Exercise During & After Pregnancy
by Sarah Boulazeris
Women’s Strength & Conditioning Trainer
BUMPFIT Prenatal & Postpartum Exercise Expert
EXERCISE is both beneficial and therapeutic to the body and the mind!
During pregnancy and after birth the female body undergoes many amazing changes. These changes affect our mobility, stability, strength, movement, body and mind. It’s important that we maintain and support all of these changes by participating in an appropriately designed exercise program.
Exercise can be a great way for a mamma to connect with her bump or bub. With all those feel good endorphins it releases exercise can be an enjoyable activity (not a chore) with a bonus set of benefits.
During pregnancy our focus is to build a stable base to support our body and bump through the weeks of pregnancy and during birth.
A strength program will help to alleviate stress on muscles & joints, whilst maintaining a strong and mobile body throughout all three trimesters.
With all the changes to our body and growing bump we want to ensure our pregnancy journey is as safe, comfortable and enjoyable as it can be!
BEFORE YOU START
Please seek advice and full clearance from your obstetrician, doctor or health care professional before commencing any exercise or exercise program.
HEART RATE, BODY TEMP, INTENSITY, BREATH & REST these are the main areas to monitor when training with your bump. The recommendation is that women keep a steady heart rate below 150/140. This is an “average” measure so it’s safer to exercise based on intensity and how your body feels. Don’t push yourself to your maximum efforts, exercise comfortably. You are carrying precious cargo mammas! When you feel yourself short of breath beyond holding a conversation or working up a serious hot sweat, take a moment to breathe and rest. Remember that everything that we do, how we move, eat, drink, breathe and feel affects our bump too! You may be used to holding your breath during exercise movements. Try not to hold your breath as this can create intra abdominal pressure on our bump. Take time between reps and sets to rest and remember to BREATHE.
Execute exercises slowly and correctly. If you are ever unsure of a movement or if something feels right or not STOP. Seek instruction from a professional and only work on the movements you and your bump feel comfortable and confident doing.
Trimester 2 - Avoid exercises in the supine position (flat on your back).
Trimester 3 - Avoid Overhead exercises. Squat to a bench or no lower than 90degrees.
ACTIVE REST DAYS
It’s important to listen to your body and bump throughout your pregnancy. Some days will be harder than other lacking energy and motivation or simply uncomfortable. Making a conscious effort to move just a little each day will give your body the chance to stretch, release tension in joints & muscles and exercise the mind! Take a light coastal stroll, swim, prenatal yoga or walk to your local cafe. Listen to your body and your bump as you both ride the journey together.
My postpartum journey goals were to be a STRONG, HEALTHY, HAPPY + NURTURING MOTHER.
Please seek advice and full clearance from your obstetrician, doctor or health care professional before commencing any exercise or exercise program after birth.
All deliveries and all recoveries differ, each Mamma will be ready and cleared to commence physical activity and exercise programs at different stages postpartum.
Even if you were the fittest of mamma’s during pregnancy and pre-birth your postpartum journey is an unpredictable and should be taken with care and proper instruction and guidance from a professional.
WHAT IS ABDOMINAL SEPARATION?
Abdominal separation occurs when the two long parallel abdominal muscles separate as a result of the growing uterus. You can check and monitor your abdominal separation by laying flat on your back, knees bent with your heels grounded and lifting your neck off the ground, then placing your fingers between the gap of the two parallel abdominal muscles. You want to feel and measure that this gap is reducing and you fit less fingers between the two muscles as they naturally return together. If the gap is greater than 3cm it’s best to work with your health professional on rebuilding these muscles together.
WHEN TO START AFTER BIRTH?
Easing back into a fitness regime after birth is really important. Your uterus is still healing and returning to its usual size as well as the experience your body and mind have journeyed through can cause a fair bit of discomfort. The body is also still present with the hormone relaxin, this is what loosens the joints and pelvis during pregnancy in preparation for birth. There are many changes going on in the body as it repairs and prepares itself for the postpartum weeks.
So when can you start exercising after birth? First you need your clearance! Once you feel mentally and physically ready and comfortable you can begin easing into movement:
2-4 WEEKS PP- pelvic floor exercises your midwife or GP will prescribe, low impact activity, easy 20 minute walks around the shops or local streets.
4-6 WEEKS PP - continue pelvic floor exercises, light body weight movements, longer walks.
6-8 WEEKS PP - continue pelvic floor, commence a strength and rehabilitation exercise program to rebuild and strengthen the body and core.
BREASTFEEDING + PRE-WORKOUT FUEL
Breastfeeding can use up your energy and burn calories! This means you need to replace the energy burned to fuel your body so you can continue to produce milk and feed your bub whilst supporting your own body’s needs and fueling your energy expenditure (the energy you use to do daily tasks and function). Be sure to eat nutritionally balanced meals of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Eating a light meal before a morning workout will give you the energy you need to get the most out of your session and not leave your body depleted. If you are training later in the day and haven’t eaten for a few hours prior to a workout have a small meal to boost your energy and fuel your workout. A few Pre-Workout snacks to get you going:
Rice cakes with chicken, turkey, tofu and avocado.
Rice cakes with cottage cheese, tomato or cucumber.
Veggie sticks with a small handful of almonds.
Stay hydrated mammas! Aim to drink at least 1.5-2 litres or more of water a day. By keeping a 1litre bottle of water with you at all times when your out and about or at home breast feeding throughout the day and night will help you to maintain a consistent level of fluids.