How will pregnancy affect your training?
Pregnancy is all about change and the importance of an exercise routine plays a crucial role in the health of the mother and the beginning of a new life. There are many advantages from staying fit throughout pregnancy.
Firstly, the mother to be, feels better about herself psychologically, due to the positive endorphins that are produced during exercise. A good exercise regime promotes better sleep at night and more energy during the day. She also experiences a large amount of change due to her expanding and adapting body, exercise helps you to feel a greater sense of control over these changes. Exercise also helps you to be prepared for the physical demands of labour, due to increased stamina and cardiovascular endurance as well as the strength that is required from the pelvic floor muscles and quadriceps. Labour can be like an endurance event, so it makes sense to train for it!
That being said however, we would encourage pregnant women to speak to their doctor or midwife about the type and amount of exercise they do, particularly if they are thinking of starting something new or if they weren’t very active before becoming pregnant.
Benefits of regular exercise; there are lots of good reasons to keep active while you’re pregnant.
Exercise improves your muscle tone, strength and endurance, which may make it easier for you to adapt to the changes that pregnancy and also having a baby brings. Research shows that moderate physical activity improves the likelihood of giving birth to a healthy baby and can speed up your recovery after the birth.
Regular exercise will:
– Help you to carry the weight that is gained during pregnancy.
– Improve heart and lung fitness which will prepare you for the physical challenge of labour.
– Improve your mood and energy levels, and also help with self-image.
– Help you to sleep better.
– Make getting back in to shape after the baby is born easier.
How to get started; Exercise during pregnancy is most practical during the first 24 weeks. During the last 3 months, it’s normal to find that exercises that once seemed easy, have become challenging. You need to start gently and increase your activity gradually. Begin with only a few minutes and monitor yourself to see how you are feeling. If you are comfortable, increase slowly, week by week, until you can stay active for the recommended 30 minutes a day.
Always start each session with up to 10 minutes of warm-up activity like slow walking, and gentle dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles. It’s just as important to cool down after working out by gently reducing your activity and heart rate and completing static stretches.
Pre Natal Exercise
Exercising during your pregnancy can help build the stamina that is required for labour and delivery. Exercise can also help stabilise your overall weight. It is not too late to start an exercise routine whilst you are pregnant. It is very important to listen to your body throughout and to stop if you experience pain, bleeding or dizziness – although ensuring that you never exert yourself to this level is the key.
It is important to exercise within your own comfort zone or ability. Whatever exercise regime you had before you were pregnant can be generally be continued until it becomes too uncomfortable. If you haven’t been doing any regular exercise before the pregnancy and would like to begin, then walking is your safest and most beneficial option. This is something that is easy to continue once baby is born, most babies enjoy being walked in a stroller or back-pack.
It is also very important to exercise the pelvic floor muscles so as to help reduce the chances of developing problems with incontinence during and after pregnancy.
Exercise should feel of a moderate intensity. You should feel that you can talk comfortably whilst exercising, yet also feel like you have a slightly elevated heart rate. You can tell your heart rate is elevated when you have a light sweat on and are slightly puffed. Walking regularly, swimming, pre-natal aqua, yoga and Pilates classes are all good exercise options, as well as light weight training (make sure you keep within your ability). Contact and extreme sports must be avoided for obvious reasons!
Women who have been very fit prior to pregnancy are able to continue their training as usual in the first trimester, but should tailor it to be more moderate for their 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Ensuring that you are well hydrated, so that your core temperature stays comfortable, is extremely important and it is advisable not to exercise in hot environments. Making sure that you have eaten prior to exercising is also paramount, so that your blood sugar stays balanced and you have adequate energy for the chosen exercise. If not, nutrients will be taken away from your baby in order to maintain your working body. Do not exercise if you feel you are unwell or even if you feel you are coming down with something. A pregnant woman’s immune system is slightly lower than a non-pregnant woman’s and so she is much more susceptible to illness. Exercise will only continue to lower the immune system, resulting in illness and a longer recovery period.
Each woman will be different in what they can and can’t do. There are no hard and fast rules around exercising while you are pregnant. Anything is better than nothing though, and it’s good to do some regular exercise if you possibly can. Any exercise improves circulation and varicose veins especially. The types of exercise recommended are: –
– Strength training
Types of exercise not recommended are: –
– Sports which use rapid direction changes (like squash or netball)
– Hard, repetitious movements like aerobics should be done with care.
You don’t need to lose your muscle tone during pregnancy! To avoid extra pregnancy weight gain and improve prenatal fitness and strength then it is paramount that you exercise. A regular exercise program will maintain muscle tone which in turn increases your metabolism’s need to use fat as fuel. So is weightlifting safe?….Yes it is, but you must listen to your body and modify your training throughout your pregnancy. A strength based program using weights is usually best for muscle maintenance but specific exercises using just your body weight also works well. Strength training will also reduce muscular aches and pains associated with pregnancy and will prepare your body specifically for labour and birth.
Listen to your body
Lastly but most importantly, listening to your body is the key to staying in shape. Every woman is different and what works for one may not work for another. You will have weeks were you have heaps of energy and others when you have none. Do not push yourself if you are tired, it is not good for you or your baby!