Tag Archives: flexibility

Exercise During Pregnancy? Don’t Mind If I Do

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“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

Hiking

Fun in nature, fresh air, a workout. Extra points for dragging your friends along.

Swimming

Being so light and buoyant in the water feels ridiculously wonderful.

Rock climbing

Fun challenge trying to keep the body close to the rock wall with a 7.5 month pregnant belly. Totally doable, quite enjoyable.

Canoeing

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.

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This is an 86 year-old woman doing gymnastics. Your argument is invalid.

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After a couple of friends shared on Facebook the video of 86 year-old Johanna Quaas performing her floor routine– complete with cartwheels and jumps– I wanted to learn more.

Watching the video I (like many others, I’m sure!) instantly assumed that German born Quass had been dedicating her entire life to gymnastics, surely being one of those child prodigies who just had it, like magic, since birth. Of course what I was doing was immediately giving myself a reason why she and not I was capable of, at her age, performing the way she did. But get this: This graceful senior only began practicing gymnastics at the age of 30. In the world of gymnastics by 30 most careers are very well over; you’re simply past your prime, a dinosaur, definitely too old.

But at some point came along this determined woman and told them all to suck it. And here are the results:

 

Apparently, the lovely Mrs. Quass believes gymnastics will keep her youthful. I think she’s right.

 

If you think I’m a mean workout machine, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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I’m certainly not one of those who’s always all OMG RUN YEAAAH or I CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO THE GYM. No. I procrastinate, I look for excuses, I work trade-offs with myself in my head. I’m a pretty regular human being most of the time.

I think the only difference is that I’m aware of the tricks I play on myself. I recognize the voice in my head, and I know it’s lying. Maybe I don’t need to work out, maybe I don’t have to work out. Most of the time I don’t necessarily want to work out. What I do want, what I do like, are the results. I love feeling strong, I like seeing my body defined. It makes me happy when I can do things I couldn’t do before. And because I enjoy the results, I know the work that must be put into achieving them is worth my time.

This doesn’t mean that I’m automatically transformed into a work out beast. Right now, after over three weeks of doing ZILCH (because I was away for holidays in Mexico visiting my family, whom I hadn’t seen in three years) I’m discovering I need to coax myself into starting over.

For some people it may work great to just dive into the madness of spending hours exercising after a period of inactivity. Not for me– at least not this time around. My approach is beginning slowly, building back up to where I was pre-vacation. And I think I found the perfect way to start!

I just came across this website, myfreeyoga.com, and found it to be a great resource. It’s full of free yoga class videos, and I did this session this morning, in my house, still in my pj’s– so no excuses as to why I couldn’t. It felt great to get moving, but OY. So many things cracked and popped, and my muscles were super stiff– a big wake-up call as to how weeks of inactivity slowly creep in and regress a bit of what we’ve worked hard to achieve.But, it only gets better from here :)

So, if you’re looking for a way to get back into the exercise mindset, but haven’t been able to convince yourself to hit the gym or train for a marathon, you may find it beneficial to start slow like I did. It doesn’t matter how small or slow you start. JUST START.