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Work those abs to get back in prebaby shape

Joanna Track, founder of, participates in the Spinbanz class at Track Fitness.

Della Rollins/ For the Globe and Mail/della rollins/ The Globe and Mail

A fair-weather runner and Pilates enthusiast, Joanna Track, 39, exercised through a pregnancy with her son, now 1. Then the founder of, an online lifestyle guide, created a postnatal routine, a plan that balanced work and family, but also birthed a dream of becoming a fitness instructor.

My goal

"To stay in good health, get back to prebaby shape when I was slim and active, working out five times a week, and see more defined muscles."

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My workout

"Three days of spinning … and two days are full-body circuit training in a class in a combination of treadmill and weights, medicine balls, and floor work. I also do SpinBanZ once as week [spinning combined with intervals of upper body and abs work with elastic exercise bands affixed to the ceiling]"

"My brother is my fitness trainer, and when I get bored my routine goes off the rails, so we change it up three times a year."

My lifestyle

"I'm back at work three days a week, my day starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. …

"I'm not a coffee person. I start with a green tea. I usually have a piece of gluten-free toast and almond butter before I workout out, and then I drink a protein shake. I eat salads with fish or chicken. I love French fries, but having a baby has made me more cognizant of nutrition and I've become sensitive to buying whole, unprocessed foods."

Also: a fitness plan for busy moms

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My motivation

"I would love to become a fitness instructor to teach a class because that would mean I have the confidence to do it, both physically and mentally, that I'm capable to put myself out there."

My anthem

"I'm into a lot of TV and movie theme songs. I like Jai Ho from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack."

My challenge

"I'm happy where I am now, so I'd like to stay in good shape so that the next [pregnancy]is easier. I developed gestational diabetes, which is a condition that 5 per cent of pregnant women get … That made me more aware of sugar and carbs because once you have gestational diabetes, you have a higher propensity to have diabetes later in life. I'm really concerned about healthy eating, limiting the crap and trying to make food."

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The critique

According to Amanda Vogel, who holds a master's degree in human kinetics, eating wholesome foods now will lessen Ms. Track's health risks during a future pregnancy. But here she offers Ms. Track a trio of tips to keep her body fit for baby and ready to teach.

Tone upper body and abs

"If one of Joanna's goals is to get more muscle definition, she needs to do exercises specific to upper body, and abs, as well," says Ms. Vogel, co-author of Baby Boot Camp: The New Mom's 9-Minute Fitness Solution.

"She can ditch a spinning class and follow a training plan designed to build strength: Lift enough weight to fatigue the muscles at eight to 12 reps. Once she can easily lift past 12 reps, up the weight and drop the reps to about eight."

As an extra training tip, Ms. Vogel recommends Ms. Track examine results and introduce new exercises or higher weights and reps every six to eight weeks. The result is she'll get lean and defined by getting stronger.

Although Pilates is excellent for core training, Ms. Track has likely lost the benefits of that powerhouse exercise when she switched to spinning, which focuses on cardio. "Joanna should tone muscles neglected during pregnancy and do abdominal training before class four times a week making sure to vary the exercises," Ms. Vogel advises. "She can begin by doing the plank on her knees [an isometric exercise whereby muscles don't move, but exert force] holding the plank for two sets of 20 seconds, and then work up to three sets of 45 seconds, doing the plank with straight legs."

Break through comfort zone

New multiple-muscle moves will help Ms. Track work in cross-training and feel confident in preparation as a new fitness instructor. "I suggest Joanna practise putting herself out there before even teaching a class by trying different types of workouts," says Ms. Vogel, an indoor-cycling leader, "ones that she thinks might not be for her or comfortable to do because this helps her get into the mindset by getting her out of her comfort zone, mental as well as physical."

Heed prenatal cautions

Although Ms. Track presently exercises for performance, Ms. Vogel offers some final advice if she is planning another pregnancy, and wants to stay active without sacrificing the cardio high she craves.

"Joanna can do spinning modified when needed," says Ms. Vogel, who herself taught spinning class until her eighth month of pregnancy, "but I suggest she get into interval training now with a walk/run treadmill program, and then when she's advancing further along into the second and third trimesters, bring the intensity down, but keep frame of intervals in place."

In addition, she advises Ms. Track to continually evaluate the purpose of her workout, especially in the late stages of her next pregnancy. "It's not to torch calories, not to workout as hard as she can," Ms. Vogel says, "but to maintain a healthy lifestyle both for her and her baby that can carry through pregnancy and the postpregnancy period, as well."

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