So I have some BIG news!…..I am expecting, and am due in April!
I thought I would switch gears and really focus on talking about how to have a Fit Pregnancy since that is currently my life for the next 9 months. I was so inspired by other women who still lifted weights during their pregnancy, and didn’t stop just because “they say” it is not safe so I want to now inspire other women to continue with it.
Why is it safe to continue with lifting weights during pregnancy? Your body is always striving for homeostasis. When you first start exercising, your body sees it as stress, and therefore has to adapt to that stress level on the body. It does that by building up muscle that has just been broken down, so it can prepare for it again. Once it adapts to your activity level, it is no longer stress on the body. Therefore, if you lifted weights 5x a week before you got pregnant, your body is already use to it and you may continue on . It will also play a big role in you getting back into your pre-baby jeans A LOT sooner. Sure you may have to scale back on the types of exercise the bigger you get, because it will be difficult to get in (or out of) a certain position, and you may run out of energy a lot faster than before.
Lets start debunking these 5 most common Myths according to Girls Gone Strong:
Myth #1: Lifting weights is dangerous for you and your baby.
Just the opposite is true, it seems. The outcomes for moms and babies are better with prenatal exercise. The research shows that fitter moms have shorter labors, less chance of preterm labor, fewer complications, and shorter hospital stays. Get your hands on the book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy,” by James Clapp, for study after study proving the case for more strenuous exercise in pregnancy.
Also of note is that women who exercise during pregnancy report lower rates of perceived exertion during labor, than women who did not exercise. If that doesn’t convince you…
Concerned about your baby’s health? Ever better news is that fit moms have healthier babies. A recent study showed that exercise during pregnancy might program a baby’s heart to resist cardiovascular problems later in life, because they have stronger blood vessels.
Another new study found that the brains of babies born to women who exercised moderately throughout pregnancy appear to mature faster. Plus, it’s well documented that babies show higher APGAR scores and better handle the stress of labor when moms have exercised.
Myth #2: You’ll exacerbate pregnancy pains with lifting and increase your risk of injury because your body is unstable
Yes, your body is going to be more unstable. There are a whole bunch of hormonal changes going on, one of which is the major increase of the hormone relaxin. As the name suggests, relaxin promotes soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons to become more lax and flexible, which is necessary to carry a baby full term and prepare for labour/delivery. However, this alone might be the greatest argument for strength training in pregnancy.
Strength training = increased stability. A properly planned strength training program will help decrease aches and pains that are common in pregnancy, such as lower and upper back pain, by keeping your posture in more optimal alignment. And yes, if you’re new to strength training you can absolutely start during pregnancy. Focus on the basics: learn to squat, hinge, lunge, push, and pull. Work with a coach who can teach you solid movement patterns and progress you appropriately.
One of the main points of focus in my prenatal strength training programming is to avoid excessive arching through the lower back. A C-curve through the lumbar spine is necessary to get your baby into an optimal alignment for labour and delivery, however if it becomes too pronounced it can become incredibly uncomfortable for mom during pregnancy and actually hinder the movement of the baby moving down during labour.
Movements like squatting, glute bridges, and hip thrusts can be excellent for encouraging movement through the pelvis, while helping to increase the stability through your lower back. Win, win.
Myth #3: Don’t let your heart rate rise over 140bpm during exercise.
I love when my prenatal clients wear heart rate monitors during their training sessions, and we can test this principle firsthand. Most of the time, they’re hitting 140bpm near the end of their warm-up. Breathing has deepened, they’re keeping conversation, just starting to sweat, and most importantly, feeling fab.
The cause for concern with too high a heart rate has to do with the muscles pulling all the oxygen and not enough going to the fetus. This is a legitimate concern. However, the 140bpm guidelines come from outdated research, which was understandably cautious.
We now know the heart rate can be pushed higher than this without worry. I recommend using your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and the “Talk Test” to guide you. If you’re feeling great, being appropriately challenged, breathing harder but not out of breath, and allowing ample recovery during and between your workouts—perfect.
Keep in mind, your body and your baby are going to go through stressful periods during labour and delivery. Think of your strength and interval training as test runs for the impending contractions of labour. You work hard for 30-60 seconds, rest, and repeat. This is what prenatal training is all about. Prepare yourself for the main event!
Myth #4: Stop training abs or you’ll risk separating your abdominal wall.
I’ve read articles that advise you to let your abdominals get “nice and soft” before and during pregnancy. To even stop abdominal training while you’re trying to become pregnant, just so you don’t risk abdominal separation. If you want to be terribly uncomfortable and have debilitating back pain, then yes, this is sound advice. Not what we’re going for though, are we?
Proper abdominal and core training is so important during pregnancy because of your changing posture and additional weight being added to the anterior (front) side of the body. As we talked about under Myth #2, strength training can help to minimize the hyperextension of your lower back to keep your pelvis in a better position.
Abdominal separation is a real thing that many women in pregnancy experience, it’s called Diastasis Recti (DR). DR occurs because of the growing fetus pressing onto your abdominal wall. Your rectus abdominals, the “6-pack” muscles, will stretch because of this and the connective tissue holding them together can get very thin and soft.
The good news? A stronger core can help reduce the size and severity of your DR and set you up for a speedier recovery postpartum. There are specific core exercises that you should not do that can increase the DR, for example sit-ups, crunches and front planks.
What can you do? Half and tall kneeling positions, pallof pressing, dead bugs, farmers walks, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, and pelvic floor exercises.
I guarantee you will be grateful for those abs (even if you feel like they’ve temporarily left your body) once your babe is born and you’re carrying that weight around for hours a day. Remember, they’re only going to get heavier!
Myth #5: The perfect prescription for prenatal exercise is walking and prenatal yoga.
Refer to Myths #1 – 4. I love yoga and I love walking. They are fabulous activities to have as part of your prenatal exercise routine. That being said, you just can’t beat the benefits of a strength training program added to this.
You need to be strong to support your changing body. To maintain your strength as you carry extra weight. To help your postpartum recovery process. To prepare yourself and your baby for intense moments of labour and delivery.
Just as your body will experience a multitude of changes as you progress through pregnancy, your program will need to go on a journey too. What you did in your first trimester might not be working for you in the third. Have to lower your intensity? Decrease your weights? That is totally necessary and normal. You will absolutely get back to where you were and likely, an even stronger version of your new-mama self.
Keep lifting, or even start lifting, throughout your pregnancies. If strength training isn’t your thing, just keep that bod moving as much as you can, doing what you love.