Pregnancy & Training
Even though I had to study ante/post natal exercise whilst working towards my Masters the knowledge I gained is not as useful as the reality of seeing things at first hand.
My wife Josie is seven months pregnant with our first child and seeing the amazing changes she is going through, physically & emotionally, has brought to life some of the things I read about in books.
The first thing I think that is important to understand, before we look at training protocols etc. for pregnancy, is that all ladies have different attitudes and physical responses to pregnancy: Some who train regularly could well be advised to rest; Some who train regularly could continue training; Some who have never trained may be well advised to think about gentle exercise and some should think about gentle mobility only after the first trimester. The list is endless and hence good common sense, in conjunction with professional advice from doctors, midwifes, nurses and exercise specialists (sometimes husbands) is the real order of the day.
A good piece of advice given to me recently, which brought all of the above in to focus was from a good friend – “Don’t forget the baby has not read Dr. Miriam Stoppard’s book!”
As a general rule of thumb, and common knowledge, the first three and last three months are when there is the greatest risk to the foetus. Where exercise is concerned core temperature needs particular attention. This means that if you train you should ensure you do not overheat, if you are hot your foetus is as well. Certainly for most a reduction in intensity would be prudent. It would also be sensible to be aware of the onslaught of hormones; this will help you understand why emotionally you may not be so stable.
If you are a serious athlete you may not even notice you are pregnant until some of the hormones really kick in. Most ladies, however, find that their chest becomes painful. This pain must not be ignored. They will increase in weight and be quite tender due to hormonal changes in the body. Extra support is indispensable at this time, and without it, running can be a difficult, if not impossible task. Perhaps try non-impact exercises like swimming, walking, cycling, x-trainers etc.
The second stage of pregnancy is ‘supposed’ to be when you are in full flight, blooming beautifully and able to cope with everything. This can be a misconception as although many do, certainly not all ladies get to feel like this. They seem not to tell you that you will find that the clothes you loved will now no longer fit you but you don’t actually look pregnant; consequently you can feel frumpy. Exercise may well help keep those feeling at bay.
As far as hard training is concerned, it is probably a good idea not concentrate on high impact exercise (both feet off the floor at any time while in motion e.g. running, high impact aerobics, high impact step etc.) That said there are some exceptions. Sonia O’Sullivan ran regularly throughout her pregnancy – (not competitively though.) What may not be so obvious is that your centre of gravity will be altered, affecting your balance and making you more susceptible to trips and falls, so be aware. It also is important to understand is your body is starting to release more ‘progesterone’ a hormone that, as part of its action on you during your pregnancy, assists in making your ligaments less tensile. I would suggest that you only concentrate on mild, maintenance flexibility training and certainly not developmental. Unlike muscles, ligaments are non-elastic and once stretched remain so.
During the latter stages of your pregnancy I will be surprised if you want to exercise much as your sleep will become disturbed, you will feel it an effort to get up in the morning, your back may well be aching, feet swollen and your attractive wiggle has turned into more of a John Wayne waddle! Sorry, it is not fantastically glam for every Mum to be. The best exercise to do would be gentle mobility using a stability ball or, best for most, a gentle swim – (more of a bob up and down actually.) The water will support your body weight and you can feel like a normal person for while. The balls are good to sit on for a short time, as they will encourage you to maintain a better posture. Ensure the ball feels very still, any movement in it will indicate that you are not sitting with quite such good posture.
Overall, I would recommend trying to get into a daily routine of doing simple mobility exercises (similar to yoga), even if you have never exercised before. It is well proven that well toned, healthier Mums usually have easier, less complicated births, and can have a more positive approach to their labour than their de-conditioned counterparts. If you are a regular exerciser, continue but with caution. If you are unsure always get sound professional advice.
Steve Young can be contacted on 07711 246651 or via e-mail through the web at http://www.foreveryoungfitness.co.uk