If you find yourself pregnant and not sure what you can and can’t do with regards to exercises, then starting Pilates is a great low impact, strengthening workout that will keep you strong during your pregnancy but also prepare you for the demands of labour and motherhood.
Pilates involves a variety of movements that can be adapted to suit all stages of pregnancy. The movements are done in a controlled way and in a variety of positions such as standing, side lying, kneeling or on hands and knees. Although Pilates can adapt exercises to suit you, its important to listen to your body and stop if there is pain!
A specific prenatal Pilates class will ensure you work your whole body to build strength, and it will also help ensure you develop a more functional core connection by integrating breathe and pelvic floor through movement. This will better support your growing bump and also reduce the loading (from your growing bump) down in your pelvis.
Aim to do atleast 2 sessions of building strength per week and give yourself a rest day between these two sessions. If you are new to Pilates, keep the intensity low and build moderately. Your breathing will be able to help you with this, if you can talk through an exercise you are not overexerting. If you can’t talk then you may be over working and need to slow down a little.
Although Pilates is a fabulous exercise to start and continue through your pregnancy, there are a few things you should avoid;
First Trimester (1-12 weeks)
This is where you are at the most risk of a miscarriage. Pilates is a safe exercise to perform but the intensity must be lighter to avoid increase in body temperature and heart rate. Elevating too much can increase risk of a miscarriage. Although your bump may not show, I would recommend reducing the amount of ‘crunch’ type exercises and focus on pelvic floor and a more integrated functional approach to core strength.
Second Trimester (13-26 weeks)
Third Trimester (27 weeks to birth)
During this trimester, your baby may an increased growth spurt and this can cause more of a dramatic posture change. Its important in pilates during this stage to focus on reducing the pressure of the lower back and doing more stretching and back strengthening exercises.
I hope this helps to put you at ease that being active and healthy throughout your pregnancy is so important for mind and body. I hope you find doing Pilates regularly helps to support you and build strength and confidence throughout your pregnancy.
Everyone wants a flat stomach, but are we doing the right exercises to help achieve our ultimate goal of that wash board stomach?! Current trends in the fitness industry encourage us all to do 100 crunches, rotational crunches, knees bent or straight crunches, crunches on a stability ball to name a few. However, after years of doing the same popular ‘core’ exercises you still continue to do them although you see no changes in your shape or stomach tone. In fact you suffer back and neck pain from perhaps over-doing it! So, you ask yourself what is going wrong?!
Well, I will tell you. When we perform a crunch we are not training for a stronger middle. We are training our superficial muscles that are overloading our spine in a dangerous way. According to a study by Professor Stuart McGill, he identified how dangerous this loading is. He took several spines of a pig and placed them in machines that bent and flexed them hundreds of times to replicate sit ups. The spinal discs were almost completely ruptured by the end of the experiments. Thus, highlighting that doing crunches can cause back pain leading to a bulging disc or herniation of discs in the lumbar spine. Therefore doing hundreds of reps is going to put your lower back at grave risk!
Don’t fret, there is a safe variation called a curl-up or what I like to call a Pilates ‘Ab Prep’ that involves keeping your back in ‘Neutral’ (where your hip bones and pubic bones line up and where your spine follows its natural curves) and performing a lift of your head and shoulders slightly where you do not move your pelvis or spine away from this neutral position. McGill States ‘You don’t need to crunch up much to get the desired response from your entire abdominal muscle complex.’
The most effective way to get integral core strength throughout your body is to do training that involves Pillar Strength. Pillar strength is the foundation for all movement. It consists of your hip, core and shoulder stability. Those three areas provide a centre axis from which to move. Think of your body as a wheel. Your pillar is the hub and your limbs are the spokes.
How it works?
It’s impossible to move your limbs efficiently and forcefully if they’re not attached to something solid and stable. That’s your pillar—all the muscles that connect your hips, torso and shoulders. When these areas are properly aligned, you can transfer energy throughout your body more effectively, so you’ll produce more strength and power with less fatigue.
Without pillar strength, you will significantly increase the potential for injury in a chain reaction that starts with your lower back, descends all the way to your knees and ankles, and rises up to your neck, shoulders and elbows.
Here are some exercises that involve you using your pillar strength
1. Side plank – right and left
2. Front plank with alternating arms reaching forward
3. Front plank with alternating leg raises
Try holding each of these positions for 15-20seconds with a 5 sec rest between each exercise. Build up to holding each exercise for 30seconds. Repeat as a circuit style workout X 3 sets
Good luck and I hope you enjoy your newly found core strength!
Fitness post delivery (whether recent or a few year later) can be a totally different experience to when you were pregnant, as now you need to firstly have the extra energy to expend on doing some exercise plus having some spare time.
Well, I have some exciting news for you all. We can all find 10min I am sure at some time during our day. Have a think and if you struggling to find this then perhaps its time to evaluate what’s important in your life, and what’s just ‘getting in your way.’ Once you can do this then you can conquer that challenge and free up some ‘YOU TIME.’ Its important to value yourself and if you do and want to exercise then its time to STOP THE EXCUSES and find the time.
Here are my top tips to help you find the time and what you will need to get started….!
1.FIND 10-20min within your day. Look at your diary/week and find the time to dedicate to yourself!
2. BUY THE RIGHT HOME EQUIPMENT
Gym membership can be expensive so why not keep some kit under your bed or sofa for the quick ‘go to’ when you have your ’10min YOU TIME’
What to buy? 2 x 4-8kg Dumbbells, a resistance band, 8kg Kettlebell, exercise mat.
Although an out lay initially it will be worth it long term and much cheaper than a gym membership.
(This is only a guide if you know you can lift heavier then adjust what you buy according to your strength.)
3. WALKING IS A GREAT WAY TO STAY FIT AND HEALTHY
just 10mins a day will help to maintain your fitness levels and keep your heart strong and healthy
4. FREE PT/CLASS ONLINE– join the physically-fit online video membership to have access to a variety of classes to suit your needs. Choose one you like and follow along. Baby can even watch you whilst you workout.
5. INVITE A FRIEND – instead of meeting for a coffee and cake why not walk and talk. With Covid, you could always meet online and do a workout together for extra motivation!
6. ADD MUSIC TO YOUR WORKOUT – if you enjoy music put together your favourite music into a playlist and head out on your brisk walk or run. Or perhaps listen to a podcast that you have been wanting to do for a while. A great way to kill two birds with one stone.
7. SET YOUR DAYS AND TIMES – if you pencil the day and time during the week you will aim to exercise into your diary, this can help to keep you on track and dedicated to your ‘YOU TIME’ give it a go!
Hope this helps you to find a way to get some movement/exercise into your day. It does not need to be hours long, a little goes a long way but more importantly is trying to do it regularly.
Happy Exercising x
I was thinking about my pilates for runners workshop and what really came through as a topic of interest to everyone that attended was the stability of your pelvis when running. So, I thought I would discuss this a little deeper for those interested.
We may know we need this but may not know how to achieve it. We often know that we should strengthen our ‘core muscles’ for running but are we doing this as effectively as we can when we are doing it and remember each rep counts!
When we run, one leg moves forward whilst the other leg moves backwards. The pelvis is what makes this happen. Without our pelvis we would not move at all.
The Pelvis is a large body structure in the middle of your body surrounded from above your core muscles and from your legs below. In order to run efficiently these muscles (your core and legs) need to work together. If your back swinging leg pulled your pelvis with it, this would result in a very unstable pelvis which would also limit the movement of the front leg. This continual tilting of the pelvis could result in lower back pain.
In order to run efficiently you need to stabilize your pelvis when you move your legs.
Here are a few of my go-to core exercises to help stabilize the pelvis.
1. Supine – single leg foot
Starting on your back, engage pelvic floor and breathe out to lift one foot off the floor, slowly lower back down and repeat to the other leg. Think not only about lifting the foot but the transfer of load from one leg to the other leg. We are aiming for no rotation or arching of the pelvis as we perform these exercises.
2. Supine – alternating toe taps
Start supine and engage pelvic floor and breathe and lift one leg to 90 degrees followed by the other leg so both legs are starting in a table top position. Keep stomach engaged and breathe out to tap one toe to the floor and return to table top, repeat with the other leg. Avoid arching back and doming stomach. Keep pelvis stable. Repeat for about 30sec. rest and repeat.
Start supine on your back with knees at table top and arms reaching towards the ceiling. Reach right leg away from pelvis and left arm overhead. Return to start and repeat with the other side. You can add a weight like a small toning ball in the hand. Continue this for 30-60sec.
4. Scissor legs (start single leg and move to double legs if your pelvis is stable)
Start supine with both legs reaching straight up towards the ceiling. Engage pelvic floor and breathe out to lower leg towards the floor (about 45 degrees) without arching back or doming stomach. Return to start and repeat with the other leg. 30-60sec.
5. Plank with knee drops
Start on elbows and knees, slightly tuck your pelvis, squeeze your butt and engage pelvic floor. Then, lift both knees off the floor and alternatively tap right knee to floor return to straight and then left knee to floor and return to straight. Repeat for 30sec. The aim would be not to rotate your pelvis whilst knee tapping. If you are, then start on your knees and lift one knee to straight and return to floor and repeat to the other knee lifting.
All these exercises seem easy but done with a focus of keeping pelvis stable, avoiding arching and rotating can change the way your body will benefit from doing these correctly and slowly.