Are you aware of the benefits of exercising during pregnancy? Read these tips from fit mom ambassador, Charlotte.
My name is Charlotte and I work full time as a Finance Manager but in my ‘spare time’ I work as Les Mills Body Pump and RPM instructor and Personal Trainer based in London, UK. I have a huge passion for fitness and helping others to achieve their goals. I have been cardio and strength training for about 12 years now and I recently gave birth to my first child so would like to share my experience of pregnancy and fitness, what I did and how is that helping me now.
Before I became pregnant, I never really thought about pregnancy and fitness but the more I researched and gained ‘advice’ from varying sources, the more I realised how little knowledge is out there and more worryingly, how different it can be depending on who you talk to.
I hope that by banging the drum for fitness in pregnancy and putting my money where my mouth is, I will encourage and inspire other ladies to do the same.
So lets get to the nitty gritty…. my experience. I lost count how many people asked me if I needed to stop, if my husband allows me to continue (are you kidding me?!), don’t I need to take it easy? For some reason in this country, pregnant women are treated as if they are sick and must be wrapped in cotton wool.
When I first went to the doctors to confirm my pregnancy, I was told that I should not be lifting more than 10kg, now I would not mind if I have never lifted weights before but that is pump warm up weight for me and there was no way I would be stood in front of a class of people, hoping to inspire and be a role model, squatting with 10kg! I would have rather not taught than teach with that. However the real key issue here is that this is actually incorrect advice but coming from a GP, most women being told that would follow the advice and then here lies the problem.
So what can you do in pregnancy?
Pretty much what you have been doing before pregnancy!
Basically the key here is to be as fit and strong as you can before you get pregnant as this will dictate what level you can continue at in pregnancy. As long as you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and no contraindications you should be able to continue at the same level for at least the first trimester. You may then need to reduce weights and/or intensity in the second and third trimesters but only by a small amount at a time. In terms of reducing weights, each trimester, current guidelines suggest only a 5-10% decrease per trimester. So taking Body Pump, if you are squatting 20kg, 5% of that is just 1kg, not a massive difference really but the tendency is to back off way too early.
Another factor to consider is not to overheat in the first trimester meaning raising your core temperature, however again, if your body is used to it and fitter women have a greater efficiency to dissipate heat (and you are in a studio with aircon!) you should be fine.
That’s not to say though that even if are not a huge exerciser before pregnancy, you can still begin to exercise whilst pregnant but you will need guidance and supervision.
Why exercise in pregnancy?
Well the question should be, why wouldn’t you?
Key benefits include
- 30% shorted active labour (trust me, when you get there you will want that!!)
- Better self esteem and confidence with a changing body shape.
- Able to sleep better
- Can help with postural problems that pregnancy can bring with a growing abdomen.
- Quicker recovery time post birth.
- Reduced chance of interventions in birth such as being induced and forceps delivery
- Reduce excessive weight gain.
- Reduce the risk of pregnancy induced hypertension
- Can reduce fatigue and nausea, particularly in the first trimester
- Can help reduce anxiety and depression
- Can help women cope with the demands of being a new mum post birth
- Improves circulation and blood flow
- Improves cardio vascular fitness and muscular strength and endurance
One of my favourite comments was ‘relax, just enjoy it’! Implying that by exercising through pregnancy I was not enjoying it and that I had to be lazy? Umm yes….not sure you get me…
So what did I do? I carried on training 4-5 times a week, mainly strength and cardio but also teaching RPM and Body pump once a week. I did stop running around 16 weeks as I found it pulled the ligaments in my pelvis and also when you need the loo every two minutes, running with an orange on your bladder is not what you want so I swapped the run for the cross trainer.
I stopped lunging as again I found they pulled my pelvis but swapped these for squats and kept my feet slightly wider.
So how did all this affect my pregnancy?
- I gained the recommended amount of weight (between 10kg and 12kg) by the end of my pregnancy.
- Every time I went for a check up my heart rate, blood pressure and Ethan’s heart rate were in the correct ranges.
- I went into labour on my own at 39 weeks
- My active labour (the push bit) was 3.5 hours
- I had gas and air as pain relief and no intervention
- I was up and about after a day
- 2.5 weeks after giving birth, I weigh just 2kg heavier than I did pre pregnancy and have not yet resumed full training.
- And yes, my waters did break in the gym (no joke!)
There is always so much negative press about celeb mothers pinging back into shape quickly with comments such as not ’real’ women and they should be home looking after the baby rather than in the gym. It’s got nothing to do with being a real woman (whatever that means), it’s about looking after your body and being the best you can be for your new addition and for yourself.
Would you tell me I’m not real? Looking after a new born is hard work and you are on call 24/7 so I don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman taking an hour out of her day to look after herself.
Pregnant ladies exercising should be encouraged by their friends and family and by society not criticised or made to feel uncomfortable.
When it comes to it, you will want to be as fit as you can. After all they don’t call it labour for nothing and that’s just the beginning….