Now that your doctor has Okayed your decision to exercise,
you should be aware of some basics before starting
on your regime. Though pregnancy is not an illness,
your body is different from the pre-pregnancy days
and exercise basics apply more now than ever. For
instance your heart rate and blood pressure rise faster
at the start of the activity when you are pregnant
then when you were not pregnant. Therefore a well-planned
warm up and cool down session are important for anyone
who works out but becomes all the more essential for
the pregnant exerciser because demands of pregnancy
exercise routine must contain the 4 basic elements
as outlined above. You will need to include them when
you perform cardiovascular exercises i.e. walking,
aerobics, swimming etc. which are popularly practiced
by pregnant women who exercise. Here’s a brief overview
of these basics:
Warm ups are basically to work up slowly to exercise,
and it is an important element. Warm up is especially
useful now given that the pregnant body is more prone
to injury and poor balance. A warm up ensures exercise
is safe as the heart and breathing rates climb gradually.
Both a warm up and a cool down give your heart and
respiratory system time to accelerate to and decelerate
from a workout. It further lubricates the joints and
warms up muscles. Warm ups should be similar to your
chosen exercise but done slower and with less vigor.
For instance, if you are swimming you may want to
warm up by moving your legs and arms around in the
water before easing into your workout. If cycling
is your workout for today, try brisk walking as a
warm up. Take more time for the warm up if you feel
the need to.
tip if walking is your thing: A few
minutes of warm up (say 5 mins) prior
to the workout and about 4 minutes of
stretching afterward and whatever walking
you can cram in between.
Similarly for cool down sessions you will need about
ten minutes to come down from a workout and it is
equally vital. Once you are done with the core exercise,
you will need to ease back into the rest mode. The
aim is to gradually decrease the level of intensity
as your heart now will take longer to return to the
resting mode. You cannot just suddenly stop a workout
as you not only create tense muscles but the blood
that has been pumping around in your heart, lungs
and working muscles can suddenly pool in your lower
extremities (legs) causing you to feel light-headed
- a cool down routine prevents this from occurring.
As with a warm up, during your cool down session you
will need to perform the core exercise but at a lighter
pace i.e. slower and with less oomph. So if you are
walking, end the session with a slower walk and some
arm and leg movements. On the other hand walking also
serves as an ideal way to cool down from most exercise.
Hydration & Fuel
be fit you need to exercise regularly
and with effort, but you should not
feel pain if your workout is regular.
Don’t overdo the activity - pain will
only put you off exercise.
If you choose to exercise during pregnancy you need
a lot of fluid. Drink plenty of water and eat right.
Being pregnant and exercising will enhance fluid needs
further. You not only burn calories but also use up
a lot of fluids when you exercise, thereby creating
a need for replenishment of both water and food. Dehydration
can lead to preterm contractions and preterm labor.
It is therefore very important to pay attention
to hydration and fuel. The number of calories you
take in and the number you burn need to be taken into
consideration - top up where you have to. Also, don't
exercise when you are hungry; snack an hour before
you workout or workout about 2 hours after a meal.
Where liquids are concerned, drink enough without
filling up just before you start. Keep a big bottle
of water handy and drink every 15-20 minutes to keep
yourself hydrated. The key message is to drink frequent
and eat sufficient.
Once you are done with the cool down session, you
can move on to stretches. Routine stretching is advisable
now that there are many hormonal and physical changes
to contend with. A few minutes of stretching will
help loosen stiff joints, lessen the chance of injury
and help your body to return to pre-exercise state.
You need to stretch right after you finish your workout
to prevent sore muscles tomorrow. The biggest plus
is stretching will lengthen muscles and make them
more flexible. This will equip your body to perform
exercises better as your muscles are more fluid. Did
you know the hormone relaxin (present from the second
week of pregnancy till postpartum) makes our body
very flexible now than ever before, but that does
not mean you can overdo physical moves, including
stretching. Push your body too hard and you may sustain
injuries. Stretching or rather gentle stretching is
recommended by most experts before and after any aerobics
or resistance training. Feeling tension as
you stretch is normal, but not the pain.
rule of the thumb is to ease into the stretch and
only push into the position enough to feel the stretch,
and no further.
between pain and sore muscles: Pain
happens when you push limits. Soreness
happens when working muscles have never
been worked before or have not been
worked for a long time.