The period of time before, during, and after pregnancy, can be very confusing, with all of the rules you suddenly have to live by, and with not a ton of help coming from the doctors when it comes to exercise, it’s important to decipher what types of exercise you can do and to understand how it can really help you. I have designed and implemented workout programs for numerous women from pre-pregnancy, through all 3 trimesters and beyond, and I have helped them get their bodies back to what they were before baby or in most cases, even better. Of course, that does require work and commitment from the client. But keep reading for some key tips to consider when exercising during this wonderful, and crazy time of pregnancy.
SECRET IS OUT!
OK. So… secret’s out. I am now 7 ½ months pregnant! I still can’t believe it. For the most part, I feel great, aside from a few of the normal discomforts. Exercise has helped me in more ways than I can count and though this physical transformation is a bit strange for me, it is something that I have expected and prepared for by helping so many other women go through the same thing.
One of the best things about fitness, is that you can adjust it accordingly, to whatever stage you are in, and in my opinion, there is always at least something you can do (unless of course your doctor says otherwise. Doctor’s orders always take precedence) No matter how tired you might be, which of course I am now feeling this myself, let me tell you, do not stop your exercise regimen!
THE WHAT & THE HOW
The pre and post natal population includes quite a broad spectrum from those who are gearing up to get in better shape to conceive, to those who become pregnant, and through all 3 trimesters. Postnatal fitness is postpartum women who have just had a baby (the 4th trimester) and beyond (long term postpartum women). With such a broad window of time for pre and postnatal fitness, when it comes to your workout regimen, it is important to find an expert or a workout program that can adapt to all of these different stages, as each one requires a different level of exertion, coordination, strength, power, stability, and flexibility. All of these elements combined are important for you to stay strong and healthy, and can be put together in a multitude of different ways so that you stay comfortable when needed, and push when necessary. Many clients come to me, not really understanding what the “exercise” part really means, how to do it, and what is safe to do versus not safe to do.
THE MOST COMMON ISSUES
Doctors tell most patients to exercise, but the most they typically advise is walking, which is definitely encouraged, but they leave out the importance of strength training, mainly because they don’t have the time to sit there and learn about your fitness needs. That’s where an expert like myself comes in who can help you bridge that gap. Know that there are other aspects to exercise that are important to incorporate that better prepare you for the marathon that is child birth as well as the post baby strength that you will ultimately need afterwards and beyond. These tips can carry you through in ways that can actually alleviate some of those dreadful and uncomfortable aches & pains. So why not try everything you can that is in your control, to help combat the things that are out of your control in this process.
In addition to the vague concept of exercise is also a common undercurrent of fear of not wanting to do too much for fear of harming the baby. There are so many rules out there with regards to exercise and pregnancy that it is hard to decipher which ones apply to you, and so you end up not doing anything besides walking like the doctor recommended. But even with nothing, there is still something more! (again, unless your doctor says otherwise)
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
Many clients come to me, not really understanding what the “exercise” part really means, so what can you do? Below are some key tips to help get you started and once you know them, can help you feel more comfortable incorporating more exercise into your wellness plan while pregnant, and through all of the stages:
Know your level of fitness: wearing a heart rate monitor as well as knowing your heart rate zones , especially HR max is important. This range is different on a conditioned body vs. deconditioned body, so it’s important to know where you are on the spectrum. The general rule is that whatever exercise program you did before you got pregnant, you can continue to do, as long as it feels comfortable. Yes, that means that if you were jumping around, running, or doing other plyometric work, you can continue that as long as it feels comfortable. If you are someone who did not really exercise much beforehand, you can still start an exercise routine that will work for you and may even help ease some of the symptoms that might be more exacerbated.
Adaptability: great news! All exercise is adaptable for all different levels, and all different phases of your physical being. For example, as you progress through your pregnancy, you will exert yourself less by keeping a more moderate pace but perhaps focus on increasing your ability to lift some heavier weights. You will focus less on doing core specific exercises like sit ups and planks, and focus more on breath work, the breathing techniques that engage your TVA & pelvic floor.
LIFT WEIGHTS! as well as body weight exercises! extremely important, and I cannot stress this enough!
Think about when your baby arrives as a little human ranging from 6-11lbs! you will be lifting him/her constantly!!! Hunching over, bending down and squatting getting him/her in and out of a car/ playing on the floor, and then, they just grow from there! And pretty soon you are lifting up a 30lb child and running after them! So…..do you see where I am going with this?
The benefits of strength training incude: increased muscle strength where you can lift heavier things and little people, increases blood flow (helps combat that dreaded pregnancy swelling), boosts metabolism which also aids digestion, combats fatigue, and overall just makes you feel like a strong ass mama!
Listen to your body, and understanding the cues that your body constantly gives you: One of the fundamentals of my programs is building body awareness, and pregnancy is no exception. Your body constantly gives you cues, you just have to learn to listen to them, and then adapt accordingly. An example, there is a simple rule that you can go by while doing cardiovascular work which is that if you cannot talk during your exercise, then that’s a point to take a break or to slow down. I find that the moments where I used to push myself harder before pregnancy, is now the point where I take a breather or take it down a notch, which I now very much enjoy.
POSTERIOR COMBINATION EXERCISE
WHAT IT IS: A Lateral lunge hold with heel rotations & single arm back fly combination, using 5-8lb weights. To see a demonstration of this exercise, click HERE
WHAT YOU ARE WORKING:
Works lower pelvic hip complex stability
Inner & outer thigh
Mid thoracic part of your back (rhomboids), while also elongating the side of your torso making more room for you to breath.
Hip stability: important for all of us, but while pregnant, our center of gravity shifts, so it gets harder to balance, and to actually walk without compensating. Hip stability also helps combat the extra relaxin that is pumping through your joints, so it’s even more important to keep the surrounding muscles strong, and will also aid in movements such as deep squatting, and getting up and down from the floor without strain.
Mid Back strength: Important for your posture. Again, good for everyone, but here, with breastfeeding quickly approaching, and lots of hunching over, being able to sit/ stand up straight is vital to alleviate back pain.
Stretching: opening up the serratus: The single arm fly helps stretch and elongate the side of your body that is getting squished up into your ribs, allowing you to create a bit more space to breath a bit better. This is a big one for me! And I can’t stretch the sides of my body enough!
CONNECT THE DOTS
Keeping up with your fitness regimen is essential for everyone, but if you have questions regarding the “how” to implement some of the above, confused by what your doctor may or may not be recommending, as well as questions regarding exercise modification during pregnancy, or addressing other common issues like diastasis recti, then contact me for your complimentary 30minute fitness and wellness consultation and we can discuss those answers, and come up with the optimal action plan that gets results and works best for you at whichever stage you are in right now. I look forward to hearing your questions.