So, you're PREGNANT!
OR thinking about becoming pregnant......
Whichever one it is, whether you are currently an active person or not, one question you may have is....
"Can I still continue to exercise and do what I currently do, while pregnant?"
Or, you may even wonder....
"I am so out of shape and haven't been exercising. Can I start a new routine now that I am pregnant?"
Whatever it may be, exercising while you are pregnant can be a really enjoyable time, and a great learning experience. Pregnancy is such a wonderful, amazing, life changing experience. It's a time that most woman embrace their bodies and try to do what's right for themselves and their growing baby. Many women, when finding out they're pregnant will head straight to Google and type in, 'exercising when you are pregnant'. Then they are bombarded by all the information out there about it, not to mention so much of it contradicting the other.
Don't even get me started on all the opinions and/or physical reactions you 'll also get. I can remember during my first pregnancy I was teaching cardio kickboxing up until 34 weeks and not only was I nicknamed KUNG FU PANDA (which I totally DIDN'T mind, very funny), but anytime I would go and do a jump front kick for the class during a routine, some of the looks I would get was as if, I just ripped my clothes off...(not sure that would have been a good thing or a bad thing either from their expressions). During my second pregnancy, I jogged up until 3 days before, and I do remember getting a few looks throughout as if I was crazy jogging with a belly (thinking that the baby was bouncing all around or screaming for help). But towards the end, after seeing the same joggers/walkers day in and day out, I would get a 'thumbs up' from them, or clapping, as if I just finished a marathon. I get it, it may look strange, jogging with a huge belly, but for me, I wasn't doing anything out of the norm that I hadn't done before I was pregnant, and I of course did modify all along the way. Not only my distance, but my speed and took breaks if ever I needed.
Am I telling all pregnant women to go out there and run 5 miles and start doing jump front kicks and Cross Fit WOD's? NO. Absolutely not. But, the truth is, there is no "one size fits all," when it comes to exercising while pregnant. Whether this is your 1st or 5th pregnancy, there are certain guidelines you should follow that may help them along the way to staying healthy, fit and safe during this exciting time and also set you on the right track to getting back into shape postpartum as well!
- Always speak with your doctor first about your current situation, fitness level and concerns before you start any new fitness program. Also make sure there are no contraindications to exercising during your pregnancy. Your doctor can go thru these with you, if any, and set a game plan for you. Make sure you let them know the types of physical activity you do as well.
Most importantly, LISTEN to your body. If something doesn't feel right, it's probably not the right thing to be doing. Every pregnancy is different too! I have been a runner for about 20 years now, and when I got pregnant with my first, I got dizzy during one of my runs and it turned me off to running during that pregnancy. Maybe it was because I was in Greece and it was hot, or maybe it was something else, but I didn't run again that pregnancy. I started running again though, right after delivery and ran thru my second pregnancy, and 3rd and current pregnancy and feel great. Listen to your body though. If you do run, you may feel great during that 3 mile run today, and then in 2 days go to run again, and not feel up for it. IT'S OKAY! Your body may need fuel, rest or relaxation that day, so just be in tune with that. This goes for lifting and other types of workouts as well. I LOVE doing my DailyHiit workouts several times a week. Some days I feel great doing those burpees, other days not so much. Just as your body is going thru a transformation, so should your mindset on being ok with continuously modifying your workouts based on how you feel and what your body is telling you.
As stated, "one size does NOT fit all" when it comes to prenatal fitness. One who does WOD's with Crossfit may be able to lift and feel 100% ok with a 20lb bar, versus someone who only uses 2lb. dumbbells. They are at different levels, train at different levels, and therefore their pregnancy activity should be tailored to their pre pregnancy ability. Although this is NOT the time to train to exhaustion and fatigue, you can still get a great workout continuing to do what you did before getting pregnant with small modifications along the way. If you are just starting out with exercising, after speaking with your doctor, you can easily incorporate walking and total body conditioning with your workouts, along with many other activities that are safe. I may never attempt a high intensity step class while I'm pregnant only because I may fall and trip over a step since I'm not used to that workout. Your body also produces the hormone relaxin while you are pregnant, which basically does what it sounds like. It 'relaxes' the ligaments of your body to prepare for labor. Only problem is, it effects every ligament and connective tissue of the body so you never want to 'over' stretch when stretching, and pay attention as well to your balance and posture and to not overdue it with any activity.
The idea of keeping the heart rate below 140bpm is far outdated. Before I got my pre/post natal training certification, all I read about for pregnant woman during exercise was to 'keep their HR under 140 bpm. This was before I actually became pregnant myself, but always thought this number seemed like it would be pretty low for me for instance, especially since I could do a run at light to moderate intensity and my HR would be at 160-170 bpm pre pregnancy. About 10 years ago, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), redefined their recommendations on this. Most health care providers will now recommend you use the Borg Rate of Received Exertion to monitor and keep track of how you feel during exercise, (http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/measuring/exertion.html). During pregnancy, your heart rate response changes considerably. In early pregnancy, it increases since there is not enough blood in your system for the heart to pump the usual amount with each beat, so it ends up pumping more often. This was also the first sign for me, that I KNEW I was pregnant all 3 times. I could walk up a flight of stairs holding my 19 month old in my first trimester and my heart rate would be so high, without exerting myself physically. I could then go out and run 4 miles in my second trimester and my HR would not get as high as that walk up the stairs! As your pregnancy goes on, your blood volume increases, and your heart is able to pump more blood with each beat, so therefore doesn't have to beat as often, so HR falls, similar to what it may have been pre conception. Bottom line, monitor your HR, but more by how you feel during your workouts rather then a solely relying on a number.
Don't forget your core work and strength training! If possible, start incorporating weight training and core work before conception, but do not forget to continue working on it during. Even though soon after the first trimester you should no longer lay on your back to perform abdominal work (which puts excessive pressure on the vena cava diminishing blood flow to the brain and uterus), you can still safe and effectively work your core. This is so important in getting your strength and body back postpartum, as well as for injury prevention. Core / functional exercises that require you to work in a neutral spine are some of the most beneficial exercises to perform while pregnant. Sitting on an exercise ball and performing your core/ strength work is great during pregnancy since it will require the neutral spine position throughout. Using machines are good, but most of the time the pads take you out of that neutral spine position and require you to flatten your back or even arch your back, therefore using less core strength/stability. Power therefore is build in the limbs instead of the functional area of the core that you want to focus on. Using proper form, some great resistance exercises that do require core stabilization and will help build strength are lunges and squats, upper and lower body cable, bar and dumbbell work either in a seated position or standing, pelvic tilt exercises, seated or standing transverse isolation exercises, along with many seated pilates exercises and yoga postures.
With all the talk of exercise, I must also address the 'eating for two' myth during pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, your appetite will change based on what your body is going thru. During your first trimester, the fetus is only the size of a pea, so aside from 'cravings' you may have, there really isn't much need for adding a ton more calories. By the second and third trimester, your baby has grown considerably and is putting on weight every week. At this point, it's recommended you add about 200-300 calories a day. You should be gaining about 1-2 pounds a week in the third trimester as well. What KINDS of food is very important. Remember, your baby isn't eating steak or vegetables per say. The baby instead is getting the vitamins, nutrients, proteins, fats and carbs from these foods. Make sure you are not getting all those 'bonus' baby calories a day for the from junk food. Make it count. For me, I get nauseas in the first trimester, but never sick. I lost my appetite, but made sure the foods I did put in came from fruits, veges and proteins. I also would eat nuts and raisins for the iron. My appetite increases in my second and that is when I usually start to put on weight. I will admit, I do love my ice cream, but in moderation just as before I got pregnant. Shoot for quality though over quantity. By the end of the third trimester, there isn't much room for big meals, so for the most part I still will get 4-6 smaller meals throughout the day. It is much easier for me to get the smaller meals down and digest without the heartburn and indigestion. Also understand, everyone is different in terms of their weight gain goal while pregnant. This really is NOT the time to overindulge. If you were under weight to start, your doctor may recommend you gaining anywhere from 25-40 pounds, versus someone who is overweight, where that weight gain may be closer to 15-20 pounds. I am not saying restrict what you eat, but if you are eating tons of fast food, desserts and gain 80 pounds during pregnancy, don't expect a 70 pound baby to come walking out of that delivery room. Everything in moderation. Everyone is different, so see what works for you!
Maintaining your exercise routine throughout your pregnancy is so beneficial for both you and your growing baby. It can also help alleviate some pregnancy symptoms and discomforts as well, not to mention relieving stress and keeping you strong and healthy for delivery and postpartum demands of caring for a baby. If you were physically active before you became pregnant, you can continue your activity with modifications throughout. If you were not active before, speak with your doctor about incorporating a fitness routine into your schedule that would benefit you. You can even seek out a fitness professional who specializes in pre/post natal fitness at your local gym to get your started after you have spoken with your doctor. I actually made a video of me doing one of Lisa's Hiit workouts a couple weeks ago, modifying along the way. You can check it out here:
Enjoy the journey, be safe and healthy! You are doing something amazing not only for yourself, but for that growing baby inside!