Bumps and Barbells: Raising the Bar for Prenatal Fitness
Contributed by Charlotte Hughes.
So you’re pregnant. Not only must you now give up the prosecco, cured meats and coffee but you must also give up exercise….right? Wrong.
Join me on a reminisce through my prenatal fitness journey.
I’m not going to pretend I didn’t struggle. The first trimester saw me through the majority of the summer, right when RWF moved into its new premises. No one at this time knew about my pregnancy so I had to put a brave face on the morning sickness and fatigue. It was horrendous!
I helped the team set up the shiny new equipment…squat racks, hack squat, deadlift platforms, painting the walls, whilst thinking miserably to myself “I’m not going to be able to use any of this stuff for another 7 months!”.
Well. I was wrong.
I soon realised that pregnancy isn’t the disability some people make it out to be. Pregnancy is just a temporary condition which you can easily adapt to, given the right environment and some determination.
So, amongst the heatwave we had during August and the constant feeling of being hungover, I battled through my training sessions, with only minor adaptions.
I hung up my weightlifting belt and accepted that heavy deadlifting was off the plan for a few months, but I did continue squatting, flat benching, straight leg deadlifting and military pressing, with very little compromise to weight or form.
So, now the secret was out. My pregnancy was well known and my little bump was beginning to take shape. I started to feel a little more human at this stage too. No fatigue and at last, no morning sickness!
My attendance at the gym resumed, managing to train at least five times a week, each session lasting around 45 minutes.
At this stage I accepted I needed to make a few sacrifices, but only to the weight I lifted and in some cases, the way I lifted it.
There was to be no more flat bench pressing as this just put too much pressure across my core. Instead I moved to incline bench. I also introduced much more back work such as seated cable rows, high/low rows and single arm dumbbell rows. This way I would continue to build the strength in my back, which would be helpful as the bump got bigger and heavier. Cardio was also added as a finisher. I never do cardio – not because I don’t like it but because its just not necessary for me. During pregnancy however, it certainly was. It helped keep my endurance levels up which would eventually benefit me through a challenging labour.
At this stage my bump was getting big and heavy. Surely this was the time to give up and take it easy?
Nope. In fact, keeping active at this stage was as important as ever! The final three months were definitely a lot tougher. Fatigue was back with vengeance, but no back ache and no swollen ankles like some!
I continued to squat just with a lower weight and higher rep range. I also continued with bench pressing, glute hamstring raises, dumbbell presses and plenty of other accessory work. I was managing at least four sessions each week, lasting between 30 – 45 minutes.
All the pictures above were taken when I was 41 weeks pregnant.
My daughter was finally born ten days late. I finally squatted my last squat just five days ahead of this date!
When I announced my pregnancy, the immediate response from most was ‘ah, well you will have to give up your training then’
Of course I wasn’t going to. There is no reason, unless advised by a health professional, that you should stop exercising during pregnancy. The benefits you can gain are significant. Not only can it help relieve common discomforts such as backache and improve pelvic floor strength but the beneficial effect it could have on the actual delivery is substantial.
I wasn’t able to resume my training until six weeks postpartum. Not only was I still recovering from a less than straightforward child birth but it was also essential that I waited for my abdominal wall to fully close.
By training throughout the whole of my pregnancy, I managed to preserve some muscle and strength which has made getting back into lifting far easier than if I had given up months prior. It also meant that I had a strong foundation to reassess some of my lifts and deconstruct my form.
In writing this article, I hope to encourage other mums not to give up their fitness pursuits, pre or post pregnancy, to research and understand the benefits exercise can deliver physically or consider it a stress outlet if nothing else. You want to enjoy your pregnancy. It’s a special time and I wholeheartedly believe keeping fit during it will allow you to do so, just that little bit more!
Follow me -and Evlyn! – on Instagram: @charle_h