Below is in interview I had with Amelia Freeman of Brooklyn Bump, a community-driven site for Brooklyn moms to connect, share, and learn from one another during the early stages of motherhood. Brooklyn Bump is filled with incredible resources for moms, so I felt so grateful to featured on her site and share the virtual resources we have been creating for pregnancy and postnatal recovery.
To see the interview on their site, go here. Also check out their fantastic resources and follow Brooklyn Bump on Instagram. They are a great community!!
Mahri Relin, owner of Body Conceptions, talks to us about her personalized workouts designed to support women through all stages of life. They are at-home training sessions designed specifically for expecting and postnatal moms – fun for both you and baby.
Mahri, you are such a positive energy and have created a wonderful at-home fitness option for so many women to get moving on their own time. How did Body Conceptions come to be and why did you decide to provide remote workouts opposed to the traditional class setting?
Thanks so much, Amelia! I have done lots of thinking about this question. I originally started Body Conceptionsbecause I felt like so many women were looking for fitness experiences that felt joyful, motivating, and effective but that also worked for them as individuals. I am very supportive of other fitness businesses out there, but I felt when I started my company that lots of women felt pressured to come into classes with a high level of fitness from the beginning and that there was a lot of pressure to conform and push their bodies to the limit even when it wasn’t right for them.
I also recognized that there were times in women’s lives – like pregnancy for example – when they needed extra fitness guidance and support, and there were very few fitness experts out there to help them.
For me, helping people individually and discovering how I can work with them and their specific individual needs is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. I love finding out what people need and helping them gain strength and confidence in their bodies and their lives over time. I also love going through fitness experiences with them and seeing the joy and energy on their faces afterwards. There is nothing better than helping someone feel happier and better about themselves, and thus giving them more tools to help fuel the rest of their lives.
I love that and can imagine it is a very rewarding feeling!
Tell us about your shift in focus to prenatal/postnatal clients and why it was important to offer in addition to the private training sessions that already existed.
That’s a great question! I actually had a prenatal focus even from the beginning, but there were lots of people who came to us for other things too — wedding and event preparation, lifestyle fitness, general health improvement, etc. We actually still see many of those original clients because people tend to stay with us for a long time, but we started becoming hyper-focused on pre and postnatal exercise in the last 3-4 years. Once I saw that women were not getting the fitness information they needed to get through pregnancy and the postnatal healing process properly, I realized more and more that this needed to be a big role of ours.
Knowing that knowledge was the key to becoming the best pre and postnatal fitness experts possible, we started diving deeper into the information out there as a company, which often meant getting into PT territory since fitness education can often be too general. We have also had conversations and taken courses with doctors, psychologists, dietitians, coaches, and integrative practitioners, among others, to get as full a picture as possible about what women need at these crucial times of their lives. We want to know as much as we can, but we also acknowledge the limits of our expertise and refer our clients out to our favorite experts when they need extra support. We have an AMAZING network!
How do your pre/postnatal workouts differ from others and what can a mom-to-be or new mom expect at their first class?
Our workouts are based on the Body Conceptions method, which is a dance-based cardio and sculpting approach. This doesn’t mean you have to be a dancer or even remotely coordinated, but we use dance-based principles that focus on alignment, strengthening and lengthening your muscles, and supporting your joints properly during these crucial times. We also focus heavily on incorporating core work, and we do lots of integrative movement that’s excellent for your mind as well. And it’s all set to great music, so you can’t help but have fun in the process!
Although people don’t realize this in the moment, our method has tons of improvisation built into it. This allows our trainers to be able to shift direction rapidly or accommodate anything specific at the drop of a hat. Our trainers are also heavily trained in pre and postnatal principles, so they can always accommodate those principles within the workouts depending on the needs of the client. And that part is especially important. We understand that each person and each pregnancy and postnatal recovery process is different. We focus very intensely on understanding your unique needs as a client and accommodating and supporting those needs so that you can get the most healthy and personalized experience possible with us.
In your first session with us, you can expect tons of questions about your background, special conditions, and anything specific you might be experiencing in connection with your current or recent pregnancy (e.g., diastasis, pelvic issues, back or shoulder pain, etc). We will do some assessments, and we will also start teaching you principles right away so that you have some things to keep in mind both during and after your sessions with us. You will experience our workout the way we feel would work best for you. You will move your whole body, likely do some sweating, and you will probably feel pretty challenged. You will also have a great time – the most important part!
That’s so true! The workouts I experienced were so fun and such a great mix of cardio and strength but with the ease I needed to feel comfortable being a couple months postpartum. Also, my baby LOVED watching which was a great way for us both to spend the better part of an hour. Do all of your trainers show up with variations of a set workout you’ve created, or are they all unique depending on who teaches? Curious to know what “formula” you use so-to-speak in establishing these mom-targeted routines.
I’m so glad you had a great time! Each of our trainers has a unique flavor, so it’s really fun for us to match them with clients depending on how we think personalities will go well together. And yes, babies love to watch us!! Moms sometimes think they need to put their new babies down for a nap in order to work out with us effectively, but we have lots of success doing the workout in front of their babies who love the music and visual stimulation. (And we also have exercise you can do WITH your babies too!)
Our workouts generally have a set structure with specific principles and targets for the body, and I spend a lot of time discussing the principles behind why we choose to move certain ways within the method. Beyond that, there is a lot of room for the trainer to improvise, which is a crucial part of our work. The improvisation allows the trainer to change direction immediately, and often they will need to drop any plan they might have walking into a session with a client who needs something very different in the moment.
I came to a session once and learned that my client had just fallen down some stairs but still wanted to work out! (I don’t recommend exercising while injured, but she and I were pretty confident that we could work around what had just happened to her.) I took a very different approach in that moment than I intended and somehow managed to give her a tough workout without causing any pain. Without the freedom of improvisation, I never would have been able to do that – phew!
Oh wow! Yes, I’m glad you both were able to make the session a success under the circumstances!
Speaking of one form of “injury” to another, what types of movements and recovery methods are you and your team focusing on when visiting a mom who has recently given birth?
That’s a great question! We are thinking a lot about the trauma our mom has just experienced and the individual needs they have at that time. In other words, we want to know whether that mom needed a c-section or had a vaginal delivery, and whether there were tears, etc. We will also check for diastasis (or a split in their abdominals, which is common), and we will assess any pelvic floor issues – plus posture issues, back pain, neck or shoulder issues, the full gamut! Our approach moving forward will be aimed at how to build up strength the right way while accommodating any of these individual issues (and of course referring them to any specialists if we feel they need that).
One of the most important needs for a newly postnatal mom is strengthening the connection between the rib cage, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and deep core. We talk a lot about this as a company, and we do lots of education around this with our clients. Believe it or not, breathing properly after having a baby is the first and most crucial step to recovery. It’s the key to healing and also setting yourself up for everything that comes afterwards, from the first steps to ultimately getting back to the exercise intensity that you had before giving birth!
Here is the question I know everyone reading is thinking. SPACE! Space is an issue for so many of us New Yorker’s and inevitably becomes a question of… “But do I have the room?” What do you tell moms who don’t think their space is conducive to working out in?
Believe it or not, crowded living rooms or bedrooms are some of my favorite spaces for workouts! We honestly don’t need much space at all to give you a workout. As long as you can put down a mat (and hopefully have at least a little space for us to put one down next to you), then we are usually all set. On top of that, I love using chairs, pillows, countertops, and beds as great ways to support the body at different levels and use different kinds of leverage and challenge. We have also had great sessions in small hotel rooms and kids’ playrooms. Almost any space is possible!
Now to touch briefly on the global crisis we are facing together as COVID-19 touches our nation. We are living in uncertain times and small businesses of all kinds are trying to navigate ways to accommodate a world of temporary isolation. What are ways moms can keep using your services even when you or one of your awesome trainers can’t be there physically?
Thank you so much for asking. We are doing our best and also trying to spread the word about other businesses who can help families remotely too.
We are actually offering FaceTime sessions for both individuals and small groups. It’s becoming a really fun way for groups of friends to connect and sweat together. And we can also really see and correct clients when we do our one-on-one sessions, even on the screen! We do workouts for whole families because – let’s face it – we all need to let off steam and find ways to have a great time together right now. I have a family of 5 planning to work out with me later this afternoon!
We also have an On Demand video platform, which you can access from our website (www.bodyconceptions.com). It has lots of full-length and shorter workouts, and there is a pregnancy section with both prenatal and postnatal information as well.
Basically, we’ve got you covered right now if you really need to sweat, let off steam, and have a good time. We all need it!
Those are great options – ones I’m personally very grateful for.
Lastly, aside from offering training sessions you also are a great force in the birthing community bringing moms together through special events and gatherings. What’s next for Body Conceptions and where else can fans (like me!) expect to see you in the near future?!
One of my biggest passions is bringing moms together for workout and wellness experiences and educational panels. I have been doing that in both Denver and NYC, and I also do my best to introduce our moms to lots of other great businesses and practitioners who can help them.
Right now, we have had to delay plans in NYC for an event I am dying to tell you about and had to delay an event we had already scheduled in Denver — so please stay tuned for announcements about both of them once things start to calm down. I think a great idea now is to recreate these experiences online. I am getting ready for a few of those offerings and will announce them soon. (I’ll make sure that you’re one of the first to hear!)
I want to send love and good health to your community right now. You are not alone by any stretch, and my company and I will do our best to help ease your load and feel better. Thanks, Amelia, for giving me the chance to connect with everyone!!
Thank you, Mahri! I’m a big fan of you and your company. Thanks for supporting our community and all you do to keep moms everywhere healthy and happy!