Pregnancy is a very special time in any women’s life. Hormonal changes will take place before and during pregnancy, which will reflect on how the woman will feel during exercises too.
Being a mother myself I found that training before, during and after the pregnancy helped me to understand a lot; especially how a woman’s body can respond and adjust to all changes within that time frame.
I qualified as a pre/post natal gym trainer more than 10 years ago. Since then I’ve trained a lot of women with different pregnancies and deliveries consequently teaching me many things.
However here are the most important ones, which I always mention to my clients, and keep in my mind too.
1. Preparing your body is essential and takes time. If you can, give yourself a realistic time frame and start thinking about your exercise routine around a year prior to pregnancy. This will help to adjust your body, hormones, muscles, tendons, ligaments for the long run, including the recovery period.
2. Always consult your physician or midwife before you start your gym routine. There could be certain contraindications when it’s actually better NOT to do certain exercises due to your specific condition (IVF pregnancy, twins, 40+ pregnancy, miscarriage.. or other).
3. Your trimester will also dictate certain body changes during your pregnancy which will be connected to the choice of the exercises.
4. Do not compare yourself with other pregnant women, who do or don’t do certain exercises…as EVERY PREGNANCY IS VERY DIFFERENT!
So, which exercises are safe to do, while you are pregnant..?
1. If you exercised prior to your pregnancy, it would be a huge bonus since your body is already adapted to movement. As a result of muscle memory, you have a certain range of motion.
Pelvic Exercises – are the most important exercise to perform before, during and after pregnancy. Ideally, you need to develop your individual routine depending on your previous experience with the exercise.
It’s important to note that the number of births a woman has experienced, and type of delivery, can influence her control over her pelvic floor muscle sensitivity. You should perform your pelvic floor routine at least ,between 3-4 times in a week.
I would highly recommend getting a qualified trainer to advise changing the frequency according to your individual needs. The swiss ball could be used for pelvic floor routine too.
2. Breathing, yoga for pregnancy, swimming or water based exercises will help you to connect and relax within. Water based routines would be particularly good in your 2 nd trimester due to extra load on joints ,ligaments, tendons, however simultaneously relaxing the body.
Depending on the trimester and how you feel, exercises need to be adjusted, as you probably will feel different during the day or not feel like exercising at all (which can be a good thing..). It is crucial that you mention this to your trainer.
3. Weights training – I would recommend for most women, provided they have used them in their training routine before pregnancy, as positioning, breathing, and range of movement could be crucial, and to learn this for the first time, while you are pregnant is neither wise nor safe. However if you are still inclined to use them please seek professional advice, to personalize the stability level and position to your needs.
Larger muscle groups should be prioritized during your session, likewise breathing and posture are important too. No lying positions should be used after 14 weeks. Between 60% and 70% of weight you lifted before pregnancy, should be used during pregnancy, again- I would recommend seeking professional advice.
I often use dyna bands with my clients because they are more convenient and versatile. You also can use them if you’re training at home, travelling or generally lacking gym access.
4. Stretching exercises – important, as back problems, cramps, headaches, could influence the tension in your body. Hip Flexors, Pectorals, Calf muscles – are major muscle groups which need to be stretched after your workout routine. You have to feel stable and supported while you stretch; your balance and stability should not be compromised.
5. Cardio exercises – walking, swimming, are very important but they are a natural aspect of most daily routines. If you will be using a bike in the gym, be sure that it has a back support seat to maintain a lower load on your back. Watch your hydration levels and calorie intake too.
6. Always remember – warm up, stretch accordingly and the cool down ideally has to be included in your training routine. Please find an experienced Pre/Post natal trainer who will explain and adjust your gym routine for you. Your postnatal routine will be also connected to what you have done before and during pregnancy, so you can get in shape faster and more efficiently but that is another topic.
Reference – S.Clarkson “Fit for Birth and beyond”,2014