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What’s My Workout: Jenna Wolfe

Jenna Wolfe, lifestyle and fitness correspondent for NBC’s Today show, is getting pretty good at being pregnant. After having her first daughter, Harper, last August, with partner and NBC News foreign correspondent Stephanie Gosk, she announced last month that she’s due to have a second girl in early February.

While fitness has always been a part of her pregnancy game plan (“Five minutes here and there is better than zero minutes everywhere,” she reminds us), Wolfe, a voracious athlete, is taking a different approach this time around. We chatted about her strategy, ignoring excuses and what she looks forward to doing the most after her baby is born. (Hint: It involves burpies.)

Q: Tell us about your go-to workouts before you got pregnant.

A: I got tired of relying on gyms and gym equipment when I started traveling a lot for work. I was also bored to tears of 45 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical machine. So I started designing my own workouts based on time, location and focus. I put together short, plyometric-based cardio and strength-training moves. Each workout takes about an hour and includes high-intensity cardio mixed in with basic strength training. I said good-bye to weights and now only use bands and my body weight as resistance. I never spend more than 60 minutes on a workout, I never have to renew my gym membership and I have increased my stamina, strength and endurance.

Q: Sounds challenging. How have things changed?

A: I’m on my second pregnancy in as many years. My first time around I didn’t change too much. I cut back on some of the intense jump roping, the high box jumps and the burpies, but I was still doing a lot of jumping around, a lot of mountain climbers and I added some light weightlifting [with three-pound weights]. Toward the end of the pregnancy, months seven, eight and nine, I relied mostly on treadmill walking, keeping my heart rate at around 140, swimming and light lifting.

Q: Why a heart rate of 140? That seems to be the recommended number, but you were obviously in excellent shape.

A: My doctor was trying to keep my crazy intense exercising tempered a bit so she told me to stick to that knowing I would probably exceed it. Is 140 the absolute maximum heart rate for active pregnant women? Not necessarily. A more accurate barometer should be whether or not you can carry on a conversation while exercising. You don’t want to get so winded that you either can’t catch your breath or you begin to get dizzy.

Q: And what are you doing now?

A: I’ve cut back completely on the jumping around. I was far more fearless the first time around. This time my doctor’s orders haven’t changed, but I know a lot of friends who are having a difficult time getting pregnant and I know how blessed I am to have gotten pregnant again so quickly. So I have decided to back off just a hair for the next few months [and stick to] light weights or bodyweight lifting and low-impact cardio like walking uphill, biking and stationary runs. I walk to and from work every day—two miles there and back—and I aim to work out three to four days a week, mostly lifting and fast-paced yoga.

Q: Describe your pregnancy fitness philosophy in three words.

A: Maintain: You won’t be working out as hard as your pre-pregnant self but try and maintain that great regimen you started before you got pregnant. Refocus: I have an opportunity to re-focus my attention on some of the things I wasn’t spending enough time on before—yoga, working my legs (I hate leg days), stretching. Discipline: You’re not quitting, you’re not being lazy, you’re not getting fat. You’re exercising discipline for the sake of your health and that of your little one. It took me a while to learn that the first time around. This time I preach it more than anything.

Q: How do you think your active lifestyle contributed to your first birth experience?

A: When I was pregnant with Harper, I was convinced that because of my fitness level the birth experience would be a piece of cake. My abs were tight, my body was flexible, my muscles were strong. None of it mattered. From what I learned, every experience is unique. There’s no correlation between your birth and how fit you are; our delivery wasn’t the easiest or the hardest. But I’ll continue to stay in shape throughout this pregnancy regardless.

Q: Was it difficult to rebound?

A: I actually enjoyed the challenge of losing the weight and toning back up again. Diet and exercise were the only tools I used. I kept a food diary, monitored everything that went into my mouth and carefully worked my workout regimen back up to the pace it was before. I didn’t rush it. I didn’t race it. I carefully and safely took the time my body needed to get back in shape. It took me almost two months to lose all the weight and another month or so to re-tone and start getting my strength and stamina back.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give pregnant women?

A: You will always feel better after you work out. You may feel like crap beforehand and you may give me 3,000 reasons why you don’t, can’t, won’t work out today. But I guarantee you if you put your sneakers on and break a sweat you will never, ever tell me you wish you hadn’t. So my advice is simple: it’s yes. Should you work out? Yes. Do you have time to work out? Yes. Is it safe? Do I have enough space? Will I be back in time? Yes, yes and yes.

Q: Wise words! And what do you look forward to doing again once the new arrival is here?

A: Back-to-back spin classes, a Spartan Race and a hundred burpies in seven minutes.

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