Exercise in Pregnancy – Why being Pregnant does not have to mean quitting your usual Fitness routine!
There is a lot of confusion in the world of pregnancy and parenting these days, and it is sometimes hard to pinpoint an expert opinion from those pages of forums and websites written by others, who are writing with no real background or experience. Exercise in pregnancy, and what you can and cannot do, is one of those grey areas. For me it was incredibly difficult to find a source that I really trusted, to help me understand more about what my body could and couldn’t do, as I started to grow this little being inside me!
Getting married in December 16 had meant that much of the later part of 2016 had been about getting “dress ready” and super fit. I assumed that if I was lucky enough to get pregnant whilst on honeymoon, I would be the fittest I would ever be for my wedding and honeymoon. Now, I am not a massive fan of going to the gym and never have been, but in recent years have understood more the importance of doing the right kind of exercise and eating that benefits my body. I spent much of the latter part of last year going to my local gym and doing lots of high cardio workouts such as the HIIT classes, as well as the Body Coach workouts in my own living room, and felt really amazing on the results. Although I didn’t have weight to lose, I felt “toned” and in good shape, but most importantly it made me feel good inside – happy and content with my body.
For our wedding day, I was probably in the best shape I could have wanted to be, given the amount of effort and organisation a wedding takes, and this continued into the first few days of honeymoon when we then let loose and ate and drank as much Sri Lankan food and drink as we could!!! However, Dengue then hit, and I went from being fit, healthy and happy, to laying in a hospital bed in ICU losing weight without even trying, not eating and just concentrating on staying alive! The dream of being my fittest to conceive was no longer something to even think about, first I had to get myself better before even thinking about my body having the ability to grow a baby.
When we returned home in late January, one of the main instructions of the consultant dealing with my illness was that there was to be no exercise for at least 1-2 months. This would take me into early March, without being able to do anything. Now usually I wouldn’t worry twice about this advice and instead enjoy having an excuse not to have to feel like I needed to go to the gym, but I found this difficult when I was hoping to be in the best shape to conceive. Little did I know, whilst recovering from the Dengue that I would actually fall pregnant within weeks, and I had only just managed to do one Yoga class as a gentle way in to getting back into fitness, when I found out I was pregnant!
One of the most common pieces of advice you do see around is that you should take it easy in the first trimester and not do too much. My understanding of this is that the body should not overheat too much during this time. For me this was not something I needed to even think about, as I spent most of the time feeling far too nauseous to even think about going to the gym, let alone actually doing any exercise. From 14 weeks, I finally started to think about wanting to get fit again. I was genuinely concerned that having been fairly active pre-dengue, that it would now take me a while to build that up again, especially trying to do it whilst growing a baby too! I looked into the best type of classes and exercises to do, and found it all really confusing. Starting to feel frustrated with both myself, and the lack of clear advice out there, I finally came across The Hub in Clapham, and went along to talk to Aude – head of their Pregnancy Fitness Classes.
The Hub run classes called “Pregnafit” – classes that focus on HIIT style workouts, but fully focused on the pre and post-natal body. Headed up by Aude, a trained Osteopath who specialises in the pregnant body, these classes are really designed to help you really workout in pregnancy, but in a safe environment with one to one support as and when you need it. Although a little nervous at first, I finally signed up to start when I was around 20 weeks and I can honestly say this was the best decision I have made in my whole entire pregnancy!
Turning up to the first class, I was convinced that I was super unfit, and would probably not make it through the whole class (60 minutes), so apologised in advance for my lacking fitness level! I was immediately put at ease by Aude and Tom who were running the class, and we started with some gentle stretching and movements to help get the blood flowing. Then came the circuits – all mapped out on a white board with exercises taking 30 seconds, with a 30 second rest and then repeating this for three whole circuits! This included exercises like lunges, weight lifting, and abs work, which I had repeatedly read that you are not supposed to do in pregnancy – a myth! The reality is, you can still work out and do all of this – but just in the right way! Each exercise was demonstrated in detail, and the best thing about these classes is that with only 6 to a class, you are supported throughout, so Aude and Tom will come and change your position, or make sure that you are doing the exercises correctly!
At the end of the session, I was a sweaty mess and exhausted having not done that much exercise for a good 6 months, however it really was a revelation and I felt amazing! I was so happy to have finally found something that worked for me – high intensity, but tailored to pregnancy, and feeling totally safe in the Hub’s training environment. I practically skipped home that day, and was on a high for the rest of the evening. It may sound a little over the top, but to find something that makes you feel a bit more “normal” and a bit less like you are just growing a baby, was really important to me. I could not wait to tell Rowan what I had managed to do, and had a spring in my step for may days to follow!
The benefits of exercising in pregnancy for me so far have been;
-knowing that I am staying as fit as I can, for my baby’s upcoming birth (which I feel is important in the birthing process)
-feeling a sense of normality (being “me”), in a world pf pregnancy where there are so many do’s and don’ts
-getting to chat to and know other mums who are in the same position, whether they are less pregnant, or even one day off their due date and still doing the circuits like it’s the most normal thing (huge admiration!)
-the way I feel after a PregnaFIT class – inspired, happy and motivated – particularly important for me in the third trimester when motivation and tiredness have started to become a little more difficult.
Now, every mummy-to-be handles pregnancy differently, and every pregnancy is indeed very different from one person to the next. There are certainly no hard and fast rules about what you should and shouldn’t feel like doing whilst growing a miniature person inside you! My motivation for writing about this class is purely that I feel that it really has changed the way I have looked at pregnancy, and felt being pregnant, and this was after a lot of searching and feeling deflated about the limited options out there for us pregnant ladies. If I can spread the word that exercise is ok, even to help just a handful of new mumma’s who may then experience the same feelings, then this has done exactly the job I wanted it to – happy exercising!
To find out more information on the Hub Classes, visit their website here…