My Favourite Pregnancy Workouts
Fitness has always been important to me, so when I found out I was pregnant, I was not looking forward to hanging up my sneakers for the next nine months. Luckily at my first OB appointment, I discovered that was not necessary. In fact, exercise during pregnancy can reduce constipation, improve sleep, reduce stress and discomfort and most importantly, lead to a quicker post-labour recovery time, according to kidspot.com.au. After discussing the do’s and don’ts of exercising during pregnancy with my doc, I was excited to hit the gym and build my treasure trove of belly-accommodating exercises.
Keep these general guidelines in mind before you jump in:
Avoid laying on your back after 16 weeks. It restricts blood flow to mum and baby’s hearts.
Maintain a comfortable intensity. If you are breathless, you are working out too hard.
Avoid overheating and drink plenty of water, especially in the first trimester when baby is most vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
Avoid any sport that may involve blows to the abdomen such as horse riding, downhill skiing, contact sports, etc.
Avoid holding your breath while exercising.
During my pregnancy, I set a goal of 20 or 30 minutes of aerobics two to three times per week. Walking and swimming were great options, but can get a bit monotonous. When I am looking to shake things up or challenge myself I hit the treadmill for this pregnancy-safe interval workout from fitpregnancy.com. While it might not look like much, with a belly the size of a beach ball, it's no walk in the park.
0:00-5:00 - speed 2.5; incline 0 percent
5:00-8:00 - speed 3.5; incline 2 percent
8:00-10:00 - speed 2.5; incline 2 percent
10:00-13:00 - speed 4; incline 2 percent
13:00-15:00 - speed 3; incline 2 percent
15:00-18:00 - speed 2.5; incline 4 percent
18:00-20:00 - speed 2.5; incline 2 percent
20:00-23:00 - speed 2.5; incline 5 percent
23:00-25:00 - speed 2.5; inline 3 percent
25:00-30:00 - speed 2.5; incline 0 percent
I focused my strength training on the muscles needed once baby arrives—think lifting, carrying, pushing and rocking. Some easy exercises I did from home included squats, lunges, bicep and tricep curls, shoulder presses and leg lifts. Because strength training can cause strain if done improperly, if you are looking for a more intense strength workout, I highly recommend working with a personal trainer who specializes in pregnancy exercises or investing in a home fitness subscription service like GaiamTV, which allows you to choose videos from various fitness disciplines. These will help you develop a strong routine while staying cautious of your limitations based on your current trimester.
I augmented my aerobic and strength training workouts with stretching exercises, and yoga is an excellent way to stretch and strengthen the muscles used during childbirth. But, be wary not to overdo stretches as you will be more supple during pregnancy due to relaxin, which make ligaments more pliable. Here are a few poses I practiced regularly:
Warrior Pose I and II: helps with balance and strengthens legs
Goddess Pose: strengthens legs and inner thighs
Cat/Cow Pose: eases back pain and focuses on breathing technique
Ankle-to-Knee Hip Opener: provides relief for tense, tight hips
Butterfly Pose: helps open the hips
Child’s Pose: helps you focus on breathing technique
As always, be sure to consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
Find about more about Preparing Your Pelvic Floor for Birth and Recovery here
This article has been written for The Pregnancy Centre 2014 by Laura Meyers, Mother, interior decorator and triathlete. www.thepregnancycentre.com.au