Shlesinger first started doing Pilates shortly after Sierra was born, and she quickly got hooked. She invested in her own reformer to regularly train at home with Pilates trainer Alisha Mullally, and began doing mat workouts on her own whenever she was on the road for work. Today, snippets of Shlesinger's Pilates sessions make almost as many appearances on her Instagram account as snippets of her stand-up.
When she became pregnant again in 2023, Shlesinger says there was no question that she would continue practicing prenatal Pilates, but with a few modifications, in order to stay safe. “I believe a big part of a healthy pregnancy is carrying on with all the things you did before you were pregnant,” she says. She also knows that safely exercising during pregnancy offers a whole bunch of benefits: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says doing so can help reduce back pain and constipation, and may decrease your risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. One 2018 study even found that those who regularly work out while pregnant spent almost an hour less in labor.
A couple months before her due date, Well+Good filmed an episode of our online video series “Good Moves” with Shlesinger and Mullally at Avenir Pilates in Burbank, California. In it, they demonstrate a feel-good prenatal Pilates routine on the reformer that’s safe for any trimester.
Want to see the whole Good Moves routine? Check out the video below, or follow this link.
Following the "Good Moves" video, we chatted with Shlesinger to learn more about her approach to Pilates, why it’s become an essential part of her prenatal routine, and what she has to say to her skeptics on Instagram.
Question: What made you start doing Pilates after having your first baby?
Iliza Shlesinger: My manager told me that she’d been doing Pilates with this incredible trainer who came to her house. And, you know, once you have a baby, it's weird: All you want to do is leave the house, but the last thing you want to do is leave the house. So I was introduced to my trainer, Alisha, and we started doing mat Pilates.
Q: What did you like about Pilates?
IS: It was very difficult but also gentle at the same time. And I got to lay down, which was such a plus.
Q: What have been the main modifications you've made while pregnant?
IS: There's no more laying down on my back, and there are no abs to engage. But my trainer’s like, "Doesn't mean we can't work your arms!" And you can always work your inner thighs, which feels a little weird because of all the relaxin. Really, my favorite part is beating myself up about how bad my workout is and then having my trainer tell me like, "No, you did great. You're very pregnant." And then I’m reminded like, yeah, I'm growing a human. It's okay that we didn't do legs and loops today.
I just toured through Europe [and while I was there, tried to practice Pilates]. There was this one guy in France who just looked at me, and in a very French way was like, No, I don't train pregnant women. I respected that [but] I've been doing Pilates long enough that I know how to make my modifications, [so] I signed like a little waiver. And then the bulk of the exercises we did, I just couldn't do it, but I had too much pride to leave. So I just sat there doing very tiny ankle flexion workouts.
Q: Do you have any favorite prenatal Pilates moves these days?
IS: Anything I can do where I can feel my upper thighs screaming makes me feel like I have some control over what's going on. And "hug a tree" is always nice because you get to see yourself in the mirror, and I don't look pregnant in my arms, so that's always a nice little walk down memory lane.
Anything I can do where I can feel my upper thighs screaming makes me feel like I have some control over what's going on. —Iliza Shlesinger, on her favorite prenatal Pilates move
I also do a lot of balancing moves. You can see them on my Instagram, and I always get annoyed when people comment that I shouldn't do it: I've been doing Pilates for over a year with a trainer. Plus, she's [with me when I'm practicing].
Q: Everyone's an expert on Instagram.
IS: Everyone's an expert on women on Instagram, for sure. What would we do without the comments section?
Here's a rule: Don't tell pregnant women what they can and can't do. There are women flipping cars and tires in CrossFit who are pregnant just like me. I'm fine.
Q: Do you feel different at all after a Pilates session?
IS: I always love feeling sore the next day. As an “athlete”—please put that in quotes—you always feel like it's a job well done. You got to a muscle that maybe you had neglected or needed a little extra attention. You never feel bad having done a workout, no matter how short it is. Even if you only get a little bit of sweat, a little bit of your heart rate up, it's still something.
Q: And how does it affect you mentally?
IS: Any time you can carve out time for yourself, not looking at your phone, it's always good to come back into the world with fresh eyes, feeling a little exhilarated, having exhausted yourself. The actual only way to get me to not be on my phone is to pay someone to train me. I'm always cognizant of the fact that I paid for the hour, so I try to get every last drop out of it. But we have a lot of fun. We let the dog come in. Sometimes my daughter comes in, and that's bonus weight on the carriage.
Q: I was going to ask, is that intentional to have your daughter watch you stay active throughout your pregnancy?
IS: Ever since she was little, she would sit in her little baby bouncer and she'd watch. It's cute—she says the word “Pilates” and she knows that there's ropes involved and she just wants to be with us. Any behavior you model for your child, they internalize. My mother worked out. She also had a job and she was a single mom for a while who took care of all the gardening and all the maintenance and never talked about it. She just did it. And I think there's an incredible benefit to women seeing other women naturally just do very strong things because it instills it in you without being demonstrative about it.
Q: Any last thoughts on Pilates you want to share?
IS: I own an Allegro 2 reformer, and I love it. But I also think mat Pilates offers so many benefits. You can do it anywhere. You don't even need a sports bra. You don't even need pants on. You can do it in a hotel room on a towel. And trust me, I have.
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