Nicole's Blog

Training For Two

As a retired IBFF bikini pro and Olympian, an international fitness model and writer, a team sponsored athlete and an NASM CPT & Chek Holistic Lifestyle Coach, at age 41, I was preparing for the biggest triathlon of my life, pregnancy, labor and delivery and, of course, all that follows. In January of
2014, I took my very first pregnancy test. When it showed positive, I was smiling from ear to ear.My life was forever going to change, in the best possible way.

During my first trimester, I continued working out as I had been doing. Exercise and movement are important during pregnancy, as is your overall mental state. For those wanting to start an exercise program when pregnant; be sure to hire an expert. Do not just wing it by yourself or a workout partner; you may risk hurting yourself and your baby-on­the-way. My integrative doctor said, “You got pregnant doing all you’ve done so keep at it but listen to your body and stop if you feel pain or discomfort.” What my doctor said was true and I followed his advice. I was able to continue life with my holistic functional approach along with teaching weekly cardio kickboxing classes, weight training four times a week and using the Pilates Reformer.

I did, however, switch from hot yoga to prenatal yoga early on. My midwife group had warned me of the potential dangers to the fetus, of doing hot yoga, even in the first trimester. If your core body temperature exceeds 102 degrees, you will place your baby at risk for defects and dehydration. I am sure there are many hot yoga instructors who taught classes while pregnant and birthed healthy children. I was not going to take that risk. Cardio, resistance training, prenatal yoga and Pilates are all beneficial during your pregnancy journey while breastfeeding and
even carrying your baby.

training_for_two_p2Instead of going to the gym when I wanted and doing what I wanted as frequently as I wanted, I soon found out this journey was not going to be about what I wanted. I was not getting ready to step on stage in a bikini, I was nurturing a child, so I did not need to be killing it at the gym five to six times a week. I teach my clients to listen to their bodies and rest when needed, and I follow the same advice. I had a few days in my first trimester I stayed home in bed to rest instead of working out or going to work, this rest was what my baby bump was telling me to do. At times being pregnant can suck your soul. I know all you mommies get me on this. So those zzz’s are much needed no matter the stage of your pregnancy. During my second trimester, I started to modify exercises more. For example, squats and lunges are great during pregnancy because they help to strengthen and stabilize the pelvic muscles used during labor and delivery. I used very little weight or just my body weight, which was challenging enough for me and baby-to-be. For upper body exercises, I switched many standing exercises to be seated on a stability ball or kneeling to prevent any pulling in my midsection. I started to decrease my weight if I felt any pulling in my abdomen. I even stopped
performing some exercises altogether. I incorporated chest and shoulder stretches and corrective upper back exercises to help with my posture. Pregnant or not we all need extra help when it comes to posture. Pain-free movement is the goal. If you feel any pain or discomfort stop doing the exercise. If you experience the following symptoms stop the exercise and call your healthcare professional:

  • increased shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • calf pain or swelling
  • vaginal fluid or bleeding
  • uterine contractions
  • headache

Since women have a decrease in available oxygen for aerobic exercise during pregnancy, they should exercise at a lower intensity.

There are many women who continue to exercise throughout all three trimesters with the same activities at the same intensities. Then there are women like me who have to taper down and modify according to what their bodies are telling them. Listening to your body is so important when you are pregnant. Creating and nurturing a human is tough stuff, and you never know what to expect until you go through it yourself. Each woman’s prenatal journey is so unique it is important to address any challenges that come up during this time. By the time I made it to the third trimester, my pre-pregnancy taste buds fully returned. I felt like me again. I will discuss the importance of nutrition further on. I had consistent energy in my third trimester. However, I did not walk; I waddled. Ha! I felt best moving and exercising. Sitting and sleeping were quite uncomfortable and even painful at times, even with my Snoogle (a pregnancy pillow). I got a lot of relief from weekly pregnancy massages, acupuncture, foam rolling and working out. Since it was getting harder to maneuver around with my baby bump, I cut back my resistance training workouts to once a week. I still was able to teach an hour of cardio kickboxing each week up until the day I went into labor. I made sure to modify as needed and even coached my class on exercises that I was no longer able to perform. I felt good about my physical state throughout my pregnancy. If you follow me on social media, I often post on my positive mindset as being a huge part of my success or anyone’s success.

Into my second trimester, I was anxious that my body would have a negative reaction to my exercise. To be ready for any eventuality, I started to prepare. My plan was always to have a natural childbirth, I began to research natural births and to surround myself with other moms who had delivered babies naturally without medical intervention. Hearing other women’s stories of giving birth, naturally at home, in other countries or a hospital empowered me. I thought, if they can do it so can I and that I did.

Your emotional state has a huge impact on your pregnancy and postpartum journey, so positive thoughts are helpful as is stress management. A great book to read on this is “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” by Dr. Christiane Northrup. I became more in tune with my body, with how the physical and emotional stressors affected me during pregnancy. Just like I would stop a certain exercise if it did not feel right, there were situations or people I needed to avoid or eliminate from my life to keep my stress manageable and my body and baby healthy.

training_for_two_p3When it comes to nutrition, it does matter, every day of your life and especially when you are pregnant. Many women think they can eat whatever they want when pregnant, while obviously you can, but to be as healthy as possible, you should not. Our country’s health, especially our children’s health, continues to suffer, for many reasons, one being our food supply and the foods we eat. If a food is advertised on TV, do not eat it. How often do you see coconut oil, cod liver oil, grass-fed beef, kale and spinach advertised on TV? This is so important that I am writing a book on it. My publisher and I are in the final stages working on the last few edits. I work with clients on nutrition and develop plans specific to their goals. Prior to my pregnancy from 2011-2014, I was eating a paleo diet, eating antibiotic hormone free meats, poultry and wild seafood, organic veggies, and healthy fats. I did not eat fruit and avoided starchy carbs. The way I ate came from years of my trial and error and working with my holistic doctor to turn
my health around, and it also worked best for me to function optimally. I also have my Chek Holistic Lifestyle Coaching certification that focuses on eating foods from the land and sea. Prior to my pregnancy, I ate like
this 98% of the time. During my first trimester, my body gravitated towards foods that were against my diet religion (insert smiley face). I have to admit I did not have a salad or any taste for one during my first ten weeks. I had a few weeks where pizza, cakes, and frozen dinners were what my baby bump was craving. Please note, when I ate that way I felt like complete crap, I even broke out on my face and back. Finally, around week ten, I was back to craving proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. It felt so great to eat clean again, I felt better, and my skin started to clear up. I training_for_two_p4did not beat myself up for eating this way either. I knew that my body needed more nutrients so I started eating various fruits and healthy carbs. The fruit kept me hydrated and was a quick middle of the night snack to feed my grumbling belly. In trimester two, I added in fermented foods like Rejuvalec from Karyn’s Raw in Chicago, which offers so many health benefits. I found this to help with my nausea, energy levels and skin. If you want to make
your own, various recipes are available online. It is high in B vitamins and if you are deficient that
is one reason most pregnant women may suffer from nausea or morning sickness. Remember a vitamin B upplement is nowhere near as good as getting the vitamin from actual food. When I hit my third trimester, I felt like my taste buds had fully returned. All in all, I felt good about my pregnancy nutrition including the few weeks where I ate processed foods. I did have aversions to certain healthy foods during my pregnancy. I made it a point to get a variety of foods I knew were beneficial to both myself and my baby. My eating was not perfect, but I know I did the best I could considering my educational background and knowledge. Below is a list of some foods to incorporate if you are
pregnant or trying to conceive:

  • Pasture-raised Liver
  • Grass-fed beef (this way you know it contains the vitamins and minerals needed)
  • Butter (grass-fed or raw from a local farm)
  • Animal fats
  • Tropical fats
  • Organic veggies and fruits (low in toxins)
  • Cod liver oil
  • Sardines
  • Bone Broth
  • Gluten-free grains

Here are some foods to avoid during pregnancy:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Raw fish
  • Undercooked poultry or red meat
  • Nitrite
  • Soy
  • Artificial sweeteners

When it comes to prenatal nutrition and exercise, along with labor and delivery, we may not all journey the same path. What works for me may not work for everyone. It was not a single person or resource of information that helped me. It was many that helped in my pregnancy journey including the “going with my gut” instinct. In sharing my holistic approach with you, hopefully you will walk away with something to help you and your baby thrive. Enjoy the ride!

For more information, I can be contacted at

“Prenatal Health & Happiness, Through Exercise & Nutrition” by Holli Spicer-
“How To Eat a Move & Be Healthy!” By Paul Chek


IFBB Pro & Olympian,
Team, Writer
and Chek Holistic Lifestyle Coach

Photographer: Alex Goykhman