Since I became pregnant, my entire fitness routine went out the window. I used to abuse my muscles regularly at Barry’s 3x a week, endure 3 mile jogs daily, and work through weight lifting/HIIT exercises regularly. I’d sweat in hot yoga sessions and even do heated weightlifting boot camp classes. Needless to say, my workouts were intense.
Once I became pregnant though, that all changed. I still have memories from when I was newly pregnant (before I realized it, mind you) and was in the midst of a heated boot camp class. I felt like I could barely lift a leg, was completely and utterly out of breath, and all around felt like I haven’t worked out in years. Little did I know this was because there was a bun in the oven consuming all of my energy and a good amount of my oxygen. Once I confirmed my pregnancy, the three mile jogs came to a halt and my love for hot yoga and other intense classes temporarily were ordered to come to an end.
While there are many other mamas out there who can maintain their running routine and can work through tougher workouts, the following I’ll continually sing from the rooftops for all newly pregnant mothers: Everyone is different and what works for you might not work for someone else. The one thing about pregnancy (and a huge pregnancy reality check) is that you no longer have full control of your body, and you can’t really choose or decide how to continue working out while pregnant until you actually get into the gym and experiment with what works for you.
My workouts (and lack of workouts) at first really started to irk me as I craved my long morning runs and endorphin high I’d get from an intense workout. I had remind myself daily that this transformation is only temporary, and the health of my soon to be son is the top priority, oh and that nutrition still is *key* to staying healthy while pregnant too! It wasn’t until I started working out at Exhale that I realized that Barre classes were the PERFECT solution to figuring out what workout worked for my pregnant self.
If you are like me and you had to ditch your jogging shoes and approach your workouts in a much more gentler and kinder way, here’s how to deal with changing your workout routine while pregnant. Also – this goes for anyone who has experienced an injury and has to press pause on their regular workouts. I know first hand once you get into the solid routine of exercising to have the carpet ripped from beneath you, that it can be a bit challenging to cope with not being able to stay active as you once were. So here goes!
Focus on what you *can* do vs. what you *should* do
If you peruse social media, then you’ve more likely than not seen pregnant fitness stars boasting their 5 mile run or completing their heavy lifting training session. Outside stimuli influences our internal mindsets and what we inflict on ourselves. When we are exposed to the stories of other women being able to work out the same as they were before they were pregnant, then we start to feel bad about ourselves or have an internal dialogue of “I should be able to do this, I should be able to do that”. In reality and as I’ve said before. EVERYONE is different, just because someone else can still workout for a full hour while pregnant doesn’t mean you can. To help shift this form of self talk, focus on what you CAN do instead. Can you walk outside for 30 minutes a day? Can you practice morning yoga? Can you workout with resistance bands for 20 minutes every other day? Start taking action and start figuring out what works for you. Also think of other ways that you can stay healthy and fit while pregnant. The number 1 factor again is nutrition, so put your efforts towards healthy eating, getting enough rest, and staying SUPER DUPER hydrated.
Think outside the box
Any form of activity is better than laying around on the couch. If you live near a pool, taking laps regularly is a wonderful form of fitness that is easy on your joints and still gives you cardiovascular benefits. The one thing to remember when you have to customize your workout is that you should not limit your fitness success to how long you can endure an intense workout for or how many miles you can log on the treadmill. If body weight exercises give you an energy burst and make you feel good, then get started with those. Being active is all about utilizing what you can do all while helping you squash that “what I should do” self talk.
When I couldn’t regularly access the gym, I dealt with the initial fear of losing my strength gains by doing the next best thing: bodyweight workouts. I was concerned whether bodyweight workouts were effective enough (they can be and they were). But the most valuable lesson I got out of this was, a workout isn’t just limited to how many miles you can run, how many pounds you can lift, or how many sets and reps you’re able to bang out in an hour.
Prepare for the future
One thing I love to do is to make lists or “plans” to get me motivated and excited for whats to come. When it comes to exercise, I’ve been making my master plan of how I’ll recover post-partum and all the various types of exercises I’ll ease myself back into. Doing this not only gives me something to look forward to in the near future (when it comes to my health), but it also gives me a daily reminder that any given situation we are in is only temporary. This time of limited exercise is not going to last forever, and I will be able to jog along the lake once again!
Focus on nutrition
Am I sounding redundant yet? I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face – nutrition is key!! Not only is nutrition essential for developing a healthy baby, it will help you feel your best while pregnant. The more nutrient dense foods you can eat that have beauty and health benefits, the healthier you’ll naturally start to feel.
OK – now that we’re done with working on shifting our mentality, let’s shift gears and talk about my favorite prenatal exercise so far, BARRE!
When I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t know much about the barre style workout. I thought, “what is squeezing my butt cheeks and pulsing my leg back 50 times going to do”? But boy was I wrong. For me personally, barre has been a life savor not only to keep me in a workout routine, but to help with all sorts of pregnancy ailments. Once I started taking barre classes at Exhale, my world opened up. All of the movements are a conglomerate of ballet-inspired moves, pilates, yoga, and regular strength training. It combines a lot of my favorite moves into a class that targets specific areas like your glutes, hip flexors and pelvic floor, all while still giving you that feeling that you’re hitting the gym as strength training intervals are also included.
I love barre as a pregnancy workout because it really targets your muscles while being kind of your joints. And as many of you know, once you’re pregnant your joints get suuuuper relaxed and can be easily strained or injured. I experienced a hip problem in my second trimester and once I started going to a chiropractor, she even told me that the hip/glute targeted workouts during a barre class tremendously help hip pain while pregnant – holler! Oh and the faaabulous thing about Exhale is that they also have HIIT classes for when I’m working on training post pregnancy and want to get high intensity classes back on my radar!
SO if you want to try out some barre moves yourself, I interviewed Kim Hannay of Exhale in Gold Coast Chicago about her top 5 favorite pregnancy friendly barre workout moves!
- Tricep Dips – Start seated with knees bent. Place your hands behind your seat with your thumbs facing in towards you, and your fingers pointing out to the side. Lift your hips up and shift your weight back into your hands. Bend your elbows towards the wall behind you. Progression includes full range of movement and pulsing.
- Forearm Plank – Traditional but so effective. Make a number 11 with your forearms on the floor. Extend one foot at a time behind you. Your points of contact are your forearms and the balls of your feet. Make sure your shoulders are dropped away from your ears, your head is in line with the natural line of your spine (gaze slightly forward on the floor in front of you), and your navel is pulled up towards your spine avoiding an arch in the low back or round in the upper back. Hips are in line with your shoulders, avoiding lifting your hips up.
- Narrow V – Stand arm’s length away from the barre. Heels together, toes apart. Take a soft bend in the knees, lift your heels 2-3 inches, and step your heels together. Lower your hips down 6 inches. Keeping your shoulders stacked over your hips, and your hips stacked over your heels. Staying in your work zone (the place where your thighs start to talk to you) lower your hips down 1 inch and lift, pulse, or lower full range – hips to heels- and lift halfway to pause.
- Clam Shell with a green band – *use a circle resistance band* Step both feet inside the band and shimmy it up above your knees. Lay on your left side, lifted on your left forearm. Roll your right hip forward-stacking/squaring both hips, lifting away from your left forearm and lengthening through your side body. Bend your knees to a 90 degree angle. Keeping your heels together, lift your top knee against the resistance band. Movement can include full, range, pulsing, lifting your heel and your knee together, etc. Repeat on the other side.
- Tabletop Glute Press – *for additional resistance, you can also use a circle resistance band* Come down to your mat on your hands and knees. Shoulders are stacked over your wrists, and hips are stacked over your knees. Pull your navel back towards your spine and maintain a long neutral spine throughout. Extend your right heel back behind you and lift it until you feel your right glute contract. Bend your knee, heel pulls in towards your glute, and flex your foot. Press your heel up contracting your glute. Like you’re trying to stamp a footprint on the ceiling, press up and hold and progress to a pulse.