Pregnancy Core Exercises

Here are three top pregnancy exercises you can do at home to maintain core strength and protect your back. Be sure to perform a warm-up for five minutes before you do these exercises. 


Standing Hip Extensions

Start by placing your hands on the back of your hips.
Slowly shift your hips forward using your muscles and your hands. Do NOT flex your lower back.
Only push until a comfortable stretch or range of motion is achieved. Hold for 5 secs and repeat 5-6 times.



Bird dog (opposite arm and leg raise on all fours!)

  • Start
    by placing yourself on your hands and knees.  Draw in your navel
    slightly so you feel your abs tighten. Keep shoulders down and away from
  • Slowly raise your opposite arm and opposite leg and
    extend them out away from the body. Hold for 10 secs and rest for 3
    secs. Repeat 6 times.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat with the other side.
  • Always keep this movement slow and controlled. Never flex your lower back. 

side plank Left and Right Side Pillar Hold

Lay on the ground on one side. Raise your body using one
forearm and support it in this raise for 10 secs, rest for 3 secs and repeat six times.
Lower your body and repeat on the other side.
Remember to keep your head, neck and body in a straight line. Keep your shoulder down away from ear and the elbow on the floor under shoulder


Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy


You may experience occasional aches in your pelvic region during pregnancy and this is common due to the hormonal changes taking place and the secretion of relaxin, whose job is to soften and widen the joints preparing your body to deliver the baby.

However, with some women pelvic pain can sometimes mean symphysis publis dysfunction (SPD) or Diastasis Symphysis Pubis in it’s more severe form, which is a pelvic joint pain. So it’s essential to monitor the pain and symptoms, which I’ll tell you about further on.

The pelvis is four separate bones joined at the front by the Symphysis pubis. There’s a normal gap of 4-5mm between the two pubic points. During pregnancy, the gap widens by another 2-3mm, as the hormone, relaxin is secreted to allow the pelvis in preparation to aid the baby to pass down the birth canal.

With some women excessive amounts of the hormone or where the pelvis is out of alignment can cause the gap to stretch too far, resulting in pain and discomfort. When this happens there may be pain or swelling over the joint. This can happen at any stage of pregnancy or after the birth – most commonly it is during the second trimester. In severe cases, some women can be incapacitated by the pain and need crutches during later stages of pregnancy.

Symptoms for SPD include:

  • Pain in your pubic area and groin.
  • Pain in the inside and down the thighs.
  • Lower back and hip pain (as the whole pelvis is under strain).
  • Pain when you walk, step, go up and down stairs or get out of bed.
  • A clicking sound that you can hear.
  • A feeling that your bones are grinding together.
  • Difficulty and pain when you try and open your legs.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s vital to get this checked with your doctor or midwife. If SPD is confirmed you’ll be referred to an obstetric physiotherapist, who can prescribe exercises for you.
Prior to the birth ensure you tell your midwife so they can help find a position that is comfortable to you.

Exercise considerations:

  • Avoid activities which take the legs apart and also bring them together as these can cause pain. Squatting, Lunging, stepping, walking, yoga, breast stroke can produce pain.
  • Avoid activities on one leg.

The good news is there are exercises you can do to remain strong and fit. I have trained pregnant clients with SPD and by working closely with the client and their physiotherapist the condition has not got worse.

Exercises you can do:

  • Squat with feet and legs together – like a ski squat would avoid the legs being apart.
  • Core exercises (avoid lying on your back after the thirteen to fourteen weeks), side planks and knee planks
  • Pelvic tilts – addressing posture
  • Standing wall press-ups (legs together)
  • Lateral Raises and upright rows with resistance bands – sat on a chair or fitness ball with the feet together (second trimester)
  • Pelvic Floor exercises

!Stop any of these exercises immediately if they do cause you pain and get your condition and pain checked out again!

Top nutrition secret every Personal Trainer wants you to know

If you are serious about losing baby weight the first thing to do is address your nutrition. This can be a struggle when you have a new baby in tow and are up most nights. Combined with the fact you may be breast-feeding and have piles of baby washing you also have a distinct lack of time on your hands to start even thinking about preparing nutritious food.

So being a new mum myself and running a business, my top tip is to get help with the cooking. You simply cannot do it all, so forget being Supermum! But then I discovered something better than my husband and his grilled lamb chops.  For the cost of a daily cleaner or a taxi into town you can get healthy, nutritious meals delivered to your door by the Pure package. Or for the cost of a private room in hospital to have your baby, you can invest in all your healthy meals prepared by chefs and delivered to your door for 3 months.

The pure package is exactly was it says on the tin. Gourmet diet food delivery to your door. When you sign up a nutritionist goes through some quick questions about your situation, whether you exercise and works out your daily calories needs based on your lifestyle. You can choose a 10, 30, 60 or 90 day package and you can choose whether you would like a full daily menu or just breakfast or dinner and when you would like your delivery to start.

I opened my front door at breakfast time of the day my meals were due to be delivered and an elegant black cool box was waiting to be opened. I felt like the queen as I studied the package which included by menu for that day – Breakfast was Fresh grapes, Natural Yogurt and Muesli. Followed by a mid-morning snack of Fresh fig’s and Goat’s cheese with pomegranate. Lunch was a very tasty Oriental Beef Noodles and Dinner an Asian Pesto Chicken. The menu included all heating instructions so all I had to do was to pop the hot meals into the oven or microwave. The nutritional principles behind the pure package are no wheat, gluten or sugar or trans fats so great for beating the bloat. There is no low fat, sugar free or pre-packaged foods. The food is all prepared on their premises in New Covent Garden Market by expert chefs and meals devised, researched and tested by Nutritionists and Jennifer Irvine, the founder.

What I was most surprised about was the portion sizes. As I am breastfeeding I seem hungry most of the time but with the pure package I felt satisfied and all cravings for sugary things were long gone (key to weight loss!).

Favoured by celebrities and celebrity trainers and combined with a specific post natal home personal trainer and exercise plan you simply cannot fail to feel amazing, lose weight, and most importantly eat deliciously, yet nutritionally so that both you and your baby can benefit from the essence of healthy nutrition. I only wish I could have pure package delivered to my door every day for the next year but my husband would feel left out.

Benefits of exercising to music

Today I went swimming with my mp3 player and felt the flow of the music lift me and my pregnancy hormones!  The music helped me move and switch of from recent stresses!

We play music in our group classes as we know both how motivational it is but also how it provides a positive effect on our class participants. Research has shown that exercise to music benefits and influence you in the following ways:

  • Music can focus your attention, and take your mind off sensations of fatigue.
  • Positive aspects of mood such as happiness and energy are increased.
  • In turn, negative moods such as tension, depression, anxiety and anger are eased.
  • Upbeat energetic music is used during the main workout of our classes to stimulate you and get you into action, but softer music as part of our stretch sequences help relax and calm you down.
  • Tempo of the music can regulate movement and thus prolong performance. Synchronizing movements with music also enables exercisers perform more efficiently – getting more from their workout!
  • Scientific studies have shown that by choosing purposefully selected music helps you improve co-ordination and motor skills as your body learns to move in time with the beat.

Choose music for what you would like it to help you with – relaxing music when you feel anxious about the birth of your baby or want to stretch out tight muscles,  According to Janet DiPietro, a developmental psychologist who studies fetal development at University in Maryland, US.  “When a woman relaxes, that’s good for the fetus and that’s an indirect effect of music on the fetus,”

Or you can put on some up tempo tunes, kick up your heels, dance around and have fun!

Quick, Delicious & Healthy Pumpkin Risotto

Here’s what to do with your pumpkin! This is a healthy take on a risotto and it’s quick and easy to make, so don’t fret busy mum!  Use Brown Arborio rice as it is nutritionally far superior than than the regular white Arborio because of the fibre content and the slow release of energy it provides (you will feel fuller for longer and eat less).  One of the  best brands is Biona,, which you can buy from Nature Intended or online at healthy supplies. 


570ml/1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
1 small glass of white wine
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
170g/6oz Brown arborio (risotto) rice or other short grained brown rice
250g/9oz pumpkin cut into small cubes
small knob of butter
1 tablespoon of fresh or dried basil
1/2 tablespoon of fresh or dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving
small piece of fresh parmesan, or vegetarian parmesan-style grating cheese

  1. Heat stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion; cook 1 minute or until tender, stirring constantly (do not brown). Add garlic and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly and basil and oregano. Add the rice and mix well for a few seconds to coat the grains with oil, then pour in the wine and stir for one minute or until liquid has evaporated. Add the pumpkin and some stock, and continue to simmer gently until the stock is absorbed. Stir in another cup of the stock and cook until  absorbed, stirring constantly. Keep adding stock cup by cup making sure each cup is absorbed before adding the next.  Add the herbs. The texture should be creamy and the rice a little crunchy. Remove from heat. Stir the butter into the risotto, put lid on pad to let it sink in. Season well with sea or rock salt and pepper.










Arm and Chest Toner

Ball Chest Squeeze

What this exercise does:
Strengthens and tones your chest and arms while conditioning your abdominals.

Standing holding the ball at chest height.

Holding the ball in both hands with elbows bent, out to the side and level with shoulders. Keep head, neck, spine and pelvis in a straight line.
Squeeze the ball, with short squeezes of one second each, performing quick squeezes.
Maintain neutral spine with navel drawn into spine.


When performing these exercises ensure you have good posture known as ‘Neutral spine alignment’. For a healthy back you should aim to maintain this posture. Keep your head in line with your spine, your shoulder blades squeezed back and lengthen your spine. Pull the pubic bone toward the navel. Maintain the natural curve of your lower back.

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?

“Go on have another biscuit, you have an excuse!” or “Now you can eat for two’” are common things that work collegues, friends or family may say to you if you’re eating with them or eating out!

Being pregnant isn’t a licence to eat for two, appealing as it may seem! It will result in excessive weight gain, especially if you are not exercising or physically active and is difficult to shift post baby.

A pregnant woman actually needs about 300 calories more a day. Now consider that this is equivalent to just an egg sandwich from Marks and Spencer so it may not seem that much.

However it is enough to support the growth of the fetus and the changing body of the mother and to give Mum the extra energy she needs. Some pregnant ladies eat much more than that and coupled with not doing much exercise during pregnancy or sitting on the sofa for nine months, then too much weight gain is inevitable! Plus, if you are overweight pre-pregnancy and it’s down to poor nutrition, portion control and lack of exercise and you start to over-eat during pregnancy the result can be a pretty hefty body!

That said Diets are a no-no when you are pregnant. It’s all about eating smarter to give your body and your babies development the best chance of being healthy. The food that you eat needs to contain plenty of vitamins and nutrients, essential to growth, repair and optimal functioning of the living cells inside baby and mother.

So how much weight should you gain?

For women of a Healthy Weight (BMI of 19.8 and 26 pre-pregnancy). a weight gain of about 25 to 35 pounds (1 stone 11lb – 2 stone 7lb) is considered good. Underweight women (BMI of below 19.8 pre-pregnancy) should look at gaining more – 28 to 40 pounds.
Overweight women (BMI of 26 to 29) should aim for between 15 and 25 pounds.

If you are short (5 foot 4 inches and below) aim to be at the lower end of the recommended weight gains. If you are taller than 5ft 4inches and above look at the higher ends of these recommendations.

How much should I gain each week

During the first trimester, usually 3 to 8 pounds of weight is normal.

Women with a healthy pre-pregnancy weight should gain on average one pound a week during trimesters two and three.
If you are underweight pre-pregnancy aim to gain slightly more than one pound a week and if you are overweight, aim for slighty less weight gain (just under a pound).

Where pregnancy weight gain comes from:

Baby: 7.5 pounds
Placenta: 1.5 pounds
Amniotic Fluid: 2 pounds

Breasts: 2 pounds
Uterus: 2 pounds
Body Fluids: 4 pounds
Blood: 4 pounds
Maternal stores of fat, protein and other nutrients: 7 pounds
Total: 30 pounds!


Anti-ageing food secret for mums

Contrary to what the fat phobics believe, the right kind of fat is essential to not only keep skin looking young but also to help prevent the dreaded belly fat.
Actually eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrate is more likely to put on the extra pounds and make your skin look tired and spotty. The right kind of fat can help flatten your stomach and seriously improve your health!

So which foods contain the fats you should be eating?
Since looking closely at many of my client’s food diaries and researching more into nutrition, I now take two dessertspoons of Flaxseed daily and stir fry vegetables with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle Brazil nut oil on salads. Just two to three tablespoons of Olive Oil a day can protect you against Heart Disease, improve your skin, boost your mood, improve your immune system, and boosts brain function (ah – mummy brain!)

Flaxseed, olive oil and nut oil fall under the umbrella term ‘essential fatty acids’ with the key word being ‘essential’. Your body needs them – this kind of fat is actually your friend! These fats help you absorb Vitamins A, D and E, vital for your nervous system, lower cholesterol levels and also help prevent stubborn abdominal fat!

There are two kinds of the Essential Fats to include in your diet:

These are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled.

Mono-unsaturated: You’ll find them in:
Olive Oil
Canola Oil
Peanut Butter
Nut oil Butter (check out your Health food shop, or Nature Intended)
Sesame Seeds

These contain omega 6 and omega 3’s that your body needs but doesn’t produce itself so you have to get these essential fats from foods containing them.
Omega-6 and omega-3 play a crucial role in brain function, memory and in the normal growth and development of your body. They are also essential to the healthy development of your baby’s brain!
Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds are good sources of omega 6 fatty acids. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However – government research shows that we are not eating enough omega 3 fish oils obtained from eating oily fish required for anti-ageing and great health. This is because many of us can’t stomach oily fish (or the smell!) or are concerned about the levels of toxins, PCB’s and other pollutants in fresh fish. Plus during pregnancy some fish are to be avoided due to the risk of high mercury levels. If you are not pregnant you can eat these fish but it’s worth enquiring about where they have come from. Also go for a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury such as canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, sea bass.
A supplement of Omega 3 is key, especially if you do not like oily fish. Healthspan has a good Omega 3 supplement.

Why you should exercise during pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy is now becoming far more popular than the days, where mums to be were very cautious, perhaps over cautious, about undertaking an exercise programme in pregnancy. As long as you enjoy a healthy pregnancy without complications you can also enjoy staying and being fit throughout your nine months! To encourage you to get your pregnant body moving, here’s my top ten reasons for incorporating exercise into your pregnant lifestyle.

  • Common complaints of pregnancy such as fatigue, varicose veins and swelling are all reduced in women who exercise.
  • Experience better sleep and less stress.
  • There is some evidence that weight-bearing strength exercises throughout pregnancy can reduce the length of labour and decrease delivery complications. See for further evidence.
  • You;ll find it more natural to continue exercising after the birth of the baby.
  • Lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and high blood pressure, colon cancer, perhaps breast cancer.
  • Maintain strength, tone and aerobic fitness ready to cope with labour
  • Control excessive weight gain and body fat
  • Lower risk of gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure)
  • Helps control lower back pain
  • Improves emotional well-being to help deal with and adjust to the physical changes of pregnancy.

Test for Diastasis Recti

Here’s a quick easy test you can do yourself to see if you still have separation of the abdominal wall or diastasis.

1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat to floor. Make sure your lower back just brushes the floor underneath you – avoid pressing it too flat into the floor or over-arching it.

2. Take your index finger and third finger together and vertically place them just under the bra strap (breast bone). Then turn them horizontally and pass them, quite firmly, down the cenre of your front (known as the linea alba). It is the line from the breast bone down to the belly button.

3. Breathe in first, then breath out, slightly pull in your abdominal muscles and lift your shoulders and head off the floor. Press your two fingers down your vertical line, keeping gentle pressure. Take the fingers down to the belly button quite quickly.

4. Notice if the gap between the stomach muscles is greater than your two fingers. If so, there is still some separation, which indicates some instability.

If the gap is greater – we would concentrate on pelvic floor exercises/tilts and lower abdominal strengthening. You would avoid any kind of stomach crunches until the gap is smaller than the width of the two fingers.
With care and correct exercises, the gap will reduce and you can perform more advanced stomach exercises.

I run quick tests for Abdominal Separation, just as above, on our Spring Fitness Courses. Book your place and get your free test.