Anna Kooiman is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist, women's fitness specialist, and international TV host.
We chatted with her about bellies, transition periods, fitness and pregnancy in the time of COVID-19.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m an American TV host, fitness trainer, business owner and most importantly a mum, living in Sydney, Australia with my Aussie husband and 2 year old son. I also have a baby girl on the way! I am the founder of Strong Sexy Mammas, an online fitness program for mums. I used to host a morning show in New York called Fox with Friends.
Obviously, life has really changed since moving to Australia 3 years ago. My husband is the breadwinner. I’m still doing a lot of television freelance work. Most recently I reported about exercises tips for at-home during this COVID- 19 lockdown and the Aussie bushfires. Mostly though, I am at home with the ‘baby on the way’ and my two year old son, Brooks. After having him, I launched an online at-home fitness membership called Strong Sexy Mammas. It offers women’s only workouts with prenatal and postnatal modifications. I felt like there was a huge need for safe and effective exercises that aren’t too slow and boring! I also teach up to 10 live fitness classes in Bondi. Life has just really slowed down in a lot of ways since living in New York, but it’s so suitable for a family, the Aussie lifestyle can’t be beat!
Anna wears the Active X PIAP Maternity Leggings
What have you found to be the biggest differences between the US and Australia when it comes to motherhood?
From a funny standpoint – getting used to parenthood when all the words are different! A pacifier in the US is a dummy, a crib is a cot, a pram is a stroller, a baby is a bub, and a mom is a mum. Getting used to the entire lingo. One thing that I love about Australia that we don’t have in the US are the built in mummy groups. I don’t know if this is everywhere or particular to Sydney, but here you get set up with 10-15 mums whose babies were all born within 6-8 weeks of each other. You go through all the same things at the same time and I think that was a really nice transition period, to be going through with other mums. It’s not like we’re all best friends or anything, but we still text each other from time to time about what our kids are going through. It’s interesting that they’re all doing things at about the same time.
How are you preparing Brooks for the arrival of the new baby?
He’s only 2 years old so we’ve been reading him some books my mother gave us. He knows there’s a baby in my belly. I’ve been on a few different pregnancy apps – you watch them a whole lot more closely the first time you’re pregnant, checking it every few hours to see how big the baby is it feels like, almost forget to do it with the second baby! I’ll hold up the app with a picture of the baby to show him. My husband and Brooks will put their hands on my belly and say, “oh do you feel that, that’s your sister!” We bought some baby clothes and bows and he knows those are for his sister. I think he is starting to understand, as much as a 2 year old can.
How is this pregnancy different to your last?
I popped so much faster! I felt enormous super early on. They say once your body knows how to do it it just does it again, but then you think about what its going to be like getting rid of the baby weight the second time too. Is your belly going to go back? You think about all these things. I feel so blessed that I have all the education and knowledge to get back where I want to be in a safe and effective fashion. Especially during this pregnancy, I feel so different about my belly. I have not been self-conscious about it at all. I remember taking pictures for a couple maternity lines when I was pregnant with Brooks but didn’t want them posting any of the images with my shirt off because I do not like this. Even though it was for maternity tights and the whole point is to see the belly! [laughs] I only wanted them to use the photos with my shirt on. But now I feel really different about now.
I think society is beginning to think differently about pregnant women and are celebrating the changes we go through.
You made the move to Australia for love. How did you meet your partner?
My husband and I met in New York. He was living in London at the time and we did long distance for a little over a year before he quit his job and moved to New York to be with me. When it was time for us to start a family, we decided we would move to Australia and let him be the breadwinner and I would follow some other passions besides television.
Anna wears the Bethany Jumpsuit - current on Sale!
What was it like making that transition from working for Fox and Friends to a stay at-home mum role?
It was a huge transition. In the beginning, it felt like I was on a holiday because we live on Bondi Beach – but that didn’t last for too long. Then I thought “Oh my god what am I going to do?” of course once you’re pregnant it gives you more purpose and you’re focused on that and I started getting back into my fitness like I had wanted to do. But without a doubt, it has been a huge transition and I do hope to go back to it after these few really critical years that are still important [for the kids]. I’m hoping that when I do go back to it in New York, I’ll be able to carry the Strong Sexy Mammas fitness business with me too.
What’s the inspiration behind Strong Sexy Mammas?
I realized when I was pregnant, trying to find information about what was safe and what was not safe is tough. The details are conflicting. As a fitness junkie and fitness professional (I had been a fitness instructor previously before Fox), that was frustrating for me. After I had my son, I had a bit of abs separation, back pain, and pelvic floor weakness. Most women do. It ain’t easy! I was frustrated like a lot of mums because the doctor says to you “okay it's been 6 weeks since you’ve had a baby. You’re ready. Go ahead, you can work out again”. What does that mean exactly? A lot of women jump back into high impact exercise WAY too early and end up hurting themselves.
We really need to respect what our bodies have been through and protect our pelvic floor, tummy muscles, and even our joints and tissues (which have become lax from the relaxin hormone). Strong Sexy Mammas is all about using exercise to boost our mood and build confidence. The ‘sexy’ in Strong Sexy Mammas is not because we feel sexy, it's actually because we often don’t feel sexy! [laughs] We actually at times don’t even feel like ourselves... physically or mentally. Strong Sexy Mammas helps women to feel empowered for what our bodies are capable of... and educated to take care of our brains and bodies during these childbearing years. I also use my journalism background to interview women’s health professionals.
Especially since it’s online, Strong Sexy Mammas can garner a collective community through social media channels. It’s also highly accessible to mothers who are at home, which is now the case more than ever during this unprecedented time. How do you feel about being pregnant during COVID-19?
Oh, I’m nervous as hell. I think anybody who’s pregnant is too. Seeing what’s happened in other countries before Australia. I feel like people here just don’t realize or are starting to realize its coming here. We’re just a couple weeks behind everybody else. It’s not like its not happening here. I’m just taking the same precautions as everybody else is – which is, taking precautions. Washing my hands a million times, wearing a mask (I was the crazy lady at the grocery store a couple weeks ago before people were doing stuff like that!)
Anna wears the Active X PIAP Bamboo Singlet and the Active X PIAP Maternity Leggings
It’s important not to let stress take over especially in your third trimester. What advice do you have for expectant mothers during this time?
For me my outlet is exercise, but it has always been exercise. I’m someone that’s fortunate that I crave exercise, I don’t crave the couch. When I was pregnant with my son, something that was actually hard for me was taking things down a gear. I was a marathon runner and a triathlete; I used to take really intense fitness classes. You know you really shouldn’t do super duper intense exercise [during pregnancy]. In this pregnancy, the big adjustment is being stuck inside the house. I had been teaching up to 10 classes a week and was loving it and hoping I could continue to teach these live fitness classes until a week or two before my due date [laughs]. The way I've been dealing with this COVID-19 lockdown is doing some exercise in the morning. It’s not anything incredibly intense, just something for 30 minutes. I’ve been posting ‘Real Time Workouts’ on Instagram for @annakooiman and @strongsexymammas. This is a time for prenatal and postnatal women to look out for one another. The way I deal with stress is exercise and I hope that I can help other mums do the same thing. Set a routine and even if it’s a couple of things, not necessarily planning out every single second of your day. Just making sure things like: I get my workout done in the morning, we have story time with the kids sometimes and we sing some songs together. We just put some anchors in place and we’ll all be able to keep our heads on straight.
Check out one of her workout-from-home vids here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-dEUqyFDQd/
Anna has offered a discount on her fitness videos to help mums during COVID-19. She has reduced the full year membership from $228 to $99.
For more information on Anna and her practice visit: https://www.strongsexymammas.com