By: Kay Rivera

In honor of International Women’s History Month, we’re shining a light on the empowering stories of five Lady Killers who’ve navigated the journey of pregnancy with resilience and strength at Tone House. This collection of interviews explores the unique experiences of Stephanie Sun, Marissa Abraham, Pretika Randhawa, Maya Varadaraj, and Tess Lin—women who’ve not only maintained their fitness routines during pregnancy but also adapted and thrived during their respective experiences. Their testimonies offer a candid look at the challenges and triumphs of staying active during their pregnancies, highlighting the importance of community support, personal determination, and the spirit of motherhood.

How long have you been coming to TH?

Stephanie: I’ve been coming to Tone House since 2016, almost 8 years!

Marissa: I’ve been coming to Tone House since May of 2022. 

Pretika: I’ve been coming to Tone House for about two and a half years. I came pre-COVID for a couple of classes, but since 2021, I’ve been consistent. 

Maya: I’ve been coming to Tone House for about three years now.

Tess: I’ve been coming to Tone House since the second half of 2016. Since the pandemic, with outdoor conditioning classes, I started coming several times a week, on a regular basis.

Throughout your pregnancy, how has it played a part in your training? Any changes or modifications to your training regimen?

Stephanie: I have gone to Tone House now through three pregnancies and each pregnancy, TH has helped me not only continue to build up my physical strength, but it’s also given me a lot of mental fortitude to prepare for both labor and postpartum.  Plus, the “no cheating” values that Tone House teaches, like doing all the speedwork to the line and going around the warm-up bag are values I carry outside of fitness, and ones I hope to instill in my daughters.

I love all the exercises at Tone House. There are few that I haven’t been able to do that I miss, like croc-walks with a plate at my feet and box jumps.  Running for me can also be uncomfortable, but the coaches have been awesome and have been able to suggest a lot of modifications.  I know there is always a bike waiting for me if I choose not to run.

Marissa: Yeah, I was doing a lot more light exercise in the first trimester just because I felt really nauseous. So I came back to Tone House during my second trimester and it felt like a homecoming. Everyone was like, “Where have you been?” since we hadn’t been telling people yet. I felt very welcomed and seen and there was a lot of excitement from the coaches and from fellow Turf members. 

Yes, absolutely. I’ve been very nervous or anxious about doing too much or overextending myself. So when in doubt, I just, you know, rest when I need to. I just know there are a couple of movements that are off limits. So whenever those come up, I just modify and do something that is safe for my body.

Pretika: Tone House has been an integral part of my pregnancy. I’ve always maintained an active lifestyle since I was a young kid. I played tennis and I worked out my entire first pregnancy which was seven years ago. But Tone House is definitely a notch up and I feel like my pregnancy has been such a great experience because I have had minimal issues, no complications. The symptoms that come with pregnancy, nausea, headaches; I haven’t really had any of them, thankfully. I feel pretty good and the credit goes to the energy and activity level I have maintained working out and training at Tone House.

I started off not modifying or making changes up until more recently. I’m seven months pregnant now. Now I’m starting, with the additional weight, to feel more tired. So taking more breaks, obviously not doing as much core with the belly growing and jumping as well. At this point, for me its about maintaining strength and endurance vs speed and to be able to bounce back after the baby arrives.

Pretika Randhawa on the Rogue Echo Bike.
Pretika Randhawa

Maya: I feel like the community here at Tone House has been really supportive to my pregnancy because I feel like when you work out and you keep your natural routine prior to being pregnant, and then when you’re pregnant, you feel so much more confident and strong throughout your pregnancy. Tone House has played a significant role in supporting this journey.

Not that I was a heavy conditioner before, but I’ve stopped doing conditioning just because I don’t trust myself not to fall over the bags. But generally, the coaches are great at giving you modifications and so that’s been helpful. I’m not on my back so much anymore, since starting the second and third trimester. But other than that, I pretty much do everything.

Tess: So I’ve been pregnant twice, both times while I’ve been working out at Tone House. The first one I wasn’t a regular [Tone House athlete], so I stopped coming at the end of the first trimester because I felt there was a physical pain and I felt like I couldn’t run or jog anymore.  I had a tough recovery with the first [pregnancy]. It took me several months before I could jog. And by then all the pelvic floor muscles were lost. Working out postpartum is tough because when you’re pregnant, people are applauding you for working out because they visibly see [you are expecting]. But when you’re postpartum, nobody really knows you’re postpartum and you’re dealing with engorgement, a lot of physical limitations, and working through that. But luckily with the second pregnancy, because I had been coming to Tone House more regularly, my body was in better shape and then I didn’t have as much of the physical pain in the beginning, so I was able to keep coming.

Working out postpartum, you’re engorged with your breastfeeding. You can’t actually come and do a 60 to 90 minute class without feeling some sort of discomfort there. Then the pelvic floor muscles are lost. So there are ways to get back, build that inner core strength and the pelvic floor strength as well. And I actually used a physical trainer, Kailey McCrudden, who is postpartum certified and helped me regain those muscles in a correct and safe way. And it’s also fun to work out with a trainer if you have the resources to do so, because you also can have other connections with the person, talk about your day, the baby, and make light of the situation. 

How would you say your training has positively affected your pregnancy?

Stephanie: I trained consistently at Tone House both pre-babies and during pregnancy, which was a big reason why my pregnancies were mostly pain-free.  Tone House has helped me build the stamina to chase after two (soon to be three) active daughters after some long work days.  

Marissa: Well, there’s a lot of scientific research that exercising during pregnancy is not only great for your own health, but also your baby’s health and could be linked to the baby’s IQ over time. So, of course, that’s a big benefit. But it’s also good for my own morale. I have not been feeling myself – lower energy, very tired. And so when I’m here, I feel that power kick back in like, “Yeah, I can do this. I’m a badass,” because otherwise I was kind of laying on the couch for a little while, groaning.

There were a few moments pre-pregnancy where I felt like Tone House was actually mentally preparing me for pregnancy. When I did my first overhead sled pull laying on my back, I felt my power in a new way. I imagine childbirth to be something intense and transformative that seems daunting and impossible for a first time mom, but I can imagine getting through it because I know what it’s like to do hard things and push myself beyond what I previously thought was possible. I always feel like I’m personifying the term “mama bear” when I crush bear crawls. It’s the one motion that I feel like I do fast with ease naturally. 

Marissa Abraham doing bicep curls with resistance bands.
Marissa Abraham

Pretika: I would say by default I am a high risk pregnancy because of my age. I just turned 40 this week and I think I’ve seen positive changes. I think that it’s given me so much more energy. I’m a working mom. I travel a lot for work and so it’s given me that extra boost to keep up with my life. I’ve had minimal symptoms, like I mentioned before, and also being on the road and on client calls all day long it’s been helping me with focus and brain fog. I’ve been having no back pains Also the anxiety and stress that comes with such a big life step. It’s given me less of that anxiety.

Maya: It’s given me a lot of confidence. I know that the laboring aspect of pregnancy is supposed to be the hardest, obviously, so I’m anticipating that. I feel the stronger your body is mentally and physically, the better prepared I am going to be. So it’s just added to confidence and just feeling overall more positive throughout the pregnancy.

Tess: I definitely think training at Tone House, the exercises are fun for me. The endorphins and the adrenaline, but also the community. Even the team breakdown and then the team huddle at the end and throughout class you have, you make eye contact with people, you’re giving each other high fives. So all of those connecting points really brightens the day during the pregnancy.

In what ways have you been supported on the Turf throughout your pregnancy/ postpartum?

Stephanie: The community and coaches have been extremely supportive throughout my pregnancy.  Everyone’s always encouraging (shoutout to the 6 am and Sunday am crew and coaches). One thing I was really appreciative of was being able to compete in Lift Off 5 months pregnant.  Tone House provided a safe environment for all competitors.  I also wanted to show my daughters there are no excuses.

Stephanie Sun deadlifting at Lift Off 2023
Stephanie Sun; Lift Off 2023

Marissa: Everyone is super supportive and encouraging. So I think mostly the excitement of being able to share a big life event and then be supported and cheered on even more. But there’s always that cheering on that just feels like a community. The community aspect is actually the best part for me.

Pretika: I’ve been extremely supported by all the coaches and the community here. That’s a major reason why I keep coming back here. I’ve made some great friends. Everyone has been so supportive and helped me modify it if I need to take breaks. 

I love the energy here, being part of the team and everyone cheering each other on whether you’re beginner or advanced and it’s been really great being part of the community here.

Maya: I have such a great and supportive community here. People are looking out for me on and off the Turf and sharing their stories of how they used to work out during pregnancy or modifications that they’ve made. Certain things with movement that they’ve incorporated during their pregnancy. It’s a lot of knowledge sharing that feels really intuitive and human based that feels really lovely. 

Tess: The community and the people, which was really a huge part. Some of the Coaches asked me how I was still doing conditioning during my second or third trimester as I actually felt that the Turf absorbs the impact. I didn’t feel any pain running, jumping or doing sprints on the Turf. That made me want to come back and felt like it was safe and a supportive environment.

Any words for expecting mothers ?

Stephanie: Keep up your workout regimen for as long as your body allows you to. Working out is not a selfish thing.  Also, if you’re looking for a supportive community, Tone House has an incredible roster of mothers.

Marissa: It goes by pretty quickly, actually. So enjoy the moments as they’re happening. Your body is creating a little miracle, if you think about it! And if it’s really tough and feels like it sucks, it will get better.

Get your exercise routine solid before you get pregnant! It helps to have a strong baseline going in, because they say that you shouldn’t do anything you didn’t do before pregnant. If I hadn’t been coming to Tone House before pregnancy, it might not have been safe to start during. I’m glad I had built a strong foundation for a healthy pregnancy.

Pretika: Yeah, I would say continue maintaining an active lifestyle. If your doctor recommends and approves it, you’ll be surprised how strong you are. 

I’m surprised at myself coming this far and still coming to Friday Pure Conditioning and training at Tone House 3-4x a week. So try to maintain it. I think you’ll feel good and continue on with that active lifestyle.

Maya: Pregnancy has a lot of changes all at once. Sometimes the changes can feel gradual, but it’s important to know that your pregnancy journey is going to be unique to you. And the sooner you can embrace that, the happier you’re going to be. And I would say that I try to feel as normal as possible. Keeping your routine is really important. There’s so many other changes and factors in your life when you get pregnant that keeping certain routines can make you feel so much more stable, sane and positive. 

Tess: I have to pull from one of Coach Natalia’s quotes, and it’s “Meet your body where it’s at.” Listen to your body. There’s so many physiological and neuro-chemical changes going on, every day is going to be different. Look inward, listen to your body, recognize the discomfort or pain. Setting that mindset of different expectations. Adjusting your workout based on how your baby and you are doing that day while still achieving something to get physically stronger. 

Tess Lin on the Concept 2 Row Erg
Tess Lin

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