Today we’re getting to chat with your new Red Leaf Ambassador, Annika Cunningham, on her journey through pregnancy and fitness. We are so lucky to have Annika on our team and we are so excited to learn a little bit more about her.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Hi! My name is Annika. I’m a 24-year-old teacher, blogger, wife, and mom! Currently, I am a dog mom, but I’m becoming a first-time human mom in July. I teach reading intervention to grades K-5 at the school that I attended for elementary when I first moved to Ohio. I was born and (mostly) raised in Arizona. My mom is German, and we also lived in Germany for a brief period of time when I was young.
How did you decide to become a teacher? Why do you enjoy it?
I first decided I wanted to become a teacher when I was in high school. From a younger age than that, I have always known that I love kids, would love to work with kids, and would want to have kids of my own. But in high school, I took a career explorations class during which we had to pick a job to job shadow. I chose teaching to see what it was like behind the scenes, and job shadowed a family friend who is a teacher for a day. From there, I decided to pursue teaching and never strayed from the goal of becoming one – graduating from Wright State University with my B.S.Ed in Early Childhood Education. I enjoy teaching because I not only love kids, but realize how special and important each one is – not just to our future, but to our present while they are still young. SO much critical development happens in those early years of life and I am so lucky to be able to influence the start to a human’s life. Some children come to school looking to learn, and some come to school looking for love and nurturing. I love being able to provide whatever each child needs through being their teacher. Regardless, being a positive, supportive, role model in a young person’s life is unparalleled. Getting to see academic “light bulb moments” and progress is pretty cool, too.
How did you get into the fitness/wellness space?
I was active and into sports all through my childhood and through school. When I started sports I went through a time period trying to figure out what I really liked. In second grade I played soccer; in third grade I tried softball (one practice to be exact); in fourth grade I played basketball. At the end of sixth grade I decided I’d play tennis and run track during my seventh grade year, the first time sports were offered through school. I ran track through middle school and my freshman year of high school. But I found a sport I truly loved and enjoyed in tennis, and played that all through middle school and high school. Once tennis season was over my senior of high school, I was pretty inactive, with the exception of going for an occasional jog. This stayed the same through my second year of college. That summer I told myself I’d start using my university’s gym between classes. Just a couple weeks before the school year started and I could make good on my promise to myself, I tore my meniscus. The entirety of my third year of college was spent trying to treat the tear, then having surgery, then recovering from surgery. When I was fully healed and recovered, I realized how I had been taking what my body can do for me for granted. For the first time as an adult, I claimed my health and well being for my own.
I started off during my final – and busiest – year of college by doing Beachbody workouts and nutrition programs from home. I fell in love again with being active, this time without sports, and taking care of myself. Once I started taking better care of myself, I also became more invested in overall health, including being mindful of the products I use, and what I put in and on my body. This included getting into essential oils, low tox products, hormone health, and more. Currently – two years out of college – I am still active and very mindful of all aspects of my health. I still occasionally do Beachbody workouts, attend a studio called spenga, and do different movement I enjoy on my own (like yoga, walking, playing tennis and pickleball, canoeing, and more).
What do you enjoy most about working out?
There is so much I enjoy. I think if I had to pick just one thing I enjoy the most, it would be how it makes me feel. I physically and mentally feel so much better when I’m active. It also makes me feel so proud of myself. Working out proves to me that I’m strong, can do hard things, am resilient, and have so much room to grow. I have learned so many life lessons while working out. Being active and living my life well are reciprocal to each other. When I’m facing something difficult in life, I have evidence to draw on that I’ve succeeded through hard things before, like during hard workouts. While working out, I prove to myself again that I can make it through tough workouts because I have been through much harder things in life. I can do anything for 30 seconds, for 1 minute, for 30 minutes. I’ve proven my resilience to myself again and again.
What tools/programs do you use in your fitness routine?
Right now for my fitness routine, I most often go to a fitness studio called spenga, which combines 20 minutes of spin, 20 min of strength, and 20 minutes of yoga. So that specifically requires a stationary bike, free weights, a bench, and a yoga mat. Currently I’m in a season where I’m more likely to get my movement in if I’m scheduled for a certain time and need to be somewhere to do it. Right now, when I’m home, I like to relax. However, even just several months ago, I was completely opposite and would only workout if I could do it at home. It just depends what season I’m in! I also use Beachbody on Demand for workouts. Depending on which program I’m doing, that may require no equipment, or equipment including weights, resistance bands, cordless jump ropes, a step, or a chair to use as a barre. As it’s been getting warmer, I’ve also been loving spending time outside to get some movement in. Most often, this will just be a walk. But sometimes that can include riding a bike, playing tennis or pickleball, or canoeing.
Tell us about your pregnancy journey so far and how fitness has played a role in it.
My pregnancy, overall, so far has been healthy and has gone smoothly. I pray it continues that way. My first trimester was really hard, mostly due to nausea that was an almost daily occurrence and lasted all day. I was also tired a lot and needed to rest and nap a lot more than I was used to. During my second trimester, I regained some energy and nausea slowly faded away. I am just entering my third trimester now. Other than being more uncomfortable in general with my belly growing and my body changing, and daily movements becoming more difficult, it’s off to a good start so far. I’m ready for Baby to be here, though! I’m hoping this last trimester will fly by. I know that SO many factors play into trying to conceive, getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and how the pregnancy goes. And so much of this is out of our personal control, and has to do with just the way our bodies are. But with that being said, I think taking care of my health and exercising has played a big role in feeling pretty good overall during pregnancy. I’m a first time mom so I have nothing to compare this one to, but I have heard from other moms that they noticed a huge difference in their pregnancy and birth experience when they were active throughout compared to when they were not. I’m so thankful to be able to workout right now!! In addition to my health, it’s also helping my sanity.
How has it been taking a pre-workout supplement while pregnant? Would you recommend it for other moms-to-be?
It’s been great! One of the first things I did when finding out I was pregnant was looking into all the products and foods I had been using and eating and doing research to see if they were safe to continue to use and take. The preworkout I was previously taking had good ingredients but did have high caffeine amounts. Between that and the price of it, I started researching other pre-workouts. I started by looking into ones that people I know have recommended before. ALL of the ones I have heard recommendations for had ingredients not safe for pregnancy, caffeine amounts that were too high, or both. Finally, I found Red Leaf through one of the blog posts about taking pre-workout while pregnant! I looked into the ingredients, which are quality and safe, and was happy with the low amount of caffeine. I would 100% recommend it to other moms-to-be, and honestly anyone else. I sometimes even take it on days that I’m not working out for a little energy boost in the morning. I’ve had an aversion to coffee since the start of my pregnancy, so that wasn’t an option. Plus, it tastes much better than most teas do! My favorite is blueberry acai but the cranberry lime is good, too. With anything while pregnant, just double check with your doctor to be sure if you have any doubts about caffeine.
Besides the preworkout, what is your favorite Red Leaf product and why?
It is by far the Recovery Balm, so far. It is amazing! I decided to try it out because at the time, it was winter and my hands were already so dry. But they were suffering even more than usual because I’m teaching in person. This year, that has meant using sanitizing spray and cleaners, and sanitizing and washing my hands constantly. My hands were very dry, red, irritated, and cracking. The lotions that had worked for me in the past weren’t working for me anymore. I started noticing a difference in my hands immediately after starting using the Recovery Balm. But since using it consistently every night before bed, the change has been drastic. I was out of town for spring break and didn’t bring the balm with me. Not having it for a week made me realize truly what a difference it made. After just a week of not using it, my hands were starting to dry up and get irritated again. It’s been a life saver! Also, if you want to try it, the pre-workout, or any other Red Leaf product, you can use my code annika10 for 10% off!
How do you expect your fitness routine to change once you have the baby in July?
I am praying for a smooth birth and recovery, but I know anything can happen. I know that a “fitness” routine will be virtually non-existent for at least a month or so following birth due to my own physical recovery. If I am recovering well and have permission, I plan to try to do light movement like going for walks. Once I am approved to begin other types of movement, I plan to ease back into things slowly and carefully so as not to cause long-term injuries or stress on my body. I’m sure it will be a slow process of getting back to my current level of fitness – and especially to my pre-pregnancy level – but I know it will be worth it in the long run to make sure I stay safe and healthy. I am planning to give myself patience and grace!! And even though fitness and movement will be very touch and go, I know that I can still focus on my health by fueling my body with nutritious foods, taking care of my body by TRYING TO (lol) get sleep, and taking care of my mental health by taking breaks and asking for help when I need it. It is hard to predict what birth and motherhood will be like, but I’m excited for it nonetheless!
Thanks for following along with our lovely ambassador Annika! Follow her on Instagram @Annika.brea and catch her personal blog Growing Gracefully here. Once again, use her code Annika10 for 10% at checkout.