Short answer – Yes.
Long answer – It’s not really what I would consider “exercise,” but then again, as I’ve demonstrated over time, when you’re pregnant, everything takes on a new meaning!
Here’s the deal. I became pregnant in March 2011. Prior to being pregnant, I had done a very good job of core conditioning through a mix of activities, but the ace in the hole was my consistent CoreBlast FitDeck routine. Every evening, Tim and I would plop down in front of the tv and do a 20 minute FitDeck session. We both agreed that over time, it had a very positive impact on our back health, flexibility and overall core strength.
When I became pregnant, I continued doing my CoreBlast FitDeck routine through the first trimester. Over time, it was apparent that I needed to scale back on certain exercises (No more lying on my stomach or back. No more twisting or torquing). At around 16 weeks, I stopped doing FitDeck altogether. This was also partly driven by fear. I was afraid of doing too many exercises that would result in diastasis recti (tearing/separation of the abdominal muscles) or prohibit blood flow to the baby (any activity that involves lying on your back).
Mid-summer, I switched my focus to outdoor activities including running, cycling, swimming and hiking. The weather was beautiful and I really enjoyed listening to my body as it changed every single day during my aerobic workouts.
Then one day my back started to hurt. I’d been worried about this. My back is where I carry my stress and as you know, I had already packed on 20 pounds about halfway through my pregnancy. I was carrying a lot of extra weight and I was no longer doing any proactive core activities. Of course my back was bound to act up.
When I interviewed Becky Lavelle [link here http://www.skirtsports.com/blog/post.cfm/athlete-belly-tales-the-story-of-becky-lavelle], pro triathlete, she expressed concern that a year after having her baby, her core and back were still not as strong as pre-baby.
I realized that I needed to seek some advice from a prenatal “core specialist.” I called my new friend and founder of MomBod Fitness, Celeste Goodson. I told her about my journey, describing how I got nervous about working my core, so I just stopped altogether. Her immediate advice, “If you do nothing else, you need to do Ab Sets.” Celeste explained that when women get to the middle of the second trimester, they need to be more careful about forcefully doing crunches and twisting exercises which put stress on connective tissue and making separation worse. That’s the time to switch to stabilization and strengthening exercises.
I said, “What the heck are Ab Sets?” Ab Sets combine breathing and muscle control to engage the transverse abdominal muscles. Breathing is the foundation for everything, especially during delivery. Proper breathing helps you relax, stay strong and teaches you to flex the ab muscles to assist with pushing. The last thing you want to do is hold your breath and bear down during delivery. If you’re like me and haven’t yet done a birthing class, you can learn some breathing techniques through doing Ab Sets. Check out Celeste’s videos on youtube for proper technique.
While pregnant, these can be done while sitting, standing or laying on your side. You should always have good posture, a natural curve in back and breath correctly. It takes practice, but will become easier within a week. The cool thing? Our good friend, Mr. Kegel, can also been done simultaneously. We love multitasking!
I asked her, “What else am I missing?” She said Squatting is the second best activity to do. Squatting! Oooh! Real strength work. Sounds good! But this blog post has gotten so long that I’ll wait until next time to talk about Squatting – sorry!
In the meantime, I think the most important thing to remember is that while safe prenatal exercises seem a little – well, lame, for lack of a better word! – I think it’s important to remember that being pregnant is temporary. There will be a day when I will be smashing my core to pieces, but for now, I need to embrace the fact that breathing is, in itself, an exercise worth doing!
In the end, it’s all about the bigger picture. And it’s only six weeks away!