On the come back trail from delivering a healthy baby boy, we sat down with Personal Training client Emily Smith to discuss pregnancy, progress and getting back on track.
What did training look like during pregnancy?
My training goal has aways been to build on my strength, so that ultimately remained the same in Nic’s 4 week programs, with adjustments of course, it was no longer about PB’s, and more about maintenance and preparing myself to be in the best physical position for birth and post birth.
The intensity dropped a lot as my pregnancy progressed as you need to be mindful of not raising your heart rate too high. We had a focus on core and leg strength (both pivotal to assisting with birth). We also spent a lot of time on strengthening posture and strength in my back to prep for the postural challenges that come with constantly holding and feeding a baby. There was also movements that I couldn’t do and machines that I couldn’t use that were eliminated or modified.
Naturally you’re no longer allowed to do focused ab exercises (don’t confuse that with activating your core however). Your balance is challenged as you get bigger so being mindful of the shift in my centre of gravity when doing movements that saw me move down my midline was important. I had to stop hammy curls laying down because there was a certain bump getting in the way, and moved to deadys and squats in more of a sumo position to allow myself to still bend at the hip for dead’s and go deeper for squats.
Nic and I had quite an open dialogue about how I was feeling and the program ahead to ensure both were comfortable with the approach. It’s safe to say that I had challenging days and I had dominating days, and I spoke up when things didn’t feel right. But mentally I LOVED knowing that I put in my best throughout my pregnancy.
What was your biggest motivation to continue to keeping fit throughout pregnancy?
I wanted to know that I was giving myself the best opportunity to be strong for birth and raising a kid, and that I was giving my little man the best start to life by taking care of myself too, physically and mentally.
Pregnancy was hard for me mentally. I disliked that my body was changing so much, I disliked that my body was no longer my own. Training with Nic was the thing I did twice a week that kept me sane… as if that isn’t motivating enough.
I also believe in discipline over motivation. I lacked motivation due to the pure fact that a growing human takes a lot of your energy, but discipline saw me get in and get the job done.
How did your view towards health and fitness change during pregnancy?
No notable changes really. My view was exactly the same, be as healthy as you can be, move as much as you can, and rest even more (after work naps were my jam).
When I say healthy, I mean pregnancy cravings and aversions are a real thing so be kind to yourself if your diet goes a little astray. I didn’t eat veggies or chicken for the first 18 weeks because I couldn’t stand even smelling them (whoops). I ate carbs carbs and more carbs in my first trimester because that’s what my body was craving (hello crumpets, English muffins and hot chips), my diet became a little more ‘normal and nutritious’ again by mid second trimester. I was always conscious of how much I was eating though, but never restricted myself if I was hungry. Your body is using up so much more energy, you need all the kj’s you crave.
If you had to pick only one exercise to do forever, which one would it be?
Deadlifts!! I’m obsessed with them. It’s when I feel my strongest. Plus, they’re basically a full body workout.
Any advice for other women about to embark on their own journey of motherhood?
I could put so many things here. If you’re as hard on yourself as I am and have high expectations for what you can usually do in the gym let alone in life in general, then start to be a little more realistic. Your body is doing an amazing thing whilst pregnant, it’s creating a human in 9/10 short months… epic! Post birth you need to allow yourself the time to recover, and the sleep deprevation and breastfeeding (should you choose to embark on that journey) is full on (<- understatement). Be patient with yourself. Listen to your body, but also don’t use that as an excuse to a crazy degree also, push yourself to get motivated to work on yourself, make a plan, practice discipline, it’s brilliant for your mental state and you can do more than you think if you set your mind to it within reason. Personally, I worked hard to get back to GRIPT style training by around 10-12 weeks. My mum and mother-in-law each look after my little man with expressed milk ready in a bottle twice a week whilst I look after myself for a couple of hours.
Do yourself a favor and enlist a women’s health Physio. I didn’t start doing any physical activity other than walking and pelvic floor exercises until I had the clearance to do so. This comes equally from your GP/Obstetrician depending on who does your post birth check (stitches argh) and it should come from a Physio for pelvic floor reasons also. Prolapse isn’t a fun thing to reverse… don’t bear weight until your ab separation and pelvic floor strength is under control and you’ve seeked professional input. I personally went back to reformer Pilates at 8 weeks pp to ease back into building my core and glute strength, and back to GRIPT at 10/11 weeks pp. I was personally lucky to only have half a finger of ab separation (women’s heath Physio aligned it to continued core activation and training throughout my pregnancy up to 36 weeks in strength training and another 1/2 weeks through yoga). It’s different for everyone though, but the small separation for me resolved itself by around 4 weeks pp, which meant all I had to really focus on was my pelvic floor of which naturally weakens through your pregnancy and during the joy of pushing out a child.
Listen to your body when training, do not do anything that doesn’t feel remotely right. It’s pretty simple. Speak up and tell your trainer. Nic, in my case, did his research on training women whilst they are pregnant, but I always still added my two cents worth to a program. If it didn’t feel right, I said no, or reduced the weight until it did. If it felt right, then I smashed it out. A big thing to be weary of is how high you raise your heart rate, you want to be careful with putting more strain on the heart than is already the case (your body creates and pumps up to 50% more than the usual amount of blood through your body). Longer rest periods are pretty key during pregnancy for this reason.
Did you know that approx 30% of your energy goes to producing breast milk (if you choose to breastfeeed), recognize this, up your kj intake, and choose snacks smartly. Whilst you can shed baby weight quickly whilst breastfeeding, it’s also a myth for most that you’ll be the skinniest you’ve ever been… you actually tend to hold fat in the places you least want to and it’s for good reason. Be aware of this, don’t expect to tone it up until you’ve finished your feeding journey and you get a little more sleep at night.
Recovery… sorry to break it to you, but post pregnancy it takes a lot longer, I’m usually just getting over my soreness on a Thursday from my Monday session. It’s the reality due to less rest to recuperate. I have upped my magnesium intake (make sure you chat to your Dr about the safe range) to assist my body with recovery. Magnesium is also brilliant to help with those pesky muscle cramps and spasms you may cop during pregnancy
Follow @thepregnancyculture and @prenatalnutritionist on Instagram
Consider hypnobirthing or calm birthing (sounds hippy, but take what you want from the course). If you think broader, the skills they teach around patience, being educated for every possible situation in order to be confident in the decisions you make, mindset positivity and strength are skills you should use daily regardless of whether you’re pregnant and in labour or not
Be kind to yourself, always. Be real, I don’t pretend that any of it is glamorous, it’s not easy to stay patient, not feel frustrated or deflated, so work on being as positive as you can be. Don’t make excuses but know your limit. Wow, get ready for sleep deprivation (it’s a b****). And get ready for ultimate cuteness, their first smiles and giggles may just melt you.
Emily can be found on the comeback trail in the studio two times per week in Personal Training sessions with GRIPT Coach Nic McWilliams.