Training Fan fitness guide: Prenatal & Postpartum

Being pregnant for the most part is an exercise in being cautious. Certainly, it's not bad to be cautious except it's almost impossible to ask an active woman to sit around and do nothing for months on end. That's why we welcome Benefit Health Media's latest product, the Prenatal & Postpartum Training Fan.

Being pregnant for the most part is an exercise in being cautious. Certainly, it's not bad to be cautious except it's almost impossible to ask an active woman to sit around and do nothing for months on end. That's why we welcome Benefit Health Media's latest product, the Prenatal & Postpartum Training Fan written by fitness industry veteran Annette Lang and contributing editor Dr. Faith Frieden, chief of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J. If you're familiar with the company's original Training Fan (click here to see a July 10, 2002 review), you'll understand that when we say fan, we do mean a fan. These are not pages in a book, but a thick bunch of strip-like pages that are fastened at one end and you "fan out" to read and use.

The fan is made up of 142 double-sided coated pages, each of which is color-coded at the ends, so that you can easily find what section you're in, from strength to flexibility. The size of the pages is reminiscent of paint sample strips you pick up at the hardware store -- only a bit bigger. Each strip has photos, illustrations and colored text, with lots of white space to make it easy to read and follow. Plus, the fan-like structure means the page won't flip around if you put it down to refer to it while you're doing an exercise.

The meat of this fan is two full-body strength workouts, one that offers nine exercises that focus on isolated muscle groups, i.e. lunges with dumbbells or squats, and another that outlines six integrated movements such as a forward lunge and chest press with a resistance band. Moves are offered on the front side of a page, while advanced variations and modifications for second and third trimester are outlined on the back. The two main workouts are followed by stretching suggestions, which includes the requisite warning not to over-stretch while pregnant because of hormones that release joints and ligaments in preparation for birth (and can put that eager active woman in danger of stretching too much). The fan wraps up with a small section on exercises to help get you started postpartum. We can't argue with the thinness of this section since it is noted that new moms resume exercising by starting with the prenatal workouts again.

In addition to the workouts, the fan is chock full of extra information about types of aerobic workouts to do, pregnancy guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Q&As about the importance of working out, a list of do's and don'ts covering what not to do, and anatomy, physiology and posture. There is so much worthy but extra information packed in here that we recommend sitting down with the fan to give it a once over at home before heading to the gym or even to start any workout.

As much as we love the concise and compact format and presentation of information, the fan does take getting used to (for those of us who are sometimes challenged by our lefts and rights) as far as the correct way to open it to progress properly. Also, the cards are double-sided and information on the front of a card carries over to the back of the card. So you end up reading front to back and then left to right, which can mean a lot of flipping around. Still, we're not sure what alternative there would be since containing one exercise and its modifications to one card doesn't make the most sense. It just takes some getting used to. The cards are flexible enough, yet also sturdy enough so they don't get all bent up and ragged at the corners from use.

As we suggested last time with the original Training Fan, it would be nice to have page numbers or some way to mark where you left off since you can't turn down the corner of a page or use a bookmarker. The color codes definitely help, but page numbers would help to eliminate extra sifting and shuffling. We aren't playing poker here! Some of our other general comments from our 2002 review still hold true too. We're actually disappointed the company didn't add page numbers after four years.

That said, the lack of numbers is still a small price to pay for such a convenient and useful instruction guide. In fact, some of us of the appropriate gender would use it ourselves if the -- errr -- situation arose, and it is actually more useful than a DVD or even a book because it is so accessible, concise and allows more variety.

SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $16

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