YOUR Personal Trainer Steve Harper talks about his client Charlotte's pregnancy journey through fitness, and the bespoke training programme he put in place to support her. Read Steves article below.
As everyone is aware there are lots of different articles in papers, magazines and even on TV with varying opinions. Recently more and more professionals in the fitness industry and more importantly the medical profession are realising the benefits of exercise for mum and baby. Subsequently many are recommending exercising throughout uncomplicated pregnancies, all the time the individual feels comfortable and is in control of her heart rate and recovery rate.
As Charlottes Personal Trainer I tried to reassure her as much as possible that we would take things easy and not push her too much. Ultimately the final decision rested with Charlotte and she decided that she would continue to exercise and she NEVER LOOKED BACK!
Charlotte didn’t suffer with any morning sickness but did feel tired and nauseous however she continued to workout as normal. Often during her sessions the exercises did help alleviate the issues which she would be delighted with. During this trimester she started to feel light headed while doing any exercises involving her arms coming above her head so we quickly removed these exercises from her sessions.
Charlotte started to more feel positive about her training and more importantly her confidence grew as exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and kettlebell swings which she enjoys she was able to continue with and didn’t feel light headed or under too much strain.
During this trimester there was one session when Charlotte felt extremely light headed and lacking energy which in the long run helped me programme sessions and develop a better understanding of what she required when it came to recovery. This episode didn't reoccur and Charlotte was able to continue with her training.
During this trimester Charlotte felt like she had a lot more energy and that made working out a lot more enjoyable for her. She continued to lift weights but again reducing depending on how she was feeling. Charlotte was starting to notice how thirsty she would get during her workouts which didn’t help with the warmer weather. Staying hydrated is massively important and even more so when you’re drinking for two.
With Charlottes bump growing, modifications had to be made for certain exercises. These modifications such as her range of movement and reducing the weights she was lifting enabled her to continue with a lot of her regular exercises.
Food is another hugely important tool when exercising if you eat right you’ll be able to train right. Charlotte would require food within at least 15 minutes of exercising otherwise she would begin to feel ill. This feeling continued throughout the rest of her pregnancy so it always seemed she had half her kitchen in her gym bag...much to the amusement of the gym staff.
Charlottes bump was staring to get big and it was having an impact on her hips and slightly in her lower back. This did not affect her training but was painful when walking or sitting in an upright position without extra support. We continued to work on her core stability to maintain her core strength but adjusted some stretching exercises in order to get a decent stretch without causing any discomfort. Even though Charlotte was in the third trimester she was able to continue with a large amount of exercises that felt like she was having a ‘real workout’ these included some of her ‘favourites’ such as TRX work, squats and barbell work.
Rest periods began to get longer as Charlottes heart rate would raise a lot quicker than normal as you would expect but this made Charlotte feel like she was spending more time resting than actually exercising. We would always carry a stability ball with us so Charlotte was able sit when required. The ball also eased the discomfort on her hips and in the event of her heart rate increasing too much she would be able to sit down and let it return to a safe zone.
At certain times during the third trimester we would increase the overall amount of safe stretching so as to keep up a range of functional movements which would mean Charlotte was always ‘doing something’. At the start of the week Charlotte would have significantly more energy than towards the end of the week. Hot weather, size of bump and chasing after a toddler all week all meant that by Thursday and Friday she would find sessions much harder.
34 weeks pregnant and during a midwife appointment she was complemented on how strong her stomach muscles were, that meant an awful lot to Charlotte and she notified the midwife that she was still carrying out exercises that she never thought possible at this stage of her pregnancy.
In Charlotte’s own words “I was told by a lot of experienced women that if you’ve got strong stomach muscles you’ll find it a lot harder to push baby out and you’ll have to have a caesarean, now I can safely say this is clearly not the case. I exercised 3-4 times a week up until I was 39 weeks pregnant and had a natural birth with zero complications”. Charlotte was desperate to get back into the gym after giving birth. Amazingly two weeks later and after a few discussions Charlotte had returned to the gym. We started out with light exercises and general full body movement patterns. Charlotte has amazingly been able to get back to full training within 3 months and is extremely happy with her progress and how quickly she is back to feeling ‘like herself’. When I asked her would she recommend exercising throughout pregnancy she simply replied - “ABSOLUTELY!” My personal thoughts regarding women exercising through pregnancy is simple, WHY STOP! Seek advice, be sensible, adjust and stay in control.
Steve Harper Personal Training
‘Despite a growing body of evidence demonstrating numerous benefits the uptake and maintenance of exercise in pregnancy falls far short of current health recommendations. Research has shown this is not purely due to the physical challenge of pregnancy it compounded by women receiving a lack of support to exercise and inconsistent and inaccurate information.
There is a tendency for health professionals, family and friends to be overly risk adverse suggesting women should prioritise rest over exercise. My research suggests that women either feel pressured to reduce their exercise levels or exercised covertly to avoid disapproval. This suggests that what is needed is a cultural shift whereby exercise in pregnancy is seen as ‘normal’ activity and women are encouraged and supported to exercise.
Women can check using the following ONLINE SCREENING TOOL should they have any concerns about exercising through pregnancy’ –
Dr Jenny Hassall RGN, RM, BSc, PG Cert, MSc, PhD - Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences University of Brighton