Any day of the week, Jason Keigher can be found leading a kettlebell boot camp in Central Park, training brides-to-be through his FitBrides program or at a private gym with a client. But his real focus is on pre- and postnatal fitness. The Gramercy resident, who has 20 years of experience, does between 35 to 40 private sessions a week, with 80% of his clients either pregnant or having had a baby within the past six months. He is also one of the few male doulas working in the United States. amNewYork spoke with Keigher, 40, about his unique specialty and how he stays fit himself.
How did you get involved in fitness?
Growing up, I was never the most healthy child. I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch watching TV, eating junk food. By the time I graduated from high school and started college, I was a little over 200 pounds, had a 38-inch waist with no muscle tone. I was feeling depressed and down about myself. My mother had hired a personal trainer for herself at the time and I worked with the personal trainer. I started losing weight, eating healthy and my weight dropped about 50 pounds. I felt a lot better. I decided I wanted to become a personal trainer, I wanted to help people.
How did you get into pre- and postnatal fitness?
That started in 2002, when I went to work at Reebok Sports Club. One of my first clients there became pregnant. I didn't have a lot of clients at the time and wanted to keep her, so I learned everything about prenatal fitness and continued to train with her. I became the go-to person for pre- and postnatal fitness. I really enjoyed it -- it was different than the everyday training that I was doing.
What guidelines do you follow?
I follow the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists guidelines for the personal training. Each person's pregnancy is different, and between the first, second and third trimesters of the pregnancy is different. Based on how they're feeling and what the doctor allows them to do, I customize the workouts. Each workout is highly specialized for the person. There are occasions where I have a client who can't do a workout standing -- maybe she's very high risk, pregnant with twins -- so we'll do an entire workout seated. For prenatal, one of the things I focus on is pelvic floor work and working the transverse abs -- you don't do crunches. I do a lot of what I call elevator contraction exercises -- pulling the belly into the spine -- to prepare the mom for delivery. If you think of labor and delivery as a marathon, we're getting the client ready for the marathon.
How imperative is it that pregnant women seek out a specialized trainer?
I would recommend that all prenatal women seek someone who is trained and specialized in pre- and postnatal fitness. Some classes I have observed are a little bit too intense, and some of the ab work is a little too aggressive for a prenatal client. As for postnatal, some classes are not recommended in the early stages of returning to exercise after having a baby. You have to take the time to really learn what you can and cannot do. It's different for each person, depending on your pregnancy -- episiotomy, C-section, diastasis [recti]. A lot of the work I do is specific for prenatal and postpartum women to prevent or limit diastasis or bring the abs back together.
How did you become a doula?
That was an extension of the pre- and postnatal training. I took just about every prenatal and postnatal class and certificate program available. I didn't know where to go from there. A friend who was a doula recommended I become a doula. I started that process a couple of years ago and it's been great. It's added immensely to my knowledge of the female body, of the birth process, what it's actually like. As a guy, I don't have the opportunity to become pregnant and experience it, so at least I'm in the hospital with them during the birth to understand what's going on and help my prenatal and postnatal clients get ready or recover from that. It's been a great educational opportunity. I try to do three or four a year to stay up on the birthing process and to stay relevant.
Have any potential clients felt uncomfortable because you're a man?
I have found occasionally someone will contact me and want a female trainer. I have a couple of female trainers that I refer out to then. I let them know I have a boyfriend. They're willing to tell me all their personal secrets about what's going on with their body once they realize I'm in a relationship.
What do you enjoy about working with this demographic?
It's very rewarding to train someone through a pregnancy. To know that what you've done with them has helped in the birth of their baby, the most special time of their life, to know I made that process better for them is a great feeling. And it's very rewarding to see the baby once the baby is born and to help them bounce back and get in shape. I've taken numerous clients through two, three, four pregnancies. The majority of my clients are in their mid-to-late 30s, mid-40s. A lot of them are having babies for the first time. They tend to be a little bit older, a little more high risk. It's been very rewarding working with them.
What is your exercise routine like?
My personal workout routine varies based on the time of year and how busy I am. I try to teach and take two kettlebell boot camp classes a week. I also do TRX training for myself. I have stopped lifting traditional heavy weights. When I was younger, I was always trying to put more muscle on, now I'm trying to become leaner. If I'm at the gym, I'll do HIIT. I'm not a big runner, I don't stand on the elliptical all day. I try to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible, efficiently. On a nice day, I'll go to Central Park for TRX, or there's a park in Gramercy at 15th Street and Second Avenue and I'll go outside with the kettlebells and do a lot of body-weight activity. I have a house upstate, and on the weekends I go horseback riding. Basically, cleaning horse stalls and riding is my exercise on the weekend.
How else do you stay healthy?
My eating habits are pretty good. Because I work from 4:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, I don't cook during the week. So I'm generally eating out most of the time and I tend to favor healthy restaurants and shops. I go to Organic Avenue a lot, they have pretty good food and great wireless and a lot of plugs, so I can run my business out of there. Also Juice Generation. I tend to eat a lot of sushi, too. I eat six to seven times a day, very little bits throughout the day to keep my energy levels up so I can keep going.