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One of the dilemmas of pregnancy and birth that many pregnant mamas face is struggling to maintain a healthy balance between what is right for your developing child, but also allows you to feel somewhat in control of your ever changing body. Maintaining fitness during pregnancy requires safe, regular, moderate exercise. If you have been on an exercise program prior to pregnancy doctors usually agree that in a normal pregnancy, it is safe to continue this routine. As with all fitness routines, but especially in pregnancy, it is important to always check with your health care provider before beginning something new.

Here are a few simple “Dos and Don’ts” for expecting mothers to help you continue your fitness program and maintain a strong and healthy body, mind and spirit for the exciting times ahead.

Do:

Exercise regularly. The benefits of regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy includes: reduced swelling, increased circulation, increased energy, and less weight gain. Labor and delivery is the most difficult physical situation I have ever experienced. Without the breathing techniques I learned in prenatal yoga, the pelvic floor exercises I practiced in Pilates, and the cardiovascular strength I gained from walking the hills of my home town, it would have been much more challenging.

Don’t:
Continue exercises that cause pain or put you at risk of falling. As your ligaments become longer and looser in preparation for labor and delivery you will experience less confident balance and increased clumsiness. I had a very a harrowing experience loosing my balance on a treadmill during the second trimester of my first pregnancy that scared me away form those machines to this very day.

Do:
Drink plenty of fluids during exercise. Although you probably visit the restroom much more frequently than you did pre-pregnancy, it’s vital to prevent dehydration, which can cause premature labor in extreme cases.

Don’t:

Restrict Calories. Your organs are working overtime to support your baby. Keep the baby and yourself healthy and strong with a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals.

Do:
Incorporate moderate cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking or swimming to keep your heart healthy and your body prepared for the hard work of labor and delivery. For healthy women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, preferably spread throughout the week.

Don’t:
Allow your heart rate to increase to the point of lightheadedness, shortness of breath, or dizziness. According to the Mayo Clinic, heart rate limits aren’t typically imposed, but you should be able to carry on a normal conversation while engaging in aerobic exercise during pregnancy. Again, I wouldn’t recommend this on the treadmill. Too many distractions for the mama who can no longer see her feet.

Do:
Regularly exercise the pelvic floor with Kegels to prevent the leakage of urine as the baby grows – or during a cough or sneeze. These exercises will support you in labor, delivery and beyond.

Don’t:
Stop or hold your flow of urine to exercise the pelvic floor as this could create infections best avoided at all times, but particularly while pregnant.

Do:
Work the deep core muscles, particularly the Transverses abdominal which wraps around the waist like a belt deep along the spine. These exercises are best done seated and can be done in conjunction with the pelvic floor. Simply imagine lifting the pelvic floor up off the seat and synching a belt around the waist. Don’t:
Perform supine (back lying) exercises after the first trimester. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should avoid exercising in the supine position, especially after their first trimester. Such exercises put pressure on the largest vein in the torso and may increase blood pressure or reduce fetal blood supply.
Labor and deliver is a rollercoaster of emotions and physical challenges. I found the best way to welcome my children into the world was by making sure I was prepared for labor and paying attention to my body’s physical and mental needs to promote overall wellness and support to the body systems. As a result, I was able to recover more quickly from their births and revel in the joys of new parenthood. Wishing you the best of luck on this magical journey.

 

  • Written for Montanaparent.com
    • http://www.mtparent.com/blog/post/prenatal-exercise-the-dos-and-donts-by-amy-lynn-stoddart

Parental Fitness Guidelines

November 12, 2016

Pregnancy can be a thrilling period in life, particularly if it’s your first one. Many women, however, feel overwhelmed by the changes in their bodies and the conflicting warnings they hear about food and exercise. It seems we begin to worry for our children almost the moment they are conceived. For most healthy women though, pregnancy should not be treated as an illness or condition that causes you to drastically change your lifestyle. Sure, you’ll need more rest and more calories to grow that baby, but your lifestyle can remain essentially the same as pre-pregnancy if you are a healthy woman.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the American Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology (ASOG) recommend that normally healthy pregnant women may continue an already- established exercise regimen. This somewhat contradicts the guidelines of the mid 1980s, which suggested that women not exceed a maximum heart rate of 140 beats per minute (bpm). Pregnant athletes at the amateur and professional levels found this challenging, to say the least, because 140bpm didn’t come close to their pre-pregnancy level of workout. In 1994, ACOG revised these guidelines but failed to address the maximum bpm.
So, if pregnant women can’t use a suggested heart rate to assess safety in their workouts, what factors should they use as guidelines for keeping themselves and their babies safe while enjoying pleasurable and necessary exercise? Dr. James Clapp’s 2002 book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy provides more reasonable guidelines for pregnant athletes who wish to continue their pre-pregnancy levels of exercise. He asserts there are three areas of concern when exercising while pregnant: hyperthermia, sports injuries and oxygen deficit.


Hyperthermia
, a higher-than-normal body temperature, is a concern particularly in the first trimester when the fetus cannot regulate its own body temperature and is most susceptible to its mother’s. This condition has the possibility of leading to birth defects, although fit clients have an easier time dissipating heat, so the high risk is with mothers who begin a new fitness program or amp their old one during pregnancy. To prevent over-heating, wear loose fitting, light clothing; avoid exercise in the heat of the day; drink plenty of water and avoid increasing pre-pregnancy levels of exercise. Clapp recommends a temperature increase of no more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit and a post-exercise temperature no higher than 102 degrees F.
Sports injuries from falls or contact sports can affect both the mother and child. When a woman is pregnant, the relaxin hormone works to loosen and open her body to prepare for delivery, therefore all connective tissue becomes more open and mobile. This can result in falls, instability of the pelvis and knee joints, and precarious balance, at best. Be thoughtful about alignment of the lower leg, be cautious getting on and off that treadmill and be certain that your fitness instructor keeps you in safe ranges of motion.


Contact sports are not the best choice for pregnant mothers.
Extreme blows to the abdomen can damage both the baby and the placenta. Skiing, sadly for most Montana mothers, does present some major risks as well. I know plenty of women who skied safely through multiple pregnancies and now ski with their babies in a backpack, but a hard fall is a risk to consider.
Oxygen deficit is most commonly a concern for unfit women or women with inconsistent levels of training who attempt to take on an unusually strenuous exercise during pregnancy. Women who train regularly, and whose fetuses therefore train regularly with them, are more able to adapt to the stresses of exercise. Increased blood flow, and therefore decreased levels of oxygen to the fetus, can have catastrophic consequences.
So be reasonable; listen to your body. If you are totally sucking wind, slow down. Enjoy the changes in your body and know there will be plenty of time to run with that baby in the jogging stroller in just a few short months. Remember, babies stop moving when they are not getting enough oxygen, so be mindful of fetal movements before, during and after exercise. Your run might lull that babe to sleep, but in the hours following the workout you should be aware of movement.
If you practice Pilates or yoga during pregnancy, it is important to consider avoiding exercises that have you lying supine for extended periods of time. While there is much conflicting information on the validity of claims that the supine position after the first trimester can put too much pressure on the inferior vena cava (the vein that returns blood to the heart from the torso and legs), I typically avoid it in my pregnant clientele. In my opinion, why risk it? A good practitioner should be able to provide you with a plethora of modifications in seated positions that achieve the same or better goals.
If, despite your overall health and maintenance of the same level of exercise, you experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breathe or similar concerns, contact your physician or midwife immediately. No two pregnancies are exactly alike (even for the same woman) and it’s important that your care provider be aware
of your fitness program and its relationship to your growing fetus and changing body.

 

  • Written for Montanaparent.com
    • http://mtparent.com/blog/post/prenatal-fitness-guidelines

Mind Over Matter

November 12, 2016

Congratulations! Being a new parent is such an exciting time in life. The joys of first smiles, words, and steps are blissful. Despite these wonderful emotions, some questions are undoubtedly emerging in your mind: when will I get a full night’s sleep, how much will my life really change, and for many women, when will I get my body back? Whether you have experienced a vaginal delivery, a cesarean section, or the adoption process, the best thing you can do for your child is to take better care of yourself. Simply put, a happy, healthy individual is more capable of being a successful parent.

When is it Safe to Start Getting your Body Back?

According to the American Council of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, moms can start postpartum exercise with their doctor’s approval as soon as they feel ready. However, most physicians clear moms who have had vaginal deliveries for exercise after their six-week check up and moms with cesarean sections at approximately five-to six months postpartum.

In those first few weeks I recommend taking lots of walks with your baby. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, bond with your child, and get a few kinks out. However, if you are itching to do a little abdominal work before six weeks, here are a few safe and gentle exercises you can try to relieve stiff achy muscles and start finding those deep abdominals and pelvic floor again. These can be done anywhere with a yoga mat or towel with baby beside you (or even on you) as you exercise.

1. Kegels – These pelvic floor exercises can safely begin within hours of delivery. The goal of Kegel exercises is to improve muscle tone by strengthening the pubococcygeus muscles of the pelvic floor. The most difficult part of doing kegels effectively is correctly locating the pelvic floor muscles and engaging them without the gluteus or inner-thighs doing the work for you.

The Mayo Clinic has an excellent and thorough description of how to find these muscles on their website if you are having difficulty. A simple and common way to find them is to stop urination mid stream. While holding your stream of urine repeated can lead to health problems, a true kegel can, and should, be done often and regularly. The correct movement is an upward and inward contraction. You might try them at a rapid tempo, or slowly increasing in intensity over duration of time. The best part about kegels is that you can do them anywhere without anyone knowing – red lights, in line at the grocery, or while you check e-mails.

2. Imprint and Neutral – These are Pilates terms that describe the alignment of the lumbar spine and pelvis. When done correctly, these pelvic shifts will engage the abdominals in a low impact, safe, and deep level.

While lying on your back with your knees bent and feet placed on the floor, hip-width apart, gently begin to rock your pelvis forward and back.In Imprint, your lower spine (lumbar) should be in contact with the floor and your pubic bone higher than your hip bones (ASIS). As you shift your pelvis back to Neutral you will have a slight concave curvature in the lower spine as if you were standing. Each time you shift back to imprint think of pulling your navel in towards your spinal column and narrowing the waist to engage the deeper layers of abdominals (the transverses and obliques) and prevent the outer abs (the rectus) from taking over. You can add other fun elements to the exercise such as a playground ball between the knees to fire up the adductors (inner-thigh muscles) and incorporate your kegels.

3. Ab Prep. Also comes from a Pilates exercise in the STOTT method. By adding thoracic flexion (or forward bending of the upper torso) to the previous exercise you can increase the abdominal challenge. Begin by nodding the head to bring the chin a bit closer to the collar bones, then keeping your eyes at or slightly above your knees begin to lift the head and torso up off the ground into what you may think of as an ab crunch. What is unique about a Pilates approach to the traditional crunch is the focus on compressing the abdomen. So once again, pull your navel into the spinal column and think of synching a belt around your waist as you bring your sternum towards your pubic bone (never leading from the chin or shoulders).

Smart Options for New Parents

Once your doctor has cleared you for more vigorous exercise, you might consider incorporating some Pilates based exercises to help strengthen and narrow your midsection. Many new moms complain about abdominal separation or diastasis recti, in which the outer most abdominal fibers have separated. This can lead to poor core support and ultimately lower back and/or pelvic pain. Let’s face it, you’ve just lost several inches around your midsection, Your abdominals are stretched beyond recognition and you are twisting and ducking under car doors to get your child into their car seat several times a day. You might also have a toddler in the other arm as you attempt to do so. This scenario is a recipe for disaster. So what can you do to prevent injury and regain your abdominal core strength?

The Benefits of Pilates and Yoga in Recovery

A qualified and certified Pilates instructor can help you develop a routine to gain core strength and support. Through a series of abdominal exercises in both flexion and extension, Pilates builds deep core stabilizers while increasing mobility and range of motion in the spine and limbs.

Moreover, the focus on mind-body connectedness in both Pilates and Yoga can enable you to more clearly perceive what your body needs and once again regain control of your body. Most new moms feel very disconnected from their pre-pregnancy body. Remember, full recovery from childbirth can take anywhere from nine to 12 months, so be patient but consistent with whatever exercise program you choose.

Adoptive Parents and Dads too

Adoptive parents have their own set of stressors to deal with. You may have had a long road to adoption. Miscarriages, in-vitro failures, foreign travel, long wait lists, and sleepless nights are just a few of the many possible scenarios that adoptive parents face. And let’s not forget the Dads. Are you back to work juggling the delicate balance between family and career? Are you staying home to raise the kids?

It is admittedly difficult to practice, but extremely important that all new parents find time to focus on their needs too. The benefits of exercise are well documented and include increased energy levels, improved mood, and better quality sleep. What could be a greater gift to a new parent? It’s imperative that new parents refuel themselves so that they may become the best parent they can for the newest addition to their family.

 

  • Written for bluetoad.com
    • http://www.bluetoad.com/article/Mind+Over+Matter/541226/51253/article.html

A necessity. A celebration. An indulgence. An art. A hassle. A fear. Food can hold so many meanings and emotions at different moments in our lives. The short and skinny, however, is that we need it to survive and, if we make the right choices, food can support us in living a longer, healthier, more productive and ultimately happier life.
Many of my clients look to me to help them make food choices that will support their goals for exercise, fitness and overall health. The timing, size and content of the foods you choose can either enhance your workout or derail it. Your food choices also have an impact on how your body will recover and rebuild after workouts.
The average woman between the ages of 31- 50 should consume 1,800 calories per day if sedentary; 2,000 if moderately active and 2,400 if active. Likewise, the average male between the ages of 31-50 should consume 2,200 calories if sedentary; 2,400-2,600 if moderately active and 2,800-3,000 if active. For younger men and women, the caloric intake is slightly higher and for senior adults those counts decrease.
It’s important to time your meals prior to a workout so you feel energetic, but not so full that you want to crawl back into that cozy bed. No matter what time of day you work out, try to balance carbohydrates and proteins in a meal eaten one-hour prior to exercise.

Contemporary diet trends have led many to shy away from carbohydrates and focus on proteins only. While the proteins are vital in muscle building and repair, it’s the energy from the carbohydrates that are necessary to help you resist weights or hurl your body down the running trail.
Look for carbohydrates with a low gylcemic index (GI of 55 or less) such as most fruits and vegetables, beans, minimally processed grains, pasta, low-fat dairy foods and nuts. These types of carbs will be more readily available in your body when you need them to get you through that morning spin class. Avoid high glycemic index carbs (GI of 70 or higher) such as white bread, rice cakes, most crackers, bagels, cakes, doughnuts, croissants and most packaged breakfast cereals. Try to avoid fatty meals, which take longer to digest and therefore will not be available for the body if eaten with an hour of exercise.
At a recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) consensus conference on food, nutrition and sports performance, the FAO stated, “Carbohydrate containing foods [are] identified as having the most significant impact on exercise performance. The nutritional importance of protein, as a fuel for exercise and as a contributor to strength development, has been over emphasized, whereas the fluid intake has been, by comparison, underplayed.” The FAO asserts that in high performance athletes one should carefully consider which carbohydrates you choose. “The metabolic response during exercise is different as a consequence of the glycemic indices of the carbohydrates consumed preceding the exercise, and so the choice of carbohydrate in pre-competition meals could have an effect on performance.” (FAO)

A balanced and healthy diet should contain carbohydrates as 50 percent of our daily intake, 35 percent or less from fats, and the remaining 15 percent or more from proteins. Moving away from high fatty foods and high glycemic carbs is important, but fruits and vegetables are necessary for nutritional balance. The FAO recommends that endurance and high-intensity athletes increase their carbohydrates to 60 percent of their dietary intake, 30 percent or less from fats and 10-15 percent proteins.
Water is also a key component in exercise. Plan to begin drinking water one hour before your workout begins, as you will loose that water rapidly during your workout. Coffee or tea is all right, but try having a full glass of water prior to that morning delight. I have personally found that if I carry a water bottle around with me at work and while I chauffeur children to afternoon activities, I am less likely to overeat at meal times, feel more energetic and powerful in my workouts and crave fewer snacks or treats.
Nearly two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. It is a vital nutrient that is involved in every function of the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, water is necessary for body temperature regulation, lubrication of joints, moistening tissue in the mouth, eyes and nose. Water consumption protects body organs and tissues, helps prevent constipation, helps dissolve minerals and other nutrients to make them accessible to the body, lessens the burden on the kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products, and carries nutrients and oxygen to cells. So grab that trendy new BPA free bottle, slap some cool stickers on it and fill‘er up.

 

  • Written for MTparent.com
    • http://mtparent.com/blog/post/optimal-food-choices-to-support-fitness-by-amy-stoddart