FIT MUMMAS I Exercise In Pregnancy


When I found out I was pregnant I was determined to carry on working out.  My last pregnancy made me feel so rubbish with morning sickness that I went once and then cancelled my membership...and then wondered why I ended up with chunky, flabby legs.

Before becoming pregnant I was working out 4-5 times a week.  Even when Oliver was in hospital the gym was my outlet.  12 hours of sitting in a tiny, cramped cubicle in the dark would send me a bit doolally, so I'd often stick on my trainers and head to the gym at the end of the day and take out my frustrations there.

Once we started to settle back in to life post Oj, we were both on a mission to get beach ready.  Not the easiest with a full time job and a husband who works long shifts, but I'd either squeeze it in before work (getting up at 5.45am in the summer isn't that bad, honest) or going to the makeshift work gym.  If all else failed I'd improvise at home with some weights.  There were several times Ella came down before 7am to find me lunging my way up and down the living room in my knickers.  Fit.


I started off on my exercise promise fairly well despite the morning sickness.  What made me even more determined was that I was mostly eating crap.  About the only food I wanted and could stomach was bad carbs like crisps and cereal bars.  Not surprising then that a few people cottoned on in the office when I'd gone from eating egg whites to eating salt and vinegar chipsticks!

So long as I left going to the gym until nearer lunchtime I seemed to minimise the risk of passing out or puking in the middle of the gym which let's face it wouldn't be cool.  OK, so there was one instance where I was pretty sure I was going to have to stop the car on the drive home as my protein shake seemed determined to put in a reappearance.

There's not that much info out there about working out whilst pregnant and it seems a bit of a taboo.  Why?  I'm not quite sure.  What can be wrong with exercising and keeping yourself in good shape, as this can only help you later on in your pregnancy when you're lugging around at least a stone in weight extra as well as having more strength during labour.  Maybe I'm weird, many women seem quite happy to embrace the eating for two mentality and deal with the consequences later, and fair play to them.  I just seem to have that little Jimminy Cricket fella on my shoulder saying "you don't really want cake, have fruit instead" and "have you seen the sat fats in that?".

Swimming and pilates/yoga are a safe bet too, even for those who don't venture into the gym.  A lot of leisure centres run aqua-natal classes, so this is worth looking into and obviously is only for mums to be, so a good way to meet other local ladies.
The main golden rule is to listen to your body, and don't be over ambitious.  If you don't normally run, don't for goodness sake decide to start running marathons whilst pregnant.   

Lee-Ann Ellison, a bodybuilder from LA, prompted outrage when she proudly showed off her pregnancy figure, and how she continued to train hard throughout her pregnancy. OK, so that might be a bit excessive for some.
Lee-Ann Ellison prompted outrage with these pictures

The fact that working out during pregnancy isn't widely advocated is apparent when it comes to finding pregnancy workout clothes.  There aren't any.  You might find a pair of pregnancy yoga pants if you're lucky.  I tried and failed and my clothes are getting tighter and tighter so hurrah for Primark and their £4 gym vests in a couple of sizes up.  OK, so at 21 weeks even that was popping up over my bump and so I have resorted to borrowing my husband's XL gym t shirts.  I refuse to pay for branded stuff when I a) know I'm not going as much as I would like/should and b) my piggy snout belly button will not look hot in tight Nike.  See exhibit A below.

14 weeks and already popping out

When I found out at 16 weeks that I needed a cervical stitch, I thought that would be the end of working out.  My consultant advised I could continue to go to the gym, but having spoken to the lovely ladies on a BabyCentre birth forum, I discovered a lot of them were on bed rest.  Even pushing the hoover around is out of the question for many, so I decided its not worth the risk.

That said, I have decided to try and get to the gym 2-3 times a week for some light cardio and weights.  I'm avoiding anything which puts strain on my, ahem, nether regions, tummy and pelvis.  Due to the risk of infection, swimming is also out of the question.

After 3 weeks of no exercise I managed to get back to the gym and apart from feeling a tad self conscious (I go to a rough and ready mainly men gym, no posh Virgin Active for me) and very unfit, it was good to get off my arse.  So I might have sweated like a (insert suitable analogy here) and had to lower the resistance a lot, but an hour of exercise later and I felt far less guilty about the unhealthy weekend's food I'd consumed! 
I checked with the consultant at 20 weeks, as he was a different consultant, and he also said exercise is fine so long as I take it easy and so I am in to continue while I can.
If you want to work out pre or post baby, then see our top tips from British Military Fitness below.

Pre & postnatal exercise tips

By Charlie Gilmore, British Military Fitness – BMF instructor

1. Prenatal
In the early stages of pregnancy (1-12 weeks) you are able to continue to exercise as normal. Exercise will help both you and the baby. In this early stage your hormones and emotions will be very highly charged and exercise is a great way to relieve any pressure you may be under.

Most women stop exercising for fear of hurting their baby or because they become uncomfortable as they get bigger in the later stages of pregnancy but don't worry - you can't hurt your baby by running, squatting or lunging! 

19 weeks

Pelvic floor exercises are key throughout pregnancy, and will support recovery after the birth:
• Imagine you are spending a penny and then contract the muscles that would make you stop.
• Hold this for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

There are a few conditions where you should not exercise at all (and you should check with your medical practitioner before starting exercise when expecting). These include:
• Multiple births (if you’re expecting more than one baby)
• Pre-eclampsia
• History of pre term birth

After 12 weeks you should not do any abdominal flexion or extension, so no bending or twisting. If you want to work your abdominal area then stick to the plank. 

Eating for two is a myth! You need an additional 200 calories per day and only in the third trimester. This is why many women struggle to lose baby weight, as it is not just the amount gained through pregnancy but additional weight besides this. 

2. Postnatal
What is the best time to go back to fitness after having a baby? Would anything particular affect this i.e. type of delivery etc.?

After a ‘normal’ birth you should receive a 6 week check up from your doctor or midwife. This should include a Diastasis Recti – abdominal separation – check. What is being checked is that the Rectus Abdominus, the ‘six pack’ has returned to its normal state and that it is OK to start doing abdominal exercises again. The check involves placing two fingers midline of the stomach and asking the client to lift their shoulders, as if attempting to sit up. If all is well then the two sets of muscles should grip the fingers on contraction, if they do then it is OK to start doing abdominal work. However if they don’t then you must not attempt any abdominal exercises until they do, otherwise the muscles will not return to their correct shape and you may be left with an unsightly hollow in the middle which if you’re lucky can be rectified by physiotherapy otherwise it’s surgery!

For a C-Section the all clear is usually given by 12 weeks and the same check should be carried out. However bear in mind that there will be some external and internal scarring that takes time to heal; sometimes the internal scarring can last a very long time and this can lead to discomfort when doing certain exercises or moving a certain way. 

Your body is producing the hormone relaxin, which causes the joints to be weaker. This helps with the birth but remains in your system for months after, this is longer if breastfeeding. Be careful when you exercise not to overdo any range of movement.

I would not recommend you start training before either your 6 or 12 week check or getting the all clear from a medical professional.


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