Remember Natalie Portman’s graceful moves in the film Black Swan ? Well, Mary Helen Bowers, former New York City Ballet member and founder of Ballet Beautiful (a ballet-inspired fitness program) was the trainer behind them. Now, at almost 9-months pregnant, the former professional ballerina tells us how she stays in shape. Get ready to belly up to the barre.
Q: First of all, congrats! What's the best part about being pregnant?
A: It’s been such a joy! I've been so fortunate to have had such a healthy, easy pregnancy and have been incredibly active the entire way through. My favorite part is feeling the baby move—but the entire process is such a miracle.
Q: Boy or girl?!
A: It's a surprise!
Q: How has your approach to exercise changed since you became pregnant?
A: It’s not about having a perfectly sculpted figure; it's about feeling healthy, fit and confident. It seems so obvious but I never really understood the connection between body and baby until I became pregnant myself. I now look at exercise as a wonderful way to treat my baby and myself to better health, and as a way to prepare my body for birth. Carrying a baby is such hard work, I've found that the stronger I am the better I feel.
Related: 25 Ways to Love Being Pregnant
Q: What are your pregnancy indulgences?
A: I definitely need more protein, carbs and dairy than usual. Whole-wheat bagels and peanut butter sandwiches on whole-wheat cinnamon toast are staples in my diet now. Oh, and ice cream tastes amazing, but thankfully, so does fresh fruit—I'm trying to keep things as balanced as possible.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in staying fit during pregnancy?
A: I'm in such a great position because working out is part of my job. If anything, my biggest challenge has been slowing down and doing less . The first trimester was tricky, though, because I was so tired. But it really wasn’t that different from what I normally do: when I'm lacking motivation I always focus on how great I feel after a workout, and before I know it I'm halfway through and feeling good.
Q: What are some workouts pregnant women can do at home to stay fit?
A: It's all about keeping the legs, butt, and upper body as strong as possible, along with light core work to help provide the strength needed to carry a baby. Some of my personal favorites include Ballet Beautiful’s inner and outer thigh exercises on the mat, arm workouts with lightweights, and low impact cardio. Click here to check out the workouts.
Q: How do you plan to stay in shape after giving birth?
A: I'll be back at it with Ballet Beautiful as soon as my doctor clears me to workout. We work with so many new moms—it's a really exciting time in your life and the perfect moment to make your body and health a priority. Healthy mama, happy baby!