Gwen Stefani apparently works out five times a week, following an exercise regimen that even she describes as “pure torture.” She’s been so used to this routine that her trainer once claimed she even stuck to it even during the last trimester of her pregnancy! Little wonder then that she got her rockstar abs back a mere seven weeks after giving birth (and well into her 40’s too)!
Let’s set something straight, though: the No Doubt frontwoman is a special case and her post-pregnancy body should not be considered yet another unrealistic standard for women to live up to. Even if we factor in her admirable discipline and insane energy levels, there’s got to be an army of nannies, personal assistants, and personal trainers helping her out, none of which are within the average woman’s reach.
Still, there’s something to be said about working out while pregnant. Lots of women would probably disagree, and that’s fine, considering how exercise would be the last thing on your mind when you’re feeling exhausted and nauseated all the time.
However, expectant mothers who do exercise tend to enjoy a whole host of benefits that have nothing to do with developing six-pack abs, such as better sleep, increased energy, easier labor, and faster recovery time. Pregnancy exercises are great for babies too, as studies show that those whose moms exercised while expecting usually have better stress tolerance and possibly even advanced neurodevelopment.
Before you hop on that treadmill, though, consider the following do’s and dont’s for pregnancy workouts to ensure that these will be safe and beneficial for all concerned:
1. Do consult with your attending obstetrician-gynecologist first.
In most cases, exercise is safe and even advisable during pregnancy. If you were quite active prior to getting pregnant, it’s usually safe to continue as such (but with caution, of course).
Still, it’s best to get the thumbs-up from your OB-GYNE before you get started on those stretches. Not only will it be safer for you and the baby, but you’ll feel a lot more confident taking part in an exercise regime that has your physician’s seal of approval.
2. Do choose the right kind of exercise.
Developing babies are surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac, which is nestled inside the uterus and surrounded by the body’s other organs, muscles, and tissue.
However, while your growing baby is probably a lot more protected than you think, you should steer clear of exercises where there’s a high likelihood of falling, abdominal trauma, or anything that requires vigorous bouncing, skipping, or hopping. Contact sports like kickboxing are out of the question too, obviously, so too are activities like Bikram Yoga or hot Pilates (see item no. 7).
Instead, try swimming, moderate to brisk jogging, and perhaps some light stretches.
3. Don’t exercise with weight loss in mind.
In other words, don’t go for the burn.
Always stop if something starts to hurt. If you can’t carry on a conversation with someone comfortably while exercising or if you feel completely drained as opposed to energized after a workout, you’re probably overdoing things.
4. Do keep yourself hydrated.
Drink water before, after, and during exercise to prevent dehydration as this can lead to overheating and perhaps even trigger contractions.
Try adding lemon slices and fresh basil leaves to your drinking water to infuse it with a subtle, fragrant flavor. As a bonus, fruit-infused water can help quell feelings of dizziness or nausea.
5. Do wear the right clothes.
Go for loose-fitting, breathable clothing. Dress in layers so that you can peel them off if you feel overheated.
Invest in a maternity bra with good support, as well as a new pair of well-fitting, sturdy athletic shoes if your feet have swollen due to pregnancy.
6. Don’t lie flat on your back while exercising.
The weight of your uterus can put pressure on a major vein called the vena cava, and this can reduce the blood flow to your heart, brain, and uterus, making you feel nauseated or short of breath.
Instead, put a pillow or a foam wedge underneath your back for floor exercises so that you are still adequately supported without having to lie flat.
7. Don’t exercise when it’s hot or humid.
Thanks to all that increased blood flow and metabolic rate, your body warms up faster than usual, especially when you exercise. So, if it’s hot outside, it becomes harder for your body to regulate its temperature.
To cool down quickly, peel off your workout clothes and step under a cool shower. Alternatively, head to an air-conditioned area and drink some water.
8. Do pace yourself.
Start slow. Go for a 10-15 minute exercise during the first week or two, and gradually add 5-10 minutes until you can manage to work out for up to 20-30 minutes per day.
As a parting note, pregnancy exercises are more about taking care of your body so that you’ll be in optimum shape to deliver a healthy child.
If you feel tired, rest. If you’re raring to do a few laps around the neighborhood, that’s fine too (so long as your doctor gives you the green light, see the first item on the list above). The key here is to listen to your body.