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The Gym 101: P10: Fitness and Pregnancy


Pregnancy and fitness is a topic that is finally starting to get some serious research and heat in the fitness industry. We have all seen pregnant women and some of us have even side-eyed them for working out.

Even the ancient greek philosopher Socrates noticed that the active slave women fared easier pregnancies and faster recovery times.

Well, the good new is, you can work hard and carry a baby. In fact it is ENCOURAGED to do so. There is no need for you to greatly reduce physical activity just because you are growing a baby inside you. You will have a more enjoyable pregnancy if you work out.

Even the ancient greek philosopher Socrates noticed that the active slave women fared easier pregnancies and faster recovery times. He surmised that it was because they were active and plowing out in the field as opposed to the bed rest the women of stature indulged in.

First and foremost, your health is the most important. See you doctor. That being said, if you do to a doctor and they tell you to stop working out during your pregnancy and they are NOT fit, you need to get a new doctor. This means that they are letting their personal options affect their professional opinion.

No where in the sound and modern medical community says that pregnant women should not workout or limit physical activity to swimming and yoga. Pregnancy may be the most important time to get a healthy amount of exercise. In comparison to a trained body, it is much more difficult to rehabilitate a postnatal body after 9 months of no exercise while the uterus grows to the size of a small human.

If you do to a doctor and they tell you to stop working out during your pregnancy and they are NOT fit, you need to get a new doctor. This means that they are letting their personal options affect their professional opinion.

And let me state this plainly: there is no correlation between miscarriage and physical activity. You will not exercise yourself into a miscarriage. No amount of snow boarding, running, weightlifting, martial arts, Zumba or pilates will stress you into a miscarriage. I’d be more worried about the stress caused by STOPPING those activities.

Diastasis Recti

There is no solution for avoiding DR and we dont even know what causes it. Unfortunately it is the truth. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. Diastasis is not just limited to pregnant women. Men get it, fit women get it, overfat people get it. It is just a splitting of the facia between the rectus abdominis on the most superficial layer of muscle.

There are some things to look for and to keep in mind as the pregnancy goes along. If you are a small woman, and you mate with a giant, this may be a risk factor in DR. Depending on genetics and nutrition, if you are 5’2 and your guy and his whole family are over 6 feet, there is a higher likelihood of large baby on you small frame. This could be a factor in DR.

There is no solution for avoiding DR and we don't even know what causes it. Unfortunately it is the truth.

Or if you are normal sized and you gained a lot of weight - like you ate for two football players instead of the extra 200-500 calories for a baby - then you may have a higher risk of DR. An extremely large and rapid growth through the midsection is a risk factor but NOT a determining factor. DR only really become a problem when you don’t do any specific exercises to repair and stabilize the deeper layers of muscle underneath the site of the DR.

Prolapse

There are a couple of different types of prolapse but this isn’t really a prenatal as much as a postpartum issue. Make sure you go to the bathroom frequently. Avoid a lot of “keeping it tight” exercises often found in pilates and power yoga. Although kegels and exercises that involve tightening the vaginal canal and pelvic floor aer important, pregnancy is not really the place for them.

Focus on connection breaths involving cycles of activating and then relaxing the pelvic floor. Excessive tightening exercises can lead to excessive tearing during birth.

Most woman ask me, “What can I do for staying fit through my pregnancy?” The answer is, just about anything you enjoy is possible.

Extreme Activities

Most woman ask me, “What can I do for staying fit through my pregnancy?” The answer is, just about anything you enjoy is possible.

Even Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is possible. No joke! I just read a blog entry about a woman who was pregnant with her third kid. She didn’t even tell the people she was practicing with that she was pregnant until 6 months along. That being said, she was cautious: she never rolled with beginners, she avoided takedowns (being thrown on her back) and kicks and punches to the stomach were also gone. She delivered healthy and happy.

So, what do you need to know before you start working out? Well, you need and assessment of three things: How fit are you before the pregnancy started, what do you need to avoid in your chosen area of sport and most importantly, how do you feel today?

Although kegels, "keeping it tight" and exercises that involve strengthening the vaginal canal and pelvic floor are important, pregnancy is not really the place for them.

Let’s break this down: if you are fairly athletic and have no problem do 20 full push-ups, squatting twice your body weight or running 10 miles, then extreme vigorous activity will be just fine for you. You will feel a bit different throughout your workouts and have to modify, but continuing with a high level of fitness will be just fine for you.

If you are an intermediate or a beginner in physical activity, then more modifications will be in store for you. The woman who did BJJ was able to because what had been rolling for two or three years already.

Horseback riding, you would avoid extra high jumps because of the falling risk. After seven months or so, riding all together should diminish only because again, the falling factor. Otherwise the activity is safe for pregnancy.

If you are an intermediate or a beginner in physical activity, then more modifications will be in store for you to remain moving and enjoying your workout.

The couch potato turned newbie CrossFitter who found out she was pregnant 3 months after she signed her gym membership may have to hold back on finding her 1RM deadlift until after the pregnancy and rehabilitation. BUT!!! She can still workout and go to class.

Various Fitness Classes

Do not try to build muscle or fitness unless you are obese or over weight. Your goal is to maintain fitness, break a sweat and breathe hard. Be cautious when training cardio at altitude. You overall lung capacity is diminished and O2 is going to the baby more than you so bring a friend on long runs or stick close to the city. If traveling to high altitude, keep to the weight room and avoid doing things that have you gasping for breath. Avoid or be cautious anything that has you jumping - only because we don't want to risk you falling and injuring the baby.

Crossfit

I can tell you for weightlifting, we avoid lots of overhead pressing and jumping (jump rope) because of the high downward pressure on the pelvic floor. I’ve worked with women who don’t care that they wet themselves in a pregnant workout but that is a personal choice. If you have been doing vigorous activity for a while without leaking, your PF should be in good shape. With box jumps, step up are a safe bet or just use a smaller box. This modification come only because balance changes with a bit belly and you don’t want to fall and hurt your baby. I have pregnant stick to working with their submaximal numbers instead of finding their heavy sets of singles, double and triples. For example, if there is 5x1 back squat on the board for the day, I modify it to 3-4 x 5 at 75-85%. If she has pubis symphisis issues, I’ll have her do deadlifts instead.

I have pregnant stick to working with their submaximal numbers instead of finding their heavy sets of singles, double and triples.

MetCons are a good way to stay in shape and I highly recommend them aerobic physical activity for pregnant women. It will seem harder but stick with it and push yourself to get in the zone. Don’t try to have a conversation throughout the workout just focus on going forward as best you can.

Bodybuilding/Weightlifting

Focus on technique and organize your training to that is is two weeks of strength and 2 weeks of endurance/aerobic exercise. This mimics training in conjunction with your menstrual cycle - and give you a bit of a break. Remember to keep lifting heavy weight through your pregnancy. Weightlifting is one of the safest activities you can do while pregnant.

Focus on glute work to stabilize the pelvic floor and take a shorter stance when lunging. We don't want to risk any pubis symphysis issues. Keep you legs and back strong with squats and rows.

Other Classes

For barre class and yoga, avoid front planking and excessive midline work. Also, excessive tightening throughout the pelvic floor is counter productive to what we are doing. Take care during yoga. Your joints are especially sensitive and flexible so we want to avoid overdoing it. If you are a women who is quite slender, has low muscle mass and flexible, yoga is where you may want to be extra cautious, especially doing split leg poses as your belly grows.

There are millions of classes and millions of modifications. Different activities involve different movement patterns. What maybe fine one week might not be comfortable next week.

If you are a women who is quite slender, has low muscle mass and is flexible, yoga is where you may want to be extra cautious, especially doing split leg poses as your belly grows. This is a recipe for pubis symphysis pain.

Lastly, stay keen to how do you feel doing the activity. I can tell you this is the MOST important factor. There is a huge difference between pushing through a mental block and pushing through a physical barrier. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right or has you exceeding 95% perceived effort. Your body will give you signs and warnings so please listen to them. If you are too tired and can’t enjoy your workout after 15 or 20 minutes, then just drop down the intensity, change the program or get out of the gym and do something to take care of yourself. Know you body and listen to it. Your needs will change on a daily basis so get in touch.

Just pay attention to how your feel, keep pushing yourself to work harder but don’t do anything that causes undue pain.

Avoid or be cautious:

Long front planking

Intense contralateral motion (assault bike, elliptical)

High altitude trying

HIIT

Excessive focus on keeping things tight “down there”

Unstable stretching positions (legs wide spread)

There is a huge difference between pushing through a mental block and pushing through a physical barrier. Just pay attention to how your feel, keep pushing yourself to work harder but don’t do anything that causes undue pain.

Do:

Work hard/push yourself

Side planks

Focus on glute strength and oblique/transverse abdominis strength

Keep legs strong and good rage of motion in the hips

Water sports

Weightlifting

Keep in mind:

Your level of fitness before the pregnancy started

Listen to your body

Do what you enjoy

Keep exercise habits as regular as possible

Be careful of falling

Resources

  1. General Fitness https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301713729_Exercise_and_pregnancy_in_recreational_and_elite_athletes_2016_evidence_summary_from_the_IOC_expert_group_meeting_Lausanne_Part_1-exercise_in_women_planning_pregnancy_and_those_who_are_pregnant

  2. Labor and Birth https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309090737_Exercise_and_pregnancy_in_recreational_and_elite_athletes_2016_evidence_summary_from_the_IOC_expert_group_meeting_Lausanne_Part_2-the_effect_of_exercise_on_the_fetus_labour_and_birth_Table_1

  3. Alititude https://www.ajog.org/article/0002-9378(95)91475-7/abstract

Learn all the basics and insider knowledge

Check out The Gym 101 Series

Part 1: Exercise Selection

Part 2: Set and Rep Schemes

Part 3: Training Splits and Organizing Your Week

Part 4: Creating Fun Workouts

Part 5: Training Around Injuries and Imbalances

Part 6: Menstruation and Muscle

Part 7: Finding New Gyms

Part 8: Navigating the Gym

Part 9: Gym Rules

Part 10: Fitness and Pregnancy

Part 11: Postpartum Exercise, Birth to 4 weeks

Part 12: Postpartum Exercise, 4-16 Weeks

Part 13: Recovery

#postpartum #pregnancy #fertility #fitness #lifestyle #habits

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INGRI PAULINE ATHLETICS LLC 

LAS VEGAS, NV