08 Mar Pilates – What to Expect When You’re Expecting…
When you’re expecting it can be tempting to focus on everything else other than exercise. You may also be wondering which are the safest sports to choose. Rest assured, Pilates is ideal for every trimester of your pregnancy, helping maintain your strength and flexibility, dispel aches and pains, stay connected to your body, prepare it for the birth to come and give it the tools for optimum and fast recovery post-birth.
“To start off, it is important to remember that every woman is different and will experience pregnancy differently, and every pregnancy is different. Thus, any expectations should not be compared to other women and what they are doing in their practice, nor should they be compared to experiences mums may have had with their previous pregnancies,” says Nicole Serje, pre-natal class instructor at Flex. “The best advice would be to listen to your body! It is working extremely hard to create, nourish and sustain a new little person, but it is also working hard to ensure that mum is staying strong and healthy.”
Because, just imagine, due to the hormone relaxin your abdominal muscles will stretch to over half their original length during your pregnancy. At the same time the rectus abdominals may separate. As a result, during pregnancy it is crucial to strengthen the deep abdominal muscles in order to support the baby, while improving your back strength and the all-important pelvic floor. Regular classes will also ensure that the rectus abdominal muscle reconnection and overall recovery will be easier post-birth.
There are exercises that will be ideal for every stage of your pregnancy, just make sure you communicate with your instructor and let her know what stage you are and how you are feeling.
“The different stages of pregnancy affect mums in different ways,” says Nicole. “It is important to remember that what you may have been able to do in the first trimester or even pre-pregnancy may just not be possible as the pregnancy progresses, and that is completely normal and completely ok.”
This is the time to focus on strength while you are still mobile and flexible. You’ll be working on your ‘internal corset’ and the exercises you practice now will pay back big time in the coming months.
Ideal moves – plank and mermaid side bends.
During the first trimester you can tire easily, and if you’re suffering from morning sickness it is important to take your classes easy or wait until you feel better.
As your body starts to change shape, focusing on balance and posture will help keep you stable, strong and your spine in neutral. You will also want to start incorporating pelvic floor exercises.
Ideal moves – hovering knees and kneeling hundreds.
Even though your body will be changing, you may find you have more energy during your second trimester.
As moving around becomes a little more difficult, it is time to concentrate on your flexibility as well as mobility. At the same time you can focus in on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles in order to prepare you for labour.
Ideal moves – pelvic tilts and side lying clam.
As your centre of gravity shifts and your body becomes more bulky keep the stretches gentle, the bends supported, and focus on breathing and pelvic floor exercises.
“Pilates can help teach mums how to breathe in a way that helps them to be more connected and more aware of how their body is feeling,” says Nicole. “Breathing also helps mums to have a better awareness of their pelvic floor and deep abdominals, which is important during pregnancy and post-natally whether you give birth naturally or not.”
She adds that breathing can be used to help release tension in the body, a skill that is very useful during labor. “Breathing assists with learning how to release and relax certain muscles (such as the pelvic floor during natural birth), as well as helping to facilitate better muscle contractions. Both of these elements are important during the birth process.”
It is always important, whatever stage of your pregnancy, to monitor your energy levels and make sure you don’t push yourself or overstretch. It is also important to note that there are exercises that are best left until post-birth, so it is best to find an antenatal class rather than try launching into Pilates solo at home.
Nicole advises that sit-up type movements should be avoided, stretches should be done only gently as ligaments and tendons can be overstretched.
“Always consult your doctor/obstetrician before starting any exercise program, especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly pre-pregnancy. And it is of course always preferable to meet with an instructor who has experience with pre-natal women whether it’s Pilates or other types of exercise, because to end the way I began, every pregnant woman is different and every pregnancy is different!”
Flex has a number of pre-natal classes including Pre-Natal Mat Pilates, Pre-Natal Pilates Allegro and Pre-Natal Yoga. Check out the weekly schedule here to find the class you’d like to take.