Squamish fitness trainer Nikki Johnston has lived what she helps others through.
The busy pregnancy and postpartum fitness coach, who wears many hats — er, tuques — in her life, is also a mother of two toddlers.
During the pandemic's peak, she started teaching Prepare to Push workshops online for free to pregnant folks in town.
Her offerings then evolved into a complete suite of online prenatal and postpartum fitness programs to help prep the body for birth and retrain the body after baby.
‘Push it — Oooh, baby, baby’
Her Prepare to Push workshop originated from having taken the same course before her child's birth.
"I ended up having my first one six weeks early. But I had taken this course ... I actually felt really prepared, and I had a really positive birth experience, despite it being really early. So I ended up contacting the woman who created that program and telling her I'm already a pre and postnatal fitness specialist, but I felt like I learned a lot from this program. It's awesome. She's like, 'Well, I'm actually licensing it if you want to teach it.' So that's how I started teaching,” Johnston said on Friday morning, from the Invigorate Personal Training studio in downtown Squamish where she was preparing for an in-person client.
The three-hour Push workshop helps expectant moms physically prepare for childbirth.
She has had clients who just found out they were pregnant take it to folks who were 33 weeks along.
"There's the physical part, but then there's also the mind-body connection part that's important: how you can use your breath," she said.
The course is not just for women who will have a "natural" birth, but those with a C-section.
Babes 'n Bellies
Then she also has a 36-week online prenatal fitness program, Babes 'n Bellies Bootcamp.
There are full-body workouts, deep core, transverse-abdominis routines, and other extras on the side, such as nutrition information, yoga and more.
Further, there are hospital packing lists and birth-affirmation flashcards.
"All the things that I was thinking about when I was pregnant, I created, or any issues that my clients had … So it's pretty comprehensive.”
Johnston was quick to acknowledge that as much planning as someone does, sometimes childbirth — and the postpartum period, for that matter — can suddenly steer away from that plan.
She jokes that a nurse once told her to have a Plan A, Plan B and an open mind.
"I do believe that birth is a mystery to a certain extent, but I do think there are things that we can do to try and stack the cards in our favour, And that is the best that we can do," she said.
With her postpartum program, it is meant to help folks get ready to go back to their pre-baby activities, whether that is a fitness class, weight training, tennis or skiing or another corridor sport.
"My hope was that they could get to a place where they could feel confident getting back to sports and moving," she said, adding that previously, she had noticed women trying to get back to their old activities, without prepping their bodies for it.
The postpartum fitness program is split into two sections. One is from birth to 12 weeks postnatal.
"It's very restorative in its approach, very slow building, and it's meant to get you back to a place where you would feel confident going into a standard fitness class, or you might feel confident starting to ski again," she said.
The next section is the following two months after the first 12-week period.
"It is more of a traditional strength training [with] some mini-hit style workouts to that you're really starting to sweat and rebuild."
Not bounce-back culture
Women's bodies change a lot through pregnancy and childbirth, she noted.
"It is such an interesting and transformational time in people's lives — before and after kids," she said, adding she doesn't feel like the same person as before having children.
"The physical, emotional, spiritual and mental transformation that happens is so big ... It's really cool to be able to help people through this journey: one of the biggest transformations you'll have in your life. Being able to help see people through that journey in an intelligent and safe way."
What she doesn't want to do, she said, is promote bounce-back culture, where new moms feel pressured to fit into their pre-pregnancy skinny jeans.
Your body may not be exactly that way ever again, and that is OK.
"Let's accept that our bodies have changed. Even the structure of our bodies has changed, not just the fact that we put on weight and lose weight. Your hips expand, your pelvis moves, and your ribcage expands. So in some ways, your body is going to be forever changed. You are not necessarily ever going to go exactly back to the way it was ... I try to be really careful about being body positive."
Johnston has also started a weekly Baby and Me Social Snowshoe at the Sea to Sky Gondola to bring parents and caregivers together for outdoor fitness every week. (Free with gondola pass/ticket.)
It is not just for folks who are fit, she said, but more of a time to create a sense of community.
From period bathing suits shipped from Squamish to local hairdressers who discuss perimenopause and menopause symptoms to Johnston's childbirth-health programs, it seems Squamish is leading the way on all things women's health of late.
‘We’re actually really lucky
Asked about this, Johnston contemplated whether there was something about folks attracted to the Sea to Sky Corridor.
"We're actually really lucky," she said, about the increase in resources for women.
"There's certainly a lot of progressive-minded people, I think, in this town, who are trying to move the dial in terms of women's traditional health and wellness."
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