I really love the concept of mindfulness. I love the idea of being in the moment, paying attention to what is going on around you in the current moment, and not thinking too far forward or dwelling on the past.
I have dabbled with using different guided mindfulness or meditation apps. Many of these I have really enjoyed, but I have struggled to sustain a regular practice, or develop a regular habit. I find that as soon as I get busy or become overwhelmed, I drop my meditation practice. Even though intuitively I know this is exactly when I need it most!
Towards the end of last year, I even spent about a thousand bucks on a Vedic meditation course (which I absolutely loved) but still after a few weeks I fell of the wagon of regular practice (I again got too busy to practice, oh the irony).
However, as our busy-ness cranks up (especially as we adjust to our new routines for the year), I decided I really wanted to develop the habit of daily meditation. So instead of Feb-Fast (because I actually love a glass if wine here and there), I am committing to a daily practice for the month of Feb, and already I am blown away by the benefits.
Benefits of daily meditation practice
So if you, like me, feel like you “should” be practicing more mindfulness, or you are keen to develop a mindfulness or meditation practice but you just haven’t got time 😉 then my advice is to just do it. Keep trying. One day it will make sense, feel right, and when you start noticing the benefits you won’t look back.
These top tips will make sure you choose safe options, so you can relax and enjoy all the benefits that exercise brings, with confidence that it’s safe for both mum and bub.
Work out in a cool environment, drink plenty of water, and make sure you don’t overheat. Your growing bubba depends on you to keep your core temperature constant. For the same reason, spas and long, hot baths are also best avoided during pregnancy.
This means working at a level that you would still be able to carry on a conversation. If you are too puffed to chat, then wind down the intensity a little. High intensity exercise can lead to overheating, so is best avoided.
Ok, so you folks who love running are not going to love what I have to say. But ….. pregnancy is already putting a heap of pressure on your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, and high impact exercise is just going to add to that. I love running too, but I also love having pelvic floor muscles that function well! After your first trimester, hang up your runners, and instead enjoy fast walking, swimming, pilates, indoor cycling or aqua classes. You can still get a nice endorphin rush from these activities – I promise!
Sit ups can cause extra stretch in the already stretched rectus abdominis (6 pack) muscles and also put lots of downward pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.
This includes skiing and riding your bike outside. Even playing team sports like netball and basketball are not without risk of collision. Chat to your doctor to weigh up the pros and cons.
The thought of doing either of these while pregnant makes me squirm!!!
So, with all that in mind, you can enjoy the incredible fun and effective workouts on The Fit Mother, knowing that you and your bub are safe!
Lots of Love
If you’re short on time, here is a little program that you can do anywhere, and it is safe to continue throughout your whole pregnancy. Hello strong muscles!
Squats are just the best. You strengthen the largest muscle group in your body, your quadriceps, which are the muscles at the front of your thighs. And your bum muscles, your glutes, and your hamstrings, at the back of your thighs, are targeted too!
Developing strength in these muscles is important, as you will likely be doing so much more lifting when bubs arrives. I know that before I had a baby, I used to think carrying 2L of milk home from the supermarket was heavy. Boy! I never thought I would get used to carrying around a 4kg little nugget for most of the day.
As your kids get bigger (and heavier) a good lifting technique and strong muscles becomes even more important.
If you can get used to lifting using the strength from your leg muscles rather than putting all the pressure on your back, your lower back will thank you.
Aim for 20 squats, and do 2 sets.
Strong arms are another necessity for mums. The amount of stuff you carry around with you, especially in the early days, means that unless you have a helper everywhere you go, you’ll need strong arms.
The baby capsule, the nappy bag, the baby – these guys are heavy.
Using a 1-2kg dumbbell (or a couple of full water bottles) aim for 20 reps, and do 2 sets.
Your lower back is under extra pressure as your baby grows.
As your bump develops, your centre of gravity moves forward and your lower back curve becomes a little more pronounced, which can create some stiffness in your lumbar spine. This lovely stretch will help to keep your joints mobile, and feels great.
On all fours, push your hands down into the floor and stretch out between your shoulder blades as you tuck your tailbone under, relax your head, and look down between your thighs. Hold for 3 breaths.
Then slowly and smoothly come back to the starting position.
Repeat 5 times.
(We don’t do the “Cow” bit of the stretch, where you look up and dip your spine into an arch the opposite way, as this can put a bit too much pressure on your lower back).
All that extra blood volume circulating during pregnancy can result in some swelling around the ankles – or cankles!! Awesome, said no-one ever.
Calf raises are a simple exercise to help with balance, ankle stability and calf muscle strength.
Stand with feet hip width apart, rise up onto tip toes and reach your arms up, slowly lower your heels to the floor.
Repeat 20 times.
These little muscles have a big job to do during pregnancy. Aside from their normal functions, supporting your bladder and bowel, they also support the weight of your expanding uterus. These muscles have to cope with extra pressure on them, and as your baby grows, the pressure increases!
So it is an important time to pay attention to these precious muscles.
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your pelvic floor muscles. Slowly tighten around your back passage and vagina, drawing the pelvic floor muscles up and forward. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release.
Repeat 5-10 reps, making sure you rest for a few seconds between each squeeze.
So there you have it, some simple, effective exercises that will keep you feeling strong throughout your pregnancy.
Get into the habit of practicing these every day, and your body will thank you for it.
Why I think going into labour is fun.
Labour. Fun? When I’m teaching pregnancy Pilates classes, people are often shocked when I describe going into labour as one of the most fun, exciting things that I have ever experienced.
I remember vividly when I was pregnant with Sammy, I would look at all mothers with awe. “She’s done it. Jeepers, can I do this?”. My internal dialogue was going crazy, collecting birth stories and wondering how my own body was going to manage. I was surprised (and saddened) that most people were really happy to share negative stories. Why do people feel compelled to focus on the negatives? Anyway, that’s a story for another day…
Going into labour. The anticipation. Nine months of waiting and imagining.
The awareness that your body is preparing for your baby to arrive in the world.
The incredible thought that you go into this as a woman and come out of it as a mother.
On this day, there’s no more false alarms. No more Braxton Hicks.
What unfolds over the next few hours is magical and crazy. It’s intense. Discomfort builds as the contractions become stronger, your amazing body doing its thing to ease your baby towards the birth canal. Each contraction bringing you closer to meeting your baby.
It can get a bit hectic, it can be hard work, it can be not what you expected, it might involve intervention that you were hoping to avoid. Sure. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It can be really hard work.
But going into labour – well, that is just a feeling that I will never forget. I still smile to myself while I am writing this, just remembering it all over again, 9 years later.
I invite you to try and focus on those feelings of excitement and joy. Sure there may be some nerves or anxious thoughts, similar to when you try anything for the first time.
But the feelings on that magical day when you meet your baby are indescribable.
Whilst most of the exercises you’ll see in our daily workouts are safe to do when you are pregnant, there are a few times where there is a better choice. Below I have described the modifications that would be great to substitute once you reach 16 weeks of pregnancy.
As it may become uncomfortable for you to lie on your back after about 16 weeks of pregnancy, it is great to substitute this with a modified spine twist. You still receive all the benefits of stretching and mobilising your upper and lower back, from a safe seated starting position.
MODIFIED SPINE TWIST
Regular push ups can put too much pressure on your tummy muscles as your baby grows. So instead, start in your hands and knees position, but keep your hips and knees at a 90 degree angle, and bring your hands back in line with your shoulders. Then as you lower into your push up, you will feel your arms and chest muscles working, without the extra pressure on your tummy muscles.
REGULAR PUSH UP
MODIFIED PUSH UP
Once again, lying on your back after about 16 weeks can potentially put too much pressure on your blood vessels due to the weight of your baby compressing your inferior vena cava. To avoid this, we can achieve a lovely spine stretch while standing instead, with an exercise called Spine Twist.
Stand up, arms wide, and rotate to one side, keeping your arms the same distance apart, growing tall through your spine as you rotate. Keep your hips facing the front, and enjoy the stretch through your upper and middle back.
SUPINE LUMBAR ROTATION
STANDING SPINE TWIST
As your tummy (and boobs!) grow, it becomes uncomfortable to lie on your tummy. So instead, we can work on posture and shoulder strength in hands and knees position, with the Superman exercise. Balance your knees over your hips, and shoulders over your wrists, and then keep your spine long as you reach opposite arm and leg away. Return to the middle, then repeat on the opposite side. This is a great exercise for building your core strength and stability around your shoulders and hips. If you have any pain in your pelvis, just do the arms component and keep your knees resting on the floor.
SWAN PREP EXERCISE
MODIFIED SUPERMAN EXCERCISE
Again, as your tummy starts to grow and it feels uncomfortable to lie flat on your back, you can do a modified “toe tap” exercise. Prop yourself up onto your elbows into supported supine. Then slowly raise one leg up to table top, with the other foot resting on the floor. Smoothly lower one leg and raise the other one, keeping your knee bent at a 90 degree.
CURL UPS / SIT UPS / OBLIQUE TWISTS
MODIFIED TOE TAP
As your second trimester progresses, and your baby grows and puts more pressure on your tummy muscles and pelvic floor muscles, it is best to avoid high impact activities which cause extra pressure on these already compromised structures.
So instead of jumping or jogging, choose a low impact option like marching on the spot.
ALTERNATE MARCH ON THE SPOT
Want the printable version of our pregnancy modifications?