Sunday, 27 July 2014

20 Weeks - Halfway Point!

Wow, officially half way through this pregnancy! And fittingly, I started feeling really “pregnant” this week; I busted out all my old maternity stuff (clothes, body pillow, belly band), my belly button is sore, I’m getting full faster (which is kind of a nice built-in weight gain controller ;) but then if I do eat too much I get heartburn. Dangit!) I'm also starting to get looks from strangers - you know, the “is she pregnant, or did she eat too much?” looks.  I’m really considering buying some of these shirts:


My workouts are still going strong, though I have made a few modifications lately:

1) Any exercises that use free weights overhead are now very light and in a high rep range (Ex.: Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Chest Flyes, Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension).  As my center of gravity is shifting and my core is getting weaker, there's an increasing chance of dropping the weights unsafely and injuring either myself of the baby. I still have these exercises in my program, but am being very cautious when I go through the movements.

2) It’s becoming less and less comfortable to do abdominal exercises, especially ones that bring my knees to my chest.  But that’s ok, because I can still do other exercises for the same muscles! Here are some substitute exercises:
Was doing -- Now doing
Reverse Crunches -- Partial Crunches and Planks
Oblique Crunches and Bicycles -- Side planks
Hanging Leg Raises -- Lying Leg Raises (single and double leg)

I’ve also been incorporating vacuums to help combat Diastasis Recti (separation between the right and left sides of the rectus abdominis muscle). NOTE: If you are experiencing, or are recovering from Diastasis Recti, then consider staying away from planks and crunches, as they can exacerbate the problem. More on that in a future blog post.

3) Have I mentioned that I have completely eliminated any exercise that has me lying on my stomach? They haven’t been comfortable for me for a few weeks now. But again, there are still lots of options:
Was doing -- Now doing
Supermans -- Hyperextensions on the apparatus, light or no weight
Bench-supported Rear Delt Flyes -- Cable or Dumbbell Rear Delt Flyes
Reverse Hyperextensions (on a bench or on a ball) -- Cable Glute Kickbacks

I can still fit into those machines that have the front of your body pressed against a pad, like Rear Delt Flyes on the Pec Deck, Hammer Strength High Rows, and Butt Blaster machines, though it’s just a matter of time (and size) before those become uncomfortable too.


Aside from that, everything is business as usual. My energy is still good thanks to all the sleep I'm still getting, I haven't been having any aches or pains (except the ones caused by the workouts!), and doc says we're both healthy as can be :) Let's bring on the second half of this pregnancy!!

20 Weeks

Baby is the size of a banana :)


Sunday, 20 July 2014

19 Weeks

19 weeks
Weight gain so far: 9lbs

I did something crazy this week.  All you moms out there are going to think I'm completely nuts for doing it. I SLEPT. Every night this week I got between 7-9 hours of sleep (some nights I even got 10!) And it wasn't in 3 hour blocks either - it was solid, mostly uninterrupted (hey, I'm preggers, I gotta pee) blocks of sleep.  And I. Feel. Amazing.

The two weeks leading up to last I was averaging about 5 hours per night, and my body sent me numerous not-so-subtle signals that this was definitely not "ok". So I - not wanting to start a fight with a body that could most definitely kick my butt - took heed and made a solid effort to get to bed at a reasonable time. I missed some tv shows, I missed out on some "husband/wife" time, and some chores got left until morning. And if I didn't get enough sleep before my morning workout rolled around, I skipped it and slept some more. Yep, it was that serious.

We mustn't underestimate the importance of sleep - not when we're pregnant, not when we're active, and especially not when we're pregnant AND active.  Sleep:
-Helps your muscles recover
-"Poor sleep and depression were both associated with increased risk for birth complications... including low birth weight and pre-term birth"    
-Plays a critical role in immune health
-Reduces inflammation in the body
-Reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels -->
-Suppresses thyroid hormone (primary regulator for BMR/metabolism) -->
-Your body releases the highest levels of growth hormone when you're at rest

Translation: when you're rested you'll have an easier time losing or maintaining weight, and you decrease your chances of birth complications.

I know that when you're a mom, or when you're expecting, it can be damn near impossible some nights to get a solid sleep. And honestly, I don't have any "tricks" for all you hard-working, busy Mamas out there to get more of it. Heck, you're probably so chronically fatigued that you've completely forgotten what feeling "rested" is like.... am I right? So just consider this a reminder that sleep, if you can manage to get more of it, is so so so important and it feels so so so sooooooooo good. Personally, I felt a surge of energy after the third night of sleeping, my workouts were the most intense they've been in weeks, and I even managed to cut my caffeine intake in half. HALF! I had more energy to play with my son, and my pregnancy discomforts were lessened. It was absolutely worth postponing that "must-see" tv show (which was being recorded anyways), or late-night Facebooking, or putting aside my preconceptions that going to bed at 8:30 was super lame and that I should stay up until 10:30 instead...... oh, the excuses.


Seriously.  Like, now.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

16-18 Weeks


I know, it's been a few weeks since I last posted - very sorry about that.  I had my mom, aunt, and in-laws all come to visit for 10 days and though it was a very laid-back visit, I also spent as much of my spare time with them as possible.

16 weeks

18 weeks

A day after I posted my last update (so around the 15 week mark) I sustained a hip injury; this is a recurring injury for me so was not at all pregnancy-induced, but it absolutely had the potential to be worsened by pregnancy with changes such as widening hips and loosening ligaments taking place. The injury was so bad that it was difficult to walk for the first week (my poor dog didn't get out much), but I'm almost back to 100% now. As a result of the injury, I backed right off training my legs for almost two weeks, though I did manage to train my upper body by hobbling around the gym to various (seated) exercise machines. More importantly, I started each workout with a VERY thorough warmup, then finished each session with a ton of stretching.

That brings me to the main focus of today's post, which is the importance of stretching your hips on days you are training your lower body. By stretching before and after your workouts, you increase your range of motion (ROM) which translates into better lifts as you're able to recruit more muscle fibres at the bottom of each movement. You also lubricate your joints, helping them to absorb and recover from the demands you put on them throughout your workout.  And finally, you increase blood flow to and from the muscles you are working, which helps to reduce muscle soreness.

Specifically stretching your hips is especially important during pregnancy: as your belly gets bigger and heavier it will pull the front of your body forward. Your back will respond by tilting your hips forward (anterior pelvic tilt), thus tightening your hip flexors. By keeping those hip flexors nice and loose, you help your body keep its correct posture which in turn helps to alleviate lower back pain and sciatic nerve pain (two really big complaints during pregnancy!). It also helps loosen up your hips in preparation for the childbirth ahead.

For warmup, you want to stick to dynamic stretches - controlled movements that take you through a full range of motion (ROM). Why dynamic? Because at this point (before a workout) you are just trying to prepare your muscles for the work ahead - the actual "stretching" of the muscle will be done afterwards, when your muscles are nice and warm.  A few dynamic hip stretches I really like are:

Spider-Man Reach
Start in a pushup position, with a neutral spine and hands under shoulders. Bring your right foot forward and plant it just outside of your right hand. Keeping your right arm inside your right leg, lift your left hand up towards the ceiling to open your chest. Hold briefly, then lower your hand and return to starting position. Repeat on the left side.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly out. Fold forward at the hips and touch the ground or grab your toes, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Bend your knees and lower your hips into a full squat, keeping your back flat and neck neutral. Your knees should be outside your arms. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.  You can also add a little back bend at the top to really maximize the movement :)

Leg Swings
With your left hand on a wall, stand on your right foot and swing your left leg backward and forward as far as it will comfortably go. Do 10 swings then change sides.  You can also face the wall and do a side-to-side motion.

Knee-to-chest Stretch/Psoas March
Lie on your back and draw your left knee toward your chest.  Pull it closer with both hands as far as it will comfortably go. Release the leg and lower. Repeat on right side.

For cool down you can go to your static stretches - a stationary stretch that you hold for 30+ seconds. This is a good time for static stretches as your muscles are all warmed up, and will be very receptive to lengthening. Here are a few gems:

Sit up tall with the soles of your feet pressed together, knees naturally falling to the side. Grasp your feet with your hands. Keeping your core engaged, fold forward from your hips (not your upper back). You can deepen the stretch by pulling your feet closer in towards your body.

Kneeling Stretch
From a lunge position, lower your back knee onto a padded mat (for comfort). Your back shin and foot should be resting on the mat while your front leg is bent at a 90 degree angle. Shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your back thigh and hip.  Hold, then repeat on other side. 

Happy Baby Pose
Lying on your back, hug your knees to your chest.  You can grab the soles of the feet, ankles, or back of the legs - whichever is most comfortable. Open your feet so that they are above your knees, then pull the knees towards the floor alongside your chest.  Keep your head and shoulders on the floor.

Here is a vide of me demonstrating the Spider-Man Reach and the Squat-to-Stand.

And here is another great site that lists some good hip flexor stretches and provides videos for each:

Stay happy and healthy!