Author: Meg Henderson
If I told you that it was possible to prepare your body for pregnancy, would you believe me? What about if that preparation was possible through exercise, aka “Pre-hab”? (Obviously, nutrition, adequate rest, managing stress, etc. is also important, however that is not my scope of practice!)
It’s not hard to do a quick search on the internet for pregnancy and exercise and find a bazillion and one exercises that you “absolutely must-do” before conception that will “help you get pregnant”. For a lot of mamas and soon-to-be mamas, it helps to have a “Why”.
I’m sure there are women out there, like me, who have rattled off excuses of why they can’t or haven’t started a regular exercise program. Maybe you’ve never exercised before, and feel unsure of where to start. You may be working a full-time job, or maybe even 2 jobs, and just can’t find the time to fit it in. Battling an injury. Exhausted after keeping up with the older kids, housework, and grocery shopping. We all have our reasons. And all of those reasons are also reasons WHY you need exercise!
Did you hear that? Not. As. Tired. I mean, I’ll do anything that makes me less tired and better able to focus!! It only takes 60-120 minutes of exercise per week to decrease feelings of physical and mental fatigue. That’s only 10-15 min per day. I think we can all handle that!
We all want what is best for our children, and that starts before said child is even conceived. We need to be active and keep it up! Your BMI (body mass index) is actually more predictive of your baby’s future risk for becoming overweight in their first THREE years of life! We have the power to change our littles future, just by being more active ourselves. This is huge!
That’s right. You heard me. 73% of the time, a child’s physical activity level mirrors that of their mama! (Only 67% of the time, does it mirror dad.) Between the ages of 0 and 5, you are having the greatest impact on your little’s probability that they, too, will become healthy and active people! Wouldn’t we all want to reduce our little people’s risk of chronic diseases associated with being overweight, if we could?
Ok, now that I have you hooked…. Let’s talk about what you can do to start exercising (or keep it up, way to go mama!), before you conceive, so that you have already formed the habit once you see those two pink lines!
If you are already exercising regularly, keep it up! That means whatever you do…running, CrossFit, workout videos in your living room, swimming..all of that. If you need a little guidance on where to start, my suggestion is to find something you LIKE to do and also something that will be sustainable throughout your pregnancy. This may require “trying on” several forms of exercise before you settle on your thing. Go for low-impact activities, if you are not already a runner. Walking, swimming, elliptical, bike, and hiking are great options. You may already know that you need accountability, like going to the gm, or prefer solo-time out in the sunshine. Whatever it is, start there and put it on your calendar. Even if it is only twice a week for 15 minutes, start small and build up. Make it your goal over the course of 3 months, to hit 60-120 minutes total each week. You will be much more successful, if you do something you enjoy!
Start some strength training. Yep, I said it. You need to get comfortable with strengthening. The benefits of muscular work are many, and a focus on the postural muscles (back, shoulders, glutes, and core) can help your body adjust and adapt better to the numerous changes that your body is about to go through during the wild and wonderful ride of pregnancy. It will also help during delivery, but we’ll save that for another post!
Find your pelvic floor. This does not mean practicing doing kegels while you are peeing. I repeat. Do not try to “find” your pelvic floor muscles by stopping the flow of urine! Training the pelvic floor before pregnancy is just like training any other muscle. It is going to help you have the strength to support the weight of a growing baby for 9 months! A trained muscle is going to recover faster and prevent things like incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and even decrease back pain. Check out this video if you are having trouble finding your pelvic floor!
Eliminate the word crunches from your vocabulary, when it comes to core work. Why start something you can’t finish, right? In my opinion, it is better to become familiar with all of the other ways you can target your core, rather than do the one exercise we all hate anyway! Crunches can increase intra-abdominal pressure, making things like incontinence or prolapse worse. They can also set you up for postpartum issues like diastasis recti, or a separation of the two abdominal muscles in your belly. Try out side planks, exercises on your hands and knees, or bridges as alternatives.
To wrap it all up, this is not about a quick way to get in shape before baby or even to help you “bounce back” and shed all of your baby weight post-delivery. These tips will hopefully help you implement something into your life that will not only help your whole self adjust to the changes that occur during pregnancy and beyond, but also instill a healthy and active lifestyle in your future littles lives as well.