Fitness Essentials for Pregnancy: Part 2
Last week we discussed general precautions, Diastasis Recti, and understanding the importance of breath. If you missed it, check it out HERE. Today, let’s talk about where we should focus our (sometimes minimal) energy during pregnancy and how hard we should be working.
I have had several friends tell me that they are fearful of resistance training during pregnancy and yet, they aren’t really sure why- they just feel like it’s more dangerous because they don't know which moves are OK and which are not. And then there’s a fear about heavy, hard weights and a seemingly fragile belly. While I totally understand, I want you to understand why it’s so important to prioritize resistance training during pregnancy and alleviate any fears holding you back from a well-rounded prenatal routine.
Parts 4 & 5:
4) Prioritize resistance training. You are absolutely able to perform, without injuring the baby, resistance training exercises while pregnant (please reread the general precautions). Not only do you want to strengthen the body to assist you during labor, delivery, and holding the baby after the arrival, but most importantly resistance training enables us to maintain proper posture during and after pregnancy so that we can avoid musculoskeletal issues like low back pain later down the road.
As the belly grows, the muscles of the abdomen become overstretched and the extra weight can cause the pelvis to be pulled forward causing something called anterior tilt. Anterior tilt can cause excess flexing of the hip flexor muscles (those that cross the front of the thigh allowing us to draw our knee to our chest) and weakening of the glute muscles (those that give shape to the bum and allow us to stand and extend our leg behind us). With all of the additional weight on the front side (think boobs and belly) the last thing you want is a weak backside as, it is an important supporter of the pelvic floor (part of the core) and counterbalance of the abdomen. The primary focus should be on the backside of the body or, the posterior chain- think of the area from the back to the back of the knee.
Well, what about cardio? Can and should you continue to run? While I don’t believe anything will happen to the baby if you continue to perform your regular cardio, think about the aforementioned issues and judge for yourself. With our body already compromised- anterior tilt, weak glutes, additional pressure on the pelvic floor- what will the additional pounding of something like running do? Even some of the low impact activities tend to be hip flexor dominant, which can further aggravate the anterior tilt issues. Overall, I believe it is fine in small doses but shouldn’t be the bulk of your routine. Walking, however is another story (which we'll discuss next week).
Exercises to Practice: My favorite exercises to perform during pregnancy are glute bridges, band hip extensions, sumo deadlifts, assisted body weight step ups, rows, band chest press and seated shoulder press. However, there are so many exercises to choose from with a variety or regressions and progressions for each.
4) Understand what level of intensity you are working. As I said, this may not be the time for PRs, you can definitely lift heavy, perform interval work and challenge yourself. The old standard of maintaining a heart rate below 140 bpm is no longer such a strict rule (unless you have other contraindications). Resting heart rate will be elevated 10- 20 beats per minute and shortness of breath will occur quicker into exercise. I would usually reach 140 during my warm up while I was pregnant and didn’t feel too strained. While you can certainly track heart rate and give yourself a guide of what ranges feel good to you, an easy way to measure your exertion is judging whether or not you can hold a conversation, otherwise known as a talk test. If you can chat it up, you’re working on the lower end, a moderate pace would be slightly breathless but still able to talk and completely breathless would be the hardest pace. I would try to stay away from completely breathless intensity. You should be able to talk a bit and you should feel like you can keep going. Remember, exercise during pregnancy is to give you energy and strength, not to zap you of either.
Next week, on the 3rd installment we’ll discuss the core and proper alignment.