I’ll be honest . . . I almost don’t know where to start with this. Plus, it just feels a little weird to be writing about this since I’m such an advocate for working out during pregnancy. For so long, when someone would ask me about whether a certain exercise was okay for pregnancy, the majority of the time I answered, “If you did it prior to pregnancy, you should be fine.” and/or “Just listen to your body.” But then things changed . . .
I created my best-selling pregnancy workout program Expecting MORE® almost six years ago (when I was pregnant with my first). Even then most pregnant women weren’t doing (or at least not publicizing) much more than prenatal yoga, swimming, and walking, and most doctors were still not advising much more. In many ways I’d hit the jackpot with Expecting MORE® because there wasn’t much out there on the DVD market – at least not when it came to strength conditioning and cardio for pregnancy, and especially when it came to offering challenging workouts to women who were already fit prior to pregnancy. Looking back I was pretty progressive.
But alas, there was no Instagram where fit pregnant women were showing what they were really doing, including extreme cases of running marathons, doing CrossFit, and sometimes even skiing. As we know, social media went bonkers and now everyone (professionals and non-professionals) are sharing their amazing pregnancy workouts . . . and now I want to take it all back. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but I do feel the need to add an addendum to my previous prenatal workout advice: Just because you did it prior to pregnancy doesn’t mean it’s good for you NOW (that you are pregnant), and just because something feels okay on your pregnant body NOW doesn’t mean it’s going to feel good in your postnatal recovery or in your future years of motherhood.
I've been holding my tongue for a while now on the craziness I see on social media – specifically when it comes to pregnancy (and postnatal) fitness posts. So many of the "inspirational" exercises I see from pregnant women on Instagram are so worrisome to me. As a pre & postnatal exercise specialist and mom of two (with number three on the way), as well as someone who has had to heal diastasis recti (the splitting of the abdominals), I've learned and seen the safest and best ways of keeping your body safe during pregnancy. I almost typed "body and baby" but the reality is most of the craziness I see on Instagram doesn't worry me in terms of your baby. That baby is super protected in there. It's the Mama I'm talking about and what some of these exercises are going to do to damage her abs, her pelvic floor and her overall postnatal recovery. It's not that I want to discourage anyone from "liking" such posts. I'm just more afraid of women trying to replicate exercises that ultimately cause more damage than good. ———————————- I hope to start sharing more on here of what I feel are some great safe modifications for pregnancy. You won't see anything super fancy but you will see smart safe movement. Keep in mind modifications doesn't always mean easier, it just means safer and/or better for you at this specific point in time. The 2 exercises here are great modifications for my cardio junkies who LOVE tuck jumps and jumping jacks. The one on the left (squat into side high knees) gives room for baby and still works the legs and core like a tuck jump would. On the right are other ways to do jumping jacks that are much more grounded (think go wide instead of high). Speed both exercises up for more cardiovascular benefits. ———————————– I hope you'll share this with your fellow moms-to-be and new moms.
Yes, that’s what I just said. Here’s the thing moms-to-be: You don’t know what’s going to happen in labor and delivery. You don’t know exactly how big your baby is going to be. You don’t know what the tissue strength of your pelvic floor is like. You might not even know how tight (or not so much) your abs are. These unknowns are the things I now encourage you to think about now that you’re pregnant.
Cleaning and pressing 90 plus pounds, or running a marathon, might feel okay in your pre-conditioned never-had-a-baby before body, but it might not feel so good on your pelvic floor after 9 months of pregnancy plus labor and delivery of your 9-pound baby or three kids later when you’re pregnant with your fourth. #justsayin
The same goes for my yogis who continue your Up Dogs, Wheels and Natarajasanas (Dancer’s Pose) over and over again. Your heart opening might feel good in the moment and your baby is probably fine, but that continuous spreading of the abdominal wall is only going to exasperate the potential for a diastasis recti, which could also potentially mean a belly pooch that won’t go away for a while after baby.
If you’re wondering what the heck you’re looking at and are afraid that could be you, you’ll definitely want to catch my #FacebookLive yesterday. I share my experience with diastasis recti (These are pics from what it looked like in my third trimester pregnant with Liam, how to test for it, and how I made sure it didn’t get any worse – I’m using a breathing technique in the pic with my hands on my belly). You still catch it over on my Facebook page (http://facebook.com/sarahaleyfit). We had a blast talking about How To Heal Your Abs for Good. We had a great interactive conversation about the biggest abdominal issues seen in women, details on diastasis recti, and techniques and tools to use (and not use) in healing your abs. If you still have questions, please leave them on Facebook as I've been working hard to get back to everyone. Tag to share with pregnant, new and veteran moms who want to heal their abs for good!
You might say, “Whatever Sara, that’s not going to be me – I’m super strong.” And to that, I would say: You just never know. I’ve seen and heard of the worst cases of diastasis recti and prolapse in athletes, dancers and fitness fanatics. That intense training is what makes our bodies strong for those passions, but unfortunately not always so resilient for the process of pregnancy. I’m not saying don’t do the things that make you feel amazing and alive ever again. Trust me I get it – throughout my pregnancies, I’m constantly creating ways to modify how I dance, jump and perform the exercises I love to do most. I’m just saying think about the exercises and movement you are doing a little more, maybe do them a little less often or with a little less intensity, and maybe take some modifications sooner rather than later in your pregnancy.
And for those of you who are silent observers on social media, I just warn with caution as you “like” away. “Like” all you want but please please think about what you’re doing before you imitate what you see.