My experience as a boxer (both as a practitioner and a trainer) never prepared me for prenatal exercise. When I began feeling sluggish during my workouts about 6 months ago, I thought it was on account of all the holiday goodies I had indulged in. But when I discovered I was going to become a mommy, I turned all my energy on discovering how to build on my knowledge of fitness in the prenatal realm. I read everything I could find, talked to my doctor, consulted with my own trainer, watched videos, and began to try things out for myself.
1) Conflicting information.
First of all, there’s a ton of conflicting information out there…people trying to sell products, self-proclaimed experts, systems that only work for certain individuals, etc. The field of prenatal fitness is relatively new. Up until 2002, the pros recommended keeping your heart rate under 140bpm. In my book, that’s a brisk walk. Now all the research shows that it’s not a matter of heart rate, but instead your own perceived rate of exertion. Some people can get a work out keeping their heart rate down, but if you are an athlete, or at least exercise on a regular basis, you may not even break a sweat at that level.
The best guide is how you are feeling. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you are working out, but you should be sweating (not excessively).
Trust your body to tell you if you are too tired or sore to be doing whatever you are attempting. Now there is a whole list of activities we preggies are barred from participation in (snowboarding, waterskiing, BOXING, anything where you are obviously in danger of getting hit in the tum.)
Also, I don’t recommend you take up something you’ve never tried before. Your joints are going to be less stable due to a hormone called relaxin (the culprit in widening hips), so stick with things that your body already knows how to do. Otherwise you may put yourself at risk of a joint injury.
I heard that Paula Radcliffe, the marathon champion, went for a run the day she delivered her child. Then she ran a marathon 3 months later! Not all of us have the full time staff devoted to our health, training and nutrition that makes her feat possible, but I was inspired to know that it’s possible to stay vigorously active during pregnancy and get back in shape soon after birth.
Exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, it’s very helpful for a healthy delivery. If you are sedentary for 9 months, how do you expect all your core muscles to help you get that baby out? Also, if you gain too much weight, it can cause your baby to grow too large or deliver early.
Plus, we all want to get back to our old selves again after giving birth, and the better you take care of yourself in these 9 months, the easier and faster that process will be.
3) Guide to working out by trimester.
a) First Trimester
Strengthen your entire core (abs, back, waist and pelvis) so it can support you like an internal corset, giving your body strength and resilience as your belly grows. Exercise can also help with the nausea that often accompanies the beginning of pregnancy.
b) Second Trimester
FOCUS: POSTURE, CORE STABILITY AND BALANCE
Work to keep your spine in a proper neutral upright position, protecting your back and neck as your belly and breasts grow. Work on balance and stability.
c) Third Trimester
FOCUS: FLEXIBILITY, JOINT MOBILITY AND LABOR PREP
Strengthen the pelvic-floor muscles as you keep your pelvis, spine and hips mobile, relieving discomfort and preparing you for labor. Stretching should become 50% of exercise
No forward bends when they become uncomfortable – toe touches, hurdler’s stretch
No unsupported lunges and squats past the 2nd trimester, nothing past 90 degrees ever
Keep your rate of perceived exertion between 50- 85% (moderate to moderately hard)
No swinging weights (for obvious reasons)
No overhead arm movements during exercise which can raise blood pressure past the 2nd trimester – you can stretch your arms over your head
Stay cool – don’t workout in warm humid weather
Avoid sudden changes in direction, stand up slowly from a seated position
Always check abdominal wall for a possible separation (diastasis recto) – in the middle of the 2nd trimester.
Start up: 15 – 20 minutes of moderate Cardio; Walking, light jogging, eliptical or stationary biking
Cool down for 5-10 mins – don’t lie down directly after exertion as it may cause dizzyness
Stretch when muscles are warm after the cardio section of workout
Eat a light snack like fruit, 30 mins to 1 hour before exercising
Drink water throughout and about 3 glasses afterwards
Try to crosstrain, but at the same intensity
When sitting, try to sit cross-legged as it is helpful for the hips
Stay tuned for some of my favorite workouts for the gym and home!
Note: I’m not a doctor and this is not meant as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or midwife before starting an exercise routine during pregnancy.