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Getting (Back) in Shape

health happy round-upWelcome to a weekly series on Traveling with Baby, Health Happy Round-Up which focuses on multiple aspects of wholesome living and optimal health for the entire family.  Each weekend, Traveling with Baby will share some insightful news, recipes, and tips to help you consider fresh new perspectives on wholesome and happy health.

What new mom doesn’t feel the pressure of getting that pre-pregnancy body back, stat?

runner

Some moms feel ready to do light walking within a few days after the birth event.  Personally, I was advised to avoid that and especially avoid stairs for an entire month.

The road to recovery was slow, but it sped by compared to the road to regaining fitness.  I was at my peak fitness just before I was pregnant.

Anyone else?

I credit that fitness peak to the decidedly crazed health and fitness bubble that surrounded me in chiropractic college.  Have you seen Super Size Me?  Well, my colleagues and I were on the opposite extreme of that spectrum–to a fault.

I can’t compete with my grad school self the woman who could study until 11PM, then wake up at 6 AM for a long run.  Hours of class or clinic were interrupted with a lunchtime swim.  Afternoon classes were topped with weights at the gym.

Seriously.

What parent has time for THAT kind of schedule?  Maybe the Hollywood crowd, but not me.  At least, not in this season of my life.

Also, I recognize that breastfeeding can tend to keep a layer of padding for that constant milk supply.  Yes, I’m still making milk, thankyouverymuch.

So, I’ve grown weary of my clothes feeling too tight, and my padding feeling more cushioned in places that didn’t used to have quite so much.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t expect to look like the svelte 29-year-old pre-prego gal that I used to be.  I accept that I’m shaped a little differently now that I have birthed a baby.

However, I know I can have more energy and feel a little more comfortable in my clothes (and my own skin) if I can shed a little unnecessary padding and increase my muscle strength and endurance.

After all, I need to be fit and strong to take care of my family and my patients.

So, I started making small and manageable strides to making exercise a more regular component to my week.  Chasing after a toddler and lifting a laundry basket aren’t cutting it anymore.

1-3 times a week, I’m doing calisthenics.  The amount varies, but it looks something like this:

I bust out with as many lower abdominal crunches as I can possibly do for a full minute.  Then, I do as many pull-ups as I can for another minute.  Next, I do as many perfect military push-ups as I can before I must do the girlie modified version on my knees for a full minute.  Finally, I do as many perfect squats as I can in a minute.

Then, I lace-up my runners, and clip Calvin into the running stroller and I run…FAST.  If I slow to a walk, then I only take a few steps and then I launch back into my run.  I run as fast as I can because it forces me to use better ergonomic form compared to a sluggish and knee-jarring jog.

When I’m spent (about the time I hit cardiac hill), I walk.  But, I walk as FAST as I can with long strides and pushing the stroller up a 7% grade.

Afterward, I feel achygoodallover and refreshed.  I remember WHY I used to run…to de-stress, for refreshment, to clear my brain about the workload of the day.

I encourage you to find your fitness mojo.  Whether it’s stretching, yoga, walking, or an ironman triathlon, I encourage you to join me on the road to finding balance by first carving out some time for a few days each week for fitness.

Join me…won’t you?

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Pump Up the Iron, Prego Gals

In a recent article published in the American Chiropractor Association News by Nataliya Schetchikova, PhD, recent research indicates that

“Exercising during a healthy pregnancy can help prevent excessive weight gain, significantly reduce the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus and preeclampsia, prepare the body for childbirth, and reduce the intensity of pregnancy-induced low back pain.”

A survey of pregnant women found that even though most women received advice about physical activity during pregnancy, they considered relaxation and rest more important than physical activity.  Often doctors don’t do their job to help their pregnant patients find suitable exercise regimens.  Typically, physicians discuss exercise with their patients, but they only help select an exercise program in only 10 percent of cases.  Nearly 70 percent of expecting women have been advised by health care providers to restrict their exercise routines according to the more conservative guidelines (circa 1985) set forth by the American Council of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) instead of current guidelines which encourage women to take an individualized approach to fitness and exercise.

According to Marianne Gengenbach, DC, DACBSP, and co-author of several sports chiropractic textbooks,

Doctors are worried that if they encourage a pregnant woman to exercise and something happens, they’ll be liable, so they tend to be cautious.  But, it’s accepted nowadays that if you are healthy and have a healthy pregnancy, exercise helps to maintain flexibility

Other benefits of exercise during pregnancy include avoiding excess weight gain and maintaining good fitness habits.  Some studies indicate that delivery is easier for women who exercised during pregnancy.

However, pregnancy is not the time to take up a new and rigorous fitness routine.  Women who are fit prior to conception can monitor heart rate (HR) levels and not let HR go above 140 bpm throughout pregnancy.  These women can typically maintain their previous workout regimen as long as they avoid contact and high impact sports.  According to Maida Taylor, MD (a San Francisco-based OB-GYN), “Women who have not been fit can condition themselves [during pregnancy], but they must take things more slowly.”  They should definitely seek the advice of a health care provider before beginning a fitness routine during pregnancy.

Set Goals

Goal setting helps women stick with a program.  In healthy pregnancies where women don’t have any obstetric complications, the ACOG recommends women participate in 30 minutes or more of daily moderate exercise.  Setting a goal which includes frequency and time of day can really help women stick to the program (assuming they’re past the point of utter and complete fatigue and exhaustion due to supporting new life formation in the first trimester).

How a women feels during the different days of pregnancy definitely dictates what she should do.  If she needs to rest, then by all means, she should rest.  But, if she’s feeling “blah” but isn’t fatigued beyond measure, than a little exercise can be a great endorphin-releasing way to add a little pep in her step.

New to Exercise

If a woman is new to exercise, the best way to begin is through a walking program which is something that can be maintained all throughout pregnancy and even long after baby’s born.  Begin with 15 to 20 minutes a day.  Then, do the same amount of time, but twice a day.  Gradually increase to 45 minutes up to 1 hour.  Don’t walk at a pace beyond which you’re able to carry on a conversation so that you don’t overexert yourself.  For added precaution, wear a heart rate monitor so that you’re able to slow down if your heart rate approaches 140 bpm.  Suddenly stopping completely will only cause an increase in your heart rate, so slow down for a few minutes to cach your breath before you stop completely.

Pregnant Elite Athletes

Dr. Taylor is a former long-distance swimmer who treated elite swimmers, runners, triathletes, and ultra-marathoners.  She says,

Active women with healthy pregnancies don’t necessarily need to limit their exercise routines in pregnancy.  Elite athletes don’t want ot get injured, and they know how to maintain a balance between pregnancy and their sport.  If you maintain any previous exercise at the same level, your level of fitness will increase because of hte level of energy expenditure and oxygen consumption in pregnancy — it’s like running with weights on.  If you cut back on exercise, you can still maintain your level of fitness.

Tailor Exercise Uniquely to You

Exercise needs to be tailored to the individual.  The recommended HR of 140 beats per minute for a pregnant woman in her 20s to 30s should still be gauged to individual tolerance.  Flexibility training through pre-natal yoga and stretches help with balance when the woman’s center of balance is constantly changing.  Walking on an elliptical trainer or treadmill decrease the amount of impact on the body in comparison to the pavement.  In extremely hot or cold climates, walking on an indoor track or inside a shopping mall can prevent overheating of core temperature which may lead to birth defects.

Recommendations by Trimester

Tri 1: Almost anything is acceptible except contact sports.  Avoid surpassing 140 bpm on your heart rate for any activity.  It’s best to avoid any sit-ups or crunches or any similar exercise.

Tri 2: Reduce the amount of activities that have impact.  Jogging may need to transform into walking.  Golf may need to remain and chipping and putting.  Tennis may need to shift from volleying with a partner to hitting balls against the wall while remaining fairly stationary.  Martial artists should avoid kicks higher than the knee, jumping, and any strikes in the region of the belly.

Tri 3: Stick with walking, yoga, pilates, stretching, and swimming.  Martial artists should stick to walking through kata, hyungs, or forms and no high speed or sharp movements.

Light weight lifting throughout pregnancy is helpful to keep muscles tone and strong for delivery and eventually holding and carrying a baby.  Upper body weight lifting as well as deep knee squats (no weight or very light weight) and lunges are excellent, low-impact exercises which can be maintained throughout pregnancy.

Contraindications

The best advice for staying healthy during pregnancy is to use common sense and to listen to your body.  If you’re tired, rest.  If a more significant warning arises, stop exercise and contact your health care provider immediately.

Warning signs include: unusual bleeding, spotting, heavy breathing, dizziness, headache, chest pain, feeling decreased fetal movement.

Contraindications to exercise include:

multiple gestation, significant history of miscarriages or premature births, and autoimmune diseases, pregnancy-induced hypertension, premature rupture of membranes, pre-term labor in previous pregnancies, placenta previa, and fetal growth retardation.

General Sport Guidelines

Recommended

  • Cycling – great in early pregnancy, however, balance problems could result in later pregnancy
  • Swimming – it’s been shown to increase the mother’s fitness without any risk to the woman or fetus
  • Water aerobics – may reduce pregnancy-induced low back pain even more than a land-based physical exercise program
  • Weight lifting – it helps to strengthen the postural muscles and maintain muscle tone.  As ligaments and tendons loosen during pregnancy, there is an increased risk for sprains.  So, proceed with caution and stick with light weights and high reps.

Discouraged:

  • Scuba diving – increased risk to fetus due to inability to filter bubble formation
  • Contact sports
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Ice hockey
    • Soccer
    • Martial arts sparring
  • High-impact sports
    • jumping rope
    • long-distance running
    • sprinting
  • Sports with high risk for falling
    • gymnastics
    • horseback riding
    • mountain climbing
    • raquet sports
    • skating
    • skiing

Resource: Schetchikova, N. Like running with weights. ACAnews. June 2008. p. 26-8.

Sucking Wind

Used the B.O.B. Revolution jogging stroller today for the first time as a JOGGING stroller.  Woah.  Was I gulping down the wind.  I knew it’d be more of a walk-run, than a full-blown run.  But, with the steep hills, and my low VO2, it was TOUGH.  But, it was fun.  Calvin LURVED going fast especially on the brick sidewalks at the UVa grounds.

I kinda waited a long time to attempt to get back into running.  I didn’t want to negatively affect my milk supply or my joints while breastfeeding…so, I stuck with swimming and martial arts.  Even that was a bit much since I injured my lateral collateral ligament in my knee…another reason I was slow to get back to the run thing.

Also, my philosophy on fitness has changed.  Running does not equal fit–although most people think it does.  Since it’s been 1.5 years since I’ve done ANY running, I need to at least be able to go short distances.  Short distances pushing a 20 pound baby is a very, very good workout.  Anaerobic and aerobic all rolled into one.

Whew!  I think I prefer swimming.  I definitely have a long way to go to be able to run 2-3 miles non-stop up hills while pushing a stroller.  But hey, I’m always up for a challenge.