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Pilates and Exercise in the First Trimester of Pregnancy

Posted Mar 17 2009 6:35am
Over the years, I've taught pilates to many moms-to-be. All of my clients who became pregnant have wanted to continue doing pilates throughout their pregnancy so they can keep their strong core muscles, which are so important for a healthy, strong, comfortable pregnancy. There are, of course, modifications necessary for pregnant women, and as their pregnancies progress, more and more modifications are made.

So, can everyone who is pregnant and already does pilates continue? What will you be able, and allowed, to do or not do? How will "doing pilates" change throughout your pregnancy? How will you feel after doing pilates that may be different than you used to feel after doing pilates?

Continuing Pilates Throughout Pregnancy
Yes, you can continue doing pilates throughout your whole pregnancy. However, it is so, so important to remember that everyone's pregnancy is unique to them. You may have a friend who continued with pilates 3 days per week during her entire pregnancy, and then had a 20 minute speedy delivery (I actually do know someone like that!). You, on the other hand, may feel so nauseas and exhausted during your first trimester that you simply cannot even THINK about doing pilates. Its ok, and good, to take it easy on yourself during your first trimester. Your body is going through some serious changes and its really important not to over do anything. That's not to say that you should stop exercising altogether. But, you may find that you need to change your exercise routine for now, until your body adjusts a bit.

My point is, try not to compare yourself with other people. Listen to what your body is telling you. A little exercise will most likely help you feel better. But too much or too rigorous and you may not feel better, you may actually feel bad. Or, you may find that this is not the case for you. Listen to your body!

Communicate With Your Instructor
If you do continue with pilates during your first trimester, its very important that you tell your instructor that you're pregnant. Many women like to wait until near the end of the first trimester to "go public" with their pregnancy. Consider your instructor an "insider"- tell them as soon as you find out you're pregnant. This is important, because there are certain exercises you should not do while pregnant. Your teacher will also know that you may not be in top form at this time, and will not push you to continue with very advanced exercises that may be too much for your body to handle right now.

Some examples of exercises you should not do during your first trimester are:

-All inversions (Short Spine, Jackknife, Tower, Roll Over)
-Extreme balances (Side Splits on the Reformer)
-Too much spinal flexion (Bending forward over your legs)
-Too much of certain abdominal exercises (Stomach Series)

The more experienced you are in pilates, the more exercises and movements you can continue to do throughout your pregnancy. For example, if you have been doing pilates for many years and experience no discomfort with inversions, you can continue to do inversions, such as Short Spine, as long as you physically can during your pregnancy. The same holds true for all types of movements I have listed above. If you are relatively new to pilates,

During pregnancy, your whole body is changing and your spacial awareness is not what it normally is. So, doing standing balances on top of the equipment is not a good idea, you could fall off. Also, while you do want to try to work your core/abdominal muscles during your first trimester to keep your strength up, many people find that the classical pilates Stomach Series exercises do not actually feel good. Some women find that their back hurts or they have lower hip and abdominal ligament pain the day after.

There are other ways of working the abs- you could use a stability ball or the Wunda Chair. Tell your instructor how you feel before, during, and after your workout, so she can create the best possible workout for your body at each stage of your pregnancy.

Before, During, and After Your Pilates Session
Before you head off to your session, check in with your body. Be sure to eat a snack before you go, to keep your energy up during the session. Are you really tired? Did you have a good, or bad, night's sleep? Remember these things when you get to the studio, and tell your instructor how you felt before you got there. This is really helpful information for your teacher, so she can give you the best session for your body that day.

During the session, take water breaks, use the bathroom, turn on the fan if you get hot. Be high maintanence! Its not that you want to continuously interrupt your session, but don't stop listening to your body, and definitely don't push through a workout if you don't feel right.

If you feel faint, or if something hurts, tell your teacher right away. Don't compare your new self to your old self. Don't tell yourself that you're being a wimp and don't remind yourself that only a few weeks ago, you used to be able to do everything without a problem! That may be true, but that has nothing to do with what is going on at the present moment. Do remind yourself that you're doing the best you can to continue exercising, and everything you do, even if its less than usual, counts. You will have plenty of time after the baby comes to get back into your old exercise routine.

After your session, continue drinking water and have another snack if you want to. Snacking can help keep your energy up. Pay attention to how you feel later that day, and especially the next day. If you have any pain that does not feel right, or if you were completely exhausted after your workout, tell your instructor the next time you go into the studio. The more you can communicate with your teacher, the more likely you are to get the best workout possible that will help you the most with your body and your pregnancy!

Find a Balance
Two important things during your pregnancy are your own physical health and your mental well-being. Exercising as much as possible should be your goal. That's as much as possible. What may be possible now is most likely less than usual. Its ok! Just try to do what you can, when you can. Don't give up on exercise completely- you will totally regret it later. But listen to your body, work with your instructor, figure out what feels best and go with it!

Cardio Exercise During the First Trimester
Many women who were avid exercisers before their pregnancy plan to continue with their cardio routine throughout their 3 trimesters. This is possible, but expect the speed to slow down more and more as the pregnancy continues. Slowing down may be hard to accept at first, but don't forget that you will have plenty of time after the baby is born to work back up to a faster speed again. Cardio exercise is great for mental well-being, heart health, and for maintaning muscle tone throughout pregnancy. This is not the time to work out for a great figure or to lose weight. This is, however, a great time to enjoy the other benefits of cardio exercise!

Here is an awesome video of Demi Moore back on David Letterman in 1994. I saw this the night it originally aired, and have never forgotton it since! The part I'm talking about is near the end of the clip. Here's just a little reminder that every woman's pregnancy is different, and that exercise during pregnancy is very possible!

Go Demi! (And your body double!)
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