Kimmy Smith’s Tips for Pregnancy Exercise
Pregnancy is such an incredible and exciting time. It can also be an extremely challenging, confronting and unconfortable time. Morning sickness, back pain, reflux, pelvic pain, sciatica, exhaustion and insomnia are just some of the things that come part and parcel with growing a new human! Every pregnancy is different and the way we handle it, how we feel and our priorities are also hugely different. My approach to pregnancy exercise is to really listen to your body and do the best you can to feel as healthy and as strong as you can.
The Fit Mummy Project Workouts that are safe for Pregnancy
A lot of the workouts in the Fit Mummy Project App are great for pregnancy as well as postpartum. I have been doing heaps of them during my pregnancy and I have been feeling great. The reason that they are suitable for both prenatal and postnatal women is because they are workouts that are designed to respect your body and create strength and fitness in a safe and positive way.
If you haven’t heard of it, the Fit Mummy Project App is the complete postnatal fitness and yoga App for Mums. It will help you to create a strong and healthy body after baby – or even while you are still with child!
You can download it from the App Store or Google Play!
You can see the full list of Fit Mummy Project App workouts that are safe for pregnancy here!
The Role of the Pelvic Floor in Pregnancy Exercise
Your pelvic floor is a combination of muscle, ligaments and fascia that sit in your pelvic bowl. Your pelvic floor connects to your tailbone and the back, your pubic bone at the front and your sit bones on either side. It acts like a hammock or sling to support your bowel, bladder and uterus. Being pregnant can place a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to weakness or incontinence. Constipation is really common during pregnancy and can place more strain on your pelvic floor.
Read this post to see why the Pelvic Floor is so important and how you can strengthen it during pregnancy and postpartum.
I highly recommend going to see a physio that specialises in pregnancy and pelvic floor. The physio can check out your pelvic floor and stomach muscles and recommend any exercises that you should / shouldn’t be doing.
An important point to note as well when it comes to pelvic floor. During labour and birth, your pelvic floor needs to be able to stretch to allow for the passage of your baby down the birth canal. So it is important to be able to contract and engage your pelvic floor muscles, but also to be able to release them! A lot of pilates instructors or enthuiasts have such strong pelvic floors that they find it difficult to release those muscles. A good physio will be able to help you to engage as well as relax your pelvic floor.
Pregnancy Exercise – What you Need to Know.
Everyone is different in terms of what they can and can’t do during pregnancy, so this is just a guide for some of the exercises you should try to avoid and some of the exercises you should try to incorporate into your weekly training program. Please always consult with your health care professional, doctor or midwife before starting a new exercise program or continuing with your current exercise program during pregnancy.
Tip #1 Pregnancy is a time to maintain your fitness, not to try and build it. So for most of us, we should be fine to continue to do the type of training that we have been used to doing. But I wouldn’t start any new training (unless it is specifically pregnancy related) during pregnancy.
Tip #2 As your body starts to grow, you will notice that there are some things that you won’t want to do anymore and there will be some exercises that just don’t feel comfortable. Always listen to your body – it is the best indicator of what you are capable of doing. If you ever feel dizzy, faint or light headed, take a rest, have some water and sit or lie down. Don’t ever try to push through as your body is telling you that it needs a rest!
Tip #3 It’s important to avoid overheating, especially during the first trimester, as it could be harmful to your baby. Make sure you hydrate properly, avoid exercising in hot conditions, and don’t use spas or saunas (but don’t worry if you used one before you knew you were pregnant) and avoid hot yoga.
Tip #4 Never exercise to the point of exhaustion – remember to monitor the intensity of your workout and stop if you feel tired. Also, don’t lift heavy weights (use only light to medium ones) or exercise when you’re sick.
Tip #5 When you reach the second trimester of pregnancy, you may want to consider using an incline bench or step when performing exercises that require you to lie flat on your back. The weight of your uterus on a large vein known as the inferior vena cavena may slow the flow of blood from your legs to your heart and make you feel dizzy if you lay on your back for long periods of time.
Tip #6 Because your blood pressure drops after the fourth month, rapid changes in position (such as from lying to standing) should be avoided to prevent dizzy spells. And to avoid placing excess stress in your abdominal muscles, always remember to roll over onto one side and raise yourself up by your arms when getting up from a lying position.
Tip #7 As your weight increases and your body shape changes, your centre of gravity will move forward. This can affect your balance, so be careful when performing exercises that require stability, even if you did them with ease at the beginning of your pregnancy.
Tip #8 In the second and third trimesters (but particularly in the last 13 weeks), you should also steer clear of exercises that require excessive jumping, hopping, twisting, stretching or bouncing, or frequent changes in direction.
Tip #9 During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin that relaxes your ligaments to prepare for childbirth, but it also increases your risk of joint injuries such as ankle and knee sprains. When stretching or in yoga, don’t stretch to your full range. You may actually be stretching the ligaments and doing damage to your joints. So even though you might feel super flexy, stay within a comfortable range where you can feel a stretch, but aren’t pushing it!
Pregnancy Exercise – What to Look Out For
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but please if you experience any of the following, stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor or midwife.
• Chest pain
• Heart palpitations
• Shortness of breath
• Swelling of the face, hands or feet
• Calf pain
• Difficulty walking
• Muscle weakness
• Vaginal bleeding
• Uterine contractions
• Cramping in the lower abdomen
• Back pain
• Decrease in foetal movement
• Leaking of amniotic fluid
Running during Pregnancy
People are very divided when it comes to running during pregnancy. There is no reason that you can’t run during your pregnancy, especially during the first and second trimesters. However, for a lot of pregnant women, they just don’t enjoy it. Personally, I ran up to 28 weeks during my first pregnancy and only 15 weeks during my second because I don’t think it was that great for my body to be running so far into my first pregnancy. I haven’t run at all during this pregnancy because my body can’t support the impact and my pelvic floor is already weak.
But some people run right up to the delivery date. There is no reason you can’t run, however, running does put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor.
I generally recommend trying to cut back on your running as the pregnancy progress and focus on other more low impact forms of cardio such as swimming and walking. If you are super keen to keep running then these things are really important.
- Have regular appointments with your women’s health physio so they can asses your posture, your core strength and your pelvic floor.
- Do your pelvic floor and deep core exercises daily! Check out this post for the Fit Mummy Project Core + Pelvic Floor Workouts you can do during pregnancy.
- Maintain a strong + neautral postuere when running.
- Keep your runs short. Under 30 minutes is best.
Pregnancy Exercises to Modify and Avoid!
Doing weights training during your pregnancy is so good for you. As your belly grows, you will notice how much you appreciate having strong legs, back and arms to be able to cope with the extra weight you are carrying. As your pregnancy progresses, start using lighter weights and doing any exercises that require you to lift weight above your head seated so that you reduce the pressure on your pelvic floor.
- Weighted Sit Ups
- Russian Twists with Weights
- V-Sit Ups
- Planks on your toes (planks increase interabdominal pressure and can put extra pressure on your pelvic floor. You can still get the core strength benefits on your knees or in quad position)
- Lying flat on your back after 14 weeks.
- Twisting movements that cause compression through your mid-section.
- Jumping especially with your legs spread – such as star jumps.
- Any movements that cause you to hold your breath.
- Lifting excessive weights.
- Any movement that causes your tummy to dome or bluge throug the middle.
For almost all exercises, you want to make sure you can maintain a good posture and be able to engage and relax your pelvic floor. This will generally mean slowing down your reps and using lighter weight than you would normally use.
- Squats: Use a lighter weight or just body weight and focus on keeping your pelvic floor engaged as you press away from the ground. If you have a weaker pelvic floor, bring your legs to hip distance apart or slightly narrower and reduce the depth of your squat. Or do wall squat holds and pulses.
- Lifting Weight Above Your Head: For example, shoulder press. Try to sit down to do any exercises where you lift the weight above your head. Make sure you can maintain good posture and keep your pelvic floor engaged whilst lifting any weight above your head.
Jumping: You don’t want to be jumping up and down as this puts too much force through your pelvic floor.
- Core: Exercises that engage your core, chose the easier option. So for example, plank or bridge, push ups, up downs. You can still do these exercises, just do them on your knees or in quad position which is the safest option for your pelvic floor and transversus abdominus which is working really hard to contain your growing belly. Try and keep your lower abdominals engaged whilst relaxing your upper abs. Your upper abs need to stretch, so you don’t want to be strengthening them during pregnancy.