Twin Mom Carrie gets tips on healthy living from trainer and twin mom Angela Salveo.
First off, Angela, thank you for taking the time to talk with us! I remember when Melanie, one of The Twin Source’s consumer researchers, asked me for advice to give to her fabulous trainer who was pregnant with twins. At that point, The Twin Source was in its infancy. Now, two years later, we reconnect.
I remember how lost I felt when I found out I was pregnant with twins. My husband and I knew there was a chance of multiples after trying to conceive for almost five years; we both faced fertility challenges—me with my wacky hormone levels and him with his recovery from testicular cancer. But nothing can ever prepare you for the moment you first see those two little hearts beat in the ultrasound. It was so nice to have someone like you to help ease the anxiety!
Now with thetwinsource.com available as an amazing resource for twin moms, I hope we can touch many more women as they go through this exciting, yet often frightening, time in their life.
You have healthy twins, a supportive husband, and a career devoted to helping men and women get in shape by choosing a healthy lifestyle that rewards both body and mind. I admire your dedication and passion and believe that your experience of being pregnant with twins and raising multiples provides a special perspective on what women go through as we try not only to get our bodies back but also to balance our minds in the process.
Thank you! In the past, I may have been a little too focused on my physical appearance—I was a cheerleader for 10 years and did figure competitions for five years. I had a lot of work to do to change my mindset and find that mind-body balance when my husband and I decided to start trying to conceive. But by taking some focus off my body on the exterior, I was able to focus on my body on the interior—my mind, my spirit, my faith—and finding that connection between mind and body.
Although I had always considered myself to have a healthy diet, now I truly looked at food as medicine and exercised to be healthy for our future pregnancy. Having that balance carried me through that long road to become pregnant, through my pregnancy with bed rest, and now into motherhood.
How did you come to be a personal trainer, and why do you find it so rewarding?
I am the youngest of four and grew up in a very active family. This active lifestyle stayed with me through college at Iowa State University, and in 1998 I decided to major in Exercise Physiology. It was then that I fell in love with helping others achieve their goals. I also started teaching many group fitness classes—spin, sculpt, pre- and post-natal, Strollercize, bootcamp, yoga, and aqua, for example—and still teach and train people of all fitness levels and ages.
The moments when I hear an amazing success story like a client who got off meds, or those days when I get to witness my clients achieve something they once thought was unachievable, solidify why I do what I do.
Why is being healthy and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle so important?
Being healthy and maintaining an active lifestyle has much deeper meaning to me now than it did 10 years ago. At this time in my life, being healthy and active is all about my twins, Joshalynn and Maxson. I want to move as fast as they do—right now and 16 years from now. I want to keep up with their energy all day long. I want to get up from the floor as fast as they do, ha! I want them to do as I do and not just as I say. I want us to eat healthy together as a family, focusing on whole foods and keeping processed foods to a minimum.
But being healthy to me is not limited to my physical activity and nutrition. It also includes my spiritual health and keeping my home healthy by using only products that are free of toxins.
Melanie has talked about how you showed her that being healthy is so much more than what the scale reads. Can you speak about your philosophy and why a number should never be the endgame?
I often tell my clients to focus on how their clothes are fitting rather than that number on the scale because I know how consuming it can be. The fact is, we women often have a particular number in mind as we get ready for a specific event such as a cruise, wedding, or reunion. It’s always fun to train someone with a deadline—they’ll do anything to get to their goal. However, once that event passes, then what happens? It’s tough to keep at it with that high a level of intensity for a long period of time.
That’s where my philosophy comes in: We must find a balance. I believe that identifying a smart goal is important to keep us focused, but that goal does not have to be about the scale. The scale can be extremely counterproductive to a person’s mindset. And especially with women, we have so much weight and mood fluctuation with our hormones that it can be downright depressing to look at that ever-changing number. Instead, if we put our energy into a physical achievement goal like doing a military pushup, running a 5K, or walking 10,000 steps a day like the U.S. Surgeon General recommends, our mindset becomes less about getting to a number on the scale and more about becoming empowered with the strength to succeed.
How do you apply your philosophy when working with pregnant women?
It’s amazing how emotional I get when I’m working with pregnant women. Before babies were even in my thoughts, I have always had a connection with women who are exercising to be as healthy as they can be for their babies. We don’t have control over much in this world, but we can control how we treat our bodies and the nourishment we put into our bodies for our babies’ benefit.
It’s so exciting when I have the pleasure of working with women before they are pregnant as they try to get their bodies as healthy as possible in preparation for their babies—like Melanie did! Then once they are pregnant, they are able to continue exercising at a modified level to keep that healthy momentum going.
Recalling your own twin pregnancy, what advice would you give to a woman who is pregnant with twins and who wants to exercise?
I think the more preparation you can do to get to a healthy state before babies even enter the picture, the better. But since the majority of women reading this today are most likely already pregnant, my advice is this: If they were active prior to pregnancy, I would encourage them to continue doing the things they enjoy but at a moderated level. It’s not worth the risk to do strenuous workouts that could cause you to put strain on the pelvic muscles that hold the babies in.
And listen to your body! If you’re exercising and you cannot catch your breath, most likely your two beautiful babies are having a hard time getting the oxygen they need too. Making this connection to your babies is just the beginning of being a mommy!
Of course, you should always consult with your doctor about exercising while pregnant.
What was your nutrition/exercise regimen during your twin pregnancy?
Well, let me start with what I did before my pregnancy. Remember how I mentioned that I teach group fitness classes? Well, that often meant working out for two hours some days. I needed to take a giant step back. So, during the five years that my husband and I were trying to conceive, I began exercising to be in good health for my future pregnancy instead of to be “in shape.” If I gained a few pounds, I couldn’t let that bother me. Taking the focus off of me helped prepare me for motherhood. Exercise also became a huge stress reliever for me during those years of trying, which seemed to last forever.
When I finally became pregnant with the twins (six months after having a miscarriage), I did everything with my babies in mind. I still taught group classes, but I didn’t actually work out a lot of the times in the class. When I did cardio, I always wore my Polar heart rate monitor and programmed it to beep at me if it went out of range. I would also do strength and balancing exercises since I knew I wanted to be able to lift the car seats in and out of the car without hurting my back.
During my last trimester, I was put on modified bed rest. I wasn’t even allowed to walk my dog around the block—and I have a Jack Russell! Talk about stir crazy! I had so many friends come over to keep me company, but I felt I still needed to move. So, I would occasionally go out on our balcony with my yoga mat, listen to some Enya, and do some simple stretching to get the blood flowing and get my vitamin D. This was a time that I would also focus on my breathing.
Regarding nutrition, I have always had a sweet tooth, but the moment I became pregnant, I had no interest in sweets. I focused instead on eating many small, healthy meals throughout the day—and night. I was always hungry! It makes me sad to hear women say that they’ll use their pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever they want. I believe it should be completely the opposite. This is the time in your life when you want to eat the healthiest—for your babies!
Once the doctor gave me the okay to exercise after the twins were born, I did not know where to start. There were many reasons for this—I was on bed rest for most of my third trimester, I found it difficult to leave the house because I felt an enormous pull to be with the babies, my time was limited, and I was completely exhausted. What do you recommend to women who are having trouble getting started with an exercise plan after giving birth to twins?
I hear you on the exhaustion part. I never knew I could survive on such little amounts of sleep!
I would recommend, first and foremost, having an open conversation with your husband, family, close friends, and anyone else in your support team. Tell them what you want to accomplish, and ask for their help.
You don’t need much to start. Our body weight, our babies, and a simple set of resistance bands will do the trick. Start out with a small goal. For example, try to fit in a few simple exercises just one day a week—maybe modified plank and pushups, band exercises, body weight squats and lunges, and dips—and then progress as you feel more energetic. Oh yeah, and Kegel, Kegel, Kegel! Even while you’re still in the hospital, that’s the one exercise you can start doing right away.
Start researching different types of exercises you can do with your babies that you can look forward to once they get a little more neck control. It’s a lot of fun and provides an amazing bonding experience.
The simple fact is that a woman’s body after pregnancy—particularly a twin pregnancy—is never going to be the same. What do you tell women who are struggling with this, and how can they regain their confidence?
Isn’t that the truth! Honestly, when will our bodies ever be exactly how we want them to be? If we continuously search for this “perfect” body, we will never be happy. So instead of focusing on the outside, bring that focus inside and work on how we can be the healthiest we can be for our children. The rest will follow.
I have been a practitioner of yoga for over 10 years now, and I have fallen in love with the yogi mantra that mind and body are one and that to feel truly healthy and fulfilled, the state of one’s mind goes hand in hand with the state of one’s body. What are some ways new twin mothers can find balance?
I agree 100% with that mantra. Here are some ways I think new twin mothers can find balance:
- Identify your support team.
- Schedule “mommy time”—and don’t cancel on yourself!
- Get out of the house. Take a lot of walks, meet up with other moms, go to the store.
- Incorporate your twins into your exercises daily.
- Be okay with “plan B.” If you have your heart set on doing one thing and you can’t get to it, don’t beat yourself up. Always have plan B in your pocket.
What are your favorite exercises to do with your twins?
One of my favorite things is to take them running in my BOB stroller. Then we go to the park so I can let them run wild (it’s enclosed) while I do a few minutes of exercises. Of course, it involves me running from one of my kids to the other in between sets for lots of kisses and tickles!
Some of my favorite exercises to do with them include holding them for squats and lunges, doing crunches with them lying on my shins, and doing overhead presses with kisses every repetition. When they were younger, I would lay them down on their backs and do pushups and planks over them. Also, laying them on their tummies on my shins during crunches was a great way to incorporate tummy time.
I like to get creative with my workouts. Here are a couple of fun examples:
- “It takes 2 to Tango.” Do each of the following exercises for 2 minutes. Do 2 sets.
4. Step-ups on a park bench
5. Abdominal plank
- “Twinspiration.” Complete 2.2 miles (walking or jogging with the stroller), then do AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of the following exercises in 20 minutes.
2 band rows
2 band shoulder presses
200-meter jog. (Incorporating the interval jog helps to keep the babies happy with the stroller moving more often.)
Lastly, a “Woman on the Street” question: If a woman approached you on the street and asked for advice about being a first-time mother of twins, what would you say?
First, if you are able, try to breast-feed. This is not only a great way to provide nutrition for your babies but it also helps tremendously with post-pregnancy weight loss.
Second, get them on the same sleeping and feeding schedule. When one wakes up, wake the other one up. When one cries for food, feed them both. Seriously, it’s the only way you’ll ever have any mommy time!
When my little girl was in the NICU for three weeks, I kept my son on the exact same schedule as they did for her in the hospital because I knew that the moment she came home, it would be extreme chaos if I didn’t. I was driving 20 to 30 minutes from my home to the hospital multiple times every day for three weeks to try to get her to eat with me and pumping after every feeding at home with my son to bring her milk. I continued to nurse for 10 months and kept waking myself up in the middle of the night to pump even after they started sleeping through the night so I could continue making enough milk for them. Being able to give them this nourishment meant so much to me. And it kept me focused on keeping my diet healthy since I knew what I was putting in my mouth was what my twins were going to get!
I can’t thank you enough for sharing your expertise with our community. It has been a true pleasure, and we hope to continue this dialogue with you in the future.
I am so excited to be a part of this journey with you, Carrie!
Angela Salveo is a mommy of boy/girl twins. Her goal is to encourage others to be in good health—mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Angela has been in the fitness industry since 1998 and received a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Iowa State University. She is a nationally recognized Certified Personal Trainer by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, an American College of Sports Medicine Wellcoach, and a CrossFit Instructor. She is also a certified Johnny G Spinning Instructor. Angela says, “I do what I do because I love it!”
As the Latin definition of her last name describes, Angela believes that being in good health—mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally—is a way of life.