Exercise is a “Win – Win” For Mom & Baby

Friday, March 07, 2014

In the Middle East, and many other cultures around the world, pregnancy is believed to be a time where a mother should rest, eat for two, cut down or avoid exercise, increase sleep, and so forth. Today, a pregnant mother is not viewed that differently from a non- pregnant woman in the United States. In fact, it is okay to exercise if your body has been used to it prior to conception - and considering you do not have any complications.


In this article, I will clarify the myths that many women are confused about during pregnancy. I will also explain my personal story as a mom. Before I begin, always check with your doctor prior to starting any exercise regimen, get a full clearance, and consider working with an experienced trainer during your pregnancy.


During my first pregnancy, the Middle Eastern myths about resting, eating for two, and limiting sports... overwhelmed me as I felt I was handicapped. I then completed my pre-post natal certification in the USA, and when I was pregnant with my second child, I knew my best doctor was ME - and it's YOU too! It is important to always listen to your body and tune in to and strengthen your own intuition and instincts.


Although the same and new myths continued during my second pregnancy, I started to conduct a lot of research and presented workshops on pregnancy fitness; I started teaching classes in Lebanon and in California. As an athlete, a cyclist, and a Pilates and cardio fanatic, I dropped the target heart rate concept, determined to continue my passion. In fact, experts have recently done the same, and have asked women to use the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) while exercising. RPE determines how hard one is working based on how one feels while exercising. If you are working very hard and start feeling sick, then stop; however, this is no different from any regular person who should stop exercising if they feel dizzy, faint, nausea, pain, etc....


As my second pregnancy continued, I relocated at 31 weeks and had to find a job... only to discover pregnancy discrimination does exist. Therefore, I started to exercise more and learn how to look “unpregnant” in order to pass my interview sessions. During my interviews, research, and workshops, I reached out to pregnant moms and shared the knowledge that a pregnant mom CAN still train her abdominals, and in fact should! Your abdominals and your entire core (including your pelvic floor) should be strengthened throughout pregnancy, and doing so will not only help during pregnancy, but will also aid in labor, delivery, and recovery. The best and safest exercise is standing or seated belly breathing (Yoga Ujjayi and Pilates transverse breathing). Inhale from your nose... and exhale pulling your belly back towards your spine. You can perform this daily; there is no number of reps or sets since we are made to actually breathe that way.


To all you pregnant moms out there, please remember: If you experience any sign of pain, spotting, light-headedness, nausea, or dizziness, stop exercising immediately, re-consult your doctor, and ask when it would be safe to resume your fitness regimen.

Modified Standing Eagle
Modified Standing Eagle
This pose is an excellent one to relieve neck and shoulder tension as your tummy grows and posture changes; this pose will definitely help your posture. Stand tall, cross your right arm over your left, and interlace your hands or clasp your thumbs together. Press your elbows upwards as you sink your shoulders onto your back. Hold for 1-3 deep breaths and repeat 3-5 times per day; switch arm positions. Option: Cross one leg over the other as displayed in the photo.
Back and Chest Relief Exercise
Back and Chest Relief Exercise
During pregnancy, the pectoral muscles begin to tighten as the belly grows, and the back may start to get weaker and ache. The best exercise to open up the back, strengthen the back, and open the chest, is to stand tall, lean forward half way (while engaging your abdominals), and clasp your arms behind you. Hold this pose for 5 deep ujjayi breaths. You can repeat it anytime you feel the need to stretch and strengthen the back.
Standing Open Knee Pose
Standing Open Knee Pose
This pose strengthens the core muscles, while improving balance. It is a variation of the intermediate yoga posture Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose B (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana). This pose strengthens and tones the thighs, calves, and ankles. It also stretches the hamstrings and the hips. To get into the pose, stand on both feet and then balance on one leg while pulling your opposite knee toward the side of your ribcage (hold knee). Hold this position for 3 deep ujjayi breaths. If you are interested in other activities (such as running or cycling for example) and you have a healthy pregnancy and feel fine, you can continue until labor, while adding the above exercises to keep you toned. Do not test new exercise regimens during your pregnancy; stick to the routines your body is used to, and be sure to avoid contact sports like soccer, skiing, etc. In addition, avoid deep muscle or joint movement exercises during your last trimester such as heavy lunges and squats with or without weights. During this period, your body produces a hormone called relaxin to help lubricate joints so labor is easier. When joints are too "lax," your risk of injury increases.
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