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Exercise & pregnancy – where to begin

Something that I have reiterated throughout my journey and something that has particularly shocked me since the start of my pregnancy is how different every woman’s experience is. You can read as many books, articles, papers and talk to as many women, watch as many shows as you want, but you will never be able to completely compare your experience to that of another.

 

Like most things, we have an image in our head of what we are going to be like as expecting mothers. Fit, healthy, lean and green, good exercise regime, organised, energetic. These are all the things I naively thought that I would be during my pregnancy. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. I couldn’t touch greens for 18 weeks. I was tired, all the god-damn time. I was munching on carbs carbs carbs – salty carbs, at that. But mainly what shocked, and quite frankly irritated me, was my workout regime.

Bearing in mind that before I fell pregnant, I was teaching around 7 classes a day (sometimes up to 10), doing my own training and filming my Katie Dickens Online video workouts for four hours three times a week. And now? I’m lucky to get two moderate strength sessions in a week, and I will teach five classes.

 

Having grown up in the world of dance: the petty, b*tchy, judgemental world that it is, I consider myself a confident person who is happy in her own body. But my pregnancy has flipped this on its head. I was staring in the mirrors at the studio asking, oh my god, where did this all come from? I found myself looking at the #fitmum’s of Insta doing burpees at 30 weeks, eating kale salads and kicking goals. I was frustrated that I wasn’t this kick-ass, #mumgoals girl who was smashing fitness workouts on the daily.

 

This only started to change when I discussed my frustration with my obstetrician and genealogist. Here I became interested in the safety aspect of exercise during pregnancy. What was normal, what was reasonable and most importantly – what was safe?

 

After much research and guidance from my health practitioners, I wanted to share my findings with you to highlight the importance of exercise during pregnancy, but also to bust the Insta-myth that doing 15 kg weighted squats at 30 weeks pregnant is not the norm, and caution absolutely must be taken for your own health and the health of your bub.

 

*Every woman is different and must consult their own health practitioner for advice. ‘It is important that evaluation on an individual basis is undertaken before commencing an exercise program that can be followed during pregnancy and beyond’. (RANZCOG, July 2016).

 

To exercise

Exercise is absolutely important during pregnancy, there is no doubt about that. The guidelines suggest that pregnant women should aim to be physically active for about 150 – 300 minutes a week. Exercise during pregnancy has physical benefits, helps with weight gain and also has implications for your psychological well-being.
If fit prior to falling pregnant, women are recommended to maintain their exercise during their pregnancy. Obviously some modifications will be taken into consideration. Keeping an eye on the comfort levels of the body for comfort and tolerance is important.
Whilst it is not the time to be running marathons, competing seriously or aiming to reach peak fitness, staying fit is very important during pregnancy. My recommendations? Pilates in a side-lying, prone position (face down) or kneeling exercises or monitored reformer Pilates with an expert specialising in pregnancy workouts. And my favourite – power walking! Awesome to get you outside and the heart pumping.
This all must, however be done with caution and an understanding of the female body. Medical advice must be sought before starting or continuing with an exercise regime whilst pregnant.

 

 

What you need to know

 

Extra support needed

Weight-supported activities – such as water-based exercise – can be much more comfortable during the tail end of pregnancy when the body weight has increased and therefore there is increased loading at the joints. Only do the exercise that you are comfortable doing.

 

Keep it straight

Due to the altered centre of gravity, fast changes in direction should be cautioned. Straight-line or standing activities are recommended.
 

Watch that weight

Due to the increase in ligament laxity, modify your exercise routine by monitoring frequent change in direction and take care with the amount of weight used. This will help prevent injury whilst your ligaments are suppler.

 

Take it slow

Decrease in blood pressure whilst pregnant means that mums-to-be are more susceptible to dizziness or fainting. Avoid rapid changes in posture (i.e. from a lying position to a standing position). So burpees are out of the question – shame.

 

Table 1. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Exercise during pregnancy. July 2016.

REST more

Lower workloads are needed to reach pre-pregnancy target heart rates, so take it steady. Check out these pregnancy specific heart-rate zones – this can be monitored alongside perceived exertion to watch that you’re not working too hard.

 

Keep it cool

Studies show that a substantial increase in core body temperature can be potentially dangerous for the unborn child. Take precautions and don’t exercise in high temperatures and humidity (Queenslanders beware) and always ensure adequate hydration, and wear loose fitting clothing.

 

Get off ya back

Experts recommend that after 16-20 weeks, pregnant women should avoid performing exercises in a supine position (lying on your back) for a prolonged period of time due to the growth of the uterus and the weight and dangers of this. So, on your side it is!

 

Stay safe

Let’s be sensible here. Stay clear of activities with an inherent risk of falling or impact trauma to the abdomen. Now is not the time to take up boxing, skiing, climbing horse-riding or any other dangerous sport.

 

Pelvic floor beware

Take extra care with your pelvic floor whilst pregnant. Exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor, such as Pilates based workouts, are highly recommended. However, it is highly recommended that you avoid bouncing, jumping and even wide-stance movements such as squats. Keep those legs together and stay parallel – most exercises can be modified to do so.

 

My advice? There’s a lot out there (trust me, I’ve read A LOT) but stick to what your body is comfortable with and the regulations provided by your health practitioners. But – and this is a big but – don’t compare yourselves to others. Particularly ideals that you see on Facebook and Instagram. Each woman is on her own journey with her special pregnancy and there is no right or wrong – so listen to your body and what it needs.

 

 

I would love to hear and tips, tricks or stories you may have yourself, please leave them in the comment box below!

 

 

Stay healthy and stay yourself,

Katie X

 

 

 

Resources:
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Exercise during pregnancy. July 2016.

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