sure I could do it. I heard about the mom and baby workshop just as I was starting to feel an itch to get back into shape but I didn’t know how, or more importantly, when.

A mom herself, that’s something Liberman recognizes.

“To me when you have a new baby, it’s the hardest time to find time to work out and the easiest time to make excuses,” she says.
That’s why she designed the classes specifically to fit a mom’s needs. She also understood there was a demand and she figured she had the perfect space to fill that.

Cyclone opened in July 2012 as a spin studio on Salter Street. By February 2014, it had expanded to include an annex: a room with padded floors and mirrored walls where various exercise classes are offered, such as barre, TRX, Kettlebell, circuit training (including tabatas) and kickboxing. She incorporates all of them into the mom and baby workshop.

Jenna Hopson takes a break to nurse young Griffin. Photo: Jessica Emin

Jenna Hopson takes a break to nurse young Griffin. Photo: Jessica Emin

“We have all these activities, we have the space. What a great idea to get [new moms] in that space, working out together with their babies so they don’t have to find daycare,” she says.

The workshops run for eight weeks and classes are an hour long (Tuesday and Thursday mornings or Wednesday and Friday afternoons). They involve various forms of cardiovascular and muscle training, ideal for post-partum recovery.

We often started out on the spin bikes while the babes entertained themselves in their strollers or car seats. This worked for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the babies start getting restless. Then, we moved into the annex.

Liberman makes a point to be flexible and to offer a variety of activities. She is ready to modify the workout based on the moms’ and babies’ needs. Top of mind for her as well is the safety of the baby and mom’s comfort level.

“At the beginning of each session, I make it clear: do as much as you can,” she says. “If your baby is crying, by all means, go feed him. The other moms there are in the same position as you so they understand. Babies come first and mom’s comfort level comes first.”

When we were working out in the annex, the younger babies often stayed snoozing in their strollers while the older ones played on the soft floor. Moms follow along with the exercises, keep an eye on their baby and take breaks to tend to them. After all, part of becoming a parent means learning to multi-task. Often, I picked up my daughter and used her as a weight.

Karen Fong has been attending the classes since September, when her son Liam was four months old. She says despite the interruptions, she is more fit now. “I find it to be a really good workout” she says. “I’m doing stuff I never did before I was pregnant. It has introduced me to things I never thought I could do. And doing it after having a baby is that much more rewarding.”

Part of that is the camaraderie that blossoms among the moms.

Every time I maneuvered my stroller through the doorways at Cyclone, I was greeted with big smiles. I joined in on conversations about sleepless nights, compared notes on daycares and learned from the others what it takes to be a good parent.

Our babies were near the same age and all developing at different rates. Some were crawling before others, some were teething before others and ultimately we learned that there’s no right or wrong or sooner or later. Some things just are.

By the same token, we all watched each other grow as parents and shrink in the belly. It all felt pretty darn good.

Elana Liberman says she loves the community that she has helped create. “That to me makes me the happiest,” she says, “to see young moms becoming inspired to their kids. It’s true they’re little, but they’re going to look back and see these pictures. Who knows what they’re getting out of it?”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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