Congratulations on your pregnancy! Now, I bet you have a lot of questions about how to continue with strength training during this time. I know I did with my first and I was a personal trainer!
First, there are a lot of misinformation regarding this very topic and unfortunately, not too many people are handing out the wrong advice--even fitness professionals.
A little background: during my first pregnancy, I was training in a gym and not once did anyone talk about the impact on my pelvic floor of diastasis recti (ab separation). My first appointment with my OB and I was told that I can continue to workout the way that I’d been working out all along.
So What Did I Do?
I continued with my strength training program. It wasn’t until a few years later I learned that isn’t the best advice because every pregnancy and every women is different.
My pregnancy was easy, I wasn’t sick, had lots of energy once my first trimester ended. It was actually a wonderful experience and I was blessed.
Fast forward 2 years, I started working with the prenatal and postnatal community and I was handing out all kinds of advice. It wasn’t wrong but it wasn’t exactly right either. Due to the misinformation I had received, I was doing the same.
There is so much more to training prenatal and postnatal women than handing them weights and making them do burpees. Their bodies are in a unique place and they need to be treated with care.
Here are some guidelines that you can follow to make sure that you get the most out of your fitness program during this very special time.
You can continue to workout the way that you were working out before your first trimester as long as you’re feeling up for it. If you’re not feeling well opt for something low-impact or go for a walk. Forcing yourself to workout at a high intensity when you’re not feeling up to it isn’t going to do you any favours. May even make you feel worse.
As your pregnancy progresses, you need to make modifications. You may find that you naturally change things up based on your comfort level and you may find you can’t move as easily as you once did so that’s a pretty good indication that it’s time to switch things up!
Listening to your body may not be the best advice if you don’t know what to listen for. Sure, your body is pretty good at sending you signals like numbness, pain, dizziness, pelvic and back discomforts. Additionally, if you're feeling dragging, heaviness, or accidentally pee your pants during your session, this is an indication that your pelvic floor isn't functioning properly. It would be wise to book an appoint with a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
You don’t need to workout for any more than an hour at a time. Putting together a balanced program with a mix of strength, cardio, mobility, and a little flexibility (not too much flexibility and I’ll explain why next!) will help to support your healthy pregnancy. Doing more than an hour during a session isn’t necessary and not recommended for most people let alone prenatal and postnatal women.
Your ligaments, joints, and pelvic floor are all going to become lax because of our good friend Relaxin. This hormone increases during pregnancy to prepare for birth but it also trick you into thinking that you’re more flexible than you are which may increase your risk of injury.
Skip the traditional ab training like crunches, sit-ups, planks, and v-sits. This will create intra-abdominal pressure which puts pressure onto your pelvic floor increasing your chances of pelvic organ prolapse and the weight onto your abdominal wall can exacerbate your diastasis recti (ab separation). Instead, focus on training your Core 4 (diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidus, and transversus abdominis). These are the muscles that are in your deep core and control every movement you make and help maintain alignment.
Avoid contact sports like kickboxing and hockey. Accidents do happen and with your joints and ligaments more lax than ever, you’re at a greater risk of direct impact.
Always consult with your doctor first. There are some reasons why women should not workout during pregnancy and your doctor will rather give you the go ahead, proceed with caution, or tell you to avoid activity all together. You need to follow your doctor's advice on this one.
Consult with a qualified fitness professional who specializes in prenatal and postnatal fitness. These fitness professionals have spent years on their education and have years of experience. Just because someone is certified s as personal trainer, doesn’t mean they have the qualifications to be providing fitness programming and advice. Many do but google searches are not enough!
Be patient with your body because it’s changing every single day. I know how hard it can be to be able to powerlift one day and slow down the next. Trust me, this will have a positive effect on your pregnancy,birth and, postpartum recovery.
I agree that you’re not a delicate flower during pregnancy and that you can continue with regular activity but this isn’t the time to be building a body or proving yourself as there are risks to over exerting yourself during pregnancy such as preterm labour and your membranes can rupture prematurely.
Your baby is safely tucked away in a very well cushioned place and for the most part, the risks to the baby are quite minimal unless there is direct impact to your belly. Most of the impact is to your pelvic floor and with it already at a weakened start, it is that much more vulnerable.
>>>And there’s a lot more information in my Barbell Training For Pregnancy: Your 3 Step Guide For Maximizing Performance During and After Pregnancy. It features simple and actionable steps to maximize your core and pelvic floor function, improve performance, and most importantly, avoid the complications that can arise from postnatal exercising. Click here to access your free guide today.>>>