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New moms ease back into workouts (and skinny jeans)

Phinney studio specializes in maternal fitness

Instructor Maura Shirey, far right, pushes her class, but offers modifications if it feels like too much: “This is where you can go to, you don’t have to go there today.”


Registered nurse and certified pregnancy fitness educator Maura Shirey walks around the room and checks on each of the moms in her group. It’s the final week of the eight-week Return to Fitness course at Bodies for Birth, a fitness studio for moms anywhere from conception to postpartum. The class of seven is about to graduate.

Becky Meldrum mentions her back feels funny, possibly from side nursing and holding the baby. Maggie Meyers, back at work after her maternity leave, appreciates the encouragement she got from the class text stream. Jenny Boe tells her fellow mothers, “We had a lot of tears this week. A lot of crying in the crib.”

The studio is just big enough for a seven or eight women to lay down mats. In the little office off to the side, there’s a comfy chair for nursing and moms gather to chat and trade notes before and after class. Babies are welcome too — there’s a special mom-and-baby workout time, where moms can bring their new babes (because finding time to work out is hard enough without figuring out childcare). The babies in the group ranged from 16 weeks to 15 months. Do the math — some of the moms started working out just eight weeks after giving birth.

What do postpartum moms need? It’s often about restoring what pregnancy and childbirth has altered.

“In the beginning, gentle core and pelvic restoration is really important,” Shirey says. “In the early days, I’m thinking about alignment. About how moms are using their bodies in everyday life. Nutrition, hydration, sleep, core and pelvic movement, joyful moment.”

Beyond that foundation, Shirey works with new moms in a progressive retraining program to get back to high-intensity workouts. There are weights. Pulsing. Wall-sits. And always, command over core. Shirey encourages the class to challenge themselves. “If you want more, bring it to the top!” she calls out. “Maybe with more sleep,” a mom sasses.

Shirey started Bodies for Birth four years ago after having her son, Will. “I used to joke I didn’t even have a shirt on the first three months. I was just overwhelmed, adjusting to motherhood,” she says. Her body felt different, and she couldn’t find any guidelines for new moms getting back into exercise. Shirey’s goal for the postpartum class is to empower moms, help them heal and guide them back to fitness in a safe way.

Maybe moms want back into their skinny jeans. Or maybe they just want laugh without peeing. The class is part workout, part gab fest. This sorority of new moms is social and supportive, and they’re all in on the same inside jokes.

“My mom network has grown so much from being here,” says Meyers, who has a 17-week-old baby. “I came because I was worried about my body. Now I realize it’s more about community.”

Meyers worked out at Bodies for Fitness through her pregnancy, and signed up for the postpartum class because she wanted to stay fit. As a huge side perk, she gained a community of women who’d all been through the same thing. It made going back to work an easier transition.

“So I have to admit,” Meyers says between crunches, “my work pants? My butt is a little better.” Cheers all around from the class: “Whooo!”

Bodies for Birth, bodiesforbirth.com, 6512 Phinney Ave N., Seattle, (206) 734-5902

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