Need an insight into life as a popular fitness instructor and mom of two young kiddos? You're in luck because my latest Fit Mom Talk is with my old friend (and the first fitness model I ever photographed!) Jennifer Phelan. Jenn has learned a lot since becoming a mom and she is more than happy to share her experiences in hopes of helping other expecting and new moms. She's always impressed me as a fitness expert and now as a super mom too:
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jennifer Phelan and I am the founder of JPPilates
, a brand that centers around training, motivating and influencing clients through my group Pilates classes in Boston, private instruction and social media. And I'm also a Mom to two little boys! I have a three-year-old named Grayson and a four-month-old named Max. Oh and I can't forget my 6 year old crazy Siberian Husky dog Noelle.
How long of a maternity leave were you able to take before you started to work (and workout!) again?
photo credit: April K Photography
With my first son Grayson I took a solid four months off from teaching and also from exercising
. Grayson was a terrible sleeper. At night he work up every 1-2 hours. The sleep deprivation took a real toll on me and as much as I wanted to get back into the swing of teaching and working out, I simply couldn't. Caring for my child took every ounce of energy I had
. I'd say around six months was when I really found my stride but it wasn't until he was one that I truly lost all of the baby weigh and had a full teaching schedule again.
The second time around has been much different. I think already having a toddler running around left me not much time to 'recover.' By the time Max was two months old I was itching to get back to teaching. Not that I don't love being home all the time with my boys but the escape from whining, crying, nagging and needing was much needed
. My students and places of employment (North End Yoga
) looked like a shinning beacon of escape. In no way does teaching feel like work.
Even now people seem surprised that I returned back to teaching so soon after giving birth. I get a lot of questions asking why I didn't take a longer maternity leave and enjoy it. To set the record straight I'm not really teaching that much. Currently I only have 5 group classes on my schedule. The rest of time I'm home with my kids. I LOVE that I'm able to do both. Is it easy? No way!
But I've learned to be flexible, go with the flow and keep myself open to what comes my way. I can't get too set in my ways about scheduling because things with kids are always changing!
My workouts this time around have been slow going. I'm being much kinder to myself
as I strive to lose the last ten pounds and work to get fitter. I'm not as worried because I know that I did this once before and I know I can do it again. And even though I may not have my Nike Trainer, Fitness Instructor body back just yet, I try to remind myself that I am actually strong and my body is doing different yet amazing things. I breastfeed my baby. I carry around a 19lb infant every day. I wear him on my body in an Ergo carrier. I push a stroller up and down the hills of Charlestown with a 30lb toddler, baby, car seat and often groceries
. That alone is an amazing yet non conventional workout. I know that in time I will have hours to myself to train and take classes but right now there's no place I'd rather be than with my family... well most days :)
How did your routine look different from before baby?
Before kids I taught 35+ hours a week between private clients and classes. I had tons of time to take group fitness classes all over Boston and I could be super relaxed about when I choose to workout. Often I'd make game day decisions on what time I wanted to exercise and what I was going to do.
Now my life is very scripted and planned.
I have to coordinate with my husband if I want to take a week night class. He has to come home from work a little early in order for me to leave and make a 7:15pm class. That means that he walks in the door and I tag out- leaving him with dinner, bath time and bedtime duties for both kids. Plus he has to take the dog out and make dinner for us. That's a lot just so I can exercise. I often feel guilty when I choose to leave during the week
. Luckily he's an amazing man and he reminds me that it's important I do these things for me. It's in the best interest of our entire family that I'm healthy and feel my best. I'm a much better wife and mom when I workout.
Right now with such a young baby I'm still trying to figure out my workout plan. I tend to do mat Pilates at home during the day whenever I can fit it in. I'm making it to classes probably twice a week and in classes I teach I'm down on the ground with my students working out with them. As my youngest gets older I know this will shift and I will be able to create a different routine with each month that passes.
Did your fitness outlook and goals change after becoming a mom? If so, how?
Prior to kids I cared about the number on the scale a lot. Now I don't even weigh myself.
I honestly don't care. I'm sure it will be a different story once I'm done breastfeeding but for now the number isn't really a goal.
Before I used to compare myself to what other instructors were doing; how many classes they taught and what companies they worked with. I can honestly say that my love for teaching has actually grown since becoming a mom
. It's taken on a whole new meaning to me. I adore the time I get to spend with my students and while I still stay on top of what other people are doing, I don't find the need to compare as much. My life is just different now.
Instead of only influencing young people to be fit and healthy I have a new crowd I've grown to love working with - New Moms! I want new moms to know that we are all in it together
. That it's not easy but you can live a healthy active lifestyle. If I can do, so can you. I'm no different. And we can do it together. Prior to kids I wouldn't have had the first idea of how to connect with these women but I must say, it's been an honor getting to do so.
What is the biggest challenge you've found in working/running a business and being a mom?
Ah, there are just so many challenges. Lack of time and energy are a few to start. Some days it feels like I can do it all. Usually those are the days I drink two pots (yes, pots) of coffee. And other days I fall into bed with anxiety questioning why I'm even trying to work because motherhood is obviously a full time job and beyond. Overall my biggest challenge is remaining patient with the process
. I have so many projects I want to jump up and do. So many ideas. But I have to accept that right now I can't do it all. Usually when I'm snuggling with my boys, in the quiet moments, are the times that I find peace with where I'm at. It's a work in progress, every single day.
What is your favorite fitness-related activity to do with your sons (either one-on-one or as a family)?
Since we have a large, active dog we do lots of family walks
around the city. Grayson is a toddler expert on his Micro Mini Scooter and often times it's a workout for us all to just keep up with him. I love practicing yoga and Pilates with Grayson. When he was two, we took about 10 months of toddler yoga
together. It was hands down the best class I've ever taken him to. We take a lot of the techniques from classes (focusing on breathe, slowing down, mindfulness, and of course the poses) and apply them together at home. He's working on his Pilates Hundreds and Roll-Ups too but still needs some help on his core strength :)
I also love adding Max into my workouts! We do everything from push ups, planks and ab work together. I get right down on the mat with him
. Both boys when they were little are the inspiration for the Mom and Baby classes I teach
. It's so fun to be able to create with them and share with other Boston and Charlestown Moms!
Thanks to Jenn for sharing her story!
You will always inspire me and so many others as well :)
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