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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Duprey

Helping Moms Feel Good, Be Strong, and Live Well | Nicole Dougherty | Personal Trainer | Delaware

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

It was my pleasure to attend one of Nicole Dougherty's mom groups over the weekend at the Healing Cottage in Middletown, Delaware. There, she creates a relaxed and supportive community for both new and seasoned moms alike.

In addition to running postpartum groups and classes, Nicole is a fitness coach, specializing in pregnancy and postpartum athleticism. She was kind enough to share a little about her herself and her commitment to making an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits not only attainable, but sustainable for the mothers she serves.

I hope our conversation inspires you to make healthy choices and move your body!

mother working out with daughter

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself and what you do?

I am a wife, a mom of 3, and a fitness coach for moms. I stay home full-time with my kids, while running my business during every little pocket of time I can find! I work with moms during pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond to help them continue exercising throughout these transitional years of motherhood. I am passionate about strength training for women, enjoying food, and going with the flow of the seasons of life!

Can you elaborate on how you became so passionate about prenatal & postpartum fitness? What led you to this work?

I have always been into fitness, and I previously worked as a personal trainer at a private studio for about 10 years. When I became pregnant with my first son in 2016, I struggled to figure out the best way to continue exercising the way I liked to while also being safe for myself and my baby. The information available at that time was limited, and much of the advice I found leaned toward one extreme or the other. Then my baby was born and I had a much harder time than I thought I would getting back to doing what I had done before. I knew I wanted to learn all of the things about pregnancy & postpartum so that I could help myself with future babies, as well as help my clients and other moms!

You are a mother to three children. How did prenatal fitness play a role in your pregnancies and postpartum experience?

I was very fortunate to have 3 "easy" pregnancies, meaning I had no health complications and was able to stay active right up until giving birth each time. I know that there are things that can happen outside of our control, so I want to acknowledge that for moms who have had different experiences. For me, I believe my years of training prior to having kids definitely helped in my ability to continue to exercise throughout pregnancy, as well as return to exercise postpartum. Exercising intentionally for so long has made me pretty in tune with my body, so I can figure out what works best for me.

mother working out with children

How did you personally respond to the societal pressure to “get your pre-pregnancy body back” after you had your own children?

Truthfully, this took some time and experience with motherhood to learn to not let this affect me as much. In my first postpartum experience, I honestly thought it would be much easier than it actually was to get back into exercise. There are so many things about motherhood that you don't understand until you go through it yourself - childbirth, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding to name a few. I also felt extra pressure because I was a personal trainer and a CrossFit coach at the time, so I was surrounded by images of fit moms that I felt I couldn't measure up to. My priorities also changed after having a baby...I found that if I had to choose between snuggling my baby or working out, the baby would win every time. Thankfully, I found an amazing community when I decided to pursue my Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism coaching certification (with the encouragement of a few amazing female health care providers I am lucky to have in my life). This community is very much focused on empowering moms and what our bodies can do, and not on what we look like or what others expect from us.

What advice can you give to busy moms who may not feel like they have the time to commit to a fitness routine?

Workouts do not have to be long to be effective, and consistency matters more than anything else. You can get great results in 10-20 minutes every day. Also, lower the barrier to entry - make it easily accessible to get to your weights/workout space and try to plan your workouts at a time you will least likely have interruptions.

Intentionally moving our bodies can often feel like just another chore added to our to-do list. What are your tips for reframing fitness in the mind so that what we once thought of as just our exercise routine can become a valuable component of our self-care routine?

First I would say to find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy. If you try to force yourself to do something you hate simply because it's good for you, it will always feel like a chore. Another tip would be to incorporate something else you enjoy along with your exercise routine. For example, if I am working out solo, I will blast my favorite music or listen to a podcast/audiobook. If you like being outdoors, take your workout outside. If you want to be more social, get a friend to join you or try a new class.

While I know that it’s tough to give blanket recommendations for training and exercise during pregnancy and postpartum because each individual has unique needs and circumstances, can you please provide us with a few fitness tips that would be applicable to most new moms?

Slow down and focus on form. Learn & practice breathing techniques and how to connect your breath with movement. Most people can benefit from working their glutes. Move in all the ways - squat, hinge, push, pull, rotate.

I noticed that you are an avid weightlifter-- can you go into detail on why strength training is important?

Weight training has been shown to have numerous benefits - including improved body composition, positive effects on mental health, improved bone density, better joint health, and reduced risk for mortality, cardiovascular disease & cancer. If those reasons aren't compelling enough, I know from experience (both with myself and my clients) that strength training for women is empowering and it builds confidence unlike anything else.

mother lifting weights with son

Nutrition is vitally important when our bodies are growing babies and for postpartum recovery. What types of food would you recommend mom’s try to eat more of during this time?

Protein for sure (meat, fish, eggs, dairy), vegetables & fruits (a variety is great), "healthy" fats (avocado, nuts & seeds, dairy, fatty fish, coconut & olive oils), complex carbohydrates (whole grains, potatoes, oats, beans).

What advice do you give to pregnant mothers experiencing morning sickness or cravings for foods that may not be healthy?

Do your best to find ways to sneak in protein & fruits/veggies in a way that you can stomach them. Some examples would be smoothies, blended into soups or sauces, baked into a dessert. Often the nausea many people experience can be exacerbated with drastic changes in blood sugar, so trying to keep it balanced by eating smaller meals/snacks more often and including protein can be helpful. And remember that this is temporary, and you can make up for the tough times when you're feeling better :)

What actionable steps can mom’s take if they want to begin eating healthier?

Choose one change to make at a time, and then build from there either weekly or monthly. Too many changes too soon isn't sustainable and can be discouraging. Also focusing on adding things to your diet can be much easier than trying to cut things out.

Can you describe to me what the perfect postpartum meal would look like?

Probably a crockpot situation in which meat & vegetables are slow cooked together. You get the protein from the meat (plus collagen if the bones are cooked with it), which fuels recovery & repair. The vegetables are loaded with nutrients, and cooking them makes them easier to digest (which can be a challenge after birth). Then you can add potatoes, pasta, rice, or bread for energy!

I loved an Instagram post that I saw on your feed about the 5 universal postpartum needs-- these are needs that are tended to in cultures all over the world, but not recognized in our own. For those that may not be familiar, can you elaborate on what these needs are and why they are so important to the health and well-being of new moms?

I learned about this in the book The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson. According to Kimberly, there are 5 Universal Postpartum Needs that are acknowledged in cultures around the world - 1. an extended rest period, 2. nourishing food, 3. loving touch, 4. the presence of wise women and spiritual companionships, and 5. contact with nature. When all of these needs are tended to, mothers feel supported, have positive health outcomes, and babies thrive!

Tell me more about 4th Trimester Moms and your Coffee and Conversation Mama’s Circle! Could you begin by explaining what the 4th trimester is and how important community is for new mother’s?

The 4th Trimester is the 12 weeks after a baby is born, in which the baby is adjusting to life outside the womb and the mother is adjusting to a new role as a mother. This time can be very overwhelming and often isolating for many moms, as our culture does not support the village that it takes to raise a baby and a mother. 4th Trimester Moms is a space for moms to come together in community, share experiences, support one another, and explore early motherhood. We cover a different topic each week, practice mindfulness & gentle movement or relaxation exercises together. We also share resources that moms may need during the postpartum period. There is a fee for this class, and space is limited to allow for closer connections. Coffee & Conversations Mamas Circle is our once a month social group, where moms with kids of all ages come to meet and connect! There is no plan to these meetings, just connecting with other moms in the area.

mom's group at the Healing Cottage in Middletown, DE

Coffee and Conversations Mama's Circle, hosted at The Healing Cottage, Middletown, DE.

If you could bestow just one piece of wisdom on a new mom-- what would it be?

It's hard to choose just one! Follow your instincts - you know what's best for you & your baby. Find someone you trust to talk to about how you're doing. Ask for help! We are not meant to do it all, even though the messages we get tell us otherwise.

What does working with you look like? Or what are you hoping it looks like?

Currently, I am accepting clients for 1:1 fitness coaching. We start with a discovery call to make sure we are a good fit for each other, then we come up with a plan to help you achieve your goals. Some moms want to get back to a specific type of training, others just want the accountability to get into a habit of exercising regularly. We work together for a minimum of 3 months, where I create personalized workouts for you based on your goals, schedule & equipment availability. You get unlimited messaging access to me (through the same app in which you access your workouts), we have weekly written check-ins, and monthly phone call check-ins. I advise on nutrition based on each person's goals and experience. I also do consultations for moms who don't want coaching, but have some questions about what they are currently doing. I hope to have other offerings aside from 1:1 coaching by later this year!

What is your favorite thing about what you do?

So many things! I love teaching women how to do something they didn't know they could do; helping moms get stronger & relieve pain in their daily lives; empowering women to take control of their physical wellness; seeing women gain confidence because of what they are able to do with their bodies; being a support person for moms <3

Nicole Dougherty

How can people get in touch with you?

I am very active on Instagram.

Follow me: @trainer_mommy.

I check my email regularly:

and my website,, has some more info about me & my services!

If you enjoyed this interview, check out these other articles featuring birth and baby workers and creative momprenuers!


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