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Shaping Up with the Blonde Ponytail Blog

For personal trainer Jess Allen, the founder of the fitness blog Blonde Ponytail who is pregnant for the second time and due in December, fitness is a family affair. The former Stanford softball player lives in Chicago with her husband, the head baseball coach at Northwestern University, and her two-year-old daughter, who is in perpetual motion. Read on for our chat with the super-fit soon-to-be mom of two and a spotlighted workout (get out the dumbbells).

The Advice
Q: As a trainer and a mom, what do you tell fellow pregnant women that want to train throughout their pregnancies?

A: If you have been doing it—CrossFit, weight lifting, running—keep it up! I personally have found that I feel my best after a workout. Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is a more accurate way to measure workout intensity than heart rate; 140 beats per minute is an outdated measurement, as it doesn't take into account one's past and current healthy history. Another great way to measure your workout is the talk test: Can you hold a short conversation or are you gasping for breath in between words? Listen to your body and be forgiving. Your body can do amazing things, but learn to give yourself time to recover. It's a tough pill to swallow, I know. But your effort in workouts remains the same, it just looks a little different!

Q: Have you noticed any differences in the way you feel—or how you have approached your workouts—during this pregnancy versus your first?

A: Surprisingly I have not noticed a difference between my first and current pregnancy. My body seems to be following a similar pattern of progress. If anything, I'm more fit this pregnancy because I'm constantly chasing around a two-year-old!

Q: Tell us your go-to pregnancy exercises.

A: I have focused on more CrossFit-style workouts. They are short, but intense, which is perfect for my schedule—and my toddler’s. They focus on large muscle groups: squats, dead lifts, power cleans, push presses and lunges. And I'm focusing on training my core in a vertical position versus horizontal—think, planks—in order to avoid diastasis recti (ab separation). Thankfully, I didn't have it for my first pregnancy. But after becoming a Healthy Moms perinatal instructor, I learned that planks and push-ups can put a lot of stress on the thin connective tissue that holds the rectus abdominis together. I love planks and push-ups, but I have been finding alternative ways to keep my core muscles strong.

The Workout

Allen’s at-home dumbbell workout involves seven exercises, each performed for 20 seconds with a 10-second rest in between each exercise and a 60-second rest in between rounds. The goal is to hit four rounds—or, as Allen writes, “More, if you’re feeling peppy!” Watch the video here.

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