Looking at small, slim, strong celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson today—just six weeks after she gave birth to her second child—you’d never guess she was in very different shape after baby number one. But back when she was expecting her first child in 1998, she spent nine months sitting by a pool, eating hot dogs and drinking milkshakes. By the time she’d delivered her son, Sam, she’d packed on 60 pounds—a huge amount of weight for the 5-foot-tall former ballet dancer.
“A lot of women use pregnancy as an excuse to let their bodies go, and that’s the worst thing,” she says. “I feel like I’ve lived an entire lifetime since then.”
During that aforementioned lifetime, Anderson created her fitness method, opened a studio in New York City, the Hamptons, Los Angeles and London, released 9 DVDs and coached dozens of clients including Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, Courteney Cox and Gwyneth Paltrow (later her business partner).
When Anderson learned in the fall of 2011 that she was pregnant with Penelope (“Penny,” for short), she vowed to do it right—at the same time, she also found her newest project. Using herself as a research subject, she came up with special exercise routines. The result is The Pregnancy Project, a new series of nine DVDs, one for every month of pregnancy. Preceding each month’s workout is a compilation of conversations with moms—and Anderson’s former clients—including celebs Molly Sims and Christy Turlington, who share their own experiences and advice.
“I always knew I wanted to do this project,” she says. “I’ve seen so many women who come to me right after [having children] with disaster bodies that have gone through hell, or they come to me years later and say, ‘Oh, my body is like this because I had three kids.’”
Anderson embarked on this pregnancy with some anxiety. “I had a miscarriage before [conceiving] Penny, so I was really nervous. As soon as I thought I was pregnant again, I was like, ‘I’m not moving!’ I was also so nauseous in the beginning. Once the nausea started lifting, I got a lot of energy in my second trimester.” Besides having to conquer her personal fears, Anderson went through an overall attitude adjustment. Instead of worrying about weight gain or stretch marks, she says, “you have to view pregnancy the most optimistic way you’ll ever see anything in your life. You have to think, I’m so empowered doing exactly what women were meant to do, even if you’re barfing over a toilet or if you have hormonal acne.”
The Pregnancy Project shares many of the same overall techniques as the Tracy Anderson Method, her program that aims to strengthen the smaller muscle groups through a combination of low weights and high reps. This approach exhausts the muscles in a way that creates a lean yet feminine shape, what Anderson calls “a dancer’s body.” For expectant moms, she’s put the emphasis on challenging muscular work and not on the dance aerobics–style cardio she’s become known for. “This isn’t just some motivating, fun workout to do. It’s results-oriented. You’ll see results through your pregnancy and you’ll be able to get your body back faster afterward.”
Anderson’s svelte shape serves as the best testimonial to her method. During this pregnancy, she put on a healthy 30 pounds. Less than two months after her C-section, she has more energy than ever—she’s already thinking about getting pregnant again next year. For now, she has her hands full tending to Penny and 13-year-old Sam. She confesses, “I don’t really tweet about my personal life, but the other day, I almost tweeted, ‘What was I thinking? Did I think having a teenager and an infant at the same time would be easy?’ What’s funny is they both need the same thing—to be fed and hugged.”
She’s also busy whipping her body back into form with daily workouts. New moms should take comfort in the fact that even Anderson, a woman who has made a career out of being fit, found it tough to resume working out again. In fact, she describes her first day in the studio as “an incredibly demoralizing moment in my life.” She explains, “For 13 years I’ve been jumping around, dancing at such high levels all over the world and with no sleep for multiple hours a day. I thought, Please, I can bust out an hour of dance aerobics, no problem—wrong!”
She faced another unanticipated challenge upon returning to aerobics: her breasts. “It was like, ‘Holy boobs! Where did they come from?’ I had to stop and put on multiple sports bras,” she laughs. “I texted a few of my friends who have big boobs and I was like, ‘I’m so sorry I was so mean to you about dancing and jumping because I can’t do it right now!’”
And if women need any more reassurance that rebounding after a baby can be difficult, Anderson recalls of her partner and client Gwyneth Paltrow: “When I first met her, she was stuck. She had to film the first Iron Man and she still had 25 to 30 extra pounds after [giving birth to] Moses and he was already 5 months old. She had tried everything and couldn’t get them off.” While Anderson herself wants to lose an additional 10 pounds, it’s clear that exercising to her is more than a means of reaching a target weight.
“I missed working out a lot more than I thought. The first time I sweat, it felt,” she pauses, “like the best feeling. It really was an emotional release.”
“Movement and being connected to my body are very important to me, which is why I tried to be very connected to the pregnancy,” she adds. “I know that the journey of getting back to your best level of performance physically is very hard, but it’s an incredibly empowering place to be.”