“Oh, look at that pregnant woman waddle! I bet she walks funny out of muscle soreness from performing series of lunges, squats and deadlifts.” Said NO ONE EVER.
Sad but true, few people would believe this pregnant mom’s waddle walk is at times consequence of physical exercise. BUT IT IS. Sometimes. Other times I’m just being a normal preggo.
So let’s talk about activity during pregnancy. Or its alternative title: I’m pregnant, not dying. Yes I’m allowed to move.
Indistinct to, oh, every expectant woman in the history of the modern western world, I have been on the receiving end of advice suggesting that I should “take it easy” and “rest while it’s still possible” before the baby comes. I’ve yet to understand the logic behind this.
Of course there are situations in which a medical condition makes it difficult or even risky for mum to be active, and I’m not here to argue with that. What’s more, there are moms that consciously choose to not do anything during their baby’s gestation and I find that totally understandable (hey, it is a choice.) But what about the standard, normal pregnancy in which both mom and bub could benefit from activity, and there are no legitimate reasons (medical or otherwise) for passiveness?
I’m a true believer of being in tune with one’s body and following its cues– and if you ask me, everyone should be practicing this, not just pregnant women– but I’ve yet to understand why we feel so compelled to warn mom against doing “too much”. How much is that, exactly?
Childbirth is not only one of the most important athletic events in a woman’s life, it is also one of endurance. It’s like the Olympics but of life, and instead of a golden medal you get a chubby baby to snarfle on at the end of your race. You bet your ass I’m training.
Speaking of Olympics, what about Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who competed in London at almost eight months pregnant?
My personal logic says that if all is well and in order, and the mom is already used to a certain rhythm of exercise, it isn’t necessary to stop. Some modifications may be suitable, some days may feel not as great… but as long as mom is paying attention to what her body says, no harm is done. Most of all, exercise your common sense.
Here is what I do.
For cardio: Zumba
I’m pleased that I’ve been able to keep up with teaching two hours of Zumba per week feeling great. I was already used to this kind of exercise and have been able to maintain the pace throughout my pregnancy (I’m on week 34 and still going). Not only do my lungs and heart get a workout, it’s dance: it makes me feel happy, energized, alive. I credit this for keeping me in such a great mood and believing I can accomplish my goals. Find your thing, whatever makes you smile, and stick with it for as long as it feels right.
Now, in my Zumba class there’s a lot of hip movement, a lot of booty shaking, and a lot of whining down. Add all this to the weight of a growing baby on the bladder and things can get awkward. Straight up I can tell you nothing terrible has happened and there have been no accidents, but it does feel kind of funny/weird at times. How do I deal? I got me one of these prenatal support bands. It sure has helped alleviate some of the pressure thus making me feel more comfortable while I dance, but don’t think you have to shell out the $15 plus shipping for results– it’s nothing more than a wide strip of elastic with hooks. That’s it. Make it yourself and even better because you’ll set the hooks to close exactly where you want them to.
For flexibility: Yoga
During pregnancy there is a release of relaxin, a hormone our wise body produces to make our joints stretchy and limber in preparation for birth. Relaxin is the reason we need to be careful not to over stretch. It’s a matter of paying attention to how our body is feeling, and remembering that this isn’t the best moment to attempt twisting into a pretzel for the first time.
As much as I would love to go to a prenatal yoga class, truth is the budget doesn’t allow for that right now. The good news is, there’s still a way to get our yoga in. Video, baby! I follow Shiva Rea’s Prenatal Yoga video in the comfort of my living room and frumpiness of my pj’s. I find this video very easy to follow, even for a beginner, as it clearly explains modifications for women in second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
*Many thanks to Angelina, Amy and Christine, all whom in one way or another made it possible I have this video now. Teehee!
For muscle strength: Strength training
Squats and I are like BFFs now. Word. Hey, I figure I’ll be doing my share of squatting at the moment of birthing my baby, so might as well get all the practice I can get.
For obvious reasons I can’t do situps, but I keep my core in check with planks.
For upper body strength I mostly go for dumbbells. I love dumbbells. Bicep curls, triceps kicks, shoulder press, chest press (with plenty of breaks and attention to how I feel– lying on our back isn’t the most recommended thing during the third trimester), upward rows… the possibilities are endless.
For mental sanity, entertainment, and fun: Random things
Fun in nature, fresh air, a workout. Extra points for dragging your friends along.
Being so light and buoyant in the water feels ridiculously wonderful.
Fun challenge trying to keep the body close to the rock wall with a 7.5 month pregnant belly. Totally doable, quite enjoyable.
My shoulders, back, and core really felt the workout with the paddling. Very relaxing once I got over the fear of flipping over.
And when all else fails… walk.
Walk to the post office, to the store, to the library, around your block. You don’t have to act like an elite athlete every single day of your pregnancy, and chances are you will have many days, like I do, in which there isn’t a hint of desire to move. That’s ok, those days have their place, too. When I feel ready to get going again walking helps me start slow and get back on track.
I really want to be clear and say it is not my intention in the least to make other moms feel bad if it hasn’t been possible or desirable for them to stay active while pregnant. Nor do I wish to set a bar for others to compare themselves and decide if they’ve been a better or worse expectant mom than I. This is just my personal experience, so different from my first pregnancy, and we’re each on our individual path to follow with our own lessons to be learned.
I have received many benefits from staying active. Forget about the physical benefits… the mental ones, holy cow! I don’t know how I would be feeling right now if I hadn’t stayed as mobile. It’s as if keeping myself reasonably challenged has lit a spark inside– I feel happy, accomplished, relaxed and peaceful. This process has reminded me to trust my body because it is capable of achieving many wonderful things. I’m very grateful.
For more information on exercise and pregnancy, read Precision Nutrition’s article on How To Exercise During Pregnancy.