Spinning and Pregnancy
Baby fat. On infants, it’s adorable. On post-partum moms, not so much. That’s why when I found out I was pregnant last year, I eschewed the idea of eating for two (read: letting myself go) and kicked my already healthy lifestyle up a few notches. Or down, if you judge my heart rate and the numbers on the weights I lifted.
Shortly after seeing the two pink lines on the home pregnancy test, I went online, not to check out the most popular baby names, but to research how to modify my workouts to my body’s new needs. Of course, I also consulted with my physician. I learned that for the most part, it was business as usual. I just had to watch my heart rate and halve the amount of weights I lifted while doubling the number of repetitions. In other words, if I curled 20-pound dumbbells 10 times for three sets before baby, I switched to doing 10-pound weights 20 times per set.
Pregnancy and fitness go together like pickles and ice cream. Think about it: As your baby and baby bump grow, the organs in your thoracic cavity get pushed around, the extra weight taxes your bones and muscles, and your heart works harder—30 percent to 50 percent as hard, to be exact—to move around the additional 40 percent to 50 percent of blood generated to nourish the fetus. That’s a lot of stress on the body and it translates into a need for even more care.
Note, however, that pregnancy is not the time to build muscles or increase cardio intensity. My aim was maintenance and toning. As my baby developed, I stuck to brisk walking instead of running and moderate-intensity Spinning classes four times a week in addition to weight training and prenatal yoga sessions.
I carried my daughter to term—she was born on her due date—and I continued to lead Spinning classes until a month before she arrived, when I fell on rain-slicked asphalt and injured my pelvic bone, rendering me unable to walk let alone teach Spinning classes. I credit staying active with keeping me free of most pregnancy-induced problems. Throughout the 40 weeks, my ankles didn’t swell, I had no extreme exhaustion, almost no nausea and zero back pain. In fact, I didn’t have a belly until I was about six months along.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) “Exercise During Pregnancy” pamphlet, working out for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week can reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling; ward off gestational diabetes; increase energy; improve posture; and foster better sleep. Oh, and one other little thing: It may improve the ability to cope with the pain of labor and delivery.
ACOG also notes that staying fit while pregnant will facilitate getting your pre-baby body back once the stork flies off. Of course, you should consult with your doctor before beginning any form of exercise to make sure you do not have any obstetric or other health condition of which you should be mindful.
But let’s focus on what to do while you await that bundle of joy—or more precisely, what not to do. According to the ACOG, moms-to-be should avoid:
* Bouncy or high-impact moves. Not only will they become increasingly difficult to execute, but they could cause big problems. During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released to relax ligaments, making joints more prone to injury. Pregnancy also changes your center of gravity. Most women gain 25 to 40 pounds when they’re expecting, much of it in the belly, making you more likely to fall.
* Exercising to the point of breathlessness. In the past, ACOG recommended that pregnant exercisers not exceed a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. Now, however, you don’t have to invest in a heart rate monitor (although it’s a great tool, pregnant or not). Instead, use an old standby: the talk test. If you can hold a conversation without getting winded while you’re working out, you are within a safe heart rate range.
* Lying flat on your back. After the first trimester, the increased weight of the uterus can compress the vein that returns blood from the legs to the heart when you’re lying down. File exercises like crunches or bench pressing in the after-baby folder.
The bottom line is don’t push too hard. Save that for the delivery room.
So what is safe? According to ACOG, a lot: walking, swimming, low-impact and water aerobics and, ta-da! cycling.
In fact, Spinning offers its own guidelines for pregnant participants:
* Modify intensity. Hover between mild and medium.
* Stay cool and hydrated. Wear comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing and drink plenty of water.
* Adjust the Spinner® to accommodate your growing belly and changing center of gravity. This might mean raising the handlebars or shifting the seat position.
* Stay in the saddle. Jumps and Standing Climbs are calorie-killers, but they’ll wait for when you’re ready for a post-baby burn. Remember, pregnancy is not a time to think about losing weight.
* Take postural breaks to relieve any discomfort in your lower back. Sit back, roll your shoulders and breathe deeply, sending that breath into any body part that feels strained.
Expectant moms who are new to exercising should start slowly and build up incrementally, ACOG advises. Walk for five minutes for a week and then go for 10 the next week, for example.
During any physical activity, watch for signs of problems, such as pain or an inability to catch your breath. If you experience bleeding, fluids leaking from the vagina, dizziness, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, decreased fetal movement or uterine contractions, stop your workout immediately and call a doctor, ACOG says.
Pregnancy should mean a workout program adjustment, not adjournment. Besides, it’s never too soon to be a healthy role model for your child. Here’s to healthy, happy babies and moms.