Dec 16, 2013

Pregnancy + Exercise Myths

Before I became pregnant, I was always advised pregnant women to go at their own pace, take a break if they need it and that if they were active before their pregnancy, they can (and should) continue to be active during pregnancy. I also knew that at some point, pregnant women were no longer allowed to lay on their back... or was it front? That's all I knew. Seriously, that's it. Let's just say I've learned a lot since then.

Now that I'm expecting, it's forced me to do a lot of research on what's right and what's wrong when it comes to pregnancy. Turns out, there is no set of rules that work for every women. Despite what people have told me about abdominal work, heart rate, etc. I've found that at 18 weeks, I'm still teaching 12 classes a week and have yet to modify hardly anything.

Here are my guidelines to consider when combining exercise and pregnancy:

  • Speak to Your Doctor: This is the one "rule" that everyone should follow. Regardless of how you are feeling, if something seems "off" to you, always speak to your doctor or midwife right away. If your doctor tells you that you should not be working out, don't do it! In general, all health care providers will actually recommend exercise throughout your pregnancy but be sure to get the "O.K." before starting anything new. 
  • Listen to Your Body: Every body is different. What might feel right for me at 18 weeks, may not feel right for you at 12 weeks. If something feels wrong, then it probably is. For me, I discovered right away that pelvic tucks while lying on my back didn't feel quite right anymore so I stopped doing them early on. Some days I have a ton of energy and I can participate more in my classes while other days even walking up the stairs can make me loose my breath. This is not the time to push past your comfort level. Listen to your body and pay attention to any warning signs. 
  • Don't Overdue It: While you can continue to train at the same intensity as before (including jumping and running), don't push yourself. It's not the time to be breaking any personal records or to try something new. With that being said, if you haven't worked out pre-pregnancy it doesn't mean you can't start to incorporate exercise into your daily life. Just don't plan on attending a high intensity boxing, dance, or aerobics class anytime soon. Also, since balance during pregnancy is off, consider refraining from things like biking or skiing. Ligaments are also much more flexible so make sure that you don't over stretch or try to expand your range of motion. 
  • Your Heart rate is just a number: Keeping your heart rate below a certain beats per minute (some say 140 and some as high as 160), is an old school myth. That's right. You don't have to be concerned about your heart rate during pregnancy. Again, everyone is different so to put an umbrella number on everyone is silly. Just remember to listen to your body. We can dictate what our max heart rate should be through perceived exhaustion. Are you out of breath? Are you getting dizzy? That's when it's time to pull back a little. 
  • Don't Forget Your core: Another huge pregnancy myth is that you aren't allowed to work your abdominals after the first trimester. Experts agree that not only is it okay to work the abdominals, but they should be strengthened during pregnancy. A strong core will help not only to maintain proper posture through pregnancy, but will help with labor and delivery, and even with recovery. However, once into the second trimester most women don't feel comfortable lying on their back for long periods of time. So you may have to fore go some of your regular abdominal exercises. This video will show you two sets of abdominal work that most women will be able to do throughout pregnancy.

It's frustrating when people say "make sure you don't do this"or "take it easy." Remember every body is different and so everyone will need to modify (or not) at different points throughout pregnancy. There is no right or wrong... listen to your body! I've been teaching 12 classes a week, but as I progress, it's getting harder to maintain that kind of energy. In the new year, cut back to only 7 classes a week and hope to continue up until a few days before I go into labor. However, I will listen to my body and if I need to cut back more I will. If I need to go on leave for the last few months, I can always do that too. Don't put pressure on yourself during this precious time! Cheers to a happy, healthy pregnancy. xo

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