Ep 27: Your Fertility Fitness Journey with Mahri Relin
Fertility Forward Episode 27:
If you’ve ever wondered how exercise can affect your fertility fitness journey, or if you’ve simply run out of ideas to motivate yourself to continue exercising through it, today’s podcast is meant for you. In this episode of Fertility Forward, we chat with Mahri Relin, a former professional dancer, and find out how it was through dancing that she discovered her passion for fitness. Mahri spent her early years in the fitness industry working as a trainer for the Tracy Anderson studio and went on to become the creative director for FlyBarre at FlyWheel Sports. After extensive experience, Mahri noticed gaps in fitness solutions for women going through their most significant life events and changes.
Rena: Hi everyone! We are Rena and Dara and welcome to Fertility Forward. We are part of the wellness team at RMA of New York, a fertility clinic affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Our Fertility Forward podcast brings together advice for medical professionals, mental health specialists, wellness experts, and patients because knowledge is power and you are your own best advocate.
Dara: As a former professional dancer, Mahri Relin spent 12 years dancing around the world. It was through dancing that Mahri discovered her passion for fitness. She spent her early years in the fitness industry, working as a trainer for the Tracy Anderson studio and went on to become the creative director for Fly Bar at Flywheel sports. After extensive experience, Marie realized that there were big gaps in fitness solutions for women going through their most significant life events and changes. She refined her own dance inspired method through extensive research in and out of the studio and devoted her life to providing women with the most intelligent, personalized, and joyful fitness experience possible. In this episode, we discuss the importance of modifying and adapting exercise during fertility journeys and how you can do that, the use of music to help with motivation and mindfulness, as well as how to continue to incorporate fitness into your fertility journey.
Rena: Hi everyone. We are so excited to have Mahri Relin here today to talk to us about fitness and fertility and overall health. Thanks for coming here.
Mahri: Thanks for having me.
Dara: So you came a long way. Where do you live? Where are you based?
Mahri: Yeah, well, right now I'm in Denver most of the time. I used to live in New York city full time, but I needed a little change in lifestyle, but I come back here all the time to run the business that's here and see clients and develop the business.
Dara: So what's the name of your company and how did it get started?
Mahri: It's called Body Conceptions by Mahri. A lot of times we just call it body conceptions. And I was a dancer for a really long time in New York and it was towards the end of my career, actually that I was recruited by someone who worked for a dance fitness company and they invited me to come try out and see what I thought of it. And I immediately loved it because I love dance of course and then I came to really understand how dance and fitness can come together. And I found that I felt happier and stronger and I danced better. I almost wish I had done it earlier in my dance career. It would have made me stronger as a dancer. So doing that work was great. No, but it was really wonderful to kind of get introduced to fitness that way. I also worked with a lot of pregnant women through that business and I learned that there was a lot more that I wanted to know, a lot more that I realized we needed to know in general in terms of pregnancy and fitness. And I realized at that time a lot of trainers or fitness businesses didn't really address prenatal exercise and there was a lot that was missing in terms of what was known. So I really at that point realized I do want to start my own company and I want to really focus on prenatal fitness and really learn as much as possible because I want to be a specialist in that. So we started our business eight years ago and that pre and postnatal exercise was they were the big focus of what we did with women. And in addition to other things as well, other just general things in their life that they wanted to address through fitness, like getting married or any transitions in their life. But pre postnatal is the focus.
Dara: Wow. So women's health, which is great. That's wonderful. So you started eight years ago. That's 2013.
Mahri: Yeah. 12.
Dara: 12 first started in New York.
Mahri: Yes. Yeah. It was really great. Private training for me has been our huge love of mine because I love that one-on-one contact with people and getting to know their lives and really caring about them. And they've also, this is a method I developed. So we actually started providing public classes in that method. And I had a ton of private clients I was seeing at home, but then there were too many to handle. So then I had to hire more people and then we started offering classes publicly and it just kind of grew from there. My love is really the one-on-one training. I just love helping people that way and really getting to know people's lives and how I can boost them and make them stronger.
Rena: I love that. And I'm so excited to have you on because most people that know me know exercise is a, certainly one of my favorite things. So I wish I had known you when I was going through everything when I was pregnant because a huge question for me was, okay, what can I do and not do? And what's safe because obviously if you're pregnant, you're not just thinking about yourself anymore. So I know a lot of people wonder, I mean, are there any restrictions, what is safe during pregnancy? I mean can you still be training for a marathon, an iron man, all those things, or is that a time to take break?
Dara: How does your training on that?
Mahri: Yeah, right? Exactly. So this relates to fertility as well as pregnancy and postnatal. Every single body is so different. And so it depends on how you're starting. If you're a really athletic person, if you're already doing marathons, I've known of pregnant women who were great continuing to train for marathons, but there's a time when your body tells you, you need to slow down. So the biggest rule is that you have to listen to your body at all times and it might change literally from day to day, week to week. And we say that in our sessions. Maybe previously, we might've pushed you in ways that you maybe never thought your body could be pushed, but when you're pregnant and, and postnatally as well, you really and when you're trying, you really, really have to listen to your body and pay attention to whether or not you're going too hard or not. And there are certain movements that you might feel work for your body. There are definitely certain principles to follow. I could get into all that if you wanted me to. But the big thing is to really pay attention to what, you'll know immediately what feels comfortable and what idoesn’t.
Rena: Well, I'm curious, especially about when you're trying, because I know a lot of our patients in the fertility world, they may not be pregnant now, but they're trying. And so a lot of my patients come to me and I'm sure to Dara and say, well, I really am into exercising, but should I stop? What are sort of the guidelines there, because also, you know, from a mental health perspective, exercise is a huge coping mechanism. So what would you guide somebody who's trying to get pregnant? What would you say to them what’s safe?
Mahri: Yeah, I'll say that the research out there is a bit contradictory and I think it's so contradictory because everyone is different. So I'm saying everything with that caveat. And we've talked to a bunch of doctors in this area and as many experts as possible, but I would say that there's more research to be done. So I definitely want to put that out there. Normally what I would say for someone who's trying to figure this out is if you have a regimen already and you've been doing this and you met, you feel very comfortable, you're likely fine continuing it .Pay attention to whether your body feels exhausted or energized. If you tend to be exhausted by your workouts, I might try to find something that makes you feel energized because it might be a sign that you're doing things that are depleting your body possibly. But I can't say that for sure.
Dara: We were talking about that in terms of inflammation. And what I see with a lot of my patients is that and I understand going through a fertility process can be very stressful and it can be a great release to be able to work out. And sometimes we use that as a coping mechanism.
Mahri: Which is amazing.
Dara: Which is great! It could be used for something positive. But the problem is, is sometimes when we do it to excess as a way to help take our mind off of what's going on. It can actually create more inflammation in your body and be more detrimental to your hormones and your overall health.
Rena: So then you're in a vicious cycle and you're not really helping yourself.
Mahri: Exactly. Some of the research has suggested maybe not more than one hour a day. I mean, I, as a fitness, professional work out more than one hour a day. So it depends on what I'm used to with my body and what I'm actually doing. So rules don't always necessarily apply.
Dara: But Mahri, you said even about the research that it's tough. I was speaking to someone about this before that it's so hard to do research on this group of women.
Mahri: How do you control? Like what factors…
Dara: Yeah and who wants to be in the potentially detrimental group.
Mahri: You over-exercise!
Rena: But then what role also does nutrition play in that too if you’re exercising a lot but then eating enough? Or are you exercising and then not filling your body with fuel.
Dara: And I think what you said is listening to your body.
Mahri: Absolutely. A hundred percent. And then their issues of being underweight or overweight. If you're underweight, you have to be careful about how you're exercising. Maybe you do different kinds of exercise that's not causing you to lose any weight if you need to not lose weight. But definitely it's a huge stress reliever. Reducing cortisol levels is a wonderful thing. That's where you want to head if you're trying to have a baby. But I will add, there are some ways in which exercise can increase cortisol levels. It's rare, but let's say you're in a really stressful situation and at the end of a stressful, stressful day, you do a really high intensity workout…
Dara: At night.
Mahri: That can increase cortisol levels.
Dara: I was going to ask you, is there an optimal time of the day to work out or does it dependon the person?
Mahri: It depends on the person. Everyone has a different biorhythm and a different response to exercise. Some people prefer mornings. Some people prefer evening exercises. We were talking about genetics earlier. I'm an evening person. And I used to love taking dance class at night. I mean, it made me so happy. I would come home. I'd be just bopping around. I tended to go to bed later. I mean, I was the happiest ever. And I'm prone to waking up later. Every body is so different.
Dara: And you could still sleep after working out?
Mahri: I know! I could. Can you believe? Well, I always went to sleep later than maybe others. But I slept well.
Dara: I was on another podcast. The important thing is if you work out late at night to get good quality sleep, you want to cool off. So go take a shower that's cool and that can decrease your body temperature which will make it easier to sleep.
Mahri: To fall asleep.
Rena: Yeah because you’re usually so energized.
Rena: After an 11:00 PM workout.
Dara: But you’re also super tired. Do you eat after a workout?
Mahri: Yes I do. I need to eat protein after I workout.
Dara: Yes! That's another thing I know. It's important to know, post working out the importance of protein. Women need protein, especially in the fertility process, but right after workout, you want to refuel your muscles.
Mahri: Well, I'm glad we're on track. That’s amazing.
Dara: We’re on the same page.
Mahri: That's wonderful.
Dara: So what do you love most about your job?
Mahri: The people-person side of it is really what fills me up. As I mentioned, doing that one-on-one stuff. I mean, I'm a performer so teaching a class gets me on this high and that's great. But for me really getting to know people and what's going on in their lives and how I can help and boost them in different ways is amazing. So maybe they're really stressed out. Maybe something happened at work. Maybe they've had a life event that happened and the workout itself, it's hard to explain, but it has a huge improvisational component. So a lot of times I like to talk to someone right before we're working out and also getting to know them in general. But every time I see them right before we work out, what's going on in your day? How are you feeling? And I actually work out next to them. I mean, it's all about them. It's not about me getting my workout, but I'm doing it next to them. And I'm channeling, this sounds a little woo, but I'm channeling the energy they just told me they're feeling into the workout so that together we're on the same page and we can have a bit of a catharsis.
Rena: Oh I love that. It’s my dream job. You get to workout all day long.
Dara: Well cause people feel better. I get that because when you work out next to someone else, like if they could do it, I could do it. It kind of pushes you.
Rena: Energy and feeding off somebody’s energy.
Mahri: Oh a hundred percent.
Rena: But that must be hard for you. If someone's really stressed and low energy, how do you not let that then totally suck you down? And how do you keep your energy up to boost everything?
Mahri: Oh, I love that question. For some reason, Ithink being a performer has really helped me. There's something about compartmentalizing what's happening and making a decision even on my end a decision on what's going to happen. It's like I'm channeling their energy, but I've decided we're going to go in a certain direction where we're feeling better. It's so strange to say that, but there's also music that's a huge part of this. And I can't work out without music.
Dara: I’m happy you mentioned that. That’s a big part. I saw on your website that you guys are all about the music.
Mahri: Yes. We're all about the music. So there's something about, especially for me, if I planned to playlist or I ask people what their favorite music is so we're using stuff that hopefully motivates them as well, when you're just moving to music and you're paying attention to where the music is taking you there's something that just lifts the energy. So it's high energy style.
Rena: I totally work out to music too, but I get a hard time. My run coach says it's not real running. Run without music. No. How do I get up at 5:00 AM and go running without the…
Mahri: Everyone’s different honestly.
Rena: I love it.
Mahri: Yeah. I need music.
Rena: Same. How do you keep going for so long otherwise?
Dara: It’s interesting, I tell people to help de-stress exercise can be one, meditation can be another but listening to good music. Whether it’s dancing or just feeling the music can really lower your stress a little bit more.
Mahri: 100%. People ask me all the time: how are you able to do this every day? If I wake up really tired or something has happened to me, I put on my playlist before I see someone, it works every time I feel so much more relaxed. And then I get excited.
Rena: I was gonna say. You seem like such a positive energy, high energy. What, do you have a bad day?
Mahri: I have bad days all the time. And I'm telling you, exercise, it resets me every time. I'm much more balanced because of it.
Dara: You found your passion.
Mahri: I did find your passion. When you find your passion and you love what you do and you've mentioned before that, even if you have someone who comes in and is kind of down, of course, it makes you feel bad. But I think you're so positive to begin with that that hopefully people feed off of that and feel that coupled with the music, coupled with the movements.
Mahri: Yes. A hundred percent, I will add too, that it's important for me when I'm working with people to really understand where they're coming from. And sometimes I might even mention something in my life. It's not about me,.
Dara: But people want to feel comfortable.
Mahri: I can say, I can feel where you're coming from. I had something similar happen because it's not even just being like, Oh, you're sad. Okay. Let's really be happy. You know what I mean? It's more, that sounds like it's so frustrating to you. I can't even imagine that that must, so people feel like the conversation at the beginning is a way to just let some energy out.
Rena: Yeah and it resonates with people to open up because it's very hard to be the only vulnerable person.
Mahri: 100%. I mean, I had this one client in my early years, I just adored her. She was one of only a few people I worked out with at the time. So I had so much time. This is not recommended. I'll say that to start, but we would spend a couple of hours together. So this was a little too long, but a lot of stuff she was going through, I could totally resonate with. And then sometimes when she was angry, these were my favorite workouts. I mean the whole workout would just be punching and letting it out like, ah, just expressing ourselves. And the music would be loud. And by the end, we'd just be on a heap on the floor just in pools of sweat. But it was so, we would laugh. I mean, it was just so fun.
Rena: So your workouts are all dance-based?
Mahri: Yeah. And I will always use dance to describe it and then I will always say, it's actually not dancing because I think dance is a really scary word.
Rena: I was going to say, I’m very, it took me like five years to learn how to do a barre class.
Mahri: Exactly. And people immediately say, Oh no, I'm not coordinated. This is not gonna feel good for me. And I always say, I'm a dancer. My method uses a lot of dance principles. There's a lot of issues with alignment and using the muscles, engaging the muscles, certain positions we use that are reminiscent of dance. And if there is someone who's highly coordinated and dancey and wants to do a dance, we can do a dance because of the cardio part.
Rena: I love it. Dara’s dance-y.
Mahri: But it's not necessarily dancing. We could be describing doing jumping jacks to music.
Rena: Oh, I like that. I could get down to that.
Mahri: Burpees to music. Punching to the side to music. It's just, you feel like you're dancing cause you're moving to the beat.
Rena: I love that.
Dara: See this is where I always get worried about is I think again, there's not enough research to show, but I think where a lot of people get concerned about is after they've had a retrieval so after they've had their eggs, there is that time period, a couple of weeks post where the doctor's caution not to do the twisting and the jumping and the heavy lifting. I’m assuming maybe the dance needs to be taken down?
Mahri: Yeah, and it's very individual. I just want to be really clear that especially, let's say during the IVF process and after we will always respect what a doctor says. So if a doctor is saying, do not exercise for a certain period of time, I will not say, let's go off and exercise, anyway. That's not going to say, cause I know what you can do. It's not what I'll say, because as far as we understand, but we are still learning. It depends on how many eggs were retrieved for example, or how long it takes for the ovaries not to have this danger of twisting…
Dara: Or the hyperstimulation.
Mahri: A hundred percent. So that's the rule that I will go by as I'll say, please let me know what your doctor says. And then I might ramp up maybe on the slower side and then we'll get going. But I don't then just smash our bodies and do crazy cardio all of a sudden. Ease back in. Yeah, exactly. So your body doesn't feel shocked.
Rena: I think it’s important for patients to know too, it's not forever. Again, I was very frustrated when I was going through this. It was not exercising and I wanted t. It was the most difficult thing, but to say, okay, this isn't forever. It's for a finite period of time. You can modify. You can walk however much you want. There are things you can do and it's temporary. And you will get back to being able to exercise how you used to.
Mahri: Yes, absolutely.
Dara: But it’s tough because a lot of times that is people's main outlet to help de-stress. And so it's hard, but it's so true that walking is better than running.
Rena: I walked a million steps per day and I learned Hamilton by heart.
Mahri: Great solution.
Dara: But knowing that there is a great resource in Mahri and her team. So it's great that also that predominantly it's one-on-one. Do they go to…
Mahri: They come to you.
Dara: Oh great.
Rena: Could you do this in an apartment or you need to have a gym in your building?
Mahri: We're in a smallish room right now. We could do it in this room. We could get three people in this room. We don’t need a lot of space.
Rena: And this is a very small room.
Mahri: You may be surprised at how little room you need to do our workout because it's pretty self contained. If you had a big studio, we would definitely use it. So I'm not against it. But yeah, we would do it in apartments, private gyms. We have some sessions in Manhattan and also the Hamptons during the summer, we have a few places in New Jersey and then of course, Denver, Colorado, and maybe parts of Brooklyn as well, depending on where our instructors live and whether they can come to you.
Dara: I was going to ask if you do videos, but I'm assuming, probably not.
Mahri: We do.
Dara: Oh you do?
Rena: I was going to say, can you watch it on Instagram or something or your website?
Mahri: So we have Instagram at body conceptions. There's some short of videos and tips that you can see there. We do have an on demand part of our business. And I mean it's great to be one on one with someone live, but there are plenty of people who live elsewhere, outside of the range of where we can give sessions who want to have access to us. And then we actually have clients who go off and travel and still want to do our workout. So that's also…
Dara: Do you do Skype?
Mahri: Yes we do. Yes. I've also come to learn what works and what doesn't on Skype cause there's a tiny delay. So coordinating music and movement on Skype has been interesting, but we've absolutely done that. So we can do that for sure.
Dara: You probably have to learn how to verbalize things really well if you can't use your hands to help?
Mahri: Like I see your hip slightly higher. That's the right hip, right? No, your left hip. Yeah, exactly. But no, we've definitely done that.
Rena: Is each workout an hour?
Mahri: Each workout is an hour. Yes we could customize. I have some people in Denver doing 75 minute workouts.
Rena: Oh that air in Denver.
Mahri: I’m telling ya.
Dara: Does that involved any Shavasana?
Mahri: Right or meditation for 20 minutes? I know I love the stretching. We actually do two stretches in our workout. 2 sections of stretching.
Dara: I love that. It's so important. I think that's equally as important.
Rena: Oh the recovery? Totally.
Mahri: Yeah. I was just talking today with new moms that the importance of relaxing your pelvic floor as well as engaging and contracting your pelvic floor. So stretching, releasing, and relaxing as well as contracting slash stretching equally important.
Rena: Yep and I’ve learned the hard way what poor recovery is. Very important.
Dara: So anything else that you want to talk about in terms of your business, in terms of your clients that you see?
Mahri: So I've been talking so much about pre postnatal and fertility. We will see a range of people. I always say, if you have a major transition going on in your life, consider us, we can really help you through, especially if it's stressful or you want to prepare for something awards shows, whatever it is. Or just as a lifestyle because we really see this as an important part of one's life is to do something you really love. We have a lot of clients who have been with us for years and years because they get hooked on the feeling and we change up our workout every time. So it's not like you're doing the same thing. And the music changes every time, the exercises change, the principles stay the same. So, you know, it's our kind of workout, but we'll challenge you more or less depending on where you are in your life, what you need. And we love being contacted. If you guys have any questions and want to ask us anything about any of the things we brought up today, or just have questions about exercising at these times.
Dara: Where can we reach you? Email? Is that the best? On your site?
Mahri: It’s on our site, [email protected] or [email protected] Either one is fine. We receive them for sure. You can DM us through Instagram. It might be a little longer for me to notice you’ve DM’d me, but I will pay attention. We have Facebook. That's probably maybe a little less active. So Instagram is a good one. Oh and my website also. www.bodyconceptions.com.
Dara: You're very humble, but you've had a lot of training in terms of the prenatal, which I want you to, I didn't really talk too much about it, but I think it's important to know that you've had lots of training and certifications.
Mahri: Yeah. I'm like, yes, yes. I have trainings, national certification as a personal trainer, as a prenatal exercise specialist in general corrective exercise and also postnatal corrective exercise, some nutrition and wellness certification. However, I always refer out to experts in nutrition because I feel most comfortable doing that. And then we require all of our instructors as well, to be certified as personal trainers, nationally recognized companies. We need people to really feel like they're going to trust their trainer.
Dara: They’re qualified.
Rena: Sure. It’s such an important relationship. And especially if you're trying to become pregnant or you are pregnant, there's so much that goes into that. Yeah.
Mahri: We hire people who are really loving, supportive, motivating, caring people who aren't afraid to push people if they need it. But that's the underlying thing is that they just really care about what they do and who they're working with.
Rena: Oh I love that.
Dara: Nice. So we always end our podcast with words of gratitude, what we're grateful for today.
Dara: So what are you grateful for at this moment? Could be anything.
Mahri: I'm really grateful for the people I have met through this business who really mean a lot to me. I have to say, I'm really grateful along those lines to know you guys. You're such great resources. And that's all I think about in my business is who is in our constellation. That's a huge point of gratitude. And for myself, I'm grateful for my body and what I can do today, which was different than yesterday and will be different for tomorrow. But I really love what I can do today. That's great. And yeah, I love what I do. I love the people I'm helping and I hope that they can see how much we care.
Dara: I'm sure.
Mahri: So, that’s it.
Dara: Yeah. You took mine! I was going to say kind of along the same lines, I really appreciate people who are great connectors and I'm gonna give a shout out to my friend, Mel. Hey, Mel! Who put myself and Mahri together. She's like, you guys are gonna get along. Really. You guys need to connect and it took us some time. Cause you don't live here, but when you came in, we had, I could have spoken to her all day long when I first met her. And I'm grateful for people who are passionate about what they do. And it really does show in how animated you are talking about your business and working and helping people out and helping women and empowering them and hopefully making them a little less stressed. So I'm grateful for that. Rena?
Rena: I love, I mean, I'm gonna have to take some of, both of your gratitudes and say I’m so grateful for Dara introducing me to Mahri and find another strong, powerful woman who's so passionate about your work. I love that. I think it's so wonderful to find someone who just has so much positive energy because you love what you do. And to find a new resource for my patients to connect them with. I always empathize with them so much. And I say, they're so frustrated about exercise because that certainly resonates with me. And so to find another great resource, I'm grateful for that.
Mahri: Thank you. Same here.
Dara: So listen to your body, get moving, reach out to Mahri and hope you enjoyed today’s podcast.
Rena: Stay in the present.
Dara: Thanks so much for being here, Mahri.
Mahri: Thank you.
Dara: Thank you so much for listening today. And always remember, practice gratitude. Give a little love to someone else and yourself. And remember, you are not alone. Find us on Instagram @fertility_forward. And if you're looking for more support, visit us at www.rmany.com and tune in next week for more Fertility Forward.