Having felt rather normal in the first trimester there had been little impact to my fitness regime but now in the second trimester I knew how important it was to ensure my fitness regime was appropriate. My first priority is to ensure the health and safety of my baby, but my second priority is to ensure my own health and happiness. I am a firm believer that keeping myself fit and strong can only benefit my baby both during the pregnancy and in the post natal period where I will need plenty of energy and strength to tackle my new job as mum. In addition to staying fit and strong I want to also ensure that I am limiting the physical damage to my body to ensure I am not left with a legacy of musculoskeletal and pelvic floor problems in the years to come.
I have a very varied fitness regime making up about 15 hours a week across many sports. Having done some research online it was clear that it was actually very ‘unclear’ as to what was a ‘Go’ and what was a ‘No’ when it comes to pregnancy exercise. This was not something I was going to leave to chance so I decided to reach out to my friend and colleague Jenny Burrell of Burrell Education who is a leading expert in modern pregnancy and post natal exercise for some key advice on how to proceed. I laid out my priorities and we then took each activity and discussed how to proceed into the second trimester.
My favourite of sports! Fast, fun and furious. That description in itself should have told me it would be a no….. Two concerns with this sport, one is the risk of running into your opponent and falling over. Yes it doesn’t matter how good you are, playing in league means you sometimes end up playing opponents with little grace on court and with one thing on their mind – getting to that ball! Secondly is its ballistic nature. Squash is explosive, fast and full of hard stops as you sprint to the ball. Jenny explained how these explosive stops and starts can place strain through the pelvis leading to things like round ligament pain. I toyed with just ‘taking it easy’ on court but the reality of anyone who plays squash competitively is that once you see that ball – you are going for it! So that was squash off the list for now.
Tennis is a lot lower impact than squash and hopefully no risk of being run over when someone else is going for a ball. Switching from singles to doubles also limits the amount of running required and progressing from mixed doubles to ladies doubles again allowed me a means of lowering the effort needed when I feel it is time to take it down a step. All in all this is allowing me to focus on technique, rather than speed and power and I am hoping to come back an even better player in the post natal period!
It delighted my partner to no end that this one seems to be the most easy on pregnancy. It is low impact, controlled and has a long walk on the way so ticks all the boxes for safe pregnancy activity. Jenny’s advice here was to simply go with it as long as your bump allows you to. I should naturally reach a point where I simply cannot rotate enough to swing the club anymore and that will be time to call it a day, although as I said, I am sure my partner will still be dragging me round when all I can do is chip and putt!
I run about 25k a week through Royal Epping Forest. It not only keeps me fit, it keeps me sane. It surprised me that this was a ‘No No’ given the online view that you can run quite late into pregnancy. Jenny explained that it was simply about impact level. When you run the level of impact that goes through your joints increases by a crazy factor, add to that an increased load, you get increased impact. But more that that was the impact on the pelvic floor. If you consider that your uterus has grown substantially and is containing a baby, fluids and all sorts of other weighty items you suddenly have this weight bouncing on your pelvic floor. Yes, I may have physically been able to run quite late into pregnancy, but what is key here is how quickly would I want to return to sport after the pregnancy? Running, would simply prolong that return so putting running off for now should hopefully mean I can get back to it quicker and in better shape fter birth. We agreed that changing up the running to power walking would still give me my nature fix, keep me fit and most importantly help to minimise the damage on my body to help get me back to fitness soon after birth. I was unconvinced of the power walking, but believe me I felt muscles working that I hadn’t in quite some time!
Another online rumour quashed. ‘You shouldn’t hold proglonged stretches during pregnancy’, I was glad to hear that again that was not correct. If I had been practicing yoga there is no reason why this should not continue. There are some moves that may benefit and target the soft tissues impacted by pregnancy more, so as I progress into the latter stages of pregnancy I may move to a pregnancy specific form of yoga but for now I will continue with my daily routine which keeps me supple and injury free.
Now this was the one activity where it contains so many individual actions, exercises and functional movements that it couldn’t be a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ it was about adaptations. The up side of this is that Crossfit is probably one of my sports that I can do right up to full term but it becomes about adapting each exercise through each stage of pregnancy.
Online there are many forums where they discuss what you can and connot do. For example, the biggie that ruled out a lot of Crossfit moves was that you cannot squat below 90 degrees in t he 2nd and 3rd trimester. Jenny blasted this myth. Yes you have increased relaxin levels during pregnancy but it is important that you keep your muscles strong to protect your joints and ligaments during that time. Also – giving birth itself will involve this action, so shouldn’t mums to be get some practice beforehand? This was one of many myths that Jenny busted for me.
Other limitations are to remove ballistic actions e.g. box jumps, kettle bell swings, reduce load by 30-50% to focus on maintaining fitness and strength rather than building it, and lest we forget I am getting heavier every day so I already have an additional load to lift. Things to start doing include working with the breath. Ensuring that when I exert, I exhale so that I am engaging my pelvic floor and integrating my whole core into the movements. This will not only help me to exercise safely but will help keep my core engaged making the recovery in the post natal period simpler.
Now that we know our limitations it is about adapting the WODs to stay within these new boundaries. Again here is a wonderful video blog we filmed with Jenny taking you through some of the key modifications that allow you to follow most WODs knowing you and baby are safe:
Finally and probably the best piece of advice Jenny gave me – ‘if it doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably not, so don’t do it’. If in doubt, just listen to your body. It rarely give you bad advice!
Burrell Education: www.burrelleducation.com
Fighting Fit in Pregnancy & Beyond: Part I The First Trimester: http://www.pamofit.co.uk/2015/05/fighting-fit-in-pregnancy-beyond-part-i.html