Exercising in Pregnancy
To all mamas-to-be: congratulations! You are embarking on one of the most amazing journeys of your life.
Making sure that you exercise regularly, and properly, during your pregnancy will ensure that your body is strong and ready to live through the upheaval it is about to experience.
Please read on to find out more about how Pilates can help you in pregnancy and what exercises to focus on when you are pregnant.
How to exercise in pregnancy
The best training programme during pregnancy includes gentle cardiovascular exercise like walking or swimming, and an exercise programme focusing on toning and stretching. In your workout, you should make sure to tone your abs, legs and arm muscles and stretch the parts of the body that get tense because of your changing bodyshape; ideally while coordinating movement with breath.
If you are a runner you can keep running up until the second trimester, but it is not recommended you take up running when your are pregnant if you have not practiced it regularly before! Taking up swimming, walking or cycling would be safer and just as effective and fun.
But make sure you talk to your doctor or midwife beforehand, it is best to have their approval before starting any physical activity.
Pregnancy (prenatal) pilates (and yoga) are great ways to not only stretch and tone but also practice mindful breathing, which will greatly help you relax and focus through the pain during labour and childbirth.
Prenatal Pilates classes offer a combination of powerful toning exercises for the legs and arms, and gentle strengthening exercises for the abdominals, pelvic floor and back muscles – while coordinating each movement with either a breath in or a breath out, thus practicing the best breathing patterns to use during a prolonged strenuous effort like childbirth!
During each class, we work on strengthening the deep musculature of the spine, while stretching it in all directions – forward, sideways, in extension. These are the movements that our spine needs to do regularly in every day life and we cannot let our changing bodyshape affect the way we perform them.
Prenatal Pilates also focuses on strengthening the abdominals, leg and hip muscles, which need to be strong to support the extra weight during pregnancy and then to push the baby out during childbirth.
We also work the muscles of the arms and shoulders, which are needed to maintain good posture. These muscles need to be strong in new mums (and dads!), who spend so much time lifting, carrying and rocking their newborn…
Do we do ab exercises in prenatal pilates?
Yes! Because we should! It is not because you are pregnant that you should stop working your abdominal muscles. Remember, you have three different layers of abdominals: they form like a cylinder around your waist, a little bit like a corset keeping you straight, supporting your spine, keeping it mobile, while stabilising your pelvis and helping you breathe. SO yes we do need all these muscles to be strong and functional during pregnancy as the baby and uterus grow, then for labour and birth, and after that to help the body recover after birth.
What you SHOULDN’T do when you are pregnant is: work your abs exactly the same way that you do it when you are not pregnant. That wouldn’t be good.
The most simple rule to follow is: during pregnancy, after the first trimester is over, NO MORE CRUNCHES. No more flexing the spine to lift your head up from the floor when you are lying down on your back. This puts too much pressure on your linea alba and rectus abdominus, which are the parts of your belly that get stretched and stressed the most as your baby and uterus expand. When lying on the your back, you shouldn’t move your legs very far from your centre of gravity either (like in single leg stretches or leg lifts), for the same reason: too much stress on the midline of your belly.
You can do all sorts of abdominal exercises, just not crunches or leg lifts. Here are two examples of great, powerful and effective exercises that work the abs safely during pregnancy.
So… ready to give it a try??