Question: Give us a quick intro!
Jessica: I’m Jessica Ko, I’m a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) nurse as well as a NASM personal trainer. I specialize in prenatal training as well as women’s weight loss.
Question: How long have you been a nurse?
Jessica: I’ve been a nurse for 14 years.
Question: How long have you been a personal trainer?
Jessica: I’ve been doing personal training for 12 years. [I’ve been doing it] on and off between having my two kids, but always part-time. Right now, I’m in a good spot dividing my time between being in NICU nursing and personal training.
Question: Why did you pick NICU?
- I love babies
- I was set to be in the ICU (for adults). I liked the pace at ICU. During my last rotation, my instructor recommended that I try NICU. It excited me – it captured me. I’ve been a NICU nurse ever since!
Question: What do your clients come to you for?
Jessica: My clients usually come with some sort of goal in mind whether it be a boot camp for a wedding or weight loss in general.
Question: Has your nursing background helped you support your personal training clients?
Jessica: My experience in NICU and being certified with NASM, prenatally, has helped a lot of my clients who are pregnant, feel safe and secure with my training.
For prenatal woman, a lot their questions or concerns are about the baby. There’s a lot of regulations and restrictions regarding their trimesters. With my knowledge, they’re in safe hands. They feel confident that I know what I’m doing. So I’m able to get them there successfully.
Question: For a woman that just gave birth, when is the right time to start exercising again?
Jessica: The OB will give you clearance to be okay to exercise again. Usually it’s 6 weeks after birth, 8 weeks after a C-section.
Keep in mind, prenatally, you’re not really looking for weight loss, you’re just trying to prepare yourself for labor. At that time, we encourage moderate exercise. All those endorphins, all those feel-good hormones that you get from working out, are going to help the baby. So that’s why we promote exercise while pregnant.
Then postnatally, it’s all for the mom! You work so hard prenatally, and now postnatally you are just doing it for yourself, trying to get your baby weight off.
Question: How does your personal training differ from prenatal training?
Jessica: It’s so different with my personal training. A lot of my clients were my clients before they got pregnant. So, in their training they look at me shocked. “Oh my god, did you just tell me to stop?!” They are so used to me pushing them. But at that time, it’s not about, “Hey, let’s lose some weight and get your heart rate up,” it’s all about getting your body ready. During the first part of the trimester, most women can’t get out of bed. They are so nauseous. They are throwing up. They have such low energy. So even them coming to the gym, 1) gets their mind distracted – gets their mind off being nauseous and 2) they are feeling good, they’re walking on the treadmill, they’re lifting a little bit of weight. That way endorphins are running through their body and they’re feeling good. Let’s get you to the gym and do your thing!
Question: What would a prenatal exercise entail? How long would a session be?
Jessica: You could still take an hour session. Usually with my prenatal clients they always need a good warm up. Everything is so much more fragile with the increase in hormones. They really need to warm up. So, we’ll do some weight training and some core stability exercises. Afterwards a lot of good stretching and then a cool down.
Question: What will we be working on after birth?
Jessica: Remember, you won’t be at the gym during the first 6-8 weeks after birth. You’re probably really tired. Your body is taking a big hit. So, to come back, you need to get reintroduced to it. Your core will be weak in a lot of different ways. The exercises will be all about trying to get more stabilization, more balance, just getting your strength back.
Question: How often should I work out and when will I get my body back?
Jessica: 2-3 times a week. Get yourself back into the gym. Get back into the rhythm of things. Everyone is so different, though. Especially, if you’re breast feeding, your body will probably burn more calories because your body is trying to make more milk. Naturally, you burn more calories at that state. Your body takes 9 months caring for this baby and then you can’t just expect to lose it all in a month. That’s just too hard for your body. I would say give it time. Every woman is so different. It’s just a matter of continuous progress.
Also, I’m on the breast-feeding committee at Evanston Hospital – Northshore. It’s important for moms to keep up those calories. But where are those calories coming from? It’s important we go over diet, detailed times, specific amounts, what foods to choose from, etc.
Question: Do you recommend personal training after birth?
Jessica: I would say it is significant that you get some personal training after birth because your body is so unstable, your core is so unstable, it’s more prone to injury. You probably won’t realize how relaxed your body is. So, going to a full marathon would probably not be wise. But working yourself up, working with a trainer to help set your body back to normal would be optimal.