This NYC Gym Focuses On Prenatal Fitness & Revolutionizes The Way We Look At Pregnancy

Anyone who has ever been pregnant, or is currently pregnant, can attest to the way society loves to share its opinion about pregnant bodies. While women especially are already objectified through the media, advertising and in subtle everyday ways, when it comes to pregnancy, the objectification takes on a whole new meaning. It’s as if a pregnant body becomes “community property”, as sex researcher Sofia Jawed-Wessel explains in her brilliant TED Talk, “The Lies We Tell Pregnant Women”.

Women go from being objectified by the male gaze, to being objectified for their reproductive status, where society feels it is their responsibility to give the pregnant woman advice on everything from healthcare, to diet, to fitness. Given that pregnancy is not exactly a new concept in humanity, the fitness industry is a great place to start in terms of revolutionizing the way pregnant women take care of their bodies.

A boutique gym in New York City is doing just that – the Fit Pregnancy Club is a center catering to pregnant women, specializing in prenatal fitness classes. As described on their website, the club was launched as a way to revolutionize prenatal fitness specifically.

“We are tired of workouts that treat pregnancy like an illness or put our bodies and babies in compromising positions.  Your existing workout shouldn’t just be modified for safety.  We believe that mothers-to-be and new mothers should train differently, it says.

The classes are designed to strengthen pregnancy and aid in postpartum recovery, and are kept small so that participants can get as much direct interaction with trainers as possible. FPC is also designed as a community for like-minded women to get the physical, as well as emotional and mental support they need during and after pregnancy.

The club was founded by Carolina Gunnarsson who came up with the idea after going through two pregnancies of her own that were difficult. In a feature profile on Fast Company, Carolina explained that she stopped working out during her first pregnancy, gained a lot of weight and subsequently had a hard labor and delivery. The second time around she made some changes. She hired a personal trainer, but they didn’t specialize in prenatal fitness and she ended up with other health problems after labor. That’s what the wheels started turning about finding a solution to fitness regimes for pregnancy.

In 2016 Carolina met her eventual co-founder Joanie Johnson, a postnatal corrective exercise specialist and pilates instructor who was also frustrated with fitness options for pregnant women as a new mom herself. She told Fast Company’s Rina Raphael that she experienced less-than-savory reactions from people when she would walk into a fitness class during pregnancy. She would also get fitness advice from instructors that wasn’t accurate.

“You always know that you’re the pregnant person in the room. You’re always getting told a modification . . . the industry treats us like we are ill; they tend to be overcautious with us,” she said.

While yoga during pregnancy is a popular option, FPC wanted to go beyond one type of workout and use it as an opportunity to educate those who are pregnant about what they bodies can and can’t do.

“There was a gap in the market for something like [FPC]. where you can educate yourself on your workout and be with a community of women who are going through exactly the same stage of their life–with the same problems, the same concerns–and have a challenging, fun group atmosphere,” said Carolina.

Having just opened in October, the club offers three different workout classes – a foundation class, prenatal yoga, and a third which combines dance, cardio, barre and an interval workout. Each class specializes in breathing and exercises that help muscles during pregnancy.

“We’re training the specific muscles you need for pregnancy and delivery,” said Joanie.

All the instructors at FCP are certified in prenatal fitness and are also lactation consultants or doulas, another unique aspect of this boutique club. The goal of each class is not to help women lose weight but to maintain optimum fitness and health during and after pregnancy. What also makes the club stand out from other fitness spaces is the community aspect, where women can receive more than just a specialized workout.

“This space is so important to us because here, everyone is a pregnant person, and everyone is in it together. There’s no outsider. No one is ‘ill’,” said Joanie.

To us it sounds like the body positive version of pregnancy fitness. The focus on changing perspectives around pregnancy is very encouraging, as a quick look elsewhere in our culture shows how easily we reduce women to their reproductive abilities or fetishize their bodies in an objectified manner.

With America being the only industrialized nation in the world not to have any form of federal paid leave law, the closest thing we do have is the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 which offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave only to people who have been at a company with more than 50 employees for more than 12 months. While some individual companies may offer a paid maternity leave package, those not working at one of those places often resort to applying for short-term disability insurance, as in some states the definition of “disability” includes pregnancy, child birth and postpartum recovery.

Earlier this year with all the conversations around the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, some shocking and disappointing statements were made by certain male political leaders who grumbled that they should not be mandated to cover maternity care under the current Obamacare provisions. This is what we are fighting against – on one hand there is the constant push to control women’s reproductive choices, on the other there are attitudes that view pregnancy as something negative, disabling or an inconvenience. This needs to change, and it begins with individual people using the platform and resources they have to shift our language and culture.

The Fit Pregnancy Club is a welcome change among this sea of negativity, and we hope their presence will inspire more fitness spaces to cater to those who are looking for a specialized, welcoming and holistic pregnancy workout. If you are in New York City be sure to visit FCP, and if you aren’t, be sure to talk to your local fitness center about the options they have for pregnancy and suggest how they could better cater to you.


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