This is definitely going to be more FitFam related but hey it’s my life and this is the stuff I love to talk about. I want to talk about exercise in prenatal women. Whether you are currently pregnant, plan to be pregnant in the future, or maybe you are done having babies but want to learn to help other moms you might know having babies. This will give you an idea of what you should be looking at when choosing an exercise program while pregnant.
By now most know exercise is important and highly recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), as long as you don’t have any contraindications. If you haven’t yet read ACOG’s suggestions about prenatal exercise you should. It’s pretty short and sweet and full of great information. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/exercise-during-pregnancy
So why am I talking about prenatal exercise? Well because I see a lot of women ask, especially in mom groups, what is the best program for someone to start getting exercise while expecting. So first off I want to say I LOVE that more women are realizing the importance of exercise while pregnant and even postpartum. Also that women want to start or continue their exercise journey. What I find probably the most disheartening, is how many times I see different programs like P90x, Beach Body, Local exercise classes being suggested and to just do the modifications. Now before you jump on me, I think these are great workout programs but I would never suggest them for pregnant women. Here are 3 things you should consider when you are looking at different exercise programs, YouTubers, classes, etc.
MOST PROGRAMS ARE NOT DESIGNED FOR PRENATAL WOMEN! I mean the most glaring, obvious fact is they are not designed with the prenatal woman in mind. Just doing modifications does not mean it is a workout that is designed for what you are going through when you are pregnant. So, I’m going to deep dive a little bit into the why’s and how’s of the differences. Stay with me cause this is probably the best part of all the information you are going to get! PS I’m not saying you have to come to my prenatal exercises classes. I recommend it if you are in the area ;) but there are many other resources that are specifically designed for expecting moms you may like better. What I am saying is that now is the time to make sure you are choosing the right exercise program that is meant for you in this period of time.
PRENATAL EXERCISE PLANS. So going along with what I was saying earlier, they are not designed with a prenatal woman’s body in mind. If it is not labeled a prenatal class, the person who created it is not thinking about how comfortable a 3 month pregnant woman will handle this exercise vs an 8 month pregnant woman. If a woman is not able to lay on her back, what could an alternative exercise be? What are great exercises we can do to help if a woman is experiencing round ligament pain? What exercises can we do that can help relieve some of the pressure in the lower back and also strengthen the area to help manage the stress the baby is putting on the back? These are all important things to think about when designing a workout for pregnant women.
Modifications are great, I usually have quite a few on hand just in case, but that does not mean they make the exercise any better for you to do. Ok, so I’m going to use an example. Say the video or instructor tells you to do sit ups. First trimester, you have no problem doing them. What happens when you get to your second trimester and you are unable to lay flat on your back because it’s uncomfortable or baby is so out and proud? There really isn’t much of an alternative they can give you to doing a sit up that doesn’t have you laying flat on your back or doing the sit up still. And if you are watching a video, you can’t flag them down and say, hey can you recommend a different exercise? This is where having a workout designed for prenatal moms is important. You most likely won’t need to stop to find a modification or find a different exercise entirely for you to do because the movements are already planned around a pregnant woman's body.
GOALS! The specific programs I mentioned above and many others too are usually designed with one goal or intention in mind -- WEIGHTLOSS. Now, does that seem like that should be the goal of exercising while you're pregnant? NOOO! The goal is to help get strong and build endurance to get you ready for labor and delivery! The reason behind the workout or the goal behind the workout is SO important to making a decision on what exercise program you choose. Here's an idea on things that I consider when I put together prenatal exercise classes:
1. Building endurance, so working on cardio through easy movements to work on tiring out your body. Why is this important to work on? Labor and delivery can take a long time. It is important to train our bodies to get ready for the marathon it is about to endure.
2. Working on the core. When pregnant our core changes a lot. I mean we are growing a human life in there! Our muscles are stretching to accommodate baby and this effects everything from our back to our balance. We want to make sure we work on maintaining a strong core to help keep our balance and prevent/help alleviate back pain. Yes it is possible! There will always be back pain when it comes to pregnancy, but we can work on making that shooting pain more of dull ache that can be forgotten about.
3. Working those legs and glutes. Ok, so there are is a lot of research out there that is now showing that having strong glutes and hamstrings are important to making sure you have a strong pelvic floor! Kegels are not the only thing that can strengthen the pelvic floor! Our body is an amazing and understanding how everything is connected can really help understand what movements can help move us in the right direction.
4. Breathing. Breathing is so important when it comes to labor and exercise! Learning how to breathe properly through a muscle contraction is super helpful not only controlling the muscle but keeping the rest of the body relaxed. Breathing helps keep us focused and gives our body the oxygen it needs to continue to function. Have you ever tried holding your breath through an exercise? Your body tenses which makes it a lot harder to do the exercise. Once you take a deep breath you probably feel better, like you can do the exercise again for a bit, because the tenseness is alleviated. Now, if you learn to breathe properly through exercise you will be able to sustain the exercise and strenuous activity more.
Exercising while pregnant has become more widely accepted and less feared but there is still a long way to go. I want everyone to gain knowledge about changes happening in their body and make choices that are right for them. This is helpful information for anybody who is wanting to start their exercise routine or kind of inconsistent in their workout routine. This also gives anyone who loves to exercise regularly a place to start with things they should focus more on. If you ever have questions please message me! I love to talk about exercise for women especially when it comes to pregnancy and postpartum.