Monday, 6 October 2014

Quick Tips for Exercise During Pregnancy

Staying fit during pregnancy is no joke: working out on a regular non-pregnant day can be a struggle, but fighting off fatigue, bodily discomforts, mood swings, and nausea to get to the gym takes serious willpower and dedication. Give yourself a pat on the back if you've managed to put on your sneakers and reach your destination - the hardest part is over! But now what? What are you actually going to DO?  Here are some things to keep in mind as you choose your exercises or develop your pregnancy workout program.

Train your back. As your pregnancy progresses your back muscles will be working overtime to keep your spine in good alignment. Strengthen your back muscles now to improve posture and help alleviate future back and hip pain.

Exercises to try:
-Rows using resistance bands, cables, dumbbells or barbells
-Supermans or Back Extensions (if this is still comfortable for you)
-Rear Delt Flyes using a machine, cables, resistance band, or dumbbells

Train your glutes. We often forget that our glute (butt) muscles are an integral part of keeping good posture; by strengthening your glutes you again help to improve your spinal alignment and thus reduce discomfort and risk of injury.

Exercises to try:
-Hip Thrusts
-Cable Pull-Throughs
-Kneeling Kickbacks
-Plie Squats

Train your core. Although it's popularly cautioned not to train your abs later in pregnancy as doing so increases your risk of abdominal separation, strengthening your transverse abdominis (the muscles responsible for core stabilization) early on will, again, help you to maintain good posture. It's also believed that women with strong core muscles "show less" which, vanity aside, will take some of the strain off your back by keeping your weight centered.

Exercises to try:
-Planks and Side Planks
-Russian Twists
-Lying Leg Raise
-Bird Dog (actually, this is a back, glute AND core exercise!)

Do your Pelvic Tilts and Kegels. Pelvic Tilts are a fantastic way of encouraging proper spinal alignment, improving core strength, and helping to get baby into a good birth position later in pregnancy. You can do them lying down, against a wall, or kneeling (aka. Cat-Cow). Kegels strengthen your pelvic floor which will help with pushing during delivery, speed up recovery afterwards, and help prevent you from "leaking" every time you sneeze or cough :P Try doing your kegels during sex - it adds a degree of difficulty, and your partner is sure to love it!

Stretch your hips. Although the pregnancy hormone relaxin will loosen your hips naturally, additional stretching will help alleviate any hip or lower back pain (I can personally vouch for this one!), enables your body to adapt more effectively to the changes it's experiencing, and prepares your hips for that grueling labour of love we call "child-birthing".

Stretches to try:
-Low Squat Pose
-Butterfly Stretch
-Spiderman Strech
-Pigeon Pose
-Runner's Lunge

Stretch your chest. As your belly gets bigger your body will try to slouch forward, thereby tightening your chest and exacerbating an already weakened posture. Take just one minute every day to give your chest a stretch. (I like to stretch in the shower while my muscles are nice and warm :) )

Stretch your neck. Because it feels amazing, and we should all do it more anyways!

Walk. Whether it's a casual stroll or a power walk, walking is one of the best and most highly recommended exercises to do during pregnancy. It's low-impact, it's full-body, it helps get the baby into a good birthing position, and it gets you outdoors! Just be mindful of your posture while you're walking - keep your tailbone tucked, shoulders back, and chin up.

Additional Notes
-As a general rule, you can continue doing the same activities now as you were doing before pregnancy.
-Keep safety top of mind during your workouts! Be mindful of your balance, intensity level, physical safety (ie. Is there a dude haphazardly throwing weights around nearby? You should probably steer clear of him), and stay hydrated.
-Beware of cookie-cutter programs. I don't like the "one size fits all" approach to workouts for anyone, let alone expectant mothers! Your body is going through so many changes, and no two pregnancies are alike (even within the same body!). If you need some help designing a program, seek out a prenatal fitness professional who will take the time to talk to you about your specific needs.
-Listen to your body. It will naturally slow itself down, so just listen to what it's telling you (ie. Lift less weight; take a week off; change positions; etc.) and respect that. Every day will be different, which could be frustrating... OR it could be a great opportunity to try new things!

Yours in health and maternity,

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