Often, when new moms become pregnant, they suddenly realize the incredible responsibility their body plays in supporting another human life. It is during this time that women are more willing to try harder to take care of their bodies by making healthy life-style changes. Taking care of your body is very important during and after pregnancy, but being in good physical condition is also helpful in being able to conceive and giving your “one-day-baby” a good, healthy start to life. By creating a “healthy environment” for that baby to grow and live in before birth, you are giving yourself and your child an irreplaceable gift.
I encourage young women who are hopeful mothers-to-be, to not wait until they are pregnant to become healthy and fit, but to start now. Below are some helpful exercise guidelines for those of you who would like to carry a child some-day. Obviously, there is so much to conceiving and carrying a child that is more complex than just having a healthy body. But by investing in yourself now you are doing what you can to help your chances of having a healthy, successful pregnancy and baby.
- Maintain a healthy weight or do what you can to achieve a healthy weight:
Does a healthy weight really make a difference? Yes. According to several studies out there**, being a healthy weight does increase your chances of conceiving and successfully carrying a baby. Having a conditioned body also helps you to lower certain risks that you or your child may have during the pregnancy. It also sets you up for having more stamina during pregnancy.
I do know that losing weight is HARD WORK! I know there are a lot of factors that can affect how easy it is for different individuals to lose weight. However, the number one reason I run into that people fail reach and maintain a healthy weight for their body is due to an underestimation of how much dedication weight loss actually takes. It takes real, specific goal-oriented commitments for most overweight individuals to really see a difference on the scale. And for many, that takes more support and help to be able to make those commitments (which is why we trainers are here). Many women need extra support and encouragement as weight loss can have many emotional and relational challenges for them as well.
- Don’t ignore injuries prior to pregnancy.
If you are suffering from an injury that you are ignoring now (prior to being pregnant) chances are that this injury will only get worse during pregnancy. Why is this? One reason this happens to women is because of the presence of the hormone Relaxin, during pregnancy, which makes ligaments and joints less stable and can add extra stress on already existing injuries in these areas. Also, the added weight of carrying a baby is enough to add a lot of physical stress to a woman’s body. Injuries, especially in the hips/legs/feet area are bound to be aggravated more due to the extra downward force and shift in center of gravity. Sometimes being pregnant means you move a little less (especially toward the end of the pregnancy). Getting stuck in positions can encourage mechanical imbalances (shortening and stretching of different muscles and tendons) and promote injuries flaring up.
So what to do if you do have an unattended injury and are trying to become pregnant? Have it checked out by a doctor and maybe even a physical therapist. There may be exercises you can incorporate into your daily workout to help aid in the recovery of that injury or keep it manageable during pregnancy. It will be well worth the time to learn how to keep the injury from getting worse during pregnancy and causing more physical problems and discomforts.
- Strengthen important muscles groups for pregnancy and motherhood. Obviously being pregnant is no easy, physical task. But did you know that during pregnancy a woman’s body changes more than a man’s will in his entire life. All that change condensed down into 9 short months! Add in there all the extra weight we must learn how to navigate around with. This is a lot of pressure to put on our bodies. Yes, our bodies were made to bear children, but that doesn’t take away from the incredible work it is to house that growing child prior to the demand of labor as well. One of the best ways you can set yourself up for success during this time is to strengthen body parts that will be specifically used and strained more during pregnancy. That way, they will have more endurance and capacity for the workload they will have to bare later on.
Muscle groups to focus on: Core: Inner abs, abs, hips, low back. Lower Body: Glutes, thighs, quads, legs, calves, muscles to support knees and ankles. Upper Back Muscles: Scapular region, upper arm strength, neck and shoulders.
- Learn how to make exercise a habit before becoming a mom.
Becoming a mom is a big life shift. Priorities, energy, and availability all change dramatically. If you are not exercising regularly now, learning to exercise regularly as a new mom will be much more difficult. Don’t wait to build up the discipline of physical activity until you are a sleep-deprived parent…what good would that do? Do it now! Decide at the beginning of the week when you are going to exercise, WRITE IT DOWN SOMEWHERE VISIBLE, ask for accountability or help, and DO IT! The more you exercise the more you will want to exercise. So many times I lay in bed contemplating whether I would rather sleep an extra half hour or workout. The days that I kick myself out of bed and workout I am more energized, happier, and feel better about myself. It is a small sacrifice that goes a long way. And guess what? Exercise helped me immensely to enjoy pregnancy more!
So stop looking at your calendar and trying to decide when you are going to make a change. Just do it, today! Put on those shoes and go for a 30 minute walk and congratulate yourself. If you do want extra help and motivation please contact me! I would love to tell you about the variety of tools I have to help you get started on a healthy journey for yourself! I am a motivation coach…that is part of my job as a trainer!
**Articles on healthy weight and conceiving: