Losing The Baby Weight: Pregnancy & Exercise

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This week starts the first post in the Losing the Baby Weight series. Like I mentioned last week it has been difficult for me to start writing about this because there are so many different variables that come into play with how quickly a mama recovers after having a baby.

Here are the topics for the next 4 weeks:

Wednesday, June 12: Pregnancy & Exercise

Wednesday, June 19: What To Expect After You Deliver

Wednesday, June 26: The First Six Weeks

Wednesday, July 3: Nutrition

Losing The Baby Weight

As a personal trainer and yoga instructor I felt confident in my ability to answer my clients questions regarding exercise and pregnancy. Then I became pregnant. Welcome unwanted advice and opinions from strangers. It might be because I taught yoga and bootcamp classes up until I delivered but I heard my share of comments that were pretty judgmental about how active I was while pregnant with Caden. I have learned that you will never please everyone. Being a good parent is about making informed decisions that will be best for your family.

In hopes to encourage you mamas-to-be I am sharing my experiences of exercising while pregnant and also what I have learned from researching this topic. The majority of this post will focus on those who already exercise. If you are pregnant and have never exercised now is the perfect time to start (always check with your doctor before you begin a exercise program). Walking, stretching, and gentle yoga are great activities for those new to physical activity.

If you have persistent bleeding during the 2nd and 3rd trimester, pregnancy induced hypertension, preterm labor with current or a prior pregnancy or any other questionable contraindication to exercise please consult with your doctor.

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Continuing to exercise during pregnancy at a moderate intensity level can:

  • Improve sleep. Many pregnant women have a hard time falling and staying asleep but those who exercise say that the quality of sleep is greater and they feel more rested in the morning.
  • Reduce the discomforts of pregnancy. Exercise can lessen the amount of aches and pains you feel as your baby grows.
  • Reduce stress. Growing a baby can be stressful. Studies have found that after exercise the brain releases chemicals that actually put you in a better mood.
  • Prepare your body for childbirth. The better shape you are in the more prepared your body will be to handle the demands of labor. It is still going to hurt but your body will be able to adapt to the stress and in some cases labor might be shorter. Might be. It is not a guarantee but it cant hurt to try.
  • Improve your self image. When you take care of yourself you feel better.
  • Speed up your weight loss after baby is born. This is the major reason to exercise while pregnant. Of course if you have not been cleared by your doctor don’t exercise and don’t feel guilty.

These are all reason to love exercise!

Exercise Intensity, Heart Rate, & Rate of Perceived Exertion

Over the years the recommendations issued by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) on pregnancy and exercise intensity have dramatically changed:

  • 1985: The ACOG issues a statement that the maximum heart rate during pregnancy should not exceed 140 beats per minute and women should not participate in strenuous exercise for more than 15 minutes.
  • 1994: A new statement is released removing specific limitations regarding exercise during pregnancy. The ACOG said, ‘‘there is no data in humans to indicate that pregnant women should limit exercise intensity and lower target heart rate because of adverse effects.’’ They still recommended that women avoid exhaustion during exercise.
  • 2002: The ACOG published ‘‘Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: ACOG Committee Opinion 267.’’ In this paper, the ACOG Committee recognizes that ‘‘in the absence of contraindications, pregnant women should be encouraged to engage in regular, moderate intensity physical activity to continue to derive health benefits during their pregnancy as they did prior to their pregnancy.’’

It has been many years since the maximum heart rate during pregnancy was recommended not to exceed 140 beats per minute. If a doctor or trainer tells you otherwise there is a good chance they are sharing outdated information. What you want to be mindful of is not allowing your body to become overheated to the point that it can not cool itself down.

If you regularly exercise with a heart rate monitor you can continue to do so while pregnant or you can evaluate your intensity using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), or how you feel based on a scale from one to ten. As a general rule, keep your RPE in the 5-6 range during pregnancy workouts.

Your 5-6 RPE pre-pregnancy will not feel the same as your 5-6 while you are pregnant. During pregnancy the body produces more blood and the heart works harder to circulate the excess. The increase in blood is responsible for fatigue, nausea and dizziness during the first trimester.

Running

Can you run while pregnant? If you were a runner before you became pregnant you can continue running during pregnancy. Keep in mind pregnancy is not the time to try and break a personal record. Moderation is the key. As you progress in weeks be prepared to cut back on mileage and intensity as needed.

I ran several 5ks while pregnant and up until 19 weeks was averaging 18 miles weekly. Due to varicose veins I ditched running during the second trimester and spent more time in the gym, on my yoga mat, or in the pool.

Strength Training

Ladies this is so important! Labor was the most intense workout of my life. My whole entire body was working with each push. I was so thankful that I continued to strength train at moderate intensity during my pregnancy. When you are lifting be careful when you are doing heavy squats and lunges. During pregnancy your body releases the hormone relaxin which lubricates your joints to prep for delivery. Your range of motion will slightly increase which can increase your chance of an injury. Be mindful of your movement.

Yoga

Oh yoga! I love you! Yoga and swimming were the best things I did for my body while pregnant. If you are just starting a yoga practice check out Mimi Solaire or Shiva Rae for two prenatal practices that can be done in the comfort of your own home or find a local studio that offers a class for pregnant mamas. For those who have practiced prior to pregnancy let your teacher know asap so they can offer modifications. I tell my students to avoid deep backbends such as wheel and postures that encourage deep twisting.

Yoga offers a unique way to challenge and adapt to your growing belly and shifting center of balance. With that being said it is up to you to know your limit. Personally I continued my handstands and forearm balances during my pregnancy. I felt strong and confident that I was not going to fall out of the postures I placed my body in. I am not recommending that you do same. I am only sharing this information to let you know that I had a safe and successful pregnancy and no harm was done to Caden.

Swimming

Swimming is a great way to build endurance and increase cardiovascular conditioning. Water creates as much as 12 times more resistance than air, which means it will strengthen your muscles and give you a cardio workout at the same time. The water also creates a safe environment for the body and is a great way to rehab after an injury. If you are new to swimming or need to brush up on your strokes most local pools or masters swim programs offer lessons for adults. Water aerobics is another great low impact option.

Varicose Veins

If you are dealing with varicose veins you have my sympathies. Here are a few helpful tips to possibly prevent or at least minimize your discomfort while pregnant:

  • Exercise daily. Try swimming or water aerobics. The pressure from the water will encourage the blood flow in your legs to move back towards your heart.
  • Wear compression socks. Your best options is to be fitted by a doctor who specializes in the treatment of varicose veins. There are many grades of compression socks on the market and you want to be sure you are buying a pair that will encourage circulation and not cut it off.
  • Sleep on your left side. The inferior vena cava is on the right side, lying on your left side relieves the vein of the weight of the uterus, thus decreasing pressure on the veins in your legs and feet.
  • Don’t cross your legs while sitting.
  • Don’t stand still for long periods of time.

For most, varicose veins will improve after delivery. For others, like myself, there are a variety of ways to treat them. I just started my treatment and should be finished in 2 months. Yay!

Is exercise harmful to the baby?

Your baby will not be harmed or deprived of nutrients or oxygen because you exercise. Your body will deplete its own nutrient stores to ensure that the baby is going to get everything needed. Exercise has also been shown to make the placenta stronger.

General Tips for Pregnancy Workouts

  • Properly warm up and cool down as this will help to reduce the risk of injury.
  • If you feel dizzy or lightheaded at any time discontinue your current activity and give your body time to recover. This will happen sometimes due to increased blood flow.
  • High risk activities should be avoided. If you road bike avoid the risk of becoming off balanced by finding a indoor cycle class. Any risk or trauma that could potentially happen to the abdomen should be placed on hold until after you deliver.
  • Continue to challenge and strengthen your core. You may need to nix the crunches after the first trimester but there are plenty of plank variations that are awesome and safe.
  • Be mindful of the amount of time you spend on your back. I never had a problem performing exercises for a short amount of time on my back but everyone is different.

If you are a healthy mama-to-be with a normal pregnancy hopefully you feel encouraged to continue or start exercising. Let me know if you exercised during pregnancy and what you did. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject! Lets motivate and encourage each other!

xoxo, Tamara

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Comments

  1. What’s your opinion of hot yoga while pregnant. I have read some contridicting articles, some say you can continue your practice if you were practicing prior to pregnancy and some say that you just shouldn’t do it.

    • Hi Kaileigh! Thanks for reading and great question. I was wondering if anyone would ask this ;). I could do an entire separate post on this.

      Hot yoga typically is done in room temperatures of 90 to 105 degrees and at 60 to 70 percent humidity. It can be challenging for the body to cool itself down at these temperatures and may cause dehydration. One of the major reason heat is used in yoga is to increase the range of motion in the body and when you are pregnant your range of motion is already going to be greater because of the hormone relaxin the body.

      That being said it is totally up to you. I would make sure to ask your doctor before continuing this type of yoga practice. Personally I did not do any hot yoga classes myself while I was pregnant. I did practice in a heated room around 80-85 degrees when at the studio. I know some of my friends who have done hot yoga during their pregnancy and they did not have any issues, but everyone is different. My one suggestion is that if you are going to continue this type of practice wait until after your first trimester to limit your risk of overheating.

      Hope this helps :).

  2. Exercising the duration of my pregnancy was seriously one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I was active before I found out I was pregnant, but wasn’t really set on a “strict” workout schedule. I knew I wanted to be as healthy as possible during my pregnancy and didn’t want to gain excessive weight, so I was dedicated and made sure I made time each week for workouts up until I had my daughter. I didn’t do anything super strenuous, but it was very effective. I walked and did Jillian Michaels dvd’s at home (with hand weights) for a combined total of about 1-1.5 hours a day, 4 days a week. I actually did the “30 Day Shred” and “No More Trouble Zones” workouts, modifying the abdominal exercises as my belly grew. For instance, while she preformed the ab moves, I would do pushups on my knees or some other upper body or leg exercise in its place. I felt amazing throughout my entire pregnancy and actually lost inches off of my arms and legs as they became more toned! Losing inches was never a goal at all, but I surely welcomed my newly toned legs and nothing makes you feel more like a million bucks then when people constantly tell you how great your arms look in your weekly pregnancy photos!!! I ended up with an emergency c-section after a great and quickly progressing labor just stalled out (baby was stuck) and BOY WAS I GLAD to have logged all of those miles walking and hours with my dvd player! It made my surgery recovery SO much easier than it could have been!
    Jess recently posted…The Rocking ChairMy Profile

  3. I just hate it when people get all judgey about pregnant women, including exercise when pregnant. Every woman is different, so what works for one person may not for another. I always wanted to keep up a similar level of activity when I was pregnant, but I just couldn’t do it. With my first pregnancy, I was so sick with morning sickness until 17 weeks, that I couldn’t do much more than lay on the sofa and try not to lose my dinner. Even after the morning sickness passed, I never felt “normal,” though I did start walking and doing some strength training again. I resumed my kettlebell strength training workouts and used a few pregnancy workout DVDs that I had. I am a runner normally, so with my 2nd pregnancy, I really tried to keep running, but just couldn’t do it after about 4 months. With subsequent pregnancies (much more so than first pregnancies), the Braxton-Hicks contractions are much more frequent and can get pretty intense. By about 4 months, I could only run in about 90-second intervals before the B-H contractions and accompanying pelvic pressure was so intense that I had to stop. I switched to walking at that point, but still kept up strength training. With this pregnancy, I walked/jogged and did strength training during my first trimester. I had to have surgery (a laparotomy) at 12 weeks, and since I was cleared to exercise after my recovery period (so at 18 weeks), I’ve been focusing on rehabbing my muscles and building back some strength. Walking and elliptical have been my main cardio, and I try to make it to prenatal yoga when I can (though it’s really tough with two small kids in the house!).

    So good for you on staying so active while pregnant. I think that other pregnant women should definitely stay active if they can and are so inclined, and if it doesn’t work out for one reason or another, they shouldn’t beat themselves up about it. I don’t. I won’t be pregnant forever and fully intend to get back to running and more intense workouts when I can after this baby is born!
    Katie recently posted…{25 weeks}: Getting biggerMy Profile

    • Good for you Katie! I agree that is so horrible when people judge about pregnant women being active and also when active women judge those who are not. Everyone’s situation is completely different. Love your attitude and kudos to you!

  4. This series of posts is perfect for me! I’m having my second baby in a couple weeks! With my first I exercised regular. I walked and I did water aerobics weekly. This time around I haven’t done much unless chasing my toddler counts. I do feel the pressure to get back into great shape after the baby. I was able to bounce back after my first and I’ve pressured myself into feeling like I need to do that again. I’m looking forward to working out and getting in shape but I don’t want to rush anything. Any suggestions on how to get some good workouts in with a toddler and a newborn?
    Tia (The Chic SAHM) recently posted…30 Things: Describe 10 Pet Peeves You Have…My Profile

    • Congrats Tia! Water aerobics is awesome! Chasing your toddler counts ;), they are fast. I will be posting workout suggestions in the upcoming weeks. Have a great day!

  5. Hay! Yes, I was working out during my pregnancy. I did a lot of pilates and exercsies of dr. cathy that you can find on youtube. I felt very good and my delivery wasn’t difficult. And also I didn’t have problem during my pregnancy, not even with my weight – I had 12 kilos the plus at the end of my pregnancy..
    I liked your post, like that women will be encouraged to exercise during the pregnancy. You can visit my blog and we can follow each other.. http://runningheelsblog.blogspot.fr
    Have a nice day.

    Elma
    Elma recently posted…Brazilian Butt exercisesMy Profile

    • Thanks for reading Elma! Glad you were able to find several options that worked for you while you were pregnant :). I am going to check out your blog right now.

  6. Found your blog through the Blog Hop and now a new follower. Excited about the new series as a (semi) recent mama!
    XOXO/Lena @ RootandBlossom
    Lena recently posted…{CO-HOSTING} Mom-lovin Blog Hop No.3My Profile

  7. Love this! So glad you linked up with Friday’s Five, hope to see you back again this Friday!

    Amber
    FACE IT Catalog

  8. Kim Caldwell says:

    Just found your blog from Mix and Match Mamma. I found your posts very informative. I hope to continue exercising throughout my pregnancy. So far so good at 22 weeks and still running. Slower of course but still logging the miles. Hope to run a 5K at 28 weeks. Thanks for the information!

  9. Not pregnant yet, but planning on probably within the next year or so… I practice yoga, not always as often as I would like to because of work but I am aiming for once per week minimum at the moment. I’m fairly flexible and I think I get a lot out of practice but I’m definitely not doing headstands or any of the cool stuff superfit people like you do. Definitely wanting to get fit as much as possible before getting pregnant. My question for you is this – once pregnant, at what point do I need to stop going to regular classes and start going to prenatal yoga classes? Or is it even necessary? new to your blog, love it btw!
    Laura recently posted…Nautical Baby Shower Diaper Cake & WreathMy Profile

    • Hi Laura, It is totally up to you. Let your teacher know you are pregnant so they can offer you modifications as needed. If you are wanting to connect with other moms prenatal classes are great but you should still be able to attend your regular class. Make sure the room is not overly heated, so avoid hot yoga classes (a mildly heated room should be fine), also avoid deep twists, backbends, and anything that puts pressure on your stomach. Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

  10. I had been doing boxing, running & horseback riding for most of my life so when I got pregnant it was all needing to be modified. I have never been one for yoga or pilates. I did ride until the first trimester was done and my body was just over it. I continued to box (me hitting mits no one hitting me) until the last trimester as well as running 5ks. When I hit the last trimester it was like hitting a brick wall. All of my strength training and cardio just went right out of the window. I feel like Gumby and not in a good way. Working with my personal trainer we came up with some work arounds that would keep me moving (Walking 5 miles a day with hand weights) and while planking is too much (Instant back pain no matter how I get it done) I still manage step ups and working with the hand weights. My arms and legs still look fabulous but these last weeks have been brutal to keep moving. We are to the baby any day phase and I am still walking and moving but UGH!

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