26 January 2023
Contributor - International Online Trainer
One of the biggest challenges you may face while exercising during your pregnancy is changing your mindset and approach to training.
Commonly, we use exercise as a means to challenge our bodies, push the limits and see what we’re capable of. Though when training during your pregnancy the focus needs to shift from goals orientated around PROGRESS to MAINTENANCE.
How you structure your training during your pregnancy is entirely up to you and your doctor or Women’s Health professional. If maintenance is your goal I would suggest keeping up a balance between your cardiovascular and strength training.
The main purpose of your strength training during this time will be to preserve that mind muscle connection and improve postural awareness.
Similarly, the purpose of your cardio sessions will be to maintain or build a strong base level of fitness and help keep that heart healthy.
Please keep in mind that a workout is just an hour of your day. Try to keep movement into your routine as much as you can; aiming for 10,000 steps a day is a great goal. If racking up steps; going for a little walk down the street, walking to your car or going for a shop is all you can muster that day, then that is fine.
Do what you can and stay realistic with the goals you set for yourself.
Unfortunately, there is no way to have complete control over how your labour and delivery will unfold but that is part of the beauty of it all. Everybody is unique and at the end of the day the safety of mum and bub is paramount.
Still, it is important to keep an open mind to strategies that may help prepare yourself physically and mentally for the big day.
While labour is often compared to gruelling endurance feats such as the marathon, one of the most effective ways to ready your body for what’s to come is a simple breathing and mindfulness practice.
All you need to do is set aside 2-5 minutes of your day where you can be quiet and still.
Find a comfortable position; seated, lying on your side or in child’s pose and focus in on your breath.
As you inhale practice expanding through the sides of the rib cage and deep into the belly whilst relaxing and opening up through the pelvic floor. As you exhale lightly draw up through the pelvic floor pull your belly button up towards your heart.
Try to maintain this presence as you breathe throughout the 2-5 minutes and work on becoming more open with each inhale.
It has taken a number of years to debunk the myth that it is unsafe to exercise during pregnancy but with growing amounts of research supporting the benefits of training through your trimesters this popular fallacy is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
It is true that during pregnancy, your body goes through several physiological and musculoskeletal changes that will require you to modify your training in some shape or form; postural changes, increased joint and ligament laxity, higher heart rate and not to mention the added weight throwing you off balance. These same changes however, are the exact reason why exercise during this time can be so beneficial.
An appropriate training program can help override common conditions that arise during pregnancy such as back ache, fatigue and injuries that result from falls.
As mentioned above, due to the number of physiological changes your body goes through to accommodate for that little human growing inside of you; it is likely that you will need to modify your training during your pregnancy in some way.
The precautions we take with our training are not only about keeping mum and bub safe but ensuring our movement and health is with us long term.
Here are some general considerations to think about when training during your pregnancy:
Joint laxity: A spike in relaxin hormones and progesterone affects joints, blood vessels and ligaments. When joint laxity is increased, joint stability is decreased meaning high impact exercise can pose a greater risk of injury.
Modify exercises where form could be compromised, heavy loads, sudden direction change/rotation and increased ranges of motion.
Increased pressure on the pelvic floor: Along with the spike of relaxin, the increased load due to the growing belly can place excess stress on the pelvic floor muscle.
It is recommended to reduce the amount of impact when exercising and modifying movements such as running and jumping.
Pelvic instability: increased laxity around the pelvis can increase the risk of pelvic pain and Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction.
Be wary of split or wide-legged stances!
Abdominal separation: Throughout pregnancy, the abdominals become stretched and weakened to make room for the growing baby.
Whilst a varying degree of abdominal separation seems to be unavoidable it is advised to modify exercises that excessively load this area –specifically, any exercise that causes a doming appearance, excessive flexion and extension through the spine, breath holds/ intraabdominal pressure and heavy loads.
Cardiovascular/ Respiratory: Increased blood volume, cardiac output and resting heart rate mean the body is working harder at rest and may fatigue quickly when exercising.
Rest when you need to and avoid ‘max efforts’.
Overheating: Your body’s core temperature is slightly higher when you're pregnant.
Keeping hydrated, wearing light loose clothing and minimising activity during the hottest parts of the day are effective strategies to prevent overheating
As your body grows and hormones change, you may find yourself feeling a little flat and unmotivated during pregnancy.
One of the best ways to energise the mind and body is to get active outdoors in the fresh air.
If you find yourself feeling sluggish at the start, middle or end of the day - try heading out for a brisk walk, shoot down to the beach or pool for a swim, or bust out a fun bodyweight circuit with a friend.
Whilst fatigue is common during pregnancy it is important to confide with your health professional if it is adversely affecting your day-to-day life.
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