Oh Baby! Fitness CEO Talks Bold Career Moves, Birthing Fears, Postpartum Depression + Workouts

An Oh! Baby Fitness class in progress. Look at those happy babes!

You’ve seen her before — the mom in the grocery store checkout line with a newborn swaddled to her midsection, a glazed look in her eyes, and a little spit-up on her shoulder. Staring back from the candy and gum section is the smiling face of a perky television star on the cover of a weekly magazine, wearing a bikini and holding an infant. The headline declares in a huge pink font, “BODY AFTER BABY.” It’s enough to make you scream. The priority for most moms isn’t to fit into a two-piece weeks after birth, but to be healthy and feel great (or as great as is possible) during and after pregnancy. And Mama, Atlanta’s own Oh Baby! Fitness can help with that, offering exercise programs for new and expectant moms. Oh Baby! Founding Mom/CEO/Co-owner Clare Schexnyder tells us more in this week’s Friday Five.

We heard you made a big job change to found Oh Baby! Fitness, leaving a 17-year career producing at CNN to start the business. What inspired you to make such a bold move? Did you ever have a “what have I gotten myself into?” moment?

clare headshot

Oh Baby! CEO Clare Schexnyder

I never in a million years thought I’d be running a fitness business. My TV job was fascinating and challenging and took me all over the world. I worked long hours and rarely made it to the gym. I’m totally not the fitness type.

When I got pregnant, the correspondent I worked with, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, encouraged me to do a series of stories on newborns. He knew I was clueless about becoming a mom and told me to do reports on things I was curious about. One of the stories was on losing weight after pregnancy. All the experts told me the best way to lose weight quickly was to work out WITH your baby. You’d be more likely to stick with the routine and wouldn’t need to leave the baby with a caregiver. In 2004 in Atlanta, there were no mom and baby fitness classes, so I flew (seven months pregnant) to California and North Carolina to profile some mom and baby exercise programs. I thought the classes were great but never considered teaching one. I was sure I was going to continue working at CNN after I had my baby.

After the birth of my daughter, I had crippling postpartum depression. I didn’t want anything to do with my child, but being a control freak, I didn’t want anyone else to touch her either — a bad, bad situation. After about two months of struggling, my neighbor took me to a new parent support group at DeKalb Medical. I met a lot of moms and dads there, and they called me EVERY day to ask me if I’d like to go for a walk. I wasn’t really interested, but they were a tenacious bunch! The daily walks, friendships (and a little Zoloft) literally saved my life… and the idea for Oh Baby! Fitness was born. I got certified to teach prenatal exercise and found other instructors who were interested in teaching. We came up with a name for the company, and I went to DeKalb Medical and asked if I could teach classes at their hospital wellness center. They said yes, and we were off! We started in June 2005 and by the end of the first year of operations had 20 locations in metro Atlanta!

There have been plenty of “Oh my God” moments, but overall, I think my years at CNN really prepared me to be a good entrepreneur. If I have a question about how to do something, I go find somebody who knows all the answers. I interview them and ask a million questions and then act on it. Then, I figure out the NEXT thing I want to accomplish and start the process all over again. My journalism degree really helped me in building my business and being confident in talking on the phone and selling my ideas.

You’ve studied a lot about pre- and post-natal fitness and employ some fantastic trainers. Give expectant mommies your best advice on how to stay active during and after pregnancy.

pregnancy aqua class JCCExercise is the single best thing you can do to make your pregnancy easier, your delivery faster, and your recovery quicker. Exercise can relieve almost any pregnancy complaint (swelling, joint pain, sleeplessness, carpal tunnel, constipation… you name it!). Babies of moms who exercise are smarter, leaner, calmer, and healthier than babies born to moms who don’t exercise. And exercise is a strong deterrent to prenatal and postpartum depression.

I have clients ask me all the time: what’s the BEST pre/postnatal exercise? My answer: Something you’ll actually DO! Is that walking, running, swimming or yoga? You know yourself best. Find something you enjoy and get started.

Here’s the rule on pregnancy and exercise: if you were already exercising before you got pregnant, keep going! At the same level. You can even increase your difficulty during your pregnancy. If you’ve never exercised before, join a class with a certified pre/postnatal fitness instructor or start gradually. Walking, swimming, yoga… Check with your doctor first to make sure you’re okay to get started, but the bottom line is that exercise is the BEST thing you can do for yourself and your growing baby. Pregnant women should exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most if not all days of the week.

I obviously think Oh Baby! Fitness classes are the best for new and expectant moms. All of our trainers are certified in pre/postnatal exercise. Classes are challenging and fun. We talk through the entire class and learn from each other — from what’s happening with our bodies to where the best pediatrician is located or the best type of car seat to buy. Women make friends in our classes and build confidence about becoming moms. It’s a great combination of community and safe exercise.

A big part of your offerings are classes for moms to workout with their new offspring. What’s the upside of bringing Junior to the gym?

SAMSUNGYou’re more likely to stick with exercise if you learn how to incorporate your baby into the workout. In the first few months, moms are afraid to leave their babies alone very long, so being able to exercise with baby is key to the success of our classes. Also, studies show that moms who work out in a group are more likely to lose weight and keep it off longer than those who work out alone. It’s so important for a new mom to get out of the house in the very beginning. An exercise class is a great place to get fit, bond with your baby, and make new friends. We have lots of moms who make it to class the first time but are really late and spend the whole time feeding their baby and not exercising, but the big win is that they got out of the house and met some new people. There’s a 90 percent chance they’ll make it on time to the next class and start exercising and feeling better! And babies of moms who exercise are calmer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a mom walk into a class with a fussy baby. Mom’s tense. Baby’s unhappy. We exercise and at the end of class, Mom is stretched out and relaxed, and you know what happens? Baby is chilled out too. Babies totally reflect their mom’s demeanor. Happy mom = Happy baby.

A friend of mine downloaded one of those “your baby is the size of a grapefruit this week” apps for her phone. Got any healthy app recommendations for our tech-y moms and moms-to-be?

prenatal exerciseOh Baby has released three apps on iTunes that are being downloaded all over the world.

1. Pregnancy Weekly Workout: An app with a specific suggested exercise video for every week of pregnancy.

2. Mom & Baby Weekly Workout: A specific exercise video for every week up to six months after the birth of your baby. Videos show how to incorporate your baby into the exercises.

3. How to Push Out Your Baby: This series of videos shows moms how to push out their baby easily and effectively. Most moms are super afraid of the birthing process. Our app takes the fear out of the process and shows three simple steps to practice and follow on the big day.

Oh Baby isn’t just for Atlanta moms anymore. Y’all have expanded into 13 states. What’s incubating for the new year?

Oh Baby! Fitness went national this year with a licensing program for instructors. We hope to have licensees offering Oh Baby! Fitness brand classes in all 50 states by the end of 2015. We have a new national website debuting next year and partnerships with some big companies that offer products moms need to make exercise and life with baby easier. We couldn’t be more excited about what’s on tap for the new year! If you know somebody who’d be a good fit as an Oh Baby! Fitness instructor (anywhere in the country) have them check out our licensing and training program.

Keep up with Oh Baby! Fitness on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.