Thursday, March 17, 2016

Exercise During Pregnancy...The Best Tips and Links for Making It Happen

To You:
It has the potential to help us feel more comfortable during pregnancy, to have shorter and less painful deliveries, and to help our babies be healthier now and in the future.  I know that as I have exercised during my pregnancies, I have had more energy, more restful sleep, and fewer aches and pains.  It helps my body adjust well to the frequent changes, and I have felt more physically and mentally prepared for delivery.  The list of benefits of prenatal exercise is long and motivational.
However, we pregnant Mamas probably don't need to be convinced that it is good for us.  We know that.  Instead, the challenge is making it happen when we are sick or tired or busy.  Did that say "or" back there?  I meant "and" of course!

Here are a few helpful tips and links for making exercise happen during pregnancy.

  • Keep it Short
    • You don't have to work out for an hour to benefit yourself and your baby.  Even 10-20 minutes of exercise will yield helpful results.  Not only are short workouts more manageable for your schedule, but it's also easier to get motivated for a short workout when you are sick and/or tired.  Shorten your workouts to make sure they happen.
  • Just Move
    • Get your blood pumping anyway you can.  You might take the stairs, crawl on the floor with another child, take a turn being "It" at the park, or simply do a few leg lifts as you cry to your favorite chick flick.  The more you move, the more you will feel like moving.  Plus, those little lifestyle movements have benefits all of their own!
  • Work Out at Home
    • Exercising at home saves time and money.  Plan to exercise right before you normally shower so you don't have to get ready twice.  There are a TON of videos on YouTube if you are not up for making up your own workout.  Jessica Smith has long been one of my favorite online fitness instructors.  She has something for whatever difficulty, type, or time of exercise I am up for that particular day.  She is fun without being cheesy.  Here is a prenatal cardio workout from Jessica Smith.
  • Strengthen
    • Strength training is a wonderful way to keep your body working after you finish your exercise.  Increased muscle mass increases your metabolism and has many other positive benefits.  During pregnancy, strength training can help your baby and body better handle the stresses of pregnancy and delivery.  This is a great article about the ins and outs, benefits, and safety of strength training during pregnancy.  Good form is always vital.  Start with lower weight and increase as you feel comfortable.  Do not hold your breath.  Here is a good quick strength workout.

  • Stretch
    • Stretching can be the perfect workout when you are tired or sick.  It is therapeutic for  your muscles and mind.  Many of those achy problem areas especially later in pregnancy (like the lower back) can be worked out and relieved through a good stretching routine.  I find that fluid stretches (moving slowly through different stretches) as opposed to static stretches (holding in one position) tend to feel better and do more good for me.  Yoga is a well-recognized plus for pregnant women.  Here is the first in a really good series of pregnancy yoga videos.  The episodes are short and feel great!
  • Make it Social
    • If you are having a hard time getting motivated, invite a friend to join you.  You can go to the gym together, walk together, or workout to a video together.  Having someone to talk to increases the enjoyment in the moment, and having someone waiting for you is often the kick we need to get out the door.  During one first trimester of pregnancy, I was able to workout in the mornings before my hubby left for work only because I had a friend waiting for me there.
  • Involve the Little Ones
    • Alone time is precious and exercising may not be how you want to spend it each day.  If you have other kids home, involve them in your exercise routine.  They will enjoy doing what you do and will also benefit from the exercise.  It is a fun way to spend a part of your day together.  I try to do a lot of different fitness activities with my kids, including online workout videos.  Not surprisingly, my kids favorite videos have other kids in them.  :) This is one workout video they like, although I play my own music to go along with it.
  • Watch Your Posture
    • Good posture can prevent many of pregnancy's pains that make us want to lay in bed or gracefully splay on the couch in all our glory for hours on end.  Again, feeling better leads to more activity...what a cycle!  For me, simply thinking about lifting the chest up while relaxing the shoulders back pulls things into better alignment.  Pillows between the legs and around the mid-section help with sleeping posture as well.
  • Warm-Up Slowly
    • I find I can do a lot more than I thought after a good, slow warm-up.  The round ligaments (the ones hugging your belly down into the pelvis that hurt when you sneeze:) especially respond well to warming up.  If you are running, doing another high intensity workout, or exercising for a longer amount of time, consider a warm-up of walk, jog, light stretch through any achy areas, jog.  Your muscles should be good and ready to go!
  • Be Safe
    • Always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.  Avoid exercises lying flat on your back after 20 weeks.  ALWAYS BREATHE!  (Intentional breathing is one of your best delivery tools too!)  Stay hydrated.  Follow common safety guidelines

Lastly, Listen to Your Body.  Pregnancy is the ideal time to connect with your body and the new baby growing inside. Pay attention to how different movements (or the lack thereof!) make you feel.  Take time to relax and see how things are going with yourself.  If you are really tired, make it a lighter stretching or yoga day.  If you have some of that energy back, (yeah for second trimester!) let yourself work it...a really good sweat can be super therapeutic!  Trust that nobody knows your body or pregnancy better than you do.

Do you have any prenatal exercise tips or questions to share?  I hope the benefits of exercise can fill your life before, during, and after pregnancy.  As you find that motivation to move, know that it is doing good for you and your unborn baby!  Good luck!

Love, Marielle

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