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Fitness Focus: Body Conceptions

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One thing you miss when you’re pregnant is the dancing. You know, the out-all-night-in-heels, a few-too-many-drinks, sweaty-bodies-on-the-dancefloor dancing. The kind of dancing that makes you forget about everything else in the world except the thump of the music. But we’ve got good news, pregnant girl: you don’t have to give it up (ok, except maybe the all night and heels and drinking part).

Listen closely: Body Conceptions. Founded by fitness guru and former dancer Mahri Relin, Body Conceptions (or for those in the know, BoCo) is an exhilarating workout set to an amazing playlist. Not only can you get your groove on, but you can also create long and lean muscles, and build stamina and functional strength….which is a whole lot more than I ever gained from those late nights of rocking out pre-pregnancy. And since instructors are either pre- and postnatal certified (or on their way to certification), BoCo has become a hot ticket for pregnant gals all over the city who are looking for a fun, challenging and totally safe alternative to those late nights on the town.

Below, Relin fills us in on how she fuses dance and fitness for a can’t-miss class for pregnant gals, new moms and anyone looking for a generally good time.

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What happens in a typical Body Conceptions class?

A signature BoCo class intertwines dance sections consisting of simple, high energy dancing and jumping movements with sculpting exercises that focus on the arms, thighs, abs, and seat. While each part of the body has its own dedicated section of class, many exercises integrate several muscles at once and require recruitment of the core. The exercises can range from very small, exhaustive movements (like pulsing up and down repeatedly in a low lunge) to bigger dynamic movements (like throwing in a few mountain climbers or punching the arms with weights), all set to music. There is also a strong emphasis on stretching, both in the middle and end of class.

Once we have methodically targeted all parts of the body, we turn off the lights and dance with abandon. I don’t care about form at this point. This is the moment to feel sexy and strong! We then stretch and breath together to end the class.

Give us the 411 on the studio and classes – where are you located and what’s the vibe?

We offer most of our classes out of Stepping Out Studios at 37 West 26th Street on the 9th floor. We have also started offering some classes in Jersey City and will be collaborating with FiTiST to offer classes in the Hamptons this summer. (Contact us for more information on our classes outside of the city!)

I have always believed very strongly in creating an environment that is welcoming and supportive for everyone. To me, fitness classes should never make anyone feel excluded. This does not mean that the classes are easy or simplistic by any means! We want to encourage everyone to have a blast and to push themselves beyond their limits but in a place without any judgment or competition. Our trainers are hard-core, but they are also some of the warmest and most helpful people you’ll meet.

Which classes are ideal for pregnancy?

We have a great pre- and postnatal private training program, but we don’t currently offer public classes specifically for pregnancy. I recommend that someone who is very nervous about modifying for pregnancy should consider trying a private session with us before going to our group classes. For those who are a little more comfortable, our class can be a great option. Make sure to come early to discuss modifications with your instructor, and don’t do anything in the class that feels uncomfortable. The instructor will also likely make choices that keep you in mind.

Although this isn’t prenatal, per se, why are so many pregnant women drawn to this workout?

Pregnant women love our workout because they find it challenging, fun and effective. This workout keeps them flexible and strong. Many of them go through their pregnancies without any aches and pains because of the muscles we target, and they also feel happier and more energized after their sessions. It also helps them continue strengthening their abs so that they feel stronger during labor and recover more quickly after the pregnancy.

How are your trainers tuned into pregnancy? Postnatal?

All of our trainers are either certified pre- and postnatal exercise specialists or are in the process of obtaining their certifications. In addition, we run a special BoCo pre- and postnatal training program focused on adapting the BoCo method to pregnancy, and I work very closely with my trainers when they have pregnant clients. We are not doctors of course, but we encourage our clients to keep an open dialogue with us about any issues that arise, and we will communicate with their doctors if they request it.

After a client has a baby, it’s important that she waits for her doctor to clear her to exercise. There are also issues to consider that are unique to post-pregnancy. We will not throw our clients back into classes as if they were never pregnant. We are very aware of issues like diastasis recti and the continued presence of relaxin in the body, among other things. Women need time to re-condition after they have a baby!

What adjustments do you make to the concept for pregnancy?

This is a little complicated to answer because every pregnant woman is different and because things change from trimester to trimester. I tell every pregnant client that they are in charge of our workouts and that they need to tell me the minute something feels uncomfortable. These thresholds may be very different from person to person. Also, clients who have been working with me for a long time tend to train at a completely different level because they can tolerate greater intensity, and they're not asking their body to do anything that feels new or crazy (which is never a good idea during pregnancy!).

Regardless of the person I'm training, there are still a few universal adjustments I tend to make:

-Some clients continue to do a little cardio, which consists of lots of jumping. By mid-second trimester, we usually end the jumping and choose different methods of raising the heart rate. We pay attention to the rate of exertion (which can be different for different women). On a scale of 1-10, we never take it beyond 8.

-We never put our women on their stomachs

-We don't do extra deep lunging that can stress the lower pelvic ligaments and tendons

-We don't do any extreme twists

-We don't ask women to lie directly on their back for extended periods of time after 19 weeks. (We've worked around this using rollers - very fun discovery for us!)

What about postnatal?

Postnatal training is cognizant of the labor recovery process and how deconditioned the client may have become during or after pregnancy. Most women have trouble feeling their abdominal muscles post-pregnancy, and this can be especially true after a C-section. It's important for all postnatal women to rebuild their abdominals from the inside out - starting with the deep transverse and pelvic floor muscles. We also look out for abdominal splits and adjust the abdominal exercises accordingly. Women still have relaxin present in their bodies for several months post-pregnancy, so it's important to keep in mind that their joints can still be a bit loose and more vulnerable to injury. We might not throw them right back into complex cardio in the beginning, and we might also try to use more stable body positions through the session. As with pregnancy, it's important to treat each postnatal woman as an individual and let her body guide the process. It's also important to reassure her that her commitment to exercise is so great. She will "bounce back" for sure. But she should also be patient with herself!

What are some of the Body Conceptions exercises that benefit a pregnant woman in particular? What about a postnatal woman?

We have a pretty big roster of exercises, so it's a little hard to be too specific here. For the most part, our pregnant women really benefit from the thigh work, which gives them lots of leg strength and joint stability. Our abdominal work adapted for pregnancy has been key for getting women through labor and regaining strength post-pregnancy because it focuses so much on the pelvic floor and deep transverse "corset" ab muscles. Our glute work is also essential to supporting the body during pregnancy and taking pressure off the quads and lower back.

Any advice you’d give a pregnant gal who wants to keep up with her regular exercise routine?

Many women who have been exercising regularly can keep their exercise routines through their first trimester at least. The exception is if they are in danger of getting hit in the stomach, falling, laying or putting pressure on their stomach, twisting, or shifting their weight or direction too suddenly. The other danger is if they're engaged in something that makes them stop paying attention to their body signals. Examples might include competitive sports, teaching fitness, and stage performance. In these instances, you purposely ignore any sign of pain or discomfort in order to achieve your goal of performing at your very best. You can often miss signs of danger that are very important.

I would encourage any active woman who becomes pregnant to contact her trainer or fitness studio and ask lots of questions. Find out how knowledgeable they are about pregnancy and how much they can guide you. Even if it's too expensive to get a trainer regularly, consider having one or two seasons with a pregnancy/fitness expert to walk you through the things you should or shouldn't do through the pregnancy. See if you can meet your instructors early before class to walk through possible modifications. (We do that regularly!)

Regardless, I am a broken record when it comes to pregnancy and exercise. Go for it, but put your body front and center. You will know when something feels wrong, so always pay attention to those signals. Try not to put your body through new or extreme exercise, but lots of what you're doing already can continue. And in terms of exertion, you can definitely sweat, but keep the intensity at a level where you can still talk and breath well.

Can you give us one Body Conceptions-style “do-at-home” exercise that pregnant women can try during pregnancy when they can’t get out to a class?

One of my favorite thigh exercises during pregnancy is called “Wide Second.”

-You stand with your feet turned out and placed slightly wider than the hips.

-Bend both knees to about 90-degree angles, keeping the knees aligned directly over the feet (not rolling forward).

- Adjust your position so that your feet are not too wide apart and hard to control or so close together that your knees are bending past your toes.

-Make sure your upper body is straight up and down (not tilted forward), and your chest is lifted with the shoulders relaxed.

-I always recommend doing our exercises to music. Try using something with a medium tempo.

-Start with your hands on your hips. Staying deep and low in your Wide Second bend*, pulse your body slightly up and down 30x to the beat of the music.

-Stay deep in your lower body position*, and reach your arms wide out to each side of your body.

-Keeping your legs still, alternate reaching your arms out to each side 20x to the music.

-Reach long through the arms. (In fact, you can even let your ribcage pull out to each side as you reach.)

-Keep your lower abs engaged.

-Put your hands back on your hips.

-Staying in your Wide Second position*, pulse both knees back at the same time 30x. These are very tiny movements that should make you feel the back of your upper thighs and glutes engaging.

-Repeat 1-3 as needed.

*If you need to straighten your knees in the middle of this exercise at any time, please do. Take one or two breaths, and return to your Wide Second position. If you have trouble keeping your balance during this exercise, feel free to keep at least one hand on a chair or tabletop in front of you.

Photography by Matt Simpkins Photography.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

This article is sponsored by Nordstrom. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.

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Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.

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Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.

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Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.

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There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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