So you’re pregnant. Congratulations! Now what?!
I’m going to let you in on a little secret…it’s not called labor because it’s relaxing. Carrying 25-35 (or more) of extra weight for nine months, creating a HUMAN BEING, and then getting that baby outta your belly is HARD WORK. One of the best ways you can prepare your body for all that work, while supporting the changes happening inside your growing body is to stay healthy and active during your 40 week journey.
While now is not the time to finally cash in that Groupon for Cross Fit you never tried, train for your bucket list marathon or decide to climb Everest…it is ABSOLUTELY the time to adopt a new healthy lifestyle if you have otherwise been sedentary or continue your current exercise routine with some modifications.
Here are the basics you need-to-know for maintaining or adopting a healthy, active fitness routine while pregnant.
- Listen to your body! This one goes out to all my die-hard, push it to the max sisters out there. I get it…it’s not a workout unless you feel like you can’t move something, or everything. But now is not the time. That doesn’t mean you need to do geriatric workouts. It means listen to your body. Is your heart beating out of your chest like it might explode?? Back off! Is it impossible to formulate words you are breathing so hard?? Back off. (TIP: You should be able to string together 2-3 words at a time but not feel like you could tell your neighbor your life story. Get to the point where you are working hard enough that you feel like abbreviating your answers/conversation to 2-3 words at a time.) If you feel cramping or pulling or PAIN…Back off. Exercise should feel good, challenging and leave you with more energy than before you began. If you work out and are comatose the rest of the day…go easier on yourself next time.
- Make room for baby! This one is logistical. A lot of clients often ask me how to modify moves for pregnancy…and with some exceptions, most modifications come down to one thing…making room for the belly. As you exercise, try to avoid compressing your precious baby bump. You can do this simply by widening your stance, decreasing your range of motion, focusing on your posture, removing or limiting rotational movements or turning your legs out slightly.
- No Prone (on your belly) positions after first trimester! After your little bump appears, don’t lay on it. It seems so obvious…yet so do so many things we still need warnings for in life, like not siphoning gasoline from the pump with your mouth or not diving headfirst into a shallow swimming pool. Most exercises that are designed to be done lying flat on your belly can be modified and done on your hands and knees.
- No Supine (flat on your back) positions after first trimester! This one isn’t so obvious. In a nutshell as your belly expands the uterus can compress on a major blood vessel, the vena cava, which brings oxygen to you and your little love bug. If you lie flat on your back, you run a risk of decreasing the blood flow and oxygen to you and bambino which can manifest in light-headedness, dizziness, nausea and rarely fainting – none of which are ideal. So, just don’t do it!
- Keep it Cool! Pay attention to your body temperature. Studies have linked overheating (hyperthermia) in pregnancy to neural tube defects, cleft palate, intrauterine death, fetal growth retardation, neural abnormality, premature labor and dehydration. To keep cool, make sure you wear light layers, avoid exercise outdoors on very hot days, pass on heated yoga, stay hydrated and be mindful of how hot you are getting. Signs of overheating include nausea, dizziness, light-headedness and feeling weak or tired.
- Don’t get it twisted! During pregnancy, avoid deep twisting – any cross body (closed) twisting in yoga poses. Open twisting, however, is a fantastic alternative and a great way to find space and movement in your spine. My favorite is an open seated twist.
- Stay hydrated! Your growing body needs water…and lots of it…like more than you think it should have. I know, I know, you are peeing all the time, and the water exacerbates that…but it’s also what’s going to help you from feeling like a swollen stuffed sausage at the end of the day – so drink up! Working out increases your fluid needs even more, so be sure to be well hydrated before, during and after your workouts.
- Just say no to contact sports. The whole idea of staying healthy and active is to protect the little life growing inside you…so it’s best to avoid any contact sports or activities that could result in a possible fall or blow to the abdomen harming you and/or baby. That means no base jumping ladies…and yes, you do probably have to give up your MMA fights as well. But in all seriousness, if you think there is a chance you could fall or get hit in the abdomen, cheer along on the sidelines until that baby is in your arms. Then pass him/her off to someone else and jump on into the action!
- Relax…but not too much! During pregnancy and post-partum a hormone called Relaxin courses through your body. Relaxin is a beautiful thing that allows your ligaments to relax to make room for your growing baby. But, Relaxin isn’t selective, it relaxes all of the ligaments in your body. Ligaments are a connective tissue that protects your joints from over-stretching and injury. When the ligaments relax, that means your body is more susceptible to injury. What does that mean for you? That means be aware, and cautious when you are stretching and moving through an increased range of motion. Be sure to ease into stretches and deep ranges of motion, use props like blocks and straps in yoga, and focus on stopping your stretch at the very first point of resistance you feel in your muscles.
- Just DO IT! Whatever you choose to do (unless your doctor advises you to avoid exercise) do something. Exercise during pregnancy has a multitude of benefits for both you and your baby, and I promise, you won’t regret staying active and strong while you enter into motherhood.
Stay tuned for more healthy mama tips, prenatal yoga and fitness workouts, coming soon!