Everything You EVER Wanted to Know About Exercising During Pregnancy

Disclaimer: I feel the need to put a disclaimer on this post and let you know I am by no means a medical professional. I am however a mother, certified personal trainer, and yoga instructor. What I am sharing is based on my own research and experience. This post also contains affiliate links. 

I am in my third trimester of pregnancy with my third baby. Never thought I would type that, to see why watch VASECTOMIES, FOSTER PARENTING, & A PREGNANCY TESTOver the last 5 years of being pregnant three times I have learned as much as could about pregnancy and exercise.

I am a certified personal trainer, and yoga instructor, and also a nutrition coach. I also know there are many trainers and fitness professionals in the world who have way more knowledge than I do but don’t have the experience of having been pregnant three times. Here is what I have learned over the last several years about exercising while pregnant.

Your First Pregnancy is NOT the Same as Your Second (or Third)

Your first pregnancy is amazing for many reasons. You can nap when you are tired being one of them. But in all seriousness, during your first pregnancy your body is being stretched for the first time in a new way. Your muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, and bones have never had the pressure of carrying and holding a baby before.

My first pregnancy I exercised very similarly to how I was exercising before I become pregnant. I adopted the motto “If you were doing it before you were pregnant it is safe to do the same while pregnant“. While this may be true for certain activities I wish I would have had more knowledge of what exactly I was doing to my body.

During my first pregnancy I did lots of yoga. I was already very flexible before pregnancy and with the added hormones I became even more flexible. I don’t think yoga is necessarily a bad way to move while pregnant, but I do think you need to be extra cautious about the poses that you do.

When I became pregnant the second time I was shocked by how my body felt. I was so uncomfortable. I couldn’t do even half of what I had been able do when I was pregnant the first time.

The best way I can describe multiple pregnancies on your body is to think of a deflated balloon. The first time you attempt to blow air into the balloon it will feel like you are going to pass out. The balloon has never been inflated before. The next time it is inflated you don’t have to work as hard.

With the body the same thing happens. The fascia surrounding the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and organs has already been manipulated in the same way previously making it easier to move, which is good and bad. Your body was made to adapt to pregnancy, but if you already have instability in areas of the body they will become even more noticeable and potentially problematic for you.

Hire a Trained Professional

These people are worth the money. Trust me. I spent several months working with a physical therapist after having my second baby and was so sad when I was recovered because I wanted to keep working with him.

While my physical therapist was a male and had obviously never been pregnant he had way more training than a personal trainer and could evaluate the imbalances in my body.

Personal trainers are wonderful. I am certified personal trainer. But our scope of knowledge is limited. We do not have the same training as a physical therapist.

Most insurance plans will cover multiple physical therapy visits. If you have been pregnant and something in your body still does not feel right these are great professionals to go and see.

Diastasis Recti & Healing Your Pelvic Floor after Baby

Women who have given birth – can we just get a moment of silence for all the times we have accidentally peed our pants during a workout. Jump ropes, box jumps, and jumping jacks, I am specifically looking at you. If this is you, there is a solid chance your body has yet to fully recover from having a baby.

Looks can be deceiving. Your tummy might be flat at 6 weeks postpartum but that doesn’t mean that your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles have fully healed.

I mention this because the way you exercise while pregnant can worsen your abdominal separation. Don’t be like me and let your ego get in the way! It isn’t worth it. Again, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

No matter how many months or even years it has been since having a baby there is hope to heal your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles!I highly recommend the MuTu System for those wanting to heal their core and pelvic floor after giving birth. You can read about my experience with the Mutu System HERE.

Exercises to Avoid While Pregnant

These are the exercises I see recommended by trainers or #fitspo #fitmom Instagrammers that literally make me want to cry. Please, please, please if you are pregnant avoid these exercises. It is only for 9 months of your life and I promise your body will thank you in the years to come.

Even if these exercises can be performed it doesn’t mean that they should. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Your body is going to change while you are pregnant. Abdominal separation is normal and how you exercise while you are pregnant can improve your recovery after pregnancy.

LUNGES

Most of us, personal trainers included, do not always have perfect form when exercising. For this reason alone, my advice is to avoid lunges after the first trimester. Be very careful with any unilateral exercise, like lunges, during pregnancy because of the risk of low back, hip and knee issues. In my opinion this exercise is not worth the risk of developing imbalances in the body.

Pregnancy Safe Alternative: Squats

Squats are great during pregnancy, just make sure that you have your feet and knees fairly narrow, narrower than you may have done them before, and ensure that you keep your knees in line with your feet. This is to protect your knees and hips, which are more vulnerable during pregnancy because of the horemone relaxin. Also, if you feel too much strain on your back, use a stability ball on a wall for support.

PLANKS & PUSHUPS

Planks and Pushups are beneficial exercises to do, but need to be done mindfully. You can place your hands on a bench, table, stairs, or even against the wall to modify this exercise. Planks should be avoided after the first trimester.

Pushups can be modified during the entire pregnancy. When you look at your midsection while you are doing this you should see more of a gradually rounding. If you see a bulge in the middle elevate your hands further from the floor. There is no shame elevating your pushup.

Pregnancy Safe Alternative: Bird Dog & TRX Chest Press

Bird Dog: Come to a hands and knees position on an exercise mat positioning your knees underneath your hips and the crease of your wrists directly underneath your shoulders. Your fingers should be pointing forward. Engage your core and abdominal muscles. Keep your spine in a neutral position, avoid any excessive sagging or arching. Pull the shoulder blades toward your hips. In this exercise you are attempting to move the opposite arm and leg simultaneously. It is very helpful to use a mirror to help you with form adjustments. Begin by slowly lengthening the left leg until it is long and strong. Lift the leg off the floor until it is at or near parallel to the floor. The leg should not be lifted above hip height. This will help to avoid upward rotation at the hip. That might be enough. If it feels comfortable you can lift the right arm as well. Another option is to lift the leg and arm separately and switch sides.

TRX Chest Press: Grab the handles and take a step forward on one leg. Keeping your body in a straight line and both arms straight, lean froward until your body is at about a 40 degree angle. Bend the elbows and lower your body. Use your arms to push yourself back to the starting position.

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SITUPS, CRUNCHES, AND OTHER ABDOMINAL EXERCISES

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists the average distribution of weight gain during pregnancy is 30 pounds. This increase in weight causes internal pressure inside of the abdominal cavity. The pressure is upward, downward, and outward and is what creates the abdominal separation. The entire core of the body, glutes, ribs, pelvic floor, and the deeper core musculature become unstable.

This can lead to low back pain, pelvic pain, incontinence, prolapse and urinary urgency/frequency. Women who have abdominal separation also tend to have a higher degree of pelvic floor and abdominal pain.

Avoid these all together.

BOX JUMPS

As mentioned before pregnant women release a hormone called Relaxin which causes ligaments to be looser and can affect balance. Therefore, movements such as box jumps should be avoided after the first trimester. Plus they really don’t feel all that great anyway when you are pregnant.

LOWER BODY UNILATERAL MOVEMENTS

Now some trainers will tell you that lower body unilateral movements (lunges, single leg deadlifts, etc.) are an excellent way to train the body while pregnant. Their reason is that these exercises are great stabilizers and improve balance. I do not disagree that these are great exercises, but I cannot recommend them during pregnancy. It is better to keep both feet together and under the hips for improved balance and stability during pregnancy than it is to try and improve your overall balance and stability. Your chance of injury is higher with these types of movements and they should be avoided, especially after the first trimester.

TWISTING MOVEMENTS

Don’t twist or compress your abdomen torso and spine. No twisting yoga poses. Just don’t do it.

RUNNING

I have some friends who can run while they are pregnant. Personally, I feel like my body is falling apart mid stride and the next day I can barely walk. I learned during my second pregnancy that running and pregnancy, at least for me, are not a great combination. Running is very high impact.

The best prenatal exercise routine is to perform exercises that are low impact and will not create further imbalances in your body. Don’t be afraid to lift weights, increase your heart rate, and work up a sweat! These are all great things for you do.

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.

General Tips for Exercising while Pregnant

Remember to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise. Dealing with dehydration is not fun when you are pregnant. I learned this the hard way with my second pregnant and ended up in the hospital twice.

Find out what works best for you. For me and my third pregnancy this has looked liked swimming laps, incline walking on the treadmill, lifting weights, and stretching.

Once you reach the third trimester be extra cautious and careful with your movements. During your final weeks of pregnancy your uterus is 500 times its normal size. You’re carrying around an extra 20 to 40 pounds, making even the simplest movements a workout. Enter the gym with zero ego to ensure you are as safe as possible.

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.

Be mindful of the amount of time you spend on your back. The added weight of the baby can place more stress on your spine.

Dealing with varicose veins? Be sure to read the following post Varicose Veins & Pregnancy for more on this topic.

Wear comfortable clothes that aren’t overly tight especially around your waist. My favorites include: Lululemon Studio Pants, Lucy Get Going Pants, Reebok Studio Pants, Lululemon Tech Shirts, and Reebok Burnout Shirts.

Hopefully this post was helpful and encouraging to you! Let me know what you think. How was your experience exercising while pregnant?

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Body After Baby: 4 Months Postpartum

Wow, I have so much to share. I am anxious and slightly nervous to write how I have been recovering during these last several months. But before I continue please read the following disclaimer…

I don’t use extreme measures, deprive myself, or sacrifice my sleep in order to obtain results. I was active during both of my pregnancies and I fully believe that staying active has helped my body recover. I have found that being patient, consistent, and determined are the greatest ways to regain strength and stability in my body. I am a mama to two, and a wife to a firefighter. I don’t have a chef, housekeeper, or nanny. I am real person and I am inviting you to come on my postpartum journey with me. If you are recovering from childbirth please listen to your own body and know that each woman’s pregnancy, labor, and delivery is unique. 

To read Maisie’s birth story click HERE. You may also be interested in reading Body After Baby: 1 Month Postpartum Update.

PRE-PREGNANCY STATS

Waist 27″ | Hips 37″ | Weight 130 lb.

39 WEEK PREGNANCY STATS

Waist 38″ | Hips 39″ | Weight 154 lb.

4 MONTH POST BABY STATS

Waist 31.5″ | Hips 37″ | Weight 133 lb.

Body After Baby 4 Months Postpartum

I am really not even sure where to start. I was feeling really great up until around 6 weeks after giving birth. Both Caden and Maisie were healthy and Josh was back on his regular 24 hour shifts. I felt like supermom. Sure I was exhausted at the end of the day but all things considered I thought I was managing fairly well.

Around 8 weeks postpartum I started to feel very run down. I remember the newborn phase with Caden and being tired but this time around I just seemed to become more fatigued as time went on, experienced frequent heart palpitations, and felt a looming sense of dread hanging over my head.

Thinking that I might have a nutritional deficiency I set up an appointment with my naturopath and she recommended that I see a cardiologist.  One doctors appointment turned into another and has since spiraled out of control. I really can’t tell you how many times in the last 3 months I have been to a doctor. These appointments have included the dermatologist for skin biopsies and exzema, dentist for a root canal, cardiologist, naturopath, vein specialist for varicose vein treatments, and lastly to my primary care doctor.

I don’t even want to think about how much money I have spent on co-pays. Thank the Lord for insurance!

Multiple doctors visits, waiting for various test results, and trying to manage squeezing all these appointments in while nursing Maisie has been stressful to say the least. The “what if’s” started to pile up and before I knew it I was spending the majority of my time worrying about what could happen to myself and my family.

Crying seemed to become a normal part of my routine and I seriously felt like my bubbly personality was never going to make a reappearance.

I never thought I would battle with postpartum depression or anxiety. Like never ever.

With Josh’s encouragement and support I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and told him with tears in my eyes what I had been experiencing. That was the turning point. It was scary but empowering at the same time. I knew from that instant going forward I would be in a much better place. Maybe not right away but I was at least taking steps in a more positive direction.

Sharing all of this is not easy, and I debated over and over if I even wanted to share. In the end it feels better to be open and honest. I am not perfect and don’t have it all together and would never want anyone to get that impression from my blog.

I am so thankful I went to see my doctor when I did. Waiting would have only allowed me to sink deeper and deeper into a dark and bottomless pit.

This past week I learned the results from the testing that was done at the cardiologist. I have to say that it was a relief in a way to find out that the heart palpitations I have been experiencing were not a result of an over active imagination. The pulmonic valve in my heart is leaky. It is mild leak that could have been a result from pregnancy or I could have had it my entire life there is really no way to know. It is not life threatening but later on down the road if it should worsen I may need heart surgery.

My heart is also misfiring electric signals causing it to contract in an abnormal rhythm, this is why I have been feeling the palpitations. I had to wear a heart monitor with electrodes and wires for two weeks which was slightly annoying but worth it because I now have the answer I need. Again this is not life threatening and should it get worse I might need to go on medication but the cardiologist thought it could be related to postpartum hormones so I just have to wait and see.

All of this to say I am doing better. I can still exercise and I now have a plan to get back on track mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Without God at the front of all this I would be even more of a mess.

Enough of all that. Hopefully that gives you an idea of what has been going on. This next part seems slightly less important to me now in comparison to what has been happening with my overall health but I know I said I would share my before and after pictures from using the MuTu System 12 Week Program.

Body After Baby 1 Month & 4 Months Postpartum

1 MONTH POST BABY STATS

Waist 33″ | Hips 39″ | Weight 139 lb.

4 MONTH POST BABY STATS

Waist 31.5″ | Hips 37″ | Weight 133 lb.

Ladies, if you have had a baby recently or even if it has been several or more years I highly recommend the MuTu System. You can read my MuTu System 12 Week Online Program Review for more details. Since my last update I have lost 6 pounds and 3.5 inches. I can’t sing it’s praises enough! If you feel like you are looking pregnant months or years after having your baby do yourself a favor and click HERE to watch a quick video explaining the program and how it works. I’ve also been using my Fitbit to track my steps each day which has helped me see how much (or how little) I have been moving.

I am averaging around 7 hours of sleep each night and Maisie is nursing every 3 hours during the day and sleeping 12 hours at night. It is great! Over the last 6 weeks I have been waking up at 5am to pump breastmilk to stash in the freezer. The treatment I am having done on my varicose veins requires me to pump and dump for 24 hours after my appointments. All you moms who exclusively pump you are rockstars! I am planning to write a separate post on this in the next few weeks. So far my treatment has been going well and my legs are already feeling better. Yay!

I think that I need to hit publish on this post before I decide to delete it. To see cute pictures of my kiddos follow me on Instagram. I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below.

Moms how have you dealt with your postpartum recovery?

This post may contain affiliate links of items that I have used and loved. Thank you for supporting this blog and our family by purchasing through my links.

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MuTu System 12 Week Online Program Review

MuTu System 12 Week Online Program ReviewThis is not a sponsored review. I purchased the MuTu System 12 Week Online Program with my own money and have not been compensated for this post. I highly recommend this program and because I loved it so much I became an affiliate. This means that if you purchase this product from my links I will earn a small comission. Thank you for helping to support this blog and our family.

When I was nearing the end of my second pregnancy I started to research how I wanted to strengthen and allow my body to heal after childbirth. I knew going into this pregnancy that my core just wasn’t the same as at had been since the birth of my first child. Planks in particular really caused me to struggle. I couldn’t figure out why I had this annoying cone shaped bulge in the middle of my torso whenever I would engage my core in planks or in yoga while on my mat, like in boat pose.

After having my babies I didn’t realize how greatly my body would be impacted and forever changed. I can remember teaching a yoga class 2 months after my son was born and showing a transition from lunge to side plank that just about took my breath away. I felt like my pelvic floor was ripping in half and had to drop down to my knees to recover.

Let me first say, being pregnant and giving birth is an amazing miracle and I am so thankful that both my babies were born healthy. For those of you reading this who are struggling with infertility my heart breaks for you and my prayer is that you will be able to experience the joy of being a parent in the future. Please know, I am not trying to tell a story of how hard pregnancy is or how horrible labor was at all but instead only want to convey that pregnancy does do some crazy things to your body.

It is so important to take care of yourself after giving birth. I strongly encourage anyone reading this who is thinking about becoming pregnant, currently pregnant, or just had a baby to allow your body time to heal. I love running, high impact exercises, and plyo workouts (think of exercises like squat jumps, burprees, and jumping lunges) but since Maisie was born (she is 17 weeks old today) I have not done any of those things. Eventually I will run and do burpees again but for now I am content with what I am able to accomplish with my body and that each day I am getting stronger and healthier.

ANATOMY OF THE ABS

If you have had a baby you might be one of the many women who have no idea that their abdominal muscles have separated and are still separated. Did you know that this could even happen? I had no idea until after I gave birth to Caden. As a personal trainer this was nothing I even learned about in my course work.

Take a look at the Rectus Abdominis both before and during pregnancy…

Diastasis-Recti-V3-720x484

The Linea Alba, the connective tissue between the right and left half of the Rectus Abdominis, stretches to accommodate the growing baby. For some women the gap closes naturally on its own. For others the connective tissue has become overly stretched and aggravated that it does not heal properly which leaves the new mama with an unwanted belly bulge months and even years after her bundle of joy has arrived. And for a mama who has multiple pregnancies the gap can become noticeably wider each time.

This gap is known as Diastasis Recti.

YOU CAN HAVE A FLAT TUMMY

While I do have a small amount of diastasis recti I have found that in order to encourage my tummy to become flat I can’t just focus on abdominal work.

Why you ask?

Because it will not re-train the core and pelvic floor. Crunches, sit-ups, and various other abdominal exercises will only put increased internal pressure on the abdominal wall and never allow you to achieve the tummy you want. No mom wants to have low back pain, an unstable core, a tummy that sticks out, and a pelvic floor that doesn’t work properly. Instead you must focus on adjusting your body’s alignment and stretch and strengthen your muscles to get a strong functioning core and pelvic floor.

The big question everyone asks is how do I do this?

Your body is a system. Everything works together. Muscles work together to support each other. So instead of only focusing on one part of the problem the entire system that supports your midsection needs to be addressed.

If you are looking for a way to heal, re-train, improve, and strengthen your core the MuTu System is the perfect program for you.

There are several programs available that focus on healing diastasis recti. I have looked into many of them. By far the best program that I have found and that I support is the MuTu System. The creator Wendy Powell is simply amazing. This program focuses on retraining the muscles in the body, healing the mommy tummy, and correcting the internal pressure.

You can get a free video with Wendy’s top 10 ab exercises by signing up on her website (top right corner).

The Mutu System offers several different programs, DVD + online training. I have the 12 week online program and love it! It never expires and I am currently doing it right now.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

In order to do this program you will need the following items:

I used 8 pound weights for this program. I would recommend starting off with 5 pounds if you haven’t been exercising consistently and also getting a heavier and lighter resistance band so you can make your workouts more challenging as you progress each week.

Mutu System also just released their own MuTu Kit Bag that contains a resistance band, loop + small ball. Everything you need to get going with our programs. You will only need to purchase your weights separately.

WHAT’S THE 12 WEEK ONLINE PROGRAM LIKE?

Watch this trailer for a detailed look at the 12 week online program…

To be honest, I was skeptical about this program. I mean it sounded great and all, but I really wasn’t expecting to be as challenged as I was or to make a huge difference in my body. Once I started, I couldn’t believe just how weak and unstable my body had become since being pregnant and giving birth. This program has really challenged me. The workouts are fast paced and take 20 minutes total. I love that each week builds off the last and that every exercise progresses just enough that you feel challenged but not enough that it seems impossible.

THE RESULTS

So I know everyone is really big on before and after pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I am as well and will be sharing my 4 Month Body After Update next week pictures included. In case you missed it you can read my Body After Baby: 1 Month Postpartum Update.

I think the biggest benefit of this program, even bigger than how you look, is learning how to improve how your body functions and feels. From day 1 of this program I have noticed improvements in my body and what I am able to do. Lunges were not something I could do easily or comfortably during pregnancy and after giving birth, but a few weeks into the program when lunges were added I could do them. I am so happy!

The abdominal separation that I had after giving birth has been reduced by a finger width. Overall I am stronger and my balance is much better because I am rebuilding core strength and retraining the muscles of and relating directly with my pelvic floor. When I do the core exercises and stretches before bed I have noticed that I do not have to get up to pee 5 times at night because I am learning to relax overly tight muscles and retrain the weaker stabilizers like my glutes and transverse abdominus.

Update: To see my before and after pictures read Body After Baby: 4 Months Postpartum

GET STARTED TODAY, 15% DISCOUNT CODE, & MUTUVATION 2014

Thank you Wendy for your creating this wonderful program! It has been such a blessing to me and I am excited to have been able to share how much I love the MuTu System with my readers.

If you are ready to invest in your health and re-train your core and pelvic floor you can get started today. That is the beauty of using a program that is all online!

Take a glance at the MuTu Store to see which MuTu program is right for you! I personally think the MuTu System 12 Week Online Program is a great choice and will cost you $97 before the discount. Wendy, the creator of the MuTu System, was kind enough to offer a 15% off discount code to all readers of The Workout Mama.

Go and checkout the MuTu System and use the discount code tamara15 to save on your order.

If you live in LA, Houston, Chicago, or New York City you can join Wendy at MuTuVation. MuTuVation will inspire you to think, exercise, move and live in ways that will transform your well-being. If you are a mom this is for you. If you want to learn about the stuff you don’t understand about your body, the stuff you’d like to change about your body, what its OK to feel and look like after you’ve had babies, and whats not OK, and what you can do about it click the image below to find more details on MuTuVation. MuTuVation will be in Los Angeles on October 18th, Houston on October 20th, Chicago on October 22nd, and New York City on October 25th. All events will run from 9.30am until 4.30pm.

 

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on The Workout Mama is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to prescribe, diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is your responsibility to educate yourself and address any health or medical needs you may have with your physician. Please seek professional help when needed.

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