The Truth About Exercising During Pregnancy

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Exercising during pregnancy isn’t easy. Often, you feel out of breath and get tired much faster than you did pre-pregnancy. Some exercises and activities that were doable pre-pregnancy feel downright impossible. All of this can make exercise frustrating. (I’m experiencing the challenges and frustrations with exercising during pregnancy firsthand – read my first trimester experience here).

The majority of pregnant women respond by stopping exercising altogether or just doing prenatal yoga. For the women who stop exercising, it then turns into a vicious cycle: by not exercising, their bodies become more vulnerable to aches, pains and pregnancy complications, which leads to more sitting and inactivity, which leads to more aches and pain and often weight gain over healthy levels, making exercise even more difficult and making them even less likely to be active.

A brief aside to talk about prenatal yoga. Please don’t interpret what I’m saying as “anti prenatal yoga.” Prenatal yoga is great and definitely can be one part of a prenatal exercise program, but it shouldn’t be the entire program. It is simply not enough and doesn’t provide the benefits to mom and baby that a complete exercise program does. A complete prenatal exercise program should include: cardiovascular exercise, strengthening, stretching, childbirth preparation exercises and relaxation/breathing. This next part might be a bit controversial. I think a lot of women do prenatal yoga because it’s easy…or, easier than other types of exercise during pregnancy. Since yoga is a type of exercise, I think a lot of pregnant women try it, see how much easier it is than other types of exercise, and rationalize in their minds that it’s okay if that’s all they do. Additionally, even in 2013, our culture still thinks of pregnancy as a “delicate condition” that necessitates minimal exertion. So, the decision to only do prenatal yoga is rationalized even further by a culture telling moms to take it easy.

I’m passionate about moms sticking with a complete prenatal exercise program because I know how incredibly beneficial it is for both mom and baby. For moms, exercising regularly during pregnancy can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth, physical discomforts, postpartum depression, decrease the need for medical interventions during labor/delivery, help keep weight gain within healthy levels and make it easier to lose both fat and weight after pregnancy. Babies of moms who exercise regularly during pregnancy are more likely to be healthy and calm with improved neurological development and less likely to develop future weight problems.

To reiterate, I know exercising during pregnancy isn’t easy. It might be for some women, but it sure isn’t for the majority. My recommendation is to try out a bunch of different types of activities: go for a walk, take a hike, try out a Zumba class, take a prenatal strength class, get a prenatal exercise DVD. Figure out what you enjoy and what makes you feel good. Make sure your program is complete and if you’re not sure, get help from a perinatal exercise specialist. I can’t speak for other specialists, but at Fit for Expecting, we review exercise programs for a minimal cost and make recommendations for altering the program for pregnancy or filling any gaps that exist. Help is out there, all you need to do is ask.

Keep reminding yourself that what you’re doing is improving your health and giving your baby the very best foundation for a healthy life. That is priceless.

My Journey as a Pregnant Exerciser: First Trimester

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Hello! I’m Jennifer, perinatal exercise specialist and founder of Fit for Expecting. Perinatal exercise is my career, but now I get to experience personally what my clients experience, since I’m pregnant with my first child. I’d like to share my journey with you, as I experience first-hand what it’s like to exercise during pregnancy.

Prior to becoming pregnant, my life and my career revolved around being active. Exercise has always been freeing for me…the only time during the day where my mind is completely clear. I would categorize my pre-pregnancy self as a high intensity exerciser. I enjoyed spinning, jogging, high intensity intervals…pretty much anything that would get my heart rate up and the sweat flowing. I would always push myself through tough workouts.

It’s safe to say that I know quite a bit about exercising during pregnancy. I know what’s safe and what’s not. But a funny thing happened right after I found out that I was pregnant – a little voice inside of me questioned whether it was okay to workout. I KNEW it was, but a voice was telling me otherwise. Honestly, I did not expect that to happen. I was surprised and still am that I had those thoughts. My solution at the time was to tone down the intensity of my workouts. I took long walks and did total body workouts with dumbbells, allowing myself to rest when I needed to, instead of pushing myself like I did before. For me, this solution proved to be a good one. It gave me the chance to sort of rediscover exercise in my new body. I slowly picked up my workouts until I came to an intensity and schedule that I could sustain.

Then, from about 7-11 weeks, the nausea hit. Fortunately, I never had any vomiting, but the nausea lasted all day and night. Instead of abandoning exercise altogether, I focused on walking. Walking outside in the fresh air truly does help relieve morning sickness. Even if I could only manage to walk around the block, I still walked. Something IS better than nothing.

Funny thing about pregnancy is that when one symptom goes, another one comes. So when the nausea subsided, the fatigue started getting pretty bad. I literally was tired all of the time. I knew that my body needed to rest, so I allowed myself to nap during the day when I could. Sleeping and eating healthfully were my top priorities, but exercise was still a part of my routine. At that time, I only had the energy for three workouts a week, so that’s what I did. This schedule continued until the end of my first trimester. It wasn’t as much as I was used to doing, but it was something and as I said before, something is better than nothing.

Lessons learned during my first trimester:

  • Stay committed to exercise but be flexible in what that looks like
  • Listen to your body and do what makes you feel good
  • Never underestimate to power of a walk
  • Trust that exercise improves the health of both you and your baby

Prenatal TV Commercial Workout

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You might have seen TV commercial workouts circulating around the internet. I think the concept is great, so I decided to develop a version just for expecting moms. Have fun!

Prenatal TV Commercial Workout

Quick Workout for Busy Moms

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When asked what prevents them from exercising regularly, the most common answer moms give is time, or lack thereof. I can definitely understand this and I can also understand why moms think if they don’t have at least one hour to devote to exercise, it’s not worth exercising at all. We have somehow been programmed to believe in this all or nothing attitude toward exercise.

It is my strong belief, backed by my education and experience, that anything is better than nothing. You can get a very effective workout in a short amount of time. So, for all of the moms out there who only have 10-15 minutes a day to exercise, I put together an express workout just for you.

This workout is for non-expecting moms. Stay tuned for an express workout for expecting moms.

Express Workout for Non-Expecting Moms

Ask the Expert: Urine Leakage After Pregnancy

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Question: Is urine leakage a normal thing that happens after pregnancy, that I’ll just have to live with?

To answer this question, we turned to Stephanie Prendergast, MPT, from the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center. Stephanie is a physical therapist specializing in pelvic pain and dysfunction.

Urine leakage during and after pregnancy is not uncommon, however, it is NOT normal. Unfortunately many women are dismissed if they mention this because they are either ‘pregnant’ or ‘just had a baby’. Leaking urine is not normal and it can be corrected with proper intervention.

Performing kegels is one possible intervention that will work for some women. If kegels are performed incorrectly, however, they won’t correct the problem, and may even promote incontinence. To be on the safe side and take immediate action to correct the problem, see a physical therapist for an evaluation.

For more from Stephanie on this subject, check out her recent interview on PT TV about Pelvic Floor Rehab for New Moms.

Ask the Expert: Should I monitor my heart rate when exercising during pregnancy?

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Question: Do I really need to keep my heart rate under 140 when exercising during pregnancy?
Answer: 

Monitoring your own heart rate during exercise as a way to gauge the intensity and safety of your workout is very complicated and confusing and is not the best method to use.

I’m not going to get into the science of heart rate during pregnancy here, but if you are interested, I encourage you to read “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp.

To monitor the intensity and safety of your workout during pregnancy, pay close attention to how you feel. To quote Dr. Clapp, “A pregnant woman’s perception of how hard she is working using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a better index of exercise intensity than her heart rate. Borg’s scale allows the individual to numerically rate how hard she feels she is working.”

Using Borg’s scale, perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working based on physical sensations you experience during physical activity, including increased respiration, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue.

Click here to download and learn more about Borg’s scale.

If the Borg scale is too confusing for you, simply pay attention to your body and how it feels. If you are able talk in 2-5 word sentences, don’t feel overexerted while exercising, and feel good after exercising, chances are your workout is just fine. If not, then decrease the intensity.

Jennifer

Jennifer Tucker, Fit for Expecting’s founder, is a perinatal exercise specialist, perinatal health and wellness specialist and Dr. Sears health coach.

Do you have pre or post natal exercise questions? Ask below or email info@fitforexpecting.com.  

Returning to Exercise Postpartum

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Take baby steps…

Start rebuilding your abs and pelvic floor soon after delivery. It’s safe and very effective to incorporate belly breathing and kegels into your daily routine just days after you give birth.

Listen to your body…

After having a baby, it can be tempting to go overboard with exercise. Don’t take on too much too soon. Ease back into exercise and pay close attention to what your body is telling you. Pain, bleeding, or urine leakage are all signs that your body is not ready for that activity.

Focus on your core…

When you’re cleared to begin exercising, don’t just jump on the elliptical and expect to see results. Exercises that work your core should be an integral part of your exercise program. Try the plank, it’s one of the most effective exercises for your core. Don’t get discouraged if you can only hold the position for a few seconds. Keep at it and as you build up your strength, you will be able to hold the position for longer and longer.

To make exercise more comfortable…

Breastfeed or pump before exercising. Make sure to wear a supportive sports bra and if one isn’t enough, try two!

Workout smarter…

Time is valuable when you’re a mom, so instead of spending hours at the gym, make your workouts more efficient and still effective. Intervals (short bursts of high intensity followed by lower intensity recovery) are a great option, as are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once.

Fuel up for your workout…

To give your body the energy it needs to perform at its best during your workout, each a healthy snack 1-2 hours before exercising. Some good options: nut butter on whole grain toast, fruit and string cheese, or ½ whole grain English muffin with hummus and a handful of berries.

Stay active throughout the day…

Incorporate exercise into your everyday activities and errands. Pick up the baby/toddler and start squatting, walk around while on a call at work, take the stairs, do bicep curls with the laundry detergent after you put the clothes in the washer.

If at any point you need help or have questions, send me an email jenn@fitforexpecting.com. I’m here to help!

How to stay healthy during the busy holiday season

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Most people now-a-days are busy. All moms are busy. Add in the cold/flu season and back-to-back holidays, and busy doesn’t even begin to describe it. Taking care of yourself is a must! Staying healthy makes you a better woman, mom, spouse, daughter, employee and friend.

1.      Sleep

“Sleep is not a luxury,” says Dr. James O’Brien, medical director of the Boston SleepCare Center in Waltham, Mass. “It’s a necessity for optimal functioning.” As a busy mom, it can be tempting to burn the midnight oil in an attempt to get things done, but cutting into your valuable sleep time will make it even more difficult for you to deal with all of the responsibilities that come with being a modern day mom.

2.      Exercise – even if you only have 10 minutes

You can get an effective workout in a short period of time with a little bit of planning. Since planning time is probably non-existent for you, enlist the help of an exercise specialist. Fit for Expecting develops effective exercise programs for moms, in whatever time you have available, with whatever equipment is available. Just make the call and we’ll do the rest – (626) 399-1025 or www.fitforexpecting.com.

3.      Hydrate!

Make a habit of having water be the first thing that you put into your body in the morning and the last thing at night. Carry a water bottle around with you during the day.

4.      Eat whole, unprocessed foods.

Think apple instead of applesauce or apple pie.

5.      Be active throughout your day

Some ideas: carry a basket at the grocery store instead of pushing a cart, walk around while on a call at work, take the stairs, do bicep curls with the laundry detergent after you put the clothes in the washer.

6.      Get fresh air

Great way to do this is to schedule active family activities – bike riding, swimming, hiking, kick ball, frisbee.

7.      Ask for help

Celebrity moms look rested and calm. Why? Because they have help. Lots of it – nannies, housekeepers, trainers, chefs, personal assistants. This isn’t realistic for most of us, but we can learn from this – having help makes life a lot easier. If you can’t pay for it, ask for it. Are there things your partner can take on? Can you budget for someone to clean your house once a month? Can you call on friends and relatives to help out?

 

We want to hear from you: How do you stay healthy during this time of year?

5 Tips for Stressed Out Moms

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1. Sleep

“Sleep is not a luxury,” says Dr. James O’Brien, medical director of the Boston SleepCare Center in Waltham, Mass. “It’s a necessity for optimal functioning.” As a busy mom, it can be tempting to burn the midnight oil in an attempt to get things done, but cutting into your valuable sleep time will make it even more difficult for you to deal with all of the responsibilities that come with being a modern day mom.

2. Exercise

Unfortunately, for many moms, exercise is often one of the first things to go. It’s often viewed as something you do for vanity purposes and when time is spent exercising, moms feel selfish and guilty. But, I’d argue just the opposite. Regular exercise is vital for good health. Exercise isn’t just for weight loss – it helps your mind, body and soul. Experiment with different activities (take a Zumba class, put the baby in a stroller and jog around the neighborhood, swim some laps) to figure out what you enjoy.

3. Clean up your eating

Packaged, processed food might be saving you a little bit of time, but that’s it. Your diet plays a huge role in how you think, act, feel, and respond to situations in your daily life. Give your body the fuel it needs to perform at the optimal level. Eat whole, unprocessed food – closer to its natural state the better. Choose an orange over orange juice, grilled tuna over tuna salad, baked potato over French fries. Think you don’t have time to make healthy food for your family? Make a meal plan for the coming week over the weekend and spend a few hours prepping the meals. And involve your kids in the process – it’s a great way to teach them the importance of healthy eating.

4. Ask for help

Celebrity moms look rested and calm. Why? Because they have help. Lots of it – nannies, housekeepers, trainers, chefs, personal assistants. This isn’t realistic for most of us, but we can learn from this – having help makes life a lot easier. If you can’t pay for it, ask for it.

Are there things your partner can take on? Can you budget for someone to clean your house once a month? Can you call on friends and relatives to help out?

5. Focus on the things that are actually in your control

When you’re overwhelmed and stretched thin, it’s easy to take on every little problem as your own. You can’t clear up the traffic jam, change your bosses tendency to give you projects at the last minute, or make a friend arrive on time for lunch. Instead, focus only on things that you have control over.

What tips work for you?

Cardio & Core Facebook Workout Group

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A lot of women spend too much time doing ineffective cardio (“I’m on the elliptical for 60 minutes and I don’t see results”) and too little time doing effective core exercises (“I do some crunches after getting off of the elliptical and my muffin top doesn’t go away”).

So I’m staging a CARDIO & CORE INTERVENTION to teach moms how to use cardio & core workouts to actually get results!

Here are the details…

  • The program will be 8 weeks long – with 1 cardio and 1 core workout given each week (16 workouts total)
  • The group is just for MOMS! (who are not currently pregnant)
  • All you need is access to an elliptical machine and a set of 5-10 lb dumbbells
  • The workouts will be shared on a CLOSED Facebook Group Page – meaning only group members have access to the workouts and any other posts made by the group. The workouts are only for group members and cannot be shared in any way with others outside of the group.
  • Only $15 to join

Here’s the fun twist…

  • Spread the word to other moms and if the group reaches 50 members, the program will be extended by 2 weeks (meaning all members will get 4 additional workouts FREE)
  • If the group reaches 100 members, 3 members will receive a FREE Skype training session with Jenn

The program starts OCTOBER 15th, and ALL members must join by then, so spread the word now to recruit as many moms as possible!

To join the group, email jenn@fitforexpecting.com

 

 

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