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Life with toddlers is always fun and exciting. And full of managing expectations. One of our biggest joys as parents is experiencing some of our own favorite childhood traditions with them. Recently, my toddlers and I carved up our pumpkins to make festively scary Halloween jack-o’-lanterns. Here’s how it went!

Managing Expectations

As with any project, it’s important to set realistic expectations both for yourself as well as for your children.

The process, according to your expectation:

Really tap deeply into your nostalgia to conjure up all the memories of fun you had with your parents carving pumpkins (at likely a much older age than those of your children). This will help to develop imagery of the activity in advance so that you can appropriately set high expectations both for their level of involvement as well as the final product.

Bonus points: another helpful activity is to monitor your social media feed for a week, enjoying the happy, smiling faces of all your friends and their kids with their jack-o’-lantern masterpieces. This also helps to set your expectations for the process and finished product.

The process, according to their expectations:

Your aforementioned nostalgia and social media feed will have led you to visit a pumpkin patch weeks in advance. Your children’s carefully selected pumpkins will have been on display since the visit so that you can continually remind them how fun it will be to carve them up closer to Halloween. ‘No, not today. Closer to Halloween.’ ‘Nope, still not today.’ Etcetera.

By the time you sit down to carve the pumpkins, they will have been lustily gazing at the pumpkins and imagining themselves clutching sharp objects and hacking away at their darling gourds for as long as you have, so that they too will have high expectations of both their level of involvement as well as the final product.

Other Really, Really, Really Helpful Tips for Pumpkin Carving Success:

  • Choosing a pumpkin: choose a really big, thick pumpkin. They’re more challenging, so you and your kids will get the most of the experience.
  • Timing: try to choose a time that works for everyone, like if they have a fever or have thrown up recently. Maybe they were even up several times the night before.

Related: it’s not you, Fitbit, it’s me. A hilarious breakup letter to a Fitbit – because sometimes your goals are bigger than the number of steps you take.

The Main Event: Actually Carving the Pumpkins

Finally, the day has come. Here’s a list of easy steps for tapping into that nostalgia, managing expectations and carving that pumpkin into a beautiful, shiny smiling holiday gourd with your children.

1. Cut lid off of pumpkin.

2. Give everyone a fair chance to refuse to touch the pumpkin guts. This will provide you with an excellent opportunity to do all that work by yourself.

3. Give everyone spoons to develop a false sense of participation.

4. While you diligently take out the pumpkin guts and separate the seeds, be sure to repeat the following phrases as often as possible:

  • “No thank you, honey. We are taking the guts out of the pumpkin.”
  • “We want the seeds in the separate bowl. No thank you!”
  • “Will you please open the pumpkin back up? Take the lid back off, please.”
  • “Please get off the counter!”
  • “That’s sharp! Don’t touch, please!”

5. Allow your children to pick a carving pattern from the book without limiting the complicated nature of their choice.

6. Rely on their inherent flexibility to change the plan once you realize the pattern is way too difficult, even for you.

7. Time for a show and snack! Everyone gets their favorites. Not you, though. You can now focus on the business end of the pumpkin carving kit while the kids are otherwise distracted. Don’t panic when the single carving knife snaps in half midway through your project.

8. By this stage, you will be obsessively invested in the project. Any requests from your children will seem like interruptions, so be sure to respond to them unnecessarily harshly.

9. Urgently change the laundry so that the vomit-covered blankie of your youngest will be dry by nap time.

Ok, I’m back. Where was I? 8?

9. Allow your older child to participate in wildly concerning ways. This will make your younger child jealous and fussy, providing your children with an excellent opportunity to argue.

10. After you worked so hard to make the perfect ghost jack-o’-lantern, (resulting in a mutilated pumpkin that appears to have a jagged hole in the front), watch as your son gazes with pride at the final product.

11. Realize he would have liked anything you had done for him, no matter how terrible it turned out. You easily reach this conclusion since this really couldn’t look much worse than it does.

Post written by FFC Oak Park personal trainer Marylou Tawney.

FFC Oak Park Marylou TawnyMarylou “Mama Lou” Tawney is a personal trainer focusing on prenatal and postnatal exercise at FFC Oak Park. She is a mother of two rowdy boys, and specializes in wrestling, tackling, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can find her on Instagram at @mamalou_fitness – or shoot her an email at mtawney@ffc.com to set up a complimentary consultation!

FFC personal trainer Marylou Tawney pens a humorous breakup letter to her Fitbit, explaining that her fitness goals have evolved and become too complex for the step counter.

Dear Fitbit,

I’ll never forget the first time we met. After a fiercely-fought firm-wide challenge was won by my team, The Piercelings, way back in 2012, you arrived as my prize. Excited to see what all the buzz was about, I clipped on that first incarnation of you to the middle of my bra and strutted towards my first 10,000 steps. The precarious placement of your device never stopped me from checking my steps or the time in far too conspicuous of places because, frankly, I was proud of you. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had a step goal, and I was going places.

You got me motivated to move even when it was socially appropriate to stand still. As you whispered sweet urgencies in my ear, “10,000…” you kept my feet marching. Desk to candy jar? 54 steps each way. Desk to water cooler? 73-77 steps each way, depending on the enthusiasm of my stride. Together, you and I have walked the 5,772 miles of the Russian Railway, and have gone up 20,000 floors – as high as a shooting star.

I introduced you to all my friends and family right away. We didn’t waste any time, but neither did they! They adopted you immediately, and they too strapped you to their bras and checked their progress in far too conspicuous places. We cheered each other and challenged each other every week to hit those step goals. You got us off the couch and stepping, stepping… and stepping. I knew I’d really committed to our relationship when I got the Fitbit scale that syncs up with you. It was our equivalent to a diamond ring.

We’ve had some crazy times. Do you remember in my postnatal fog that it took me several days to realize that I was getting false steps from sitting on an exercise ball, holding my precious bundle of only-sleeps-when-held, bouncing for hours and hours? Remember that? I got, like, 96,000 steps in one day, and all my friends were worried that I was over-exerting myself, only to find they’d been cheated out of that week’s step-count leaderboard. I took you off and didn’t wear you for a month after that! Oh, still too soon? No, I get that.

You really left your mark on me. Literally. You finally migrated from my bra to my wrist – as my fifth and final model – my Fitbit tan line became so strong that I wore you even when your battery was dead.

Then something happened. My fitness goals evolved and grew more complex. I began to focus more on strength and high intensity interval training, balance, and mobility – the things that you, my dear Fitbit, did not recognize as primary goals. If I wasn’t on a treadmill, I wasn’t earning trophies or accolades for my accomplishments. But strength training protects your bone mass, and builds muscle mass. It burns more calories, reduces the risk of depression. It assists in motor planning, and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease! Studies have even shown there is a link between strength training and mental alertness. Grip strength and longevity of life! And I learned new ways to measure progress.

  • First of all, I designed a multi-week exercise program in which a series of workouts and movements are periodically repeated at various intensities and quantities (reps/sets), so I am able to document my strength from one week to the next. (Need a plan like this too? Check out the FFC Workout of the Month!)
  • Second, on each strength training day, I perform a total body workout; however, I focus on certain muscle groups each day without neglecting the others. After all, muscle strength requires muscle balance, so hitting both sides of a joint each time you exercise keeps those joints nice and healthy.
  • Third, I changed my warm ups from the treadmill to a functional warm up that prepares my body for the specific movements I am about to perform. This way, my body is not exhausted before I even start trying to lift weights. However, since I do enjoy a good sweat, I throw in some high intensity intervals on the front end of my workout as well as a fun metabolic finisher at the end. This satisfies my addiction to cardio by getting my heart rate up for my whole strength training workout.

My achievements towards these goals felt disregarded and uncounted by you, my faithful Fitbit. You, who got me moving. You, who kept me stepping. You have your place on steppers wrists, whose goals are to move from sedentary to active, but when goals are no longer aligned, we must finally part ways.

I will forever thank you for keeping me and my entire extended family on our fitness journeys for so many years, but I can’t help but feel you and I have grown apart as my fitness goals have changed. As I cover up the untanned strip on my wrist with a new device that better understands me, I won’t forget you. I forever remain in your debt.

Sincerely,

Mama Lou

FFC Oak Park Marylou Tawny Fitbit letter

Marylou Tawney is a personal trainer focusing on prenatal and postnatal exercise at FFC Oak Park. She is a mother of two rowdy boys, and specializes in wrestling, tackling, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can find her on Instagram at @mamalou_fitness – or shoot her an email at mtawney@ffc.com to set up a complimentary consultation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all been there. Searched good ol’ WebMD, typed in a few common symptoms, and get the news we’re knocking on death’s door. This is the one time I took it seriously, and boy, am I glad I did.

I first realized something was off when, two weeks away from that time of the month, I was experiencing extreme cramping and other symptoms. Deciding that I’d rather not risk a possible cyst on an ovary rupturing, I went to the ER. Two scans and one pelvic exam later, I had my diagnosis: uterine fibroids. Not the best news, but it also gave me a much better understanding of the constant, worsening symptoms I was experiencing leading up to my diagnosis.

Fast forward two weeks later – my symptoms were worse than ever, and I needed help. I went to the doctor, where they did a blood count check, prescribed me medicine, and sent me on my way home to sleep.

Not Just a Scare

The following morning, I went to work, trained a client, then fell ill. Hoping I could sleep off the pain, I took a three-hour nap. I got a call from my gynecologist’s office, highly recommending I get to the ER, ASAP. My hemoglobin level was a 3, and it should have been an 11. A blood transfusion was needed to get my levels up. Although I was terrified to receive someone else’s blood, I realized the medical team knew best, and headed over to the hospital. As I was being admitted and they saw my hemoglobin level, they asked me if I had been brought in an ambulance. I looked at them like they were crazy, seeing as I had easily driven myself to the hospital.

I found out my oxygen levels were extremely low (65%), which ultimately led to me losing a tooth and worsening eyesight. Amazing how the body works, and knows what areas of the body need oxygen the most. Two days, FOUR blood transfusions, and two IVs of iron later, I was cleared to go home. My hemoglobin level was still so low that I required five weeks of iron infusions as a follow-up.

All of my health issues FINALLY made sense. When I started to develop daily headaches that brought me to tears, I knew something was off. The need for a two hour nap every day, the pain in my legs and back going up a short flight of stairs made me more aware of an underlying issue. The spells of dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations were the red flags that made me wake up, and get the help I desperately needed.

Related: how fitness and wellness helped FFC member Avnit make a doctor-recommended lifestyle change.

Exercise Saved My Life

So many of the doctors and nurses I met during my stay were baffled at my situation, and how I was able to function on a somewhat normal level. All they were able to attribute to me still being alive was the fact that I took care of my physical health. I was told that due to continual exercise and a healthy lifestyle, my body was able to adjust to the little blood and oxygen it had, and was able to sustain it for some time. People in my situation have dropped dead, passed out and gone into a coma, or into cardiac arrest. Overall, this is a testament to the fact that you should trust your instincts and get the help you need – but also never underestimate the power of a healthy lifestyle.

I am grateful to God and fitness for my existence!

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Childcare Supervisor Nicole Achille.

 

 

 

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You’ve read articles and seen the news – Pilates is one of the best workouts you can do. With benefits ranging from increased mental strength and improved attention and motivation to a better golf swing, a stronger core for running and more, it’s easy to see why Pilates is one of the fastest growing trends in the fitness industry. Pilates is beneficial for everyone – even Jake Arrieta, of the Chicago Cubs, and Jonathan Toews, of the Chicago Blackhawks, practice the ways of Joseph Pilates. But it doesn’t stop there! Here are benefits to practicing Pilates after (or before) pregnancy.

Pilates After Pregnancy

Pilates is perfect for helping new moms through the process after pregnancy and strengthen important muscles necessary for recovery. Benefits include:

1) Draws your abdominals (specifically your transverse abdominis) back together after being stretched for 9 months during pregnancy – also great for strengthening.

2) Strengthens your upper back and opens your chest, which can get tired from carrying and/or nursing your little one.

3) Strengthens your inner and outer hips to help support your pelvis after it was stretched and relaxed from all the hormones running through your body.

Related: sign up to try a free Pilates session on us at FFC!

4) Encourages proper, slow, yet precise, strengthening of your abdominals, hips and back, which helps relieve lower back and pelvic floor discomfort from pregnancy.

5) Stretches tight muscles that haven’t been used in a long time.

6) Can help repair diastasis recti, which is a split down the center of your abs (a common mistake is doing sit ups and planks right after you have a baby).

7) Gives you some well-deserved ME time.

Related: 4 ways Pilates makes you mentally stronger.

Post written by FFC Boystown Pilates Coordinator & Instructor Jamie Loger.

About Jamie

Jamie is the Pilates coordinator and senior instructor at FFC Boystown and specializes in pre and postnatal work,in addition to core training and post-rehabilitation. Want to schedule a complimentary consultation with Jamie? Email her at jloger@ffc.com

Well, my little baby girl recently turned five months old and I cannot stress enough that exercise and sleep are what will get you through those first few months. I know it sounds crazy… new moms, you’re probably thinking something like, “when would I find the time to exercise, much less sleep?!” It’s not easy, but the payoff is exponential. Here’s how you get your pre-baby body back faster!

Getting Active & Staying Active

During my pregnancy, I kept up with light cardio on an elliptical, strength training, and incorporated prenatal Pilates as well. Exercise was a huge part of my preparation for delivering my first baby. It made all the difference in my recovery and helped me lose the baby weight quickly.

By the time my two-week checkup came after Rita was born, I was already back to my pre-pregnancy weight! So to all other expectant mothers, here are my tips to achieve the best possible recovery:

  1. Keep up with diet and exercise while pregnant

Find what works for you. Some mothers can run while pregnant; I could not. I kept up with my cardio workouts by hopping on the elliptical for 30 minutes a day or by taking a spinning class. Strength training and prenatal Pilates were incorporated in my workouts until I was in my 39th week.

Related: try out a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here.

  1. Rest when you can

This is very important! I felt zero guilt when I would take my afternoon naps during that last week of pregnancy. Your body needs rest for the weeks ahead. Those long nights, whether you are breastfeeding or not, are exhausting. Sleep!

  1. Sleep when they sleep

After the baby arrives, maintain a similar schedule to your newborn. The more rested you are, the better you will feel and the more likely it will be for you to exercise.

  1. Early morning workouts are key

I found that if I woke up and fed Rita early in the morning, put her back to sleep and stayed up to work out, I was able to get it done and out of the way. If I waited to work out until the afternoon, it wouldn’t happen. Something else would always come up! So get up, get it done, and congratulate yourself. You’re doing an amazing job!

  1. Fight the cravings

Remember, you’re no longer eating for two. Breastfeeding does burn calories and you’ll feel hungry, but feed yourself with GOOD calories. What you eat is transferred to your little one, so make sure to stick with lean proteins, lots of veggies and limit your sugar intake (try some of these lower sugar recipes out!).

Whether it’s walking around the neighborhood with baby in tow or doing tricep dips in your living room with the little one in your lap, get yourself in motion. Your body wants to be strong and get back into shape. So keep modifying your workouts until you’re back at your previous fitness level.

From one strong mama to another, you’ve got this!

Post written by FFC contributor, Kelly A. 

Being a fitness instructor and athlete, I knew exercising would be safe while pregnant. While I’ve been able to stay very active, and still exercise every day, there are definite modifications that I wish I would have known about when I first started out.

Exercising pregnant: what's safe and what's not.First and foremost – STOP doing crunches. I didn’t “pop” until about 20 weeks, so I figured I could continue with my core workouts as usual. After taking prenatal Pilates, I learned how detrimental that kind of flexion can be for the abdominal wall. There are definite core exercises that can and should be done, safely.

  • Correct posture is key to helping your core stay strong and your back aligned.
  • Sitting on a fitness ball and lifting one leg at a time helps core strength and balance.
  • Doing any kind of strength training with single leg movements also incorporates balance, which helps the core.
  • Modify your pushups and your planks by placing your hands on a fitness ball.

Secondly, keep up with cardio workouts throughout the pregnancy. I’m a marathon runner and really enjoy training outside and on the treadmill. Some mothers can continue running all through their pregnancies, whereas it was too painful on my hips to continue. I found that 30 minutes on the elliptical doing intervals, or taking a 45-minute spinning class kept me feeling healthy. Finding what works for your body during pregnancy is important, so try out different workouts that you wouldn’t usually have done.

Related: want to check out one of our clubs? Click here to try us for free!

Squats are the new kegel! We hear over and over that we need to strengthen our pelvic floor, which is correct. Kegels can be done as often as the mother wants, but squats have also been found to drastically improve the strength and resilience of the pelvic floor. Make sure to keep proper form as your progress through the pregnancy since the ever-growing belly will make you a little top heavy. Also try plie squats (a wide stance with toes turned out) since inner thighs are directly connected with your pelvic floor.

Finally, keep stretching throughout the day. Your hips and back need the release. Try a prenatal yoga class if you can. Stay away from twisting or any kind of stretch that “squishes the baby” or puts too much pressure on your belly. Really work on hip rotations, side stretches, rolling out your feet and outer thigh release.

Make sure you do what feels right for your body and that you continue to hydrate. Healthy moms make healthy babies!

Post written by an FFC contributor.