One of the biggest downfalls of most health and fitness programs is that they zone in on only particular focus and ignore all others.
Often, you’ll see a program that just gives you workouts and doesn’t really mention anything about nutrition. Or you’ll see a diet book that talks a ton about what to eat but neglects to mention mindset or exercise. And while I understand why this happens from a marketing standpoint, from a health one it just doesn’t make any sense. You can’t have just exercise and no healthy eating…and you can’t have healthy eating and exercise without the right mindset and…you get the point.
So what I want to do today is lay out all the essential elements of an ideal pregnancy health and fitness program so that you know ALL of the components that you should be focusing on.
1) Resistance Training:
This is often one of the most neglected aspects of training in women in general – and especially in pregnant women – even though it is arguably the most important!
You have got to maintain your strength and strength endurance for when you have a baby, not to mention that you’ve got to keep your muscles strong to save your joints from bearing too much stress with the added weight of your baby.
I’m not talking crazy things like loaded barbell squats and bench presses here, rather I mean simple exercises (usually total body or multi-joint) that engage your muscle fibers and help you to at least maintain your muscle strength during your pregnancy.
Cardio is a very broad word and it can mean a lot of things. Many people think of walking on a treadmill or elliptical or riding an exercise bike, but this is a very limited view of what cardio really is. All that cardio means is movement that gets your heart working to pump blood and oxygen to your muscles. Anything that fulfills these criteria is cardio!
I personally am not a huge fan of endurance exercise because I think it’s boring and I have many clients who feel the same way. So what we will do instead of hopping on that annoying treadmill is we will do our resistance training back to back with little to no rest between exercises. Trust me, this gets your heart going better than any traditional cardio ever would!
If you want to do cardio but don’t have the energy to move around outside too much and don’t own any exercise equipment, try doing some of these metabolic resistance training workouts instead to boost your heart rate. And if you don’t know how to put together a metabolic resistance training circuit don’t worry as I’ll be posting some videos of ones that we use in the coming weeks.
3) Pelvic Floor Exercises:
Oh…er…gosh. This is a bit awkward. Only joking! While you may feel embarrassed about doing pelvic floor exercises and find them a little weird, they are a very important part of core strength both during and after pregnancy. The pelvic floor is an essential part of your core anatomy and is involved in so many important functions that improve your overall health. Make sure that you do your kegels!
4) Core Stability:
What’s the difference between core stability and just plain old core exercises, you ask? Well, core stability refers to focusing on activating the deep core muscles to really stabilize your entire torso and allow it to transfer force more efficiently to your arms and legs.
Though we have been taught to think of the abs as the muscles that bend us over forward, the truth is that their main function is actually to resist movement and stop the body from bending over forwards, backwards and sideways. They support our spine and help transfer force from the ground and other objects to our extremities, where most of our movement occurs. This topic really deserves a blog post in its own right to fully discuss all the intricacies of it but for now think of it this way – instead of exercises like situps and crunches, you need to start thinking exercises like planks, pallof presses, side planks and elevated mountain climbers.
5) Motivation/Mindset Training:
This is almost always neglected in every training program I see and yet it is vitally, vitally important. You will never stick with a workout program unless you are intrinsically motivated and that requires careful planning, accountability mechanisms and finding peace and enjoyment in what you do. This is a very broad topic and I plan to discuss it in much detail in upcoming posts.
This is probably the area that most people are focused on and try their hardest at. The problem is that nutrition is one of those fields where just about every person you read seems to give you conflicting advice! One day you’ll read that fish oil is amazing, the next you’ll read that it should be avoided because of heavy metals in the fish. It’s maddening!
My approach to nutrition is very simple – eat whole natural foods that aren’t processed and don’t have tons of crap added to them. If you follow that, you don’t need to worry about counting calories or balancing your macronutrients or any of that kind of thing. The human body is a magnificent thing and if left to its own devices is pretty astute at determining the right amount of food intake that it needs.
The problem today is that we put so many chemicals and toxins into our bodies that they lose the ability to do their normal metabolic processes! Again, there is plenty to say on this topic and you can expect lots and lots of blog posts about it.
Normally I’m not a huge fan of taking supplements and such – I’d rather that people get their needs taken care of through whole foods. However, during pregnancy there are certain important supplements that I do highly recommend, including Folic Acid, DHA, calcium and some others. Killer blog post on this coming up soon.
So there you have it! The 7 essential elements of pregnancy fitness and health. As you can see, it’s important to take a holistic view of your body when you’re having a baby to make sure that your health and your baby’s stay in tip top shape.
No doubt you have tons of questions so please, fire away in the comments section! And as always, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter on our home page so that you get notified when new posts are added. We will be adding more in depth posts for all of the above elements very soon so sign up now to make sure you don’t miss any of them!
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