In Part 1, on Wednesday, we established why it’s a great idea to stay fit and healthy through your pregnancy, now let’s think about some general rules to make sure you and your baby steer clear of trouble.
A proper warm up before exercise is critical, and all the more so when you’re pregnant: if you’re going for a run, spend five minutes just walking, then gradually increase to a slow jog and after about ten minutes you can up the tempo. Of course, if you weren’t much of a runner before getting pregnant, this probably isn’t the right time to channel your inner Paula Radcliffe. But even a power walk across the park will stimulate blood flow, get those muscles working and release those all important endorphins (feel good hormones).
Think in terms of a scale of 1 to 10 when you’re working out; 10 being a flat out sprint, a really full-on yoga session, deadlifting a washing machine: whichever applies to you! Throughout your pregnancy you should never really get past a 7, so at this stage you should be feeling like you are working out but not like you are over exerting yourself!
You’ll find that as your pregnancy progresses you become short of breath much quicker than before, which is of course completely natural and no great cause for concern as your lungs are no longer the priority, the oxygen is needed for your baby! In all things, always listen to your body and never ask it to do anything it isn’t completely comfortable with.
Get yourself a fitball! These are the perfect keep fit accessory for pregnant women, and are especially useful for dealing with those back aches coming your way. Simple figure-of-eight movements on a fitball will release endorphins into the pelvis, reducing discomfort almost immediately. Many hospitals have caught on to the trend and actually put fitballs to use in the delivery room to help women deal with labour pains.
Most exercises are perfectly safe for pregnant women, though you should always steer clear of forward and backward flexion ie any forward or backward bending. Your abdominals naturally separate during pregnancy and any kind of crunches will make it harder for them to knit back together afterwards. Sorry, girls sit-ups are off the menu during pregnancy!
When performing any exercise, try to think in terms of preparing yourself for labour. Focus on taking deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, concentrating your mind on seeing each exercise through to the end. Thinking in this way while exercising should help reinforce in your own mind what you are training for and why, leaving you mentally strong and ready for labour!
So ladies, embrace your changing body and do whatever you can to help yourself and your baby through this incredible process. Never feel alone and always ask a qualified fitness professional who specialises in pre- and post-natal training if you have any doubts, but also remember to be confident and know that if you stick to the rules above you can’t go far wrong.
By Laura Sherriff, Personal Trainer