Pilates is one of the best possible methods of exercise and relaxation for women during their pregnancy. Pilates and other exercise such a walking, swimming or Barre classes can also make your pregnancy more comfortable and help reduce the chance of injury before, during and after the delivery of your Bub. Another great benefit of exercising throughout your pregnancy is that it helps to relieve stress and manage fatigue.
In particular, Pilates core strengthening exercises focus on the working relationship of the abdominals, back, diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles which is important for the expectant mum. In order to balance out postural changes that happen as the growing baby develops, strengthening key areas such as the upper back, arms, pelvic floor and glutes as well as stretching these specific areas will really be of benefit.
Here, I will go through some general guidelines which may help guide you through your pregnancy and exercise journey safely and with confidence. It is important to note that prior to commencing any physical activity during your pregnancy, that you first consult with your doctor, and the exercises should not cause any discomfort, nausea or dizziness.
If you were physically active prior to your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity with moderate intensity. Now is not the time to be pushing yourself or reaching personal bests, it is all about nourishing and taking care of your incredible body and doing what feels good for both you and your baby. I would also like to mention here that it is of vital importance that you also allow your body the time it needs to recover post birth. Speak to a pelvic floor specialist as well as your doctor prior to returning and don't rush back into exercise - just enjoy this precious time with your little one!
Don't push yourself, keep exercise intensity moderate.
Due to cardiac changes, the body is already in an exercised state and even at rest the body is working harder than normal to sustain itself. Try not to increase your heart rate too much by limiting the exercise difficulty and giving yourself longer breaks. Vigorous activity and exercise during pregnancy can not only place yourself at risk but also your baby by causing a diversion in uterine blood supply to the skeletal muscles, meaning less blood and oxygen to the baby.
Keep Cool and Hydrate
Avoid hot and humid conditions, wear loose and comfortable non restrictive clothing. It's a good idea to stand next to a fan or the air conditioner during class if possible as your baby is unable to regulate its own body temperature.
Remember to keep your fluids up and drink lots of fresh water, taking a drink bottle with you to class.
Avoid Prone and wide lunge / stance positions & twisting movements.
You want to be avoiding anything that is placing extra strain and stress on your pelvis, as the pelvic girdle and surrounding structures are already compromised during pregnancy. Keep lunges shallow, plies and squats smaller and make sure to always ensure correct glute activation and a neutral pelvis.
Activate Pelvic Floor
We want to ensure that the pelvic floor is properly activated during all exercises and work on increasing pelvic floor strength, especially in those earlier stages of pregnancy when it is easier to activate and maintain strength. As your pregnancy progresses, pelvic floor activation becomes harder to feel.
Stop Immediately If you are feeling unwell and be sure to properly warm up and cool down.
It is important that you don't place your body at increased risk of injury, that you warm up prior to class and cool down and stretch afterwards. This can also alleviate cramps and muscle soreness.
You know your body best, and if something doesn't feel right it probably isn't. Notify your instructor immediately if you are feeling unwell or dizzy. Sit down and take rest whenever and as often as you need to.
DURING FIRST TRIMESTER
Reduce the amount of "sit-up" type abdominal exercises. Performing too much exercise that increases the strength of your Rectus Abdominis or "six Pack muscles" may increase the risk of developing Rectus Diastasis (Abdominal Separation). Reduce your exercise intensity and maintain a moderate heart rate, keeping cool and just taking it easier than usual.
DURING SECOND TRIMESTER
Avoid abdominal work, except for Pelvic floor and side lying oblique work. Focus on keeping those deeper pelvic floor and core muscles strong and bring more attention to stability and alignment. We also want to limit inside thigh work, as the pregnancy progresses. For some women they may experience Pubic Symphysis pain (groin pain) as their joints become more lax and the pelvis begins to widen. Too much inner thigh work or one legged work may lead to increased discomfort and cause the pubic bone to separate even more. Avoid all exercises laying on the belly and on your back, your instructor will be able to modify these exercises for you. For many women, laying on their back will cause dizziness and discomfort due to the weight of the baby compressing the Vena Cava, one of the main blood vessels to the baby.
DURING THIRD TRIMESTER
Cease all abdominal work, including oblique work, and exercise intensity will be greatly reduced. Throughout the third trimester the mother's posture can be compromised as a result of the weight of the baby. It is therefore important to be strengthening the upper back muscles and glutes as well as stretching the quads and chest muscles to help alleviate any discomfort associated with a more lordotic and kyphotic posture (rounded shoulders and curved lower back.) Simply continue exercising for as long as you feel comfortable, there is no reason why you can't continue for the full duration of your pregnancy, as long as you are paying attention to your body and feeling good.
At Fleur Wellbeing, our special Pre Natal Pilates classes have been designed to focus on safety and strength and are recommended for women at any stage of their pregnancy, however we advise all our pre natal clients to also stop or adjust if something doesn't feel right and to listen to their own bodies.
The Pre Natal Pilates circuit class is a unique and fun workout incorporating the Reformers, Therabands, weights and balls into a circuit style class that will help to strengthen your pelvic floor and postural muscles, and relieve tension and stress.
The Pre Natal Mat Pilates class is a group type setting where everyone will be performing the class at the same time with the instructor and incorporate small props to add an extra challenge and help you to get the most out of each exercise.
If you wish to get in touch with us about joining some of our regular classes also, please get in touch with our friendly team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss which classes would be best for you. We can't wait to join you on your pregnancy journey!
Written by Ellesse Hawkins
Recently I have been feeling drawn to finding more CREATIVITY in my life, and after reading Brene Brown's "The Power of Vulnerability" I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this. I feel it's so important to express that anyone can cultivate more creativity in their life, you don't have to be artistically gifted or talented. It's about finding ways to express yourself and have trust in your own unique and beautiful way of doing things that feed and nourish your soul, especially in our busy lives today It is more important than ever.
Creativity can be defined as the ability to use your imagination or original ideas to create something new, innovative, individual and meaningful. In fact, many of us are already tapping into our creativity, yet we just don't realise it.
In order to express our creativity we must let go of comparison to others, fear that our work is not good enough, and self criticism. Having the courage to be vulnerable and step out of your comfort zone is key and as Brene Brown says, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change" for "There is no such thing as creative people and non-creative people, there are only people who use their creativity and those who don't".
DISCOVER YOUR OWN CREATIVE OUTLET
Everyone's creativity is different, and we all like to express ourselves in different ways, whether it be through cooking, painting, drawing, knitting, dancing or writing - it can be anything at all. For me, I love to dance, paint, make candles, bake cupcakes, weave dream catchers for my friends and family, arrange flowers and collect beautiful objects such as feathers, stones, crystals and shells to bring into my home and surround myself with beautiful things. For you it might be tattoos, solving maths problems, fashion, or playing an instrument. Everyone is unique and different, and so is their creativity. Find what you love, and make time to do more of it. (Which leads me into my next point...)
MAKE TIME TO BE CREATIVE
It's too easy to say oh I don't have time, or I'm too busy. But once you let go of these self limiting thoughts and embrace your creativity, you will notice that it flows into all areas of your life including your work, your relationships and your home. Taking the time for yourself to have space to express your creativity must be made a priority as once you do, you will be rewarded with so many benefits including the sense of fulfillment, connection and contentment within yourself. If you have children, get them involved and create something special together. I myself was so lucky to grow up looking up to a very creative inspiration, my mother, who was always putting her love and energy into making spaces beautiful, gardening, cooking and creating art. I used to have a drawer stuffed full of lace trims, sequins, glitter, paint and paper of all colours and sizes. (Yes, I was that child who was constantly making weird and wonderful objects to give to everyone for Christmas or birthdays. And nine times out of ten, it was covered in glitter).
3 WAYS TO SPARK CREATIVITY TODAY
1. Create a vision / Dream board
Creating a vision board can be helpful to a lot of people to help them stay motivated and inspired to reach their goals. You can cut out images and articles from magazines, add photos, art or drawings that inspire you and that are a representation of what you would like to cultivate and bring into your life. Add photos of places you want to travel, fashion you love, or interiors to inspire you to create your dream home.
2. Write a Journal
Remember, no one ever has to read it. Buy yourself a beautiful book that you can keep on your bedside table and just start writing. Jot down ideas, goals, feelings and dreams and see where it takes you!
3. Get Crafty
Go sit out in the sunshine with a bunch of paint and a canvas and just see what happens. Close your eyes if you want! Just embrace your inner 3 year old and enjoy creating something new. I recently returned from a beautiful weekend retreat where we did exactly this. It was absolutely incredible to see everyone create such unique and different artworks, no two were the same just like no two of us are the same! And thats the true beauty of it.
For me, I went back to my childhood and did one of those paintings where you just splat a whole bunch of colours that you like onto the canvas, fold it in half and squish it, then open it up and reveal the masterpiece! Turned out beautifully! (Check it out below, I'm feeling pretty proud of myself)...
As a dancer myself, I would like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes by one of the pioneer's of contemporary dance, Martha Graham.
"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."
Reference: 'The Power of Vulnerability' written by Brene Brown.
This post was written by Ellesse Hawkins.
WITH FABIOLA AGUIRRE
(Physiotherapist at Fleur Wellbeing)
Injuries are no fun.. We can all most likely put our hand up and recall an injury that has occurred in our lifetime. For some, the injury may have lasted 2-3 days and you can no longer remember whether it was your left or right side! And for others, your injury set you back months, even years, and significantly changed your way of life. For most however, it usually leaves a lasting mark and changes the way we approach certain types of movement or exercise. And that is very normal and beneficial! It's our bodies way of protecting us.
But what if we could go that one step further and be that little bit more aware of factors that can double, sometimes triple fold our likelihood of having an injury. What if we took a few extra steps along our exercise journeys to help decrease our chances of an injury? Well let's explore the 5 key indicators that you can start asking yourself and doing from today.
1. KNOW YOUR LIFE STAGE
Sounds pretty basic, I know. But being aware of what is currently surrounding your life and what stage of life you are at will help to give you some awareness on what sort of things to prevent injury from.
There is so much change occurring during adolescence, and in particular from a musculoskeletal point of view, the changes in hormones that occur. At puberty and post puberty we see changes in neuromuscular control (ie. Jumping and landing technique), where boys undergo a significant neuromuscular control spurt whereas girls do not. For instance height increases (especially in leg length), strength increases (particularly in males), and ligament laxity is altered resulting in girls being more lax (loose) in joints. Many injuries occur for the first time during adolescence- and many of these can have long term implications.
The most common adolescence injury is patellofemoral pain – AKA anterior knee pain; followed by apophysitis of the lower limb (aka ‘growing pain’), ankle injuries, instability of the shoulder, neck pain, headaches and stress fractures (especially lumbar spine in gymnast and dancers). These injuries usually occur with the load that you are putting through your body- either by the amount of training or the amount of plyometric (jumping) activity their completing.
How to prevent an injury: Making sure you have a clear training plan that is an even mix of jumping/ strength/ stretching/ neuromuscular control (Pilates). Not doing too much of the one type of training- especially if you are going through a growth spurt. Also using a mirror or receiving feedback from your coach/instructor on ‘perfecting’ the landing from a jump. The aim is to land as quiet as a mouse and pretend the ground is made of soft foam and is melting your landing.
Now the importance here is not so much in the 20-22 gestation week mark, as most ladies will usually modify their exercise routine. I am talking more of the initial 6-20 week period where it's still early and most women have very few physical signs and restrictions to their exercise. But take note of these.
If persistent vomiting is present there can be dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and thus your body may feel not only the effects at a symptom level such as fatigue and weakness, but this also happens at a cellular level. Muscles will be more inefficient in exchanging nutrients and can lead to increase cramps and muscle strains. So simple measures such as natural or electrolyte drinks are a good alternative, but always chat to your GP or an accredited dietician if its persistent. Postural changes begin as early as week 8 and continue to change as the pregnancy continues. One of the biggest causes of pain and ceasing of exercise is lower back and pelvic girdle pain. This happens mainly due to the way our body moves with the new changes (biomechanics) rather than hormonal. Learning the ‘new ‘ safe and best posture to exercise in, in the early stages will allow you to exercise safely and pain free well into your 3rd trimester. Seeing a Physiotherapist to give you these postural strategies in the very early stages of exercises will ensure injuries are minimised entirely.
And lastly getting yourself a heart rate monitor watch or learning how to take your carotid (neck) pulse will allow you to monitor your heart rate.
MENOPAUSE + PRE MENSTRUAL
Exercise has a strong positive link with increasing bone density and decreasing the effects of osteoporosis in our 50-60+ age group. There is emerging strong evidence to show that stress fractures (which are fractures caused by maximal and repetitive loading on the long bones of the body) have a link to menopause and pre hormonal changes in the body. What does that mean from an injury prevention? If you are pre menstrual or irregular in your cycle, really focusing on good technique and not doing too much of the one exercise is important. Ladies going through menopause, it’s a good idea to check in with your GP and find your bone density measures prior to commencing new or repetitive physical exercise -moderation is key.
2. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
This may sound self explanatory and easy to do, but how many of us have pushed through our pain barrier to get to the last repetition?! Pain during exercise can be our single best indicator that your body is not enjoying the intensity/position/load that your body is being exposed to. Our bodies create pain as a warning flare to us that something is not right and could lead to injury.
Now let's not confuse fatigue pain with actual pain. Sorry everyone but that pain is good for us! Fatigue pain will almost always occur around the site of your body that you're working on and it will always settles with stopping.
The pain signs to watch for is if it is pain localised to an area of the body you're not exercising, for instance your getting back pain but your completing a clam exercise for your glutes. If your instructor has not told you what muscle group you should be targeting (which at Fleur Wellbeing, you always know) then ask them. Or stop...
Look for other pain signals such as sharp pain, painful clicking, pins & needles, or a burning pain moving from up to down (for instance from the bottom down to the ankle)
Sometimes stopping and changing your body positioning is the easiest way to avoid pain leading to injury. Always ask your instructor or a health professional if it keeps occurring.
3. WARMING UP THOSE TISSUES
Warming up before exercising has many well researched benefits such as creating vasodilation (widening) of the capillaries and arteries that feed into muscle and connective tissue. It essentially ‘wakes up the body’ and kick starts the engines for many of the muscle parts used in exercise. Another important wake up call it creates is the notion of wiring the brain to body connection. Better known as neuromuscular connectivity. This is an essential part of going into any exercise that involves plyometric, bounding, change of direction and large dynamic movements. When this doesn’t work well things like knee, foot and ankle, spinal and shoulder positioning can be put into injury provoking positions.
How to address this for injury prevention? There are many ways we can do this but 2 of the best ways are completing small to larger upper and lower body movements and increase the either speed/complexity/ range of the movement. So for instance to warm up before a walk we would want to warm up or ‘wake up’ our ankles, calfs, quadriceps, arms, glutes etc. And we would do that in small movements ie. A butt squeeze and release, to a large movement ie. Squat with knee lift. But if we were warming up to play a game of netball our body would need to wake up our body positioning and add some intensity and change of direction etc. Again your coach, trainer, Physiotherapist can give you a warm up routine that is specific to your sport/exercise routine.
4. UNDERSTAND THE INJURY CYCLE
Let's say its too late and you have already suffered an injury to your body. You definitely don’t want to hurt yourself again, but when is the right time to return to exercise, and how to avoid re-injury?
The best way to approach your injury is to understand a little about the tissue healing process and general timelines for injury recovery. Most injuries will follow this stage of healing: degeneration (actual injury), inflammation (the reaction to the injury- causing pain and swelling), repair (the magic window), and fibrosis (scar tissue formation).
Generally, muscular injury during exercise falls under muscle strain or ‘pulled muscle’ or a contusion (bruise) and the actual stages of healing mentioned earlier take up to 4-6 weeks before you reach the last fibrosis stage. The question can you exercise in that time? Of course you can!
The real question is what should I do at what stage. For most the first 24-72 hours can be quite painful and uncomfortable to do any form or exercise. So its crucial to use this window to reduce your swelling, maintain some gentle movement and loading of the muscle, and look at what factor/s may have caused the injury. If in this time the pain or swelling persists, then getting to your Physiotherapist sooner rather than later can help determine a more specific guideline for your injury. The ‘danger’ for most muscular injuries lies in that week 2-4 when your symptoms significantly reduce and sometimes go, so you return to exercise. The site of injury and the surrounding muscles may not have the strong scar tissue that forms after injury and the surrounding muscles are not strong enough to hold, so this is where you can end up with a re-injury or worse more injury.
So it's important to take note of your injury date, create a rough timeline, know your ‘danger window’ and progress your exercises accordingly to your injury window. So by the time you reach week 4-6 you want to be almost at full pre injury capacity and training. The good news is that you can and should continue training throughout your injury!
Again this is where your coach and Physio can guide you with specific exercises and tests to see where your injury and whole body is at, and help monitor your progress.
5. COOL DOWN THOSE TISSUES + RECOVER
Injury prevention also lies in not just what we do before exercise but also what we do after. All exercise goals will aim to create more muscle, change muscle to lean muscle, increase our fitness, flexibility etc. For this to happen, your body will actually undergo a very microscopic injury to the muscle (including our heart) and bones, in order for it to repair, change and improve. So it's important for us to understand and respect this process by way of gentle stretches, walking, foam roller, large (but slow) dynamic movements. Most of these are best done straight after your exercise but others can certainly take place at a later point in time. This is where recovery lays an important role in injury prevention.
A lot of our ‘repetitive strain’ or tendon injuries (achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, in children Oschgood Schlatters) come from too much load and not enough recovery phase. Allow your muscles and joints to have a day where you complete lots of different stretches, use your trusty foam roller, massage ball or exercise ball, and where you just take the intensity right out of your exercise of choice. Maybe you might choose to do all the easy modifications on one day and that’s all it can take for your body to recover and prepare better for the next time you go hard!
Well that’s it in a nutshell on injury prevention. I hope you can all take something from this and use it in your next exercise class or sport. Happy to answer any other questions regarding the above or something else you have to add or ask too!
Written by Fabiola Aguirre
Fabiola is available for appointments at Fleur Wellbeing on Monday & Friday's.
To make a booking please contact Fabiola directly
via email: email@example.com or phone 0423 684 052