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Mom University: Karen Nordahl, Fit to Deliver

Monday, September 26, 2005
Now that we're back to our fall routines, here at The Mother of All Blogs, we'll be bringing back one of our popular features -- Mom University: an ongoing series of interviews with noteworthy writers who cover the motherhood beat. This time around, we speak to Karen Nordahl.fit to deliver book cover

Karen Nordahl -- Vancouver physician and fitness guru -- is busy promoting the second edition of Fit to Deliver. I had the pleasure of meeting Karen in person last year while I was doing a book tour out in Vancouver, and I can tell you that she "the poster gal" for healthy living: a happy, healthy, high-energy woman who is passionate about her life. She also had the wisdom to schedule our meeting at a local Starbucks, so she's human enough to enjoy the occasional cup of java. (You've got to hate fitness folks who never indulge in anything more sinful than non-organic carrot juice.) Well, I can tell you that Karen has a fabulous, down-to-earth approach to life, something that comes through in every page of her prenatal fitness guide.

I recently had the chance to interview Karen about her new book and to ask her some questions about prenatal fitness. Here's how our interview went.
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Ann: Some women may start making exercise part of their lifestyle during pregnancy, even if they weren't particularly active prior to pregnancy, because they know that it's a healthy choice to make for themselves and their baby (unless, of course, their caregiver has indicated that there are specific reasons why exercise is not recommended). What advice can you offer to formerly sedentary expectant mothers?

Karen Nordahl: For women who have not previously been active, we suggest a simple walking program of 15-20 minutes per day -- something that they can do on their lunch hour or after dinner. Other options are a swimming program, prenatal yoga, or pilates. Our goal here is to congratulate them for making the effort rather than focusing on a regimented program. With time, they can increase their walking to 45 to 60 minutes per day, participating as much as they feel they are able.

Ann: It seems to me that we as a society have come a long way in celebrating the beauty of the pregnant body. Do you find that women are experiencing more positive body image today than they were a few years ago? How does body image impact on a woman's decision to exercise during pregnancy?

Karen Nordahl: The change in attitude towards the pregnant body has been astounding. It was considered unusual for a woman to appear in a maternity bathing suit in the past. Now the cute bellies are everywhere. We do not like to focus on body image during pregnancy: we are interested in "wellness" instead. However, I believe that the development of athletic wear that is attractive for pregnant women has encouraged and enhanced their desire to exercise. Body image does come into play if the woman feels like she is "losing control" over how she looks and feels. Exercise seems to allow her to feel a bit better about herself, and renews her faith in her body's overall strengths and abilities.

Ann: Can you comment on the importance of pumping up the fun factor in fitness? We don't want fitness to feel like one more item on our "to do" lists -- especially when we're pregnant and may be tired or dealing with various pregnancy discomforts.

Karen Nordahl: Fitness needs to be fun or a mom-to-be will not do it on a regular basis. If the exercises are a chore, a mom-to-be needs to find new ones or to try exercising in a group.

Ann: Are pregnant women more likely to exercise if they work out with their partners? Or is fitness an activity most moms-to-be enjoy doing on their own or with other moms-to-be, their girlfriends, etc.? Or does it vary according to the mom?

Karen Nordahl: We find that the environment our group classes provide is the best way to exercise for the majority of moms. The ability to interact in a group, observe each others' discomforts and anxiety, makes the whole experience more 'normal' for some women. However, there are some moms-to-be who use exercise as a 'destressor' and who prefer the isolation of a solo workout.

Ann: What words of wisdom can you offer to a mom-to-be who is juggling a busy career with an otherwise busy life and who says she simply doesn't have time to exercise?

Karen Nordahl: Our view is that exercising is important to the health of you and your baby as everything else you are doing: e.g., quitting smoking, discontinuing alcohol, and taking a prenatal vitamin. When we are not pregnant, we sometimes do not exercise for ourselves, but when you are pregnant, you need to exercise. Just 20 minutes of walking will do it for both you and your baby.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:32 PM