Fit Tip Friday: 5 Things I Want You to Know For a Healthy Pregnancy

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I am passionate about prenatal fitness.  I could talk, and have, all day about everything there is to know about the topic.  But, I recently gave a lecture about pregnancy and health and I knew I only had about 30 minutes to tell a group of first-time pregnant moms everything about prenatal fitness.  So after stressing out, I just thought;  “what are the 5 things I want these women to leave knowing?”


And here they are!


Get Stronger

Strong muscles support your pregnancy.  As your weight increases, strong legs support a heavier body, strong backs support your growing belly and breast and help prevent back pain.

Delivery is an athletic event, the stronger you are going into it, the more prepared you’ll be.  Imagine running a marathon without training! Also, studies show that fit women have a higher pain threshold and perceive labor to be less difficult.

Being a mom required muscles!  Have you seen all the stuff new moms have to schlep??  The stronger you are, the more easily you can hoist that stroller, diaper bag, camera, car seat, not to mention the baby, in and out of your car all day long.

Exercises to Focus On:  Squats and lunges, rowing-type exercises and arm exercises for lifting.


Continue to Train Your Abdominals and Core

It is not only safe, but imperative, to continue to train your entire core during your pregnancy.    Strong abdominals act like a support belt during your pregnancy and delivery.  Also, fit ab muscles recover more quickly after delivery.  The deep transverse abdominal (TVA) muscles are a mother’s best friend and safe abdominal work during pregnancy is all based on the ability to stabilize your core with your TVA muscles.

You should pay attention to a separation in your abdominal wall called a Diastasis Recti.  It is very common, occurs in many pregnancies, usually in the third trimester.  Physical Therapists now believe, targeted TVA work early in pregnancy (and before) can prevent Diastasis all together.

Post partum (maybe by years) and still can’t loose that ‘pooch’ no matter how much cardio you do?  Many experts agree this may be an unhealed Diastasis.

Exercises to Focus On:  “Hug the Baby” -Try to sit tall in a chair and draw your belly button towards your spine without holding your breath or tilting your pelvis.  If you can do 30 without losing the integrity of the exercise, try doing them on all fours then progress to a modified plank position (like a ‘girl’ push up position).  You can also do this exercise postpartum (whether that is 2 months or 2 years for you) to help heal any left over abdominal issues you may be having.

Pay Attention to Changes in Your Joints

Relaxin is a hormone that is released to allow your body to open and change during pregnancy and delivery.  Relaxin also makes a pregnant woman more unstable and more prone to injury.  Be extra cautious when on unstable surfaces like hiking trails, or step aerobic classes.  Avoid fast changing movements with excessive lateral moves, like tennis.

Relaxin may also be the culprit for a decrease in Synovial Fluid, the cushioning between your joints.  Pregnant woman need more time to get an adequate warm up.

Posture is KEY

Focusing on posture during pregnancy and the newborn time may be the single best thing you can do for your overall health during this time.  Good posture allows you to carry the baby (both when he is inside your belly and outside!) more efficiently and with less physical discomfort.  Slouching causes your pregnant belly to extend further out, putting more strain on your lower back.  Slouching also can increase abdominal separation by putting more pressure on an already weakened abdominal wall.   Try it yourself, pregnant or not, stand sideways in front of a mirror.  Stand tall, pull your shoulders back and engage your abdominals.  Now slouch, roll your shoulders forward and let your stomach bulge out.  Your 7th grade PE teacher was right; standing up straight does make you look leaner.

Exercises to Focus On: Shoulder squeeze-backs (scapular retractions), hug the baby (described above) and think “tail bone down”

Pay special attention to posture during baby care; feeding, diaper changing, playing, stroller pushing, carrying the car seat; all put moms in a compromised posture position.  Take the time to get yourself set up before you engage in baby care.


Use Exercise to Mitigate Common Aliments

Exercise has been clinically and anecdotally shown to reduce many common aliments of pregnancy.  Morning sickness, carpal tunnel, sciatica, pubic symphsis and constipation can all be prevented or mitigated with exercise.    Find something that you enjoy and feels good; a walk, swimming, or yoga may feel good, even if you don’t.  And if you are feeling good, pay attention to your body and modify when necessary, you can continue doing many of your favorite activities all they way through your pregnancy!

Fit Tip Friday Fitness Pregnancy Preparing For Baby Uncategorized

Fitting in Fitness During the Holidays- Or anytime your schedule is a little crazy


treasure hunting on a family hike

As the holiday season seems to creep earlier and earlier each year, the roadblocks to sticking to your exercise routine seem to become more plentiful.  The holiday madness seems to start with Halloween and many reports suggest the average American will gain 7-10 pounds between trick-or-treating and Super Bowl Sunday.

So what’s a waistline to do?

Here are a few tips that I am going to be trying to get me through the next 26 days to 2012:

Something is Better Than Nothing

The biggest mistake that people make around the holidays is putting off their own heath and fitness until “after the New Year”.  If you truly take the whole Holiday season off, you are missing out on 1/6th of the year of fitness (or more!).  And who wants to fight that return rush of other New Years Resolution-ers  anyways.

The effects of exercise are cumulative.  So even if you can’t get to that 9am kickboxing class at your gym 3 times a week like you used to, 15 minutes of exercises at home each morning and a 10 minute walk in your neighborhood after dinner each night adds up to the same total weekly minutes. (try the 15 minute home workout coming tomorrow!)

Create New Healthy Traditions

One of the best parts of the Holidays is celebrating with Family and Friends, but your celebrations don’t have to focus around the TV and finger foods.  Why not plan a family-friendly hike instead of your neighborhood potluck.

Where I am in Marin County, we are luckily enough to have decent weather in December, even if it means wearing an extra layer or bringing an umbrella.  Why not meet at a hiking trail or fire road that starts from a parking lot.   Walk out as far as the little legs in your group want to go, then turn and head back.  Or pick a paved trail where kids can ride bikes and scooters while the adults walk and chat.

Regroup in the parking lot for hot chocolate, coffee and fruit.  Even if you bring out small breads or pastries, it won’t be the same as standing at a buffet table for 3 hours.  Everyone gets out, gets some fresh air and time to chat.  If you go in the morning, you’re done earlier enough to hit up the mall to finish your shopping!

Keep Your Guests Busy

If you are hosting the party, give guest an activity to do besides nibble.  People can string popcorn and cranberry garlands while chatting with their friends instead of popping hors d’oeuvres.

Or asks guests to bring their stash of hotel soaps and shampoos.  Set up a table and guests can put together gift bags for local shelters while they socialize. People will eat (and drink) less during the party and you’ll be helping out local causes at the same time.

Home (workouts) for the Holidays

Need to make the most of your fitness time?  Working out at home it the answer.  Need ideas on how to do that effectively?  Tomorrow I’ll be posting Home (workouts) for the Holidays.  Complete with DVD and website recommendations and a complete home workout you can do in 15 minutes!  See you tomorrow!

Fitness Healthy Mama Kids Activities Uncategorized

Prenatal Fitness Answers – Part 4- Relaxin


This is the last entry in BUMP Life’s 4 part series on prenatal fitness.  If you have missed any of our past posts on the most frequently asked prenatal fitness questions, check them out here:

4 Top Prenatal Fitness Questions

  1.  Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm
  2.  Can I do ab work while I am pregnant?
  3.  I woke up last night on my back, should I be worried?

And on to our last frequently asked question:

My joints feel loosey-goosey, should I avoid working out?

Ahhh, Relaxin, you are the culprit.

There is a laundry list of symptoms and sensations you may experience while you are pregnant; nausea, unstable joints, swelling, light headedness, back pain and many more and most can be traced right back to the effects of the hormone, Relaxin.

This topic is near and dear to my heart.  When I became fascinated with prenatal fitness many, many years ago, it was Relaxin that fascinated me the most.

Relaxin does exactly what it says it does- it relaxes.   

Its main job is to relax the connective tissue in the rib cage so your ribs can expand to accommodate the growing baby.  It also relaxes the pelvic joints to allow for delivery.  It does not, however, limit its self to just these joints.  It relaxes the ankle joint and the pinky finger joint and the joints in the spinal column.  It also relaxes muscle fibers and various sphincters in the body.

SO relaxin is responsible, in part, to everything from morning sickness, to heartburn, to that increased chance you’ll twist your ankle stepping off the curb.

So what does this mean for working out?


Relaxin effects working out in 3 main ways.  But in short- working out will help mitigate the less desirable effects of relaxin. SO KEEP WORKING OUT!


Injury Prevention-

Strong muscles will help prevent injuries during pregnancy

Relaxin cause the connective tissue around the joints to be a little looser.  This makes sense, so the rib cage can expand the pelvic bones can separate.  But it also makes you a little more susceptible to spraining an ankle or experiencing wrist pain.

Take care not to over-tax weak joints.  Moves with quick direction changes or lots of lateral movement (think fast paced tennis match) are more likely to cause an injury.

In your daily life, slow down a bit and take more caution on unstable surfaces where tripping hazards (rocks, curbs, kids toys) may cause you to loose your footing or balance.

Strong muscles will help support less stable joints. Going into your pregnancy strong is ideal, but weight training during pregnancy will insure the muscles surrounding your joints are strong and able to support your body, even when your joints are not.

Underfil Issues and Dizziness


Exercise improves circulation, which may decrease nausea

In the first trimester, relaxin shows its effects by relaxing the muscle fibers.  When the muscles do not provide as tight a ‘casing’ for the blood vessels that pass through them, the blood vessels also expand.  With larger blood vessels, there is now not enough blood to fill up the increase space, leading to an underfill issue.  Gravity causes the blood to pool in the lower extremities (hello swollen ankles) and makes it harder on your body to pump blood quickly all the way up to your head, therefore leading to feelings of dizziness, lightheadness and nausea.

The good news is, your body gets to work quickly producing more blood.  By the end of your first trimester, your blood volume has increased by 30-50 percent!  Once the blood volume has a chance to catch up, many of the dizzy spells subside.

During the first trimester, take caution when standing up quickly and especially when going from a head down position like downward dog or blow-drying your hair.  And try a gentle walk even if you feel nauseous, exercise improves circulation and getting some blood to your brain might help the symptoms of morning sickness.

Postural Concerns

 It is never to early in your pregnancy to start practicing proper posture, even though it really becomes a concern in later trimesters when increase weight adds to compromised joints.  Increased size of your belly has a tendency to pull your body forward, causing an excessive curve in your lower back (and increase back pain).  Weakened spinal joints and increase weight of your breast can cause your shoulders to round forward (leading to more back pain).

Start as early as you can practicing proper posture.  Don’t slouch.  Keep your shoulders pulled back and engage your abs, think about hugging your baby closer to your body.  This will help improve your posture, prevent back and neck pain and actually make you look smaller.

Check out these pregnant pictures of a friend of mine.  How far along does she look in each photo?


Did you guess 36 weeks….in BOTH??  The first photo shows good posture and the second photo shows bad posture.  Enough said.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this series on Prenatal Fitness.

My bottom line points about exercising during your pregnancy are;

  1. Do it, it is good for you and good for your baby
  2. Be reasonable, find exercises that you like and feels good.  Don’t feel like you have to keep up with your old routine or what some celebrity is doing if it doesn’t feel right to you.
  3. Be smart, fitness during pregnancy is safe and important, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know what you are doing.  Find someone who can help you put a safe, effective, appropriate routine together to avoid injury and make sure you can stick with it.  (check out BUMP life for more suggestions)

Stay tune for more articles on specific exercises to do during pregnancy and afterwards.

Fitness Healthy Mama Pregnancy Prenatal Fitness

Prenatal Fitness Answers- Part 3- Supine Hypotensive Syndrome (or exercising on your back)

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Supine Hypotensive What?!?!

That sounds like a really scary condition that you don’t want to get, right?  Well, actually it’s really a scary sounding name for a much less complicated issue during pregnancy.

As the size of the growing baby increases, the baby may have enough weight to compress the vena cava (the vein that returns blood to the heart) when the mother is lying on her back.  This usually starts sometime between 20-25 weeks  and most women will describe the symptoms as dizzy  and lightheadedness or ‘pins and needles’ in the legs.

As is true in many prenatal situations, maternal symptoms always precede fetal distress.  This basically means that the pregnant woman is going to feel the pins and needles and know it is time to change positions.

So, Should I not exercise flat on my back?The ACOG recommends limiting time pregnant women spend on their back to 2 minutes.  So, that’s enough time to get in one set of ab work, or chest stretches.  But remember 2 things;

  1. Try side-lying exercises as an alternative to flat on your back

    Supine Hypostensive Syndrome does not affect all pregnant women- some women never feel these symptoms and therefore are probably safe to continuing exercising (or sleeping) on their backs

  2. There are MANY alternative ways to do any exercise that is traditionally done on your back- By elevating your body to about a 30-degree angle, you can avoid any complications.  Doing your abdominal work on a stability ball or on all fours, completely alleviates any blood supply concerns (remember this video).  Try a seated chest press machine instead of a bench press or do the Pilates leg series side lying instead of flat.

I woke up on my back last night, should I be concerned?

Women’s bodies are designed to protect the growing baby.  If, in the middle of the night, you found you had been sleeping on your back, waking up was probably your body’s way of telling you it was time to change positions.  If you are a dedicated back sleeper, try putting one of your baby-to-be’s blankets to use early.  Fold it, and place it under one hip so you can lay on your back, but with your body slightly angled to one side, this is usually enough to keep the direct pressure off your vena cava.

Of course, if any symptoms during pregnancy are concerning to you or seem abnormal, always trust your gut (that’s your mother’s intuition starting!) and call you doctor.

This is part 3 in our series on Prenatal Fitness Questions Answered! If you missed part 1 or 2 click the question below to read the answers. And stay tuned for our final installment in this series on my favorite prenatal fitness topic- Relaxin!

In my many years of working with pregnant woman as a personal trainer and prenatal fitness expert, 4 questions come up over and over again.

4 Top Prenatal Fitness Questions

  1. Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm
  2. Can I do ab work while I am pregnant?
  3. I woke up last night on my back, should I be worried?
  4. My joints feel loosey-goosey, should I avoid working out?- COMING SOON

Fitness Healthy Mama Pregnancy Prenatal Fitness

Prenatal Fitness Answers- Part 1- Heart Rate Guidelines


Exercise during your pregnancy is good for you and good for your baby

Research continues to mount suggesting the many benefits exercise provides to pregnant women and their developing babies.  In fact, recommendations have shifted in the recent years from exercise is “safe” during pregnancy, to exercises is “highly recommended” during pregnancy.   New guidelines encourage pregnant woman exercise on “most if not all” days of the week. (read all of ACOG’s guidelines here)

Fit women have;

  • Shorter, less complicated labors
  • Faster recoveries
  • Decrease need for medical intervention
  • Increase in pain tolerance

And the benefits do not stop with mom, babies born to these exercising women;

  • Have lower body fat
  • Are better self-soothers
  • Have higher general intelligence scores by age 5!

More and more women are continuing to exercise, but there are still many myths and concerns out there about what is safe and appropriate and what is not.

In my many years of working with pregnant woman as a personal trainer and prenatal fitness expert, 4 questions come up over and over again.

4 Top Prenatal Fitness Questions

  1.     Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm
  2.     Can I do ab work while I am pregnant?
  3.     I woke up last night on my back, should I be worried?
  4.     My joints feel loosey-goosey, should I avoid working out?

In this 4-part series on prenatal fitness, I’ll answer these questions.  Tune in each day for the next topic.  Have more questions?  Leave them in the comment section and I’ll answer those too!

Today’s Topic:

Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm?


Many people have heard 140 beats per minute is the upper heart rate level for pregnant woman. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (who sets the guidelines for exercise during pregnancy) removed the 140 limit from their recommendations in 1994!

The 140 bpm guideline is still commonly suggested to pregnant women; by family members, friends and even doctors.  (In fact a recent study reviled that although most doctors are now encouraging exercise, as many as 60% were not aware of the 1994 update to the heart rate guidelines!)

Research has realized that heart rates vary wildly from person to person and that no one number can be appropriate for everyone.  The new ACOG guidelines suggest a pregnant woman work out at a heart rate that is safe and appropriate for her.

A great option for monitoring intensity during exercise is to use the rate of perceived exertion scale.  On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is sitting still and 10 is all out exertion, pregnant women should find a comfortable intensity in the 5-8 range.

If you are a die-hard heart rate monitor fan, researcher Dr. Michelle Mottola dug a little deeper and suggests these guidelines for pregnant exercisers.

Fitness Level                        Age:20-29                        30-39

More Fit                        145-160bpm                        140-156bpm

Less Fit                         129-144bpm                        128-144bpm


**Heart rates vary from person to person and each exerciser should, of course, listen to their own bodies and only use the following table as a guideline for exercise.**


My personal recommendation to my clients is they should work at a level at which they can continue to talk, but not sing (if you can belt out show tunes, you can step up the intensity a bit!).

I also want my clients to be able to recover quickly.  If you stop your cardio work and it takes you more than a few minutes for your heart rate to slow down, then you may be overdoing it.

So get out there and exercise, its good for you, its good for your baby.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on another hot topic…abdominal training during pregnancy!

Fitness Pregnancy Prenatal Fitness

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