Pregnancy and fitness FAQs

Found out you are pregnant? Grab your champagne glass and fill with sparkling grape juice! Congratulations and good news there is now no need to confine yourself to the sofa for the rest of your pregnancy. There are plenty of ways to stay fit and active but you probably have some questions. Here are the ones we get asked most often …

I have been told that the best form of exercise is swimming now I am pregnant, is this true?

Swimming is a good form of exercise (although not the only one!) for expectant mothers for a number of reasons.

The weightlessness in the water makes it a more comfortable form of exercise than walking around carrying your bump. It is lower impact and it  puts less strain on your joints.

A few things to take on board when swimming in pregnancy:

1. Avoid holding your breath as this can cause your blood pressure to rise.

2. Be careful with breaststroke legs, front crawl kick is better.  If you have any pelvic problems then breaststoke may make them worse, due to the action of widening of the hips. This may also lead to an increasing the chance of developing Pelvic Girdle Pain, formely known as Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). Alternatively try walking through the water, a side kick or an aqua class.

3. Avoid butterfly stroke after your first trimester as this can place strain on your lower back.

4. Make sure you have a bottle of water on the side of the pool and continue to sip water like you would with any exercise.

How about Pilates or Yoga now I am pregnant?

Pilates helps improve and maintain good posture and helps improve the strengthen of your core muscles. This in turn can alleviate any back problems or back ache. It’s best to  find a specific pre-natal class with a qualified antenatal exercise trainer.

Can I still do a Body Pump or a Body Conditioning class that use weights?

During your first trimester, you can still continue all your regular classes but remember to listen to your body and avoid over-exertion.

Light resistance training throughout pregnancy has benefits as it will help keep your muscles strong, toned and prepared for after the baby is born (your baby may be any weight from 3-4.5kg so getting used to lifting that weight is important!). Similary the stronger your muscles the more they can deal with the postural changes your body is experiencing. As your pregnancy progresses it is important to make sure you adapt and reduce your weight load.

Can I do sit-ups?

As your baby grows, your abdominal muscles stretch and weaken considerably to accommodate it, so you need to look after and continue to strengthen them. Sit-ups are not the best option (even if you are not pregnant, this is not the best exercise to strengthen your abdominals).

During your first trimester, normal abdominal conditioning can continue but if you experience any pain or back ache, stop the exercise.

During your second trimester, you want to avoid any exercises in the supine position (lying on your back) as the increased weight of the baby impedes good blood flow and oxygen to the fetus so you can experience dizziness, light headedness or nausea. You can add pillows so that your head is elevated above your heart. If you do lye on your back avoid staying there for longer than 2 minutes.  Avoid sit-ups, reverse curls and oblique twists and focus on core strengthening and stability exercises.

Should I stretch?

During pregnancy the relaxin  hormone is produced, as early as the 2nd week, and it’s effects on the ligaments can remain up to 6 months after delivery. Relaxin, as the name suggests, relaxes the ligaments and fibrous tissue to prepare the body to carry the baby and for labour.

It’s important to understand the exercise considerations of relaxin because it makes the ligaments and tendons more elastic and the joints less stable. Pregnant women are therefore more prone to injury during physical activities and are less stable in everyday movements.

Stretching when you are pregnant is still key as the moves prevent muscles tightness and relieve tension and pain. Static stretches are generally replaced with gentle dynamic stretches. Consider hiring a personal trainer to show you the correct stretches and technique.

How can I do my Pelvic Floor exercises?

Voluntarily lift up your pelvic floor (imagine it is a hammock lying under your bladder) and tighten your belly button at the same time. Do this when you cough and also when you are doing squats, plies, lunges, the Pilates Clam and any hip adductor exercises.

This content aims to give general fitness advice and tips to expectant mothers experiencing a normal pregnancy. This should not be treated as a substitute for or supersede any medical advice you have been given.

 

How to get glowing skin

What you eat can influence the health of your skin. Eating the right nutrients for healthy skin formation and supporting detoxification pathways naturally, to reduce toxin elimination via the skin, can all help. Steph Ridley, Nutritional Therapist and founder of Nourish to Flourish’s easy essential tips to glowing skin:

        • Keep hydrated – skin cells lose water every day so you need to replace it by drinking fresh, filtered water daily – ideally 1.5 litres/day
        • Include plenty of liver-supporting veggies in your diet to promote natural detoxification pathways – these include onions, leeks, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot and artichokes.
        • Essential fatty acids – ‘essential’ being the key word! These are needed to keep skin cell membranes fluid and supple. Make sure you have enough in your diet by including some raw nuts/seeds each day and organic eggs (well cooked) and oily fish, such as salmon or sardines, twice a week. Alternatively, find a good quality omega supplement (suitable for pregnancy/breastfeeding if necessary).
        • Vitamin-C rich foods – a vital ingredient to that all important ‘glow’. Vitamin C supports collagen formation needed for healthy skin – raw tomatoes, freshly squeezed juices, peppers and berries are all good sources.
  • Avocados can be eaten regularly as they are a rich source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant found in sebaceous gland secretions believed to help protect fats needed to keep the skins surface supple.
  • Five a day – five pieces of a mix of fruit and vegetables means a good intake of fibre that helps clear toxins from the gut that can otherwise work their way back into the body for excretion via the skin.
  • ZZZZZZ – Keep your skin clear of toxins by using suitable beauty products and getting your shut eye!  A good 7 hours of sleep each night if possible – this is when your body does most of its skin regeneration. (or take a nap when your baby naps and do not feel guilty about it).

How to ease soreness after exercise

After exercise you may experience the effects of training with aching muscles. This is known as ‘Delayed onset muscle soreness‘ or DOMS for short. It’s a perfectly normal response to resistance/strength training and means your body is responding to the exercise.

To ease the pain, Fran, one of our personal trainers, highly recommends Epsom Salts, which are used by athletes and racehorses! Add these to a bath to aid aches and promote muscle recovery. These salts are also great for detoxing the body and you’ll sleep like a baby after a long soak!

 

 

More benefits of Epsom salts:

‘Epsom salts have been a long time remedy natural remedy for a number of
ailments. An Epsom salts bath is known to relieve aching limbs, muscle
strain and back pain. In addition, it has been known to heal cuts, reduce
soreness from childbirth and relieves colds and congestion. Furthermore,
Epsom salts will flush toxins and heavy metals from the body.

Epsom salts is a natural stress reliever too. Stress drains the body of
magnesium. An Epsom salts bath absorbs magnesium into our body thus helping
to relieve stress. The magnesium helps to produce adequate amounts of
serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling
of calm and relaxation’ Read more..

Tummy Exercise for Pregnancy and Post natal

Straight arm pull down

Place a resistance band around a bar or door handle (or other immovable object). Make sure the door is shut. Kneel facing the band with your knees hip-width apart.
Hold onto the band at each end with your arms slightly bent so that the band is aligned just below your chest.
There must be tension in the band so vary the hand distance to get tension.

 

 

Keep your head straight and lower back in a natural arch by drawing in your navel. Inhale and exhale deeply.
Pull the band down toward your hips in a wide, sweeping arc, so you hands and wrists are facing away from you.
Exhale as you pass the midpoint of the move.
Return to the starting position in a smooth, controlled motion, stopping once your arms are above your head.

TIP
Concentrate on drawing in your navel and lifting up your pelvic floor and ensure to breath throughout the move.

Top exercise to tone your bottom

 

The Clam strengthens and tone the outer thigh and outside of the bottom

Lying on your side, rest on your forearm with your elbow under your shoulder. Maintain good alignment. Place the band around your knees and tie the ends, as shown.

Bring your knees up to a 45 degree angle with your hips and keep you feet flexed and on top of each other. Look down your legs, position your feet level with your buttocks. Lift your feet off the ground.

Open your knee and close. Keep your hips stacked on top of each other and still. (avoid rotating your hips forward or back). Do the desired number then repeat other side.

How many: 10-12 each side

As a progression, you can use ankle weights or a resistance band around your knees to make the exercise more challenging.

Easy abdominal exercises for a new mum

During pregnancy, the two vertical muscles of the stomach (known as the rectus abdominus or ‘six pack’) separate and stretch apart, as the baby grows. This is diastasis recti and the gap can be at least three fingers width apart. This causes the ‘bulging’ appearance.

Firstly, before you begin any stomach exercises you need to check for the gap (including if you have had a caesarean) by doing a quick self test.
If the gap is 2 fingers or more or if it doesn’t pinch fingers, you have diastasis.

You’ll need to avoid regular sit ups or oblique curls if you have diastasis.
Instead try these exercises which will help you re-connect with your stomach muscles again and strengthen them:

Pelvic Tilt

post_natal_pelvic_tilt

Stand sideways, leaning forwards so you at a 45 degree angle to the floor.It’s good to do this in front of a mirror so you can see your lower back.

Place hands on hip bones and imagine you have a balloon in your stomach, breathe in and inflate your stomach with air.

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Then breath out, opening your mouth to do so and imagine your stomach

deflating and expelling air. At the same time rotate your hips back backwards so you feel and see the arch that occurs in your lower back flatten.Hold it for about 3-5 seconds, continuing to breathe out.

Repeat 10 times

Try to feel:

  • Your belly button or navel pull in and tighten.
  • Your pelvic floor muscles lift up.


Abdominal Tightener

  • Lay flat on your back with your knees bent as above but fold/cross your hands over your stomach so they support your abdominals.
  • Breathe in, and then breathe out and raise your head to your chest.
  • Gently ‘pull’ your stomach muscles together and hold for a count of 2 then slowly lower your head to the floor.
  • Keep your belly button pulled in towards your lower back. Imagine your hand is underneath your belly button and you are pulling it in towards you. Repeat 10 times.

Getting Started: Recording your progress and measurements

Before starting TheBeezKneez Fitness programme, whether it’s a group fitness course or personal training here’s some vital steps to take.

1. Take three full length photos of yourself: one of your front profile, one of your side profile and a third of your back profile.  You need to be able to see your body shape, so wear fitness shorts and bra, otherwise you won’t be able to see your posture or true shape.

2. Measure yourself and record on the table below. I always recommend to clients to measure every two weeks, its really motivating as you start to see results. You don’t need to measure more frequently than that, try on some new dresses and jeans and check out how they fit you. Also focus on doing your exercises in small manageable chunks!

 

   Navel:  Waist: Hips: Chest:  Upper Arm: Thigh:
Date  Measure directly in line with your belly button  Measure around the smallest part of the waist, approx 2 inches above the navel    Measure below the boney part of your hip bones at the widest part of your hips, including your bottom     Place the tape measure around your breasts in line with the nipples  Measure around the middle of upper arm between shoulder and elbow. Measure both arms Measure the widest part of each thigh


Start of exercise Programme:

 
                              
Two weeks after starting:

 
                              
Four weeks post:

 
                              
Six weeks post:

 
                              
Eight weeks post:

 
                              
Ten weeks post:

 
                              
Twelve weeks post:

 

  • One of the well recognised health benefits of exercise is the increase in energy you get from starting a programme. Notice the differences in your vitality, everyday performance and feeling and record them here.
  • Another benefit is with the added movement and burning calories you start to fit into your clothes again.
  • Then you notice how much more confident you feel.

Here’s a table you can use to record your energy levels and all of the above. This will really motivate as you go through your exercise programme.

   

 Date Energy Levels  How do your clothes feel? Tight, looser? Can you get into your skinny jeans yet? How is your body confidence?

 

Beginning of programme
               
Two weeks in
               
Four weeks in
               
Six weeks in

               

 

Tip: Good Posture during Pregnancy

Good posture is essential during pregnancy to ward off back pain. Your uterus expands up to 1,000 times, combined with the added weight you have to carry around, this throws out your centre of gravity and puts huge strain on your back muscles. These tired muscles then become painful and your posture becomes poor, leading to a hunchback form! Not only that it can also lead to sciatica. To prevent back pain and sciatica you need to:

  • Strengthen the postural muscles, known as your core
  • Stretch tight hip flexors
  • Stretch hamstrings

Follow these tips to help maintain your posture, which will help prevent that pain in the back during pregnancy and post natal!

  1. Keep your knees ‘soft’ so they are unlocked and relaxed. Slowly rock forwards and backwards between the balls of your feet and heels, distributing your weight evenly towards the arches of your feet as you slowly stop.
  2. Tilt your pelvis back at the same time draw your navel into your spine so it feels like it lifts upwards and backwards. You should feel your lower back lose some of the natural arch.
  3. You may feel like you have grown an inch.
  4. Let your shoulders drop down and feel your neck relaxed.

Avoid wearing high heels, as this accentuates the curve of your lower back and pushes you further forward and makes you even more unstable!

The Secrets to Flatter Abs Post Baby (a generic Personal Trainer will NOT know)

Vicky Warr, Specialist Pregnancy and Post Natal Master Fitness Trainer, gives her secret insight and dispels the myths on achieving a flatter tummy after babies.

help_20stomach2_0A female body goes through dramatic changes when you have had a baby, no matter when you had the baby. As the baby grew inside you, your abdominals stretched and weakened across the midline. After a natural birth, your pelvic floor would have had some loading and you may leak when you laugh or cough, jump or run. If you had a c-section you may have suffered adhesions, have some scar tissue and quite literally your abs will feel numb as the nervous system shuts down from communicating with the muscles.

The lower abdominals are a part that most women dislike and struggle to flatten. In a bid to try to lose the baby weight, shape up and tone up the stomach, many hit the gym and knock out the stomach crunches, planks and pound on the treadmill.

Recently I’ve been contacted by several women who are worried about the appearance of their tummies. They may have lost the weight but their tummy still looks ‘domed’, wrinkled or they have some sagging skin in the lower part. There are also a lot of women struggling with leaking of their pelvic floor during lifting, jogging or coughing and laughing. Some women I hear from have been working with Personal Trainers or attending buggy bootcamps or’ killing it’ in the gym. When I quizzed them as to the type of exercise they had been doing, it involved crunches, skipping, running around the park, the treadmill.

What you really shouldn’t be doing and why..

Stomach crunches can increase abdominal separation due to the forward flexion of the movement. Coupled with the tendancy to ‘dome’ or pooch out the stomach when doing them means you will have quite the reverse effect that you want!

Running too soon. Each time your foot makes contact with a hard surface or pavement, up to 7 times your body weight goes through your pelvis, joints and pelvic floor. Think about the fact that this part of your body has already taken a pounding with the baby (even with a c-section) and you are adding to the pressure. Be sure to strengthen your core and pelvic floor first before starting to run.

Personal Trainers and Gym instructors without the research, experience and through knowledge of the implications of pregnancy and childbirth prescribe their clients these kind of exercises, in an effort to get their clients to lose weight or tone up like many of their other clients who haven’t had a baby (or may be men). The extra loading of running and the forward flexion of crunches cause even more ‘intra abdominal pressure’ on an already weakened abdominal and pelvic floor structure. Basically, this pressure causes the ‘pooch’!

So, we have to take care of our abs again and coach them back from muscle amnesia.
Post Natal exercise should be mindful exercise, reconnecting, re-educating and taking a holistic approach to repairing the whole ‘core’ of the trunk – all the muscles that help flatten the tummy. The ‘whole core’ involves the lower abdominals, the pelvic floor, multifidus (lower back muscle), and the respiratory diaphragm.

It’s not only about the right kind of exercise for a women who has given birth but using the right technique and training your abs again to optimal fitness.

Through a combination of the following plus following a specific, quality post natal programme you’ll achieve flat abs again.

TheBeezKneez protocol is for contouring, restoring function and achieving ultimate flat abs is based on the following:

Checking every client’s abs. It’s called the ‘rec test’ and provides an indication of core weakness at the start, the extent of any abdominal separation and the strength of the soft connective tissue in between. We also show our clients how they can check this for themselves. I also check for bulging or doming of the abs and whether they are connecting and recruiting the deep abdominal muscles.

Breathing. The right kind of breathing is critical (especially as we do it all the time!) and is essential to pelvic floor health and flatter abs.. Pushing out the belly or belly breathing increases the downward pressure on the pelvic floor and abs. so you want to avoid that. I also coach ladies away from the shoulder shift and chest lift style of breathing, which starts to occur during pregnancy. Instead I show a style where you let go of the stomach and instead open the bottom of the ribs on the in-breath.

Posture. An instant way to discover, feel and flatten your abs is to address your posture. By standing tall and ‘zipping’ up pubic bone to navel whilst drawing your hip bones away from each other encourages a tightening in the lower abs.

Pelvic Floor! Not many do their pelvic floor exercises or realise that it is the most important muscle group of the body. You just can’t see it, so it gets ignored in the exercise process. Start with ‘lifting’ your pelvic floor muscles or tightening your back passage whilst lying down DAILY! Then progress to movement based pelvic floor exercises that are more functional and effective. I use core training balls and bands to encourage effective pelvic floor exercises.

Vicky Warr is founder of and specialist trainer at TheBeezKneez Pregnancy and Post Natal Group Fitness Programmes and Personal Training and Ambassador for the Foo Foo Fun Club in West London. She is also pregnancy fitness expert for Mothercare. The specific pre and post natal class programmes run in 6 week cycles with masterclasses, information can be found at www.beez-kneez.co.uk.

Feel the love with our FREE Class February Offer

TheBeezKneez wants you to know that we love you and are here to take care of your fitness! As a Mum you run around looking after everyone else and neglect ourselves. As a Mum to be it is VERY important to look after yourself and get fit to have your baby. To prove it we are offering you and/or a friend a FREE fitness class of your choice during week of 20th February.

You can either invite your friend along to the class you already go to, invite them to go to any other class  PLUS you can attend another FREE class that week at any other venue or day. Just check the timetable at our website. You will need to complete a medical form online or during the class before participating in the class.

To book your FREE Class call us now on 020 8 354 1583 or book a trial class at our website and use the coupon code ‘feelthelove’ at our shop www.beez-kneez.co.uk to redeem the offer.

The Small print

The free class is for any new or existing customers but does not replace or refund any classes or catch up classes previously purchased. Free classes need to be taken from 20th February until 25th February, inclusive. Offer expires on 25th Feb. Offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.