Top 5 Exercise Principles That Every Mom-to-Be Should Follow
Aug 18, 2020
Congratulations, you’re pregnant! NOW WHAT?!
If you look online, you’ll be bombarded with well-meaning fitness advice from well-intentioned trainers. This is not the time to put your body in the hands of an amateur. If we were friends (and I hope someday we will be!), here’s what I’d tell you:
- Immediately upon the egg implanting into your womb, your vessels experience dilation. But, you have the same amount of blood coursing through these now larger vessels which can lead to many of those pesky “first trimester” symptoms like nausea, fatigue, dizziness. While we’re on the topic, it really takes your body until about 16 or 17 weeks to correct the “underfill” by making more plasma so most women won’t feel miraculously better at the 12 week mark like they promise us! I digress. As a result of all of this, your heart rate can be elevated even at rest. For this reason, using an arbitrary max heart rate number like 140 bpm, which doesn’t account for body mass index or previous fitness level, can be misleading. Instead I recommend women follow the Rating of Perceived Exertion scale and hover between 11 and 13.
- Respect your hormonal environment. Now that you’re pregnant, you have increased progesterone and relaxin in your system, serving to soften all the soft tissues, not just the soft tissue around your pelvis, making you more pre-disposed to injury. Avoid exercises that encourage asymmetrical pelvic positions (kick-boxing or step aerobics) and instead flock to moves that keep your pelvis level.
- Appreciate you are at increased risk for diastasis rectus abdominus, an abnormal separation between the rectus abdominus or “6-pack” muscles. Some studies show that 100% of women will have this by their 3rd trimester. You can help your body by minimizing the stress on the connective tissue between those muscles by avoiding the “jack-knife” maneuver when getting up from a lying down position (instead roll to your side to get up), refraining from abdominal exercises such as full sit-ups, oblique curls, and double leg lowering, and limiting your time in the all 4’s position with your belly just hanging towards the floor. Pay attention to any movements that create a doming or tenting affect between the muscles, and modify the activity to avoid the increased pressure to this area. Focus instead on your deepest layer of abdominal muscles, the transversus abdominus.
- Learn how to properly contract AND relax your pelvic floor. An optimally functioning muscle knows how to contract (shorten) and relax (lengthen). We need strong muscles here to support the extra weight of your growing uterus and baby. But we also need muscles that know how to soften, yield, and relax to help slide your baby out when the time comes. A quality exercise program will encourage both strengthening and relaxing.
So the moral of the story is, use the internet with caution and make sure the exercises you choose take into account all that is happening in your miraculous body during pregnancy and all the components it needs to thrive during birth!
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