Being pregnant and expecting a little one is an exciting time, it also means huge changes are about to happen! This is especially true for your exercise routine, what you may be used to doing everyday suddenly has to be altered so that you are safe whilst pregnant. My Bikini Body Training Guide has been proven to be a useful tool for mums who are a few months post-pregnancy and wanting their pre-baby body and strength back. However, my guide is not suitable for those women who are currently pregnant or have recently given birth. I know so many of you still wish to exercise during pregnancy, so I want to share some exercises that you can still complete during this time!
Exercising whilst pregnant is great because it can help to improve your mood (hello endorphins!) and it can help you prepare you for the physical challenges of labour. It can also help to de-stress you and help you to sleep better. The benefits are endless!
So what exercises can I complete during pregnancy?
This is one of the best forms of exercise, whether you are pregnant or not - because it is so easy! Going for a brisk minute walk each day keeps you fit, your heart strong and is easy on your joints when you are most injury prone. Aim to go for a 30 minute walk each day and see how much better you feel, both physically and mentally!
This is one of the best exercises to complete during pregnancy because it gives you a better range of motion and eases pressure on your joints. Swimming exercises both your arms and legs and provides great cardiovascular benefits, whilst allowing you to feel practically weightless despite having a big baby belly. It is one of the safest exercises to complete whilst pregnant and I highly recommend it. Try searching for aquanatal or water aerobics classes in a swimming centre near you, this will make it more enjoyable!
Yoga is an awesome form of exercise when you are pregnant. Yoga is great for maintaining flexibility and keeping your muscles and joints strong. It also helps to improve posture, and the breathing techniques you learn will be very useful for labour. It is important to note that as your pregnancy progresses, you shouldn’t push your body too hard and eventually, you will need to skip positions that really challenge your balance and require you to lie flat on your back. If possible, I would recommend finding a yoga centre that offers yoga classes specifically for pregnant women.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The ‘pelvic floor’ is the term used to describe the muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, womb and bowel. These muscles are often weakened during pregnancy due to hormonal changes as well as the increased weight of the baby pushing on the pelvic area. It is so important to perform pelvic floor exercises in order to help strengthen these muscles during pregnancy. These should be repeated several times throughout the day, everyday! You should try to complete these exercises at EVERY opportunity, such as when you are on the phone, waiting in cues, or even making dinner!
Light Resistance Sessions
Resistance training is really beneficial during pregnancy because in can strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints and can help prepare you for all the lifting you will be doing once the baby arrives. Just remember to keep it light and avoid all heavy lifting. It is also important that you stay away from one-sided exercises (such as lunges) or ones that require you lie on your back.
As your cardiovascular system is working a lot harder during pregnancy, it is really important to be aware of your heart rate. When doing any form of exercise, it is important to ensure your heart rate does not exceed 140bpm (or 23 beats per 10 seconds) during exercise to minimise stress on both you and your baby. One simple way to keep track of this is by wearing a heart rate monitor when training.
So there you have some of the best exercises to do whilst pregnant, but what about after?
Before you get started on any exercise regime after giving birth it is SUPER important to check with your doctor to make sure everything is safe, and also to determine the best exercise routine for you. Going back to exercising will also depend how tough your labour was or if you had a C section. Everybody’s bodies are different and it is crucial to listen to your body during this time and seek professional advice.
There are also few changes in your body resulting from being pregnant that you will need to take into consideration, particularly in the first two to three months.
Keep it light
Relaxin is a hormone that is released during the first trimester of pregnancy (weeks 0-13) and remains in your body until approximately 8 weeks after you have given birth. Its role is to soften the structures of the musculoskeletal system (e.g. muscles, ligaments and tendons) to help prepare the body for delivery. This ‘softening’ of the muscles means you are at increased risk of injury, particularly in the first two months after giving birth.
So when it comes to resistance training, you may need to keep it simple for the first few months. Stick to body weight exercises and if you feel like you are able to add weights, keep them light and focus on increasing reps. While you may have been able to do push ups and planks on your toes beforehand, you may need to drop to your knees for a little while. This is perfectly normal as your abdominal muscles have been doing it tough for the last few months!
When it comes to cardio, stick to types that are of low impact (e.g. cycling, swimming, walking) to begin with and gradually increase the duration and intensity of these as your fitness improves.
Having a baby in your belly for nine months will have also caused changes in your posture, which means that you should focus on rectifying these. For example, incorporate some back exercises (like rows) to help increase back strength and stretch and foam roll your chest, which might be feeling a little tight.
Keep working on those pelvic floors!
I know I’ve mentioned pelvic floor exercises a couple of times, but that’s because it is so important! It is also very common for women to experience pelvic floor weakness after giving birth. This can cause a leakage of urine, particularly when you are training (oh joy!).
For the first few months after giving birth, I recommend that you continue to perform pelvic floor exercises, such as ‘kegel exercises’ in order to help restore the strength of this area. One way to do this is to sit on a bench or exercise, feet shoulder width apart and place your hands on your hips. Contract your pelvic muscles, like you are trying to stop yourself urinating, and stand up. Hold for ten seconds, return to the bench and then release. Repeat this 10-20 times, and do 1-3 sets.
Onwards and upwards
Once you have gotten the all clear from your doctor and don't suffer from a weak pelvic floor, then you may find that you are able to step up the intensity and return to your favourite group fitness class and/or add some plyometric exercises to your routine a few months after giving birth. An example of this is my Bikini Body Training Guide. These workouts get your heart rate pumping, get you sweating and get your whole body moving. The best bit is you can do them in a short space of time, allowing you to focus more of your time on the your little one.
I hope this has helped all you soon-to-be and new mummy’s. I know it can be incredibly tough and overwhelming when you become a mum to find time to shower, let alone exercise! Once you and bubs have gotten into a comfortable routine it is super easy to fit in workouts, just keep them short and sweet. You may need to adjust your routine a little, but it is so important to keep exercising, you may find you have more energy and feel happier overall!