How to exercise during pregnancy doesn't need to be a complicated mystery, even though it can seem confusing to know what to and what not to do. The internet is rife with suggestions and many fitness instructors and trainers have not received adequate information on what to be aware of during the pre- and postnatal chapter. Have no fear, The Lotus Method informational blog series is here! We'll be posting to help educate, empower, and demystify training through motherhood.
Gone are the days where pregnant women were viewed as fragile. It has now become common knowledge that physical activity benefits both mama and baby (woohoo!) but there is still quite a bit of discussion on what exercise is most beneficial. As is true for many things, the answer here is "it depends!"
What is your objective?
A few great goals to strive for with exercise prenatally:
- Maintain function and fitness throughout the duration of pregnancy
- Prepare for labor/delivery
- Prepare for the impending challenges of motherhood
At The Lotus Method, our focus is strength training. Here's why:
- Resistance training enables mamas-to-be to maintain strength throughout their bodies by prioritizing movement patterns and muscles that allow for the body (including the ever-important inner core unit) to function optimally throughout the trimesters, making life inside and outside the gym easier and more enjoyable.
- Prepare for the hard work of labor
- Motherhood is repetitive, physical, and demanding. Babies don't stay little for long and with them comes a lot of gear! Being able to manuever an infant in a carseat (without waking them from that precious nap you've been waiting for!!) is a lot more challenging than it may initially seem. In order to be up for the challenge, we strength train!
Strength training may initially seem intimidating but it's not all barbells and bros. We highly recommend seeking the expertise of an exercise professional you trust (like us!) to show you the ropes, but if you're unable to, here are a few tips to help you strength train as effectively as possible:
1.) Keep it simple. Focus on major muscle groups, and basic human movements. Simple sessions with squats, hinges (deadlifts), pulls (rows), rotations (woodchops), etc. can yield great results! Instead of getting caught up in the latest and greatest exercise in a magazine, stick to the basics.
2.) Prioritize great form and utilize a strategy that takes your core into consideration. Your inner core unit is made up of your diaphragm, your multifidus, your transverse abdominis, and your pelvic floor. You can picture them as a canister. We want to keep our canister as stacked as we can and we want our breath to encourage these teammates of the core to work together! On inhale, our diaphragm descends, our rib cage expands, our belly softens, and our pelvic floor softens. On exhale, our pelvic floor lifts, our bellies generate gentle tension, and our diaphragm ascends. During your strength training exercises, you're going to work to keep your diaphragm stacked over your pelvic floor (which means your ribs will be stacked over your hips) and you're going to exhale with (and just before) the exertion (the "hard" part) of the exercise. For example, in the squat: inhale and soften your belly as you descend, begin your exhale just before you begin to come back up and continue that exhale until you get to the top. Throughout, keep your rib cage and pelvis aligned. It may take some practice! For more information, please check out this program, created by renowned women's health PT, Julie Wiebe: http://www.juliewiebept.com/product/the-pelvic-floor-piston-foundation-for-fitness-2/
3.) Emphasize exercises that will support you through pregnancy, back off exercise that cause you to strain. Every pregnancy is different and so there are no hard and fast rules about what exercises will or won't be appropriate throughout the duration of one's pregnancy. A good rule of them is that any exercise that forces you to hold your breath is likely too challenging. Consider reducing the amount of weight you're lifting or switch to a slightly easier version to see if you can return to your breath (as described above). Another thing to look out for is doming or ridging along the middle of your belly. This is indicative of a core that is unable to manage the amount of pressure being exerted and is a good reason to regress or eliminate the exercise. This is what we watch for during planks or push ups as our clients progress throughout their pregnancies and it's a reason we recommend eliminating crunches, sit-ups, double leg lowers and raises during pregnancy.
4.) Easy on the impact. During pregnancy, there's a significant load placed on the pelvic floor. when we add impact (from jumping, running, etc.), we're asking a lot from our bodies to be able to stabilize and receive that force from above. As baby gets bigger, it's possible that, over time, the demand becomes greater than our bodies can handle and excessive impact from exercise could increase our risk of pelvic floor dysfunction. We generally recommend hanging up your running shoes after the first trimester, but if running is something you're truly hoping to continue longer into your pregnancy, we feel it's essential to work with a pelvic floor physical therapist who can give specific feedback and guidelines.
5.) Stop if you feel any of the following symptoms: pain, pressure (especially in the vagina), bleeding, lightheadedness, fluid leakage (urine or otherwise), anything else that strikes you as odd or abnormal. Follow up with your doctor to verify that everything is still A-OK before continuing.
6.) Vary your workouts according to how you're feeling and where you are in your pregnancy. Your exercise routine in your first trimester may not look that much different than your pre-pregnancy workouts, but it may not be appropriate for your third trimester. Along with generally slowing down as you near the end of your pregnancy, you'll likely find that certain positions or movements aren't as accessible as they used to be. The push ups you blasted through at week 9 may now be causing some abdominal ridging at week 23; best to swap out the push ups for a standing cable chest press or incline/wall push up, for instance.
Every woman is different, every pregnancy is different, every woman's pregnancy workouts should be different, too!
For more individualized information, reach out to us to schedule an assessment session!