This week, I was delighted to interview my friend Chana Balk, a personal trainer and founder of Move It Momma. I met Chana many years ago through a baby group in Brooklyn when our sons were tiny babies. Chana is a true tour de force and anyone who lives in the Prospect Heights or Park Slope neighborhoods of Brooklyn is sure to know her and her family. She has tons of energy, a huge smile, beautiful kids and seems to be everywhere you go!
Chana is an extremely knowledgable personal trainer and makes every class great fun. This former corporate lawyer and mom of three knows how to help every mom in the neighborhood – whether you are a brand new sleep deprived mom or ready to pack your teenager off to college – to get fit and healthy and enjoy yourself.
For new moms, even the thought of exercising can be daunting but Chana’s workouts are genius. Why go through the hassle of organizing and paying for childcare when you can bring your baby along to exercise class and enjoy toning up in beautiful Prospect Park in Brooklyn? For those of us who like to hibernate in the winter or who find it difficult to make a class, Chana has also produced a series of online workouts at Cafe Mom Studios that you can do from the comfort of your own living room anytime you want. These have been great for me this winter as I try and stay fit but don’t always want to trudge through the snow to the gym.
As moms, we have such a huge influence on our family’s health and wellness and this is what I love about Move It Momma’s philosophy. As Chana herself says, “Moms need to prioritize both exercise and good nutrition to stay healthy.” We are role models for our family so it’s vital we take the time for our own exercise to feel and look great as well as show our kids that keeping fit is important and fun. Chana encourages moms to exercise in front of the kids and in fact involve your kids as much as you can to get fit and healthy and create good habits from an early age. Whether it’s jumping around to music, sledding in the snow or hiking on the weekend, there is something for every family.
Hello Chana! Tell me a bit about your background and how you founded Move it Momma.
After two kids and working as an attorney for 10 years, I wanted to do something that was more personally gratifying and that enabled me to have greater flexibility as a mother. From a young age, I had always been fiercely passionate about health and fitness, and eventually I came to realize that I could combine my two greatest passions — motherhood and fitness — to create a business of my own. I obtained my personal training certification and started leading fitness classes in Prospect Park. Move It Momma was born. My goal for Move Momma is that it be about more than just fitness — I aim to empower moms and make them laugh, to be a support system — while at the same time helping them tighten their tush and find their core. So, while I have you in a perfect squat, I may very well be singing with your three year old and talking you through sleep training your baby all in the same hour.
How do you work with moms to feel and look fabulous?
We all know that motherhood is hard work, and though fitting in fitness is definitely a challenge, it is also crucial to staying sane and happy as a mom. I work with women at all stages of motherhood — from sleep deprived new moms to moms of teens. I show women how fitness can be a priority. If I am working with a new mom who’s soon returning to work, for example, we look at her day and figure out when she can fit in fitness. It may not be the one hour + experience at the gym that she had before baby, but those little bits add up and it is absolutely do-able. It is simply a matter of putting it at the top of your to do list. So, maybe you have to go to sleep earlier so that you can wake up earlier to work out, or maybe you have to hit the gym during your lunch hour, or maybe you have to take a class with your baby. Bottom line, I help moms figure out how to make it work.
As for feeling and looking fabulous, everyone feels better after a workout — it boosts your energy, lifts your mood and brightens your whole day. Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention nutrition here as well — though I focus on the fitness aspect of being healthy, I always talk with clients about eating for energy and choosing real, non-processed foods. Moms need to prioritize both exercise and good nutrition to stay healthy.
What are some simple steps for moms to take this winter if they are stuck inside with kids but want to stay healthy?
I think it is a great idea to exercise with your kids whenever possible. I realize that there’s nothing like a run alone in the park or a baby free Pilates class, but exercising with and in front of your children is such a great way to impart to them the importance of health and fitness. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of my job is witnessing little kids moving alongside their moms. I can’t tell you how many 3 and 4 year olds have told their moms they are “doing move it momma.” I love hearing that. So, if you’re alone in your apartment with your kids, put on some music and move. Make it a game for them. They’ll have fun and you’ll sweat. Win win. It’s also ok to take 30 minutes while the baby is napping or your 6 year old is watching a TV show.
When it comes to exercise, quality is more important than quantity and if you work hard during just 30 minutes, you can make a real impact on your body. Another tip for moms — find a class where kids or babies are welcome. Yes, you can get a quality workout even with your toddler and 5 month old right nearby.
How do you balance being a super busy mom of 3 young children with your own health and wellness?
I practice what I preach. Ask my boys and they will tell you that I often turn on the music at home and now that they are older, I encourage them to do the exercise routine right alongside me. In the winter, we sled together. In the warmer months, I run while they bike alongside me and we do lots of family hiking. With my baby daughter, I often exercise during nap time or with her while she’s busy playing; my baby is very used to watching mommy squat on her TRX and she’s usually smiling throughout the workout (let’s hear it for baby #3).
If I have clients on back to back days, and therefore less time to workout myself, I try to come up with a creative way to get some movement in — perhaps I will run from one client’s home to another or squeeze in a short workout before taking the kids to school. Of course, having a supportive partner who also values health and fitness makes it easier for me to get my workouts in. I’m generally up early so on weekends, if I don’t have a client, my husband takes care of the kids while I escape for a solo workout. I try to fit some kind of movement in almost every day, but I am definitely not one who spends hours at the gym every day of the week. That is not realistic for me or for my clients. But guess what? You don’t have to spend hours in a gym to be healthy and fit. You just need to be committed to living a healthy life — for you and for your family. Its all about balance and putting your health and wellbeing at the top of your list. You can do it. Move It Momma!
Thanks so much, Chana! Please check out Move It Momma for all of Chana’s upcoming group and private classes as well as Cafe Mom Studio for workouts you can do today! You can also find Move It Momma on Facebook.