With Mother’s Day on the horizon, it seems now is a great time to highlight the importance of fitness during pregnancy. Though it’s good to keep in shape before the baby comes, if you haven’t exercised much before, you shouldn’t start on a tough regimen while pregnant. Walking is usually a good choice for most moms-to-be, but check with your doctor before starting any exercise plan. Once cleared for exercise, physical activity can be great for you and your baby.
“Pre-natal workouts can help reduce stress, release feel-good endorphins and burn extra calories,” said Nicole Glor who is a personal trainer, HIIT class instructor, yoga teacher, fitness writer and a mom with her second child on the way. Seven months pregnant, Glor has made fitness a top priority, continuing workouts through both of her pregnancies. She shared some of her favorite ways to stay fit while pregnant and top tips for exercising safely.
Swimming is great for pregnancy because you will avoid the bouncing and joint pain that often comes with high-impact workouts like HIIT, aerobics and running. The cardio and strength combination will keep you coming back for laps that tone your muscles while keeping your lungs in good shape.
This is my favorite workout at the moment (I am seven months pregnant and usually run 12 miles a week when not this large) because running has begun to hurt my legs, hips and back. Aside from strolling through the park, you can burn calories and keep up your endurance by add some moves like V steps, lunges, hamstring curls, knee-ups, walking kicks, twisting knee curls, and, running lunges. Bring along an exercise band (resistance tubing) and you can add lots of upper body moves.
Spinning, also keeps knee, back and ankle pain at bay for the most part, and provides a great cardio workout. Some classes now add light arm weights to tone the upper body. Indoor spin classes are preferable to biking outdoors, because the chance of falling off a stationary bike that you are clipped into is much less than having to swerve to avoid an obstacle or hitting a pot-hole and losing your balance on an outdoor bike. Stay safe and avoid falls by riding indoors, make new friends at class, enjoy the music and sweat without overdoing it. Work at about 80% of the effort you used to exert, and if you get lightheaded or feel any discomfort, take a break. Drink lots of water and have snacks like bananas and nuts on hand. Once the belly gets huge, you may feel like the upper legs hit the bottom of your stomach or your upper body curves into the “bump” too much when reaching for the handlebars. The positions I find most comfortable are in the saddle with the handlebars up as high as they will go or seated with my hands on my hips, and second position where you’re basically standing up and holding the sides of the handlebars.
Photo courtesy of Nicole Glor
Taking time to breathe with ujjayi breath, focus inward and gently stretch and strengthen muscles through yoga is a great way to exercise and de-stress during pregnancy. Because of the hormone relaxin in your body during these 9 months, you’ll want to limit some poses and modify others. For example, omit warrior 1 and substitute high lunge instead. Avoid inversions, twists, and backbends, like up dog and camel, which can put baby and belly in an uncomfortable position. During sun salutations, lunge forward with the front foot on the outside of the same side hand instead of inside between both hands to make room for the baby. You should also preform forward fold and child’s pose with wide legs. Keep standing balances safe by holding onto a wall and modify (for example you can do tree pose with the lifted foot on your ankle instead of above your knee if needed). Finally, during the second and third trimesters when laying on the back is not advised, instead of savasana laying on back, lay with bolster pillow between your legs and turn onto right side to relax and reflect at end of your practice. Poses like down dog are great for upper body strength and posture while stretching those calves that are prone to cramps in the last months. And remember to rest and take child’s pose any time you need a break.
Muscle toning certain target areas will not only keep your arms and legs looking strong, but they can also fix some common pregnancy ailments. In my classes and DVDs I generally recommend multitasking your workouts (doing upper, lower and core at the same time and adding in plyometrics), but while pregnant, you should focus on one thing at a time. Focus on arms only or legs only for example. You can help fix/avoid back pain and posture by picking up some light weights (5-8lbs) and performing back flies, cat/cow stretches on all fours, spinal extensions (also called pointer dog) where you set up on your hands and knees and outstretch your right leg with left hand, hold for 10 seconds and then reverse the move for 10 repetitions.
To help you sleep and tone the arms and leg muscles, perform seated arm moves like biceps curls, overhead triceps presses, shoulder overhead presses and push-ups on an elevated surface, like a coffee table or a wall (to make it easier as you get heavier). For the legs, try assisted wall elevator lunges where you hold onto a wall with your legs scissored so that the right is in front and the left is behind you. Bend the knees to 90 degrees and lower towards the floor (your front knee should be directly over your ankle, not the toe or past the toe. If it is, step the legs further apart.) Rise up and down for 10-20 reps while holding onto the wall. Repeat on the other side by switching the legs.
To ease leg cramps, roll out the legs on a foam roller and stretch the calves after your workouts or walks by lunging with your hands on your front knee and your back heel pressed into the ground. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.