Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Staying Fit While Pregnant

I haven't posted a good article on here in a long time. Being in school full time and training made that nearly impossible. However, I am no longer in school, due to the fact that I am in the process of moving to California and growing a small human being inside of me.

Here's me at 27 weeks and 1 day

I decided, due to my pregnancy, and the things I have learned on my journey through pregnancy, that I would write an article about keeping up your fitness level during pregnancy.

Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different. I do believe, however, that mine has been a lot easier than most women's pregnancies, and I want to give most of the credit to my active and healthy lifestyle. 

My first trimester was somewhat rough, I was constantly nauseated, but never threw up. The only times I didn't feel nauseated was when I was doing cardio, so I kept hopping up on my elliptical nordic track machine almost every day, praying for relief. I only got 30 minutes some days, other days I made it 60 minutes. I always felt better afterward, and slept better.

By my 12th week the nausea was gone and I was able to really get in some good work outs. I started weight training again (I didn't weight train at all the first trimester), and found that I was still pretty low on energy. Over time I gained more energy and continued doing cardio at least 3-5 days a week for usually 45-60 minutes at a time. I have continued this and plan on continuing weight training and cardio as I progress through my 3rd trimester (which I just entered yesterday).

Weight training can be difficult during pregnancy, especially if you don't know what you are doing. It can also be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing, so I recommend that if you want to weight train while pregnant, you check with your doctor first and consult with a Personal Trainer who is knowledgeable in prenatal fitness.

When you are pregnant it is important that you keep the weights light. A chemical called Relaxin is produced during pregnancy that helps your ligaments relax in order to prepare the hips/birth canal for birth. Unfortunately it's not a targeted hormone, it effects all of the ligaments in your body, making you especially susceptible to accidental subluxations or dislocations of other joints in your body. For this reason, it is advised that you not lift too heavy or you may put yourself in a precarious position and accidentally injure yourself. 

For this reason I prefer to do body weight exercises during pregnancy, I watch my range of motion and take special care not to over stretch any body parts, or hyper-extend. When I do use weights, I keep it usually between 5 and 25 lbs depending on which muscle I'm working, but this is personalized to me so you have to know your own limits. I recommend if you were lifting a weight comfortably and without a spotter before you were pregnant, either stay at that weight or lighten it 5-10 lbs and then just up your repetitions. 

Cardio is an area a lot of women get confused about during pregnancy. What can you and can't you do? Well it depends on what you did before. I wasn't running regularly enough to be comfortable with jogging, and you CANNOT sprint during pregnancy, so I decided to go with an elliptical as my main method of cardio. I like that it's easier on the joints, and doesn't jerk your body around as much. I would swim if I had access to a swimming pool and a better maternity swimming suit. 

I also want to stress that there are a few things you should NEVER do while pregnant. Mainly Jumping, Cutting (like in soccer), Contact Sports, Sprinting, Anything Upside Down, Anything on your Back after the 20th week. No Gymnastics, no Plyometrics.

That being said there are a lot of Isometric exercises that are great to do while pregnant. I also recommend keeping those legs nice and strong. I like to do a lot of squats, lunges, and glute strengthening exercises. I also try to keep my arms and chest strong, as those muscles will be very helpful when carrying a baby and a baby carrier. 

Caitlin's List of Great Pregnancy Exercises: (Please don't do these unless you know proper form)

- Plank
- Squats (body weight or with light weights in each hand)
- Lunges (walking or static)
- Squat Holds (holding the squat for 30, 60, 90 or more seconds)
- Fast Squats
- Yoga Ball Chest Press
- Push Ups onto a slightly raised surface (my belly gets in the way too much for military style)
- Kickbacks with a band
- Lateral band walks
- Side Lunges
- Sumo Squats
- Wall Sits
- Inner Thigh Ball Squeezes
- Curls
- Tricep Extensions
- Chair Dips
- Step Ups


I also highly recommend going to a pregnancy fitness class if you feel lost or clueless, or seeing a personal trainer who specializes in prenatal exercise.