For those of you that know me personally, my girlfriend is heavily pregnant and about to pop. In a little over a week I'll be joined by a Mini-Big Mike or a Mini-Tiny T.
Trina (my girlfriend) has trained throughout her pregnancy under my guidance and has been able to workout regularly, adapting the workouts to her current trimester, size and current state based on her hormones, sleep and general feeling.
There’s often a lack of clarity when it comes to exercising during pregnancy. Information can be out-dated and at times, conflicting. What we now know is that often, exercising during pregnancy can be advisable. While you should always seek a professional clearance from a medical professional before exercising, the majority of mums-to-be will benefit hugely from exercising during the build up to child birth.
Having qualified as a pre/post natal trainer, I was able to offer specific guidelines and advice to Trina and also watch first hand as she changed and adapt her programmes accordingly. She's still deadlifting, squatting, swinging kettlebells, interval training and also attending pregnancy Yoga. She's had energy most days, feels fit and strong and hasn't had any kind of hip or back discomfort throughout.
We both think her continued exercise has helped in a number of ways - something that many pregnant women will miss out on if they avoid exercise. Here's just some of the ways that exercising during pregnancy can be really beneficial...
Be fit and Strong for giving birth
Lets face it - giving birth can be a long and tiring ordeal; a variety of suitable yet challenging cardiovascular and resistance work can be a very good way to prepare yourself for the task ahead. If you can control your body and are very aware of how to contract and/or relax relevant muscle groups then you’re much less likely to waste energy during pregnancy. There’s some evidence to suggest that exercising during pregnancy allows a mum-to-be to significantly reduce labour time. It makes perfect sense: You wouldn't try to enter a marathon without training; so why do so many mums attempt what's likely to be a 12-hour or so physical ordeal without any relative strength or fitness? Very confusing.
Faster road to recovery
For anyone that has exercised regularly and then taken a holiday, they will understand the discomfort that exercise causes after just a short break. Imagine the discomfort and loss of physical capability if you take a full 9 months off (plus recovery)! Your road to re-building your former body and athletic capabilities will be a much smoother and shorter journey if you continue to exercise throughout the entirety of your pregnancy. Muscles will be in better condition and your metabolic rate will be much less damaged than if you lose lean muscle through avoiding resistance work during pregnancy.
Functional Strength for when baby arrives
Your life will change significantly in terms of day-to-day tasks once you give birth. Lifting, carrying, holding and moving this new bundle of joy doesn’t come easy. Gaining suitable, functional strength during your pregnancy can help to prepare you for the new tasks at hand.
Avoid Postural issues caused by your changing body shape
As your baby grows a huge strain begins to be placed on your spine and hips. This paired with increasing levels of relaxin (a hormone released during pregnancy that makes your joint less stable) and many women will experience spine discomfort and, often, more serious spine and hip issues. Improving your core strength and practicing maintaining correct spine alignment can significantly reduce the chances of complicated spine problems and lengthy rehab. Without strong core muscles, glutes and hip strength, the likelihood that you'll end up on crutches during pregnancy when your unsupported pelvis packs in is significantly higher. Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction is far more common than you'd imagine. You'll find plenty of painful horror stories if you Google it.
Get comfortable with your quickly adjusting body shape
Pregnancy is likely to be the fastest you have ever gained such a significant amount of weight. Your centre of gravity will slowly move forwards and therefore, it can be feel very difficult and uncomfortable to move your new-sized body confidently and safely. Instead, unless encouraged otherwise, a heavily pregnant lady is likely to create their own, convenient and alternative ways of moving and carrying out previously simple tasks like sitting and getting out of a chair. Exercise can be a great way to be more familiar with how your body is changing and adapt your movements to suit your size and capabilities while becoming strong through various movements with your new found size.
Have some “me time”
Everyone is likely to be talking nothing but babies once you become more noticeably pregnant. Why not get some “me time”? Escape the constant tending, fussing and questions; let of some steam and feel happier and more confident throughout pregnancy. Add some endorphins to all of those other new hormones floating around in your body.
Becoming heavier whilst having something share your daily nutrients can be an extremely tiring process. Even relatively simple tasks can appear overwhelming and it can be easy to get into a pregnancy slump; comfort eating and avoiding most things at the thought of how much effort they'll take. Exercise can be a great way to boost endorphins and raise your general energy levels. It will also leave you knowing your own strength and feeling more confident to take on daily tasks as you continue to grow.
As I said at the start this is general advise for the majority of pregnant ladies. Before exercising during pregnancy you should always seek approval from your GP. There are a number of contraindications to training and pregnant ladies with things such as high blood pressure, weight issues, previous birth complications (to name a few) should not exercise to a high intensity during pregnancy.
It's also important to note that benefits may vary as every pregnancy is very much an individual experience. Variations may also occur depending on the current activity level of the mum-to-be pre-pregnancy.
For guidelines on “What to expect when you’re expecting” in terms of weight changes, hormonal changes and necessary adjustments to session intensity see my article: "What to expect when you're expecting"
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