Category Archives: Fit pregnancy

Mind over body at all times

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or maybe an enduring spinning class, you’ve probably heard the instructor say more than once, “mind over body” or “the body does what the mind wants”. These all-too-common phrases have a whole new meaning for pregnancy, specifically during labor. Making your relaxation and wellbeing a priority is very important since it can protect you and your baby from experiencing too much stress.

One isn’t born knowing these techniques, and just as everything in life, practice makes perfection. If you want to reap the rewards during labor, make time each day for learning how to reach a relaxed state. According to a study made by the San Jose State University (2008), pregnant women who applied mind-body techniques perceived less stress and anxiety during their pregnancy, had a shorter labor and their babies had a higher birthweight compared to the control group.

There’s one particular exercise that’s fairly easy to do and you’ll feel completely different afterwards, it’s called the body-scan and is commonly used as a mindfulness technique. In order to get the most benefits, it’s recommended you dedicate 40 to 50 minutes on your body-scan but whatever time you can give yourself to disconnect will be great. The body-scan consists in consciously driving your attention throughout your body, becoming aware of any and all sensations you may feel in different body parts. What’s particularly important about this exercise is to not judge your body, pain or discomfort, and simply become aware of it and release all stress, tension or illness that’s built up.

There’s tons of recordings online that slowly guide you through your body. In case you want to skip a body-scan recording or adjust the technique to your specific time-frame, The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program enlists the following steps for an easy-to-do practice anywhere and anytime:

1. Lie on some cushions with your legs spread out in front of you and your arms to the side, palms up. Cover yourself with a blanket if you tend to get cold so you will not get distracted throughout the body scan. Start by lying there and notice what it feels like to be connected to the ground, feel the weight of your entire body resting and identify the pressure points where your body touches the floor. (If you’re in your second or third trimester, you can do the body-scan sitting down.)
2. Start with your left toes. Don’t visualize them, just check in and see how they feel. Are they cold? Are they holding tension? Focus on your exhalations, direct your deep breaths to your toes. Now bring your awareness to your heel, focusing your breath to your left heel. You decide how much time or number of breaths you want to dedicate to each body part.
3. Move upward to your arch, ankle, calf, knee, thigh and then duplicate the process with your right leg, starting with your right toes.
4. Once you have scanned your legs, concentrate your awareness and breathing on your pelvis, traveling to your lower back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and head.
5. Once you have scanned the individual body parts, unite them, focusing on how the fingers connect to the hands, which connect to the arms and so on. Be aware of your sensations — how does the blanket feel or the chill of the air on your skin.

As you practice more and more, it should become easier to keep your focus and attention on your body. If you find that your mind is constantly wandering, simply become aware of that and bring it back concentrating on your breathing. No harm, no foul. Have fun exploring this whole new side of your body!

Exercising no-no’s

Even though we’re huge advocates for exercising during pregnancy, there are certain things that should definitely be avoided during this time. Remember your baby’s health and wellbeing will always come first and outweigh any fitness goals or dreams of climbing the Everest.

As for the duration and intensity of the exercise, you can maintain the rhythm you had before after checking with your doctor first. There are exceptions though, below is a list of exercises that you should avoid during this time due to the stress they inflict in your system and the risk that comes with them:
• Heavy weight lifting (I mean heavy, not 5-lbs dumbbells)
• Exercises that requiere holding your breath
• Exercises where you lie flat on your back
• Contact sports such as hockey, basketball, football…
• Scuba diving
• Gymnastics, horseback or any activity that put you at risk of falling
• Altitude sports that may reduce the oxygen supply to your baby

According to the American Congress of Obsteticians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you shouldn’t exercise at all if you have one of the following:
• Heart disease
• Restrictive lung disease
• Incompetent cervix
• Multiple gestations at risk for premature labor
• Persistent bleeding
• Placenta praevia after 26 weeks gestations
• Ruptured membranes
• Preeclampsia/Pregnancy induced hypertension

The ACOG lists the following red flags as signs that you should stop exercising right away and go see your doctor:
• Vaginal bleeding
• Difficulty breathing
• Dizziness
• Headaches
• Chest pain
• Muscle weakness
• Calf pain or swelling
• Preterm labor
• Decreased fetal movement (you’ll notice if your baby is not moving around as usual when you stop and rest)
• Amniotic fluid leakage

It may seem like overwhelming lists and things to look after. Take your time reading through them and taking note of what applies to you and discard what doesn’t. If you’re not sure about something or need reassurance, reach out to your doctor.

Exercise makes labor easier!

Apart from raising your energy levels, help with those common pregnant mood swings and bring you some clarity of mind, exercising can actually help with your labor. The good news is you can take advantage of this whether you’re a fitness junkie or if you don’t even own a pair of running shoes. You can spend the next nine months slowly working out according to your physical condition and reap the rewards when your baby finally arrives.

In case you didn’t already know or are still wrapping your mind around it, labor is hard work. Pregnant women who stay in shape and have strong muscles tend to have shorter and “easier” labors. Exercise and an active lifestyle constantly challenges and improves your endurance and, without you knowing, is building you up for some good old-fashion pushing.  If you work on the right muscles you can significantly lower the risk of tears and complications during labor. The common theory is that if you can voluntarily relax the pelvic floor muscles (if they’re strong enough) you can make it easier for your baby to be born.

There are several key exercises that you can integrate into your workout and get the most benefits of:
• Squats
• Cat/cow stretch (on your hands and knees, arch your back and look up, then curve your back and look down)
• Butterfly sitting (join the soles of your feet when sitting)
• Sit on the air with your back pressed against the wall
• Kegel exercises
• Yoga sequences

Most of these exercises focus on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles which support the rectum, vagina, bladder and urethra. By strengthening these muscles, you will start preparing your body for birth and may avoid leaking urine during and after your pregnancy. The importance of yoga sequences lies in teaching you to control your breathing and learn some pain management techniques which will do wonders on your endurance and mental focus during birth.

Give it a try and include these simple exercises in your workout routine! Prepare your mind and body to welcome your baby without setbacks that could have been avoided and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

Cycling in your pregnancy

It’s common for women who love exercise to find out instantly information about workouts and their effects on their pregnancy. With cycling being such a popular sport, we decided to find out a little bit more about its benefits and potential risks to pregnant women everywhere.

First things first, you must be aware that your energy levels are very different when you’re pregnant. During your first trimester, all the energy and hard work your body is doing is going towards creating the placenta so try to avoid long or hard training sessions (even more so in the evening). Cycling during your second and third trimester will be easier but you should check with your doctor if you have any doubts!

During your pregnancy, as your belly continues to grow, you may want to switch from your road bike to a stationary bike, which causes less stress on your body and helps you avoid any balance-related falls.

Below are a few tips for all you bike-lovers out there:
• If you’re thinking of buying a bike, when choosing one, make the comfort of the seat a priority, you’ll be grateful for that as your pregnancy progresses.
• If you’re in a studio, choose a bike that’s near a fan or a window.
• If you have any lower back pain, a recumbent bike (common in most gyms) is a great alternative.
• Keep a heart monitor handy.  The same bike can have it or you may want to invest in one of your own.
• Stay hydrated at all times.
• As your belly becomes bigger, you can raise the handlebars so you’re sitting more upright and more comfortably.
• If you feel your balance is deeply affected by your pregnancy, don’t risk it and stay off the bike. A fall won’t do you or your baby any good.
• If you’re straining yourself and feel constantly wiped-out, stop the exercise or definitely lower its intensity.

Pregnancy is a time to enjoy and have fun. As long as you’re being safe and have no complications during your check-ups, there’s no reason to interrupt your workouts and active lifestyle.

” Running in your pregnancy “

With the hype we’re currently in of having a healthier lifestyle, running has become a go-to sport for a lot of people. With endless praise to the physical and emotional boost people get from running, the popularity of the sport is a no brainer. Most pregnant women tend to be on the lookout for tips and guidelines on what they can keep doing and what they definitely can’t during their pregnancy.

Every woman and pregnancy is unique and has different needs, but as long as you aren’t experiencing any significant complications, the general recommendation is to exercise with less intensity (never more) and adjust your workouts as your pregnancy progresses. You should double-check with your doctor if you have any doubts regarding the type or intensity of exercise you’re doing!

To make it easier for you to decide whether or not you should get out of bed and go for walk or light run, you should know that running can actually help reduce some of your pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, cramps, constipation and lower back pain all the while helping you maintain muscle tone, increasing your energy levels, regulating your weight gain, and most likely decreasing labor time and helping achieve an easier delivery.

One important tip to keep in mind for all you runners out there: make your transition into running while pregnant as smoothly as possible. If you enjoy outdoor runs, learn the routes you’ll take beforehand, locate all nearest bathrooms and try to avoid bumpy courses (remember your sense of balance is not what it used to be).

The best tool to know if you’re on the right track or not is your body! Listen to it! Pay attention to how you’re feeling both during and after exercising. Running should leave you full of energy and in a better mood. If you find yourself completely wiped out, then modify the intensity of your workout. Remember, we’re trying to reap the benefits of running while pregnant, not aiming for a marathon. This is a time to enjoy and feel good, not to set exercising goals that can potentially damage you or your baby’s health.

Why you SHOULD workout

It’s astonishing that even now, knowing what we know about the endless benefits that exercise has on your health and functional capacities, a large percentage of people still decide to remain sedentary. Lehman College in New York City found that 60% of pregnant women choose not to exercise throughout their term. Even while pregnant, not exercising can pose a risk for inactivity, obesity, chronic disease and premature mortality. Women who work out during their pregnancy and keep a healthy and balanced diet tend to gain 20% less weight than those who remain inactive. Need I say more?

For years there’s been a myth that says that exercising can somehow lead to premature birth or miscarriage and the reality is actually the opposite. On one hand, exercising has been found to have a positive impact on your baby because it improves his nourishment. Additionally, exercising might just be the key to having an easier labor: less active labor hours, less probability of a C-section, and less stress for you and your baby.

Finally, exercising also plays quite a big role when it comes to lower-back pain. You’d be amazed of how common this discomfort is amongst pregnant women all over the world. There are certain exercises and stretches that can help alleviate your pain, reducing its intensity and discomfort. It’s common to feel more tired during pregnancy and it’s fine to skip a workout when you feel you need to, just don’t let the exception become the rule.

Speak to your physician or personal trainer to learn more about what exercises you can do according to your current physical condition and trimester. At the end of the day, when it comes to exercising, the pros clearly outweigh the cons. Maternal fitness is essential to you and your baby’s health and wellbeing.  Try to fit an exercise you enjoy a few times a week and get your dose of athletically-induced endorphins!

Warming up and cooling down

Warming up and cooling down is actually a big deal and we don’t stop to think about it because we’re so used to our high-paced lifestyle where we have our schedule down to the minute. If that’s the case, you will most likely skip the warm-up and the cool-down in your exercise routine and prefer to get down and dirty from the get-go.

Here’s why that’s not what you should be doing (even more so during pregnancy). The warm-up preps your muscles and body for the stress you’re going to put them in, it gets your blood flowing. The cool-down on the other hand, slowly lowers your heart rate and brings your body temperature back to normal. Failing to warm-up or cool-down properly can lead to dizziness and nausea. Avoid a fall or a bruise by taking the proper time to your warm-up and cool-down.

Most warm-up and cool-down routines take about 10 minutes and may include some sort of aerobic activity (like biking or walking) along with some stretching. Stretching helps you maintain the flexibility during your pregnancy. It can prevent those uncomfortable tight or sore muscles and help you avoid injuries. As you well know, your body changes when you’re pregnant, which means you can’t put the same pressure or demands as you did before. Below are several guidelines you can follow to ensure you get the most from your stretching routine:
1. Try to move slowly and gently (your ligaments tend to be more relaxed this way)
2. Don’t force any stretch
3. Avoid bouncing into and in each movement
4. Avoid overstretching (this is not the time to try to do a full split, you’ll get to that later)
5. Become aware of your breathing (don’t hold it in)

If you tend to have backaches, take your time stretching your back to ease the pain (using a Bosu ball for these stretches is especially helpful!). After the first trimester, avoid stretches while lying on your back as this may reduce the blood flow to your baby. Other than that, listen to your body, get your exercise-induced endorphins and don’t forget your warm-up and cool-down!

If you want to see different types of stretches, head over to our slideshows to get a ton of ideas!

Third trimester: Exercise do’s and don’ts

Congrats, you’re officially on the final stretch of your pregnancy! The moment to finally meet your baby girl is almost here. You probably have a million things to do before your little one arrives, but remember to leave time to exercise in your busy schedule.

You may feel discouraged to move and exercise as your belly continues to grow. It’s common that the late pregnancy symptoms demand you to slow down a bit. This period is known for its steady weight gain, shortness of breath, fatigue and trouble sleeping. Swimming or doing water aerobics have been proven especially beneficial during the third trimester as the water can help alleviate some of the most common discomforts.

There are certain exercises that you can do during this time to help you prepare for labor. For a physical workout, strong pelvic floor exercises help position your little one’s head during delivery and may minimize your risk of late pregnancy, postpartum hemorrhoids or urinary infections (UTI’s). Mind/body exercises (such as yoga, mindful breathing or body-scan meditations) will help you focus and control your body and use it to your advantage during high-endurance events (such as labor).

It’s very important to remember that during the last trimester, you should avoid any exercises that may decrease the blood flow to your vital organs as well as the baby’s. Avoid standing for long periods of time as well as lifting heavy objects. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists enlist several warning signs to discontinue an exercise while pregnant which include: vaginal bleeding, painful contractions, amniotic fluid leakage, chest pain, dizziness and headaches. Remember to always keep your doctor in the loop, listen to your body, stay safe and enjoy these last moments of your pregnancy.

Second trimester: Exercise do’s and don’ts

Fun fact: during this trimester you’ll gain the most weight during your pregnancy! Women with an average body mass pre-pregnancy gain an average of 13-17.5 pounds (6 to 8 kilograms). Of course, if you want to stay within this range you have to maintain a balanced and healthy diet made up of nutrient-rich foods along with moderate exercise.

During this stage, you probably feel less discomfort, fatigue and nausea, and are slowly getting the hang of being pregnant. The second trimester is the right moment to increase your workout intensity and duration (always on the lookout for warning signs).  If you haven’t begun exercising yet or don’t usually workout, that’s fine. Start using the guidelines for the first trimester (low-impact, moderate exercise in a cool environment) and remember that some exercise beats no exercise.

Although you may feel much better compared to the first trimester, you should now avoid lying flat on your back because this can actually reduce the blood flow to your baby. If at any time you feel nausea, dizziness or slightly lightheaded when lying on your back, roll to the side and then sit up with slow conscious movements.

With him growing with each passing day, you carry around more weight and may therefore experience more pressure on your lower back. Be aware of your posture and rest whenever you need to. To ease the pain, you can do some soothing back stretches and exercises to help alleviate some of the tension. Head over to our slideshow section on our catalog and find a few exercises!

At all times, remember your health and your baby’s will always come first. Stay safe and visit your doctor whenever you feel you need to. And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!

I’m pregnant! Can I work out?

There are many myths and theories about pregnancy. How do I stay fit? How do I avoid risks? How do I work out during each trimester? In this point, you have probably just found out you are pregnant and you are most likely feeling a little overwhelmed. This is completely normal. Our goal here is to make things a little bit easier for you.

During the first trimester your heart will pump more blood and your blood pressure will decrease. These changes, although seemingly insignificant, can cause dizziness, increase your heart rate and give you the feeling that you can’t catch your breath. Relax, these pregnancy “side-effects” are very common during the first three months. All of your body’s energy is being used to create the perfect environment for your little one in the following months. Therefore, it’s really important that during this time you pay special attention to the new limits and changes in your body, in order to avoid falls or injuries. Most importantly, before you begin planning your fit pregnancy workout, be sure to get proper clearance from your doctor.

Some of the most frequent questions pregnant women have are if exercising can lead to a miscarriage, what kind of exercise is best and how long should the workout last. First and foremost, exercising doesn’t lead to miscarriages. Doctors actually encourage exercising because it can help to ease muscular pain. As for the type of exercise, a low-impact one is recommended, pregnancy is not the time to exceed your limits and be too intense. Lastly, try to keep a 30 minute workout. You can do this most days of the week in a nice and safe environment.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to have fun. Don’t be too hard on yourself and do something you enjoy like walking your dog, going to a salsa lesson, barre-fit, etc. Any exercise will always be better than no exercise at all!