How to Keep Cycling Safely and Comfortably during Pregnancy

bike, bicycle, cycling, cycling during pregnancy, cycling and pregnancy, pregnancy, fit and healthy pregnancyPregnant? Don’t throw your bike into that shed yet! Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stop being active, and it doesn’t mean you have quit cycling either.

If you’re an active woman or even an athlete, there’s no reason you can’t keep your active lifestyle as long as you aren’t experiencing any complications and you’re listening to your body’s cues to know when to stop. However, if you haven’t been active prior to getting pregnant, now may not be the time to start a rigorous workout routine. (If you want more advice on starting a fitness routine during pregnancy, check one of our posts on the topic.)

A Safe Way to Cycle While Pregnant

So how do you safely and comfortably keep cycling during pregnancy? One way is to do what Olympian and triathlete Sarah Haskins did: she rode on a CompuTrainer.

Like many women, Hadownhill, fast hill descent, descent, cycling, mountain biking, cycling during pregnancy, fit and healthy pregnancyskins was nervous about cycling on the roads when she found out she was pregnant because she feared falling and harming her baby. This is a legitimate concern, and precautions should be taken to prevent falling and crashes like avoiding group rides, pacelines, fast hill descents, racing, gravelly and slippery roads, and busy intersections.

A Shift in Gravity

However, it is safe to ride your bike for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy because your pelvis encases and protects the uterus during the first trimester. During your second trimester is when your balance and center of gravity begin to change, and your pelvis no longer protects your uterus. And when that third trimester rolls around, your balance will only have gotten worse, so that may be the time to switch to a stationary bike or an indoor bike that’s on a trainer, if you haven’t done so already.

Although there are no hard-and-fast obstetric rules that prohibit a woman from riding when she’s expecting as long as it’s a normal pregnancy without complications, you and your doctor will have to decide what’s right for you. And keep in mind that deciding not to ride on the roads doesn’t make you any less of an athlete.

Regardless of your choice though, you shouldn’t start an outdoor cycling routine after the first trimester because your balance is now comprised, and getting on (and staying on) a bike could be difficult if you haven’t been doing it regularly.

Monitor Your Efforts and Make Room for Comfort

If you continue cycling, remember to keep your efforts at 14-16 RPE after the first trimester, with recovery intervals at 10-12 RPE. And don’t forget to monitor your core body temperature when cycling or doing workouts of any during your pregnancy. You might even want to carry a basal thermometer with you to make sure your core body temperature is in the safe zone.

saddle, bike saddle, cycling, cycling and pregnancy, fit and healthy pregnancy You’ll also want to adjust your bike fit to your changes in posture and weight distribution for a more comfortable ride. A wider saddle might also lend more comfort, and getting a hydration pack that you wear on your back will keep you from shifting your balance to reach for your water bottle.

The Upside of Staying Stationary

Spinning, Stationary bikes, CompuTrainers, and even recumbent bikes are safe alternatives for those looking for peace of mind and assurance that they won’t fall. You can even find a CompuTrainer center where you bring your own bike and a coach sets you up at a designated wattage for your individual level. Be sure to tell the coach that you’re pregnant!

A CompuTrainer center also lets you ride on a stable bike in a temperature-regulated space, with a skilled cycling expert to adjust your level of difficulty and bike fit. It’s a great option for athletes of all levels—novice to competitive—and lets you ride with stability while watching a simulated outdoor course.

Fit and Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MDFit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.

Why Prenatal Yoga Is So Popular with Celebrities

red carpetDrew Barrymore, Gisele Bundchen, Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mila Kunis. Why did I just list off a bunch of female celebrities? Well they’re not just female celebrities; they’re all moms or soon-to-be moms. Whats my point? Well these women have something else in common too: they’ve all engaged in prenatal yoga—an exercise the new book Fit and Healthy Pregnancy recommends.

Just last week, popular mommy-to-be, Mila Kunis, was spotted coming out of a prenatal yoga class on her birthday. So what’s so great about prenatal yoga that so many women, celebrity or otherwise, have turned to it?

First off, exercise in general during pregnancy is as important as your pregnancy multivitamin. (You can read about the importance of exercise during pregnancy in one of our other posts such as: “The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy” and “Is Exercise Good for Babies?”) But yoga might be of particular benefit to expectant mothers for a number of reasons, especially during the second trimester.

The second trimester is the best trimester for working our. For many women, it can feel like the midpoint in a race when all systems are go and you’re fired up with zest and strength. In fact, women often experience the expectant woman’s equivalent of a runner’s high. So this is the time to take advantage of your energy and positive outlook and to empower your health with activity oriented toward strength and wellness for you and your baby.

Not only is this an energized time during pregnancy, it’s also a time when women begin experiencing more physical discomforts such as lower back pain, postural changes, abdominal muscle separation, and leg cramps. So what can you do to combat those unfortunate changes or least make your situation more comfortable?prenatal yoga, yoga, celebrities and yoga

Do what the celebs do: prenatal yoga. Strength work during pregnancy will help your back before, during, and after delivery, making labor easier, (as many celebrity moms have reported). Plank and side-plank yoga poses will fortify your core and back and help prevent pain from motor weakness, muscle contraction, and posture changes.

You can also develop excellent ab and back strength with standing core exercises that can be performed comfortably into the seventh month of pregnancy. Just remember to avoid lying flat on your back when exercising during the second trimester because the weight of the uterus on the big vessels that bring blood back to the heart will decrease blood flow.

Remember to always listen to your body when working out during pregnancy, whether you’re doing yoga, cycling, swimming or any other exercise. If you’re looking for an example of a good yoga pose to test out, follow the training tip below, one of many detailed in Fit and Healthy Pregnancy:

To strengthen those back and abdominal muscles, do plank poses every day. Start with two sets of 20 to 30 seconds each for the basic plank and side plank on both sides, working your way to 2 to 3 sets of 60 to 90 seconds for reach position. Keep your spine as straight as possible; resist the urge to push your rear out and back. If necessary, make the planks easier to adapt to your changing weight by lying on your side and keeping your lower knee on the mat, with that leg bent behind you. To make a basic plank easier, put your weight on your knees instead of your feet or open your legs wider and hold yourself up on your palms instead of your forearms.

Fit and Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MDFit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.

You Dont Have to be Alysia Montano to Keep a Fit Mind & Body in Your 3rd Trimester

You know the stories about those women who ran marathons on their due dates? Kind of like Alysia Montano, the Olympian who was 8 months pregnant and ran the 800M last month. While it is an impressive feat and was probably safe for those athletes whose bodies were used to this kind of activity, know that that doesn’t have to be you.

Don’t Make Comparisons

path, journey, pregnancy journey, fit and healthy pregnancyStaying in touch with your Fit Self can be a challenge during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester when you feel large and unwieldy. It may feel as if you’re waddling through each day. But it’s important not to compare yourself to anyone else. Alysia Montano had her own pregnancy story. Her goal was to just go out there and enjoy the race and hopefully not get lapped.

But that’s not your story. Your pregnancy journey is your own and changes each day. Do what makes you feel whole and don’t worry about anyone else. Reject the idea that you have to be fit with someone else’s mind and body.

Keeping a Fit Mind

To keep your sanity, strive for balance between obligations, such as work, and aspects of life that help you feel good, such as time outside. Focus on the things that you can control, such as the ways you can nourish your mind and body, and let go of the things you can’t, such as other people’s reactions to your fitness activities or how you look.

baking, dough, sanityTurn to those activities that you love like baking or wandering around farmers market in those last months when your stress is overwhelming and you need some you time. Simple things like these will be positive diversions from the physical discomfort you’re feeling and the baby-centric conversations. They’ll also help nourish your independent identity.

Third Trimester Exercise

And if you have been exercising regularly during your pregnancy and continue to feel up for it during your third trimester, that’s completely safe as long as you’re listening to your body and fueling yourself properly. Another great benefit of fitness is stress release, which many women could use the closer delivery gets.

Whether you’re like Alysia Montano or not and want to continue running during your third trimester, here are some guidelines for you:

  • As long as you’re comfortable, hydrated, and careful not to overexert, you can feel confident going for a run.
  • Stay comfortable and wear a loose, moisture-wicking shirt to reduce chafing.
  • Carry a water bottle with you to prevent overheating and dehydration.
  • Electrolyte drinks and coconut water are great hydration go-tos.
  • Don’t start running in your seventh month if you haven’t been running during the pregnancy thus far.
  • Focus on your rate of exertion, comfort, and sense of wellness during a run rather than a specific time or number of miles.

pregnancy, third trimester, pregnant woman, healthy pregnancy, fit pregnancy, fit and healthy pregnancyIf you’re reading this in your third trimester, this is the home stretch. Whether you’ve loved pregnancy or hated it, take comfort in the fact that you’re nearly there. For those of you in the beginning stages of your pregnancy, you might find some of our earlier posts helpful like How To Start Exercising During Pregnancy or Fueling Your First Trimester.

Fit and Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MDFit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.

Olympian Is 8 Months Pregnant and Runs the 800M

davetrendler:

Olympian Alysia Montano recently ran in an 800m race while 8 months pregnant. Running coach Jeff Horowitz offers a few thoughts and links to the story on Washington Post.

Originally posted on Jeff Horowitz Running and Triathlon Coach:

In case you missed this, Olympian Alysia Montano recently ran in an 800m race . . . while 8 months pregnant. Her goal was just to be back on the track and enjoy participating, and, as she put it, to not be the first person ever lapped in the 800.
She sets a great example with this run. The idea that pregnant women have to be sedentary is a myth. Unless there are complications, a woman experiencing a normal, healthy pregnancy can maintain an active exercise regimen. The key work here, though, is “maintain”; this would not be the time to start up a new, more aggressive training schedule or routine. Also, it’s important to watch for signs of overheating.
For more on Alysia’s run, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/06/27/olympian-alysia-montano-runs-an-800-meter-race-while-34-weeks-pregnant/

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General Medical Guidelines for Exercise During Pregnancy

stretching, toe touching, exercise, aerobics, health, fitness, fit and healthy pregnancyIn Fit & Healthy Pregnancy, Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD, offer guidelines for women who would like to exercise during pregnancy. They suggest:

  • Warming up for 5 to 10 minutes is important to ease into a workout and determine how your body is feeling that day. Start slowly and build to more effortful exercise during a session.
  • Exercising regularly on most days of the week is better for your fitness than a burst of exercise that’s followed by days or weeks of no activity.
  • A moderate workout of 30 minutes on most days of the week will be beneficial for most women.
  • hydrating, hydration, woman drinking water, drinking water, healthy, fit and healthy pregnancyGenerally speaking, if you’re able to hold a conversation while you exercise, your exertion is in a safe zone. Use Borg’s Rate of Perceived Exertion scale (see Chapter 2) to monitor your effort level, and don’t exceed a 16 on the scale.
  • The extra weight you carry as you progress through pregnancy will make easy exercise feel harder. Stop if you feel dizzy or exhausted.
  • Drink a glass of water before and after exercise and drink based on thirst while you work out.
  • Avoid exercise with a risk of falling or blunt force to the abdomen, such as downhill skiing or soccer.
  • Be careful with any exercise that might strain your back, such as overstretching to touch your toes or the floor in yoga.
  • Avoid sit-ups or any exercise while lying on your back after the first trimester.
  • Always inform the instructor, trainer, or coach that you’re pregnant.

Fit and Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD

Fit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.

Fueling Your First Trimester: Tackling Myths, How Much to Eat, and What to Eat

Myth busting

salmon, fish, eating fish, eating fish during pregnancyThere are lot of myths out there in terms of how much diet and nutrition during pregnancy. One recent controversy is the FDA’s recommendation of pregnant women eating more fish. Fish is your friend; you just need to watch how much and what kind of fish you eat to avoid the intake of too much mercury. Steer clear of shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish during pregnancy, but you can eat halibut, rainbow trout, wild shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, and catfish, all of which have low mercury content.

At this point, you might be asking yourself what other lies have I been told about what and how much I can eat during pregnancy? What about the “eating for two” myth. Contrary to stereotypes about expectant women, pregnancy—particularly the first trimester—isn’t best served by a caloric free-for-all. U.S. News and World Report recently came out with a great article entitled: “The Best and Worst Foods to Eat During Pregnancy” The first point the article makes is “eating for two” can lead to overeating.

How much should I eat?

While cravings come along with the territory, overeating can put you at risk for complications during pregnancy. Physiologically, your body has no need for extra calories during those first 12 weeks. However, women active in endurance sports (or other activities) need sufficient caloric replacement for what they’re burning. Remember to talk to your doctor about your specific training and eating additional calories when you’re using energy through exercise.

In terms of how much to eat, aim for small meals every few hours during the day to avoid a drop in blood sugar, which is a risk in early pregnancy because of the major metabolic changes happening. Eating small, frequent meals also helps prevent nausea and dizziness, particularly an hour or so before a workout and right after you finish, when your blood sugar is likely low.

What should I eat?

beans, complex carbohydrates, carbs, carbohydrates, carbs during pregnancyGoing back to the U.S. News and World Report article, they say, “carbohydrates are a pregnant woman’s best friend.” Indeed! They’re essential to fueling your performance as an active woman, and they help fuel the workout happening inside of you. Your body is using more carbohydrates while you’re pregnant, which can lead to low blood sugar when exercising, so replacing carbs immediately after a workout is essential.

In terms of what kinds of carbs, you’ll want to focus on replenishing your calories in the form of complex carbs such as whole-grain pastas, quinoa, nuts, beans, and brown rice, because complex carbs offer more fiber that slows digestion. (Not to mention that high-fiber can help alleviate the oh-so-unwelcome constipation and nausea that comes along with the first trimester).

On top of complex carbs, you’ll want sufficient protein from meat and/or legumes to build muscle and promote healthy growth. Hydration is also one of the most important factors throughout a fit pregnancy, but it’s especially critical in early pregnancy. Dehydration can prompt uterine contractions, so it’s extremely important to stay hydrated when exercising—make sure your urine is clear! And ask any woman who’s been pregnant, and she’ll probably tell you that prenatal vitamins are like a gift from the gods. Your prenatal vitamins will give you the extra iron and folic acid you need because of increased blood volume and an increase in red blood cells.

Fit and Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MDFit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.

Warning Signs You Should Stop Exercising During Pregnancy

woman running, happy woman, well-balanced lifeYour fitness practice will be most healthy for mind and body when you can see it as your individual plan without holding it up against an ideal. Try not to compare your own activity with what your best friend did when she was pregnant.

Your body will tell you how it feels; attend to those cues. Strive for balance when it comes to the reproductive process and your exercise routine, and be willing to adapt to factors in your lifestyle such as stress, work, and family dynamics. If you can avoid being rigid with your fitness program, your pregnancy and your workouts will do you much more good in body and mind.

Exercise, even vigorous exercise, is healthy for a growing fetus, provided your body is accustomed to that level of exertion. Monitor your level of effort because overexerting yourself in a workout can be problematic. If you experience bleeding, hyperventilation, blinding headache, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness, stop immediately and contact your health care provider.

warning sign, warning, dangerThere are a few conditions that point to drastically reducing or eliminating exercise, and these are nonnegotiable. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop exercising and talk to your doctor:

  • Relentless vomiting
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Severe illness (e.g., flu)
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Injuries

Other circumstances that could influence your workout efforts should be discussed with your provider at your initial visit. These conditions include:

  • Anemia
  • Arrhythmia
  • Bronchitis or asthma
  • Diabetes that isn’t well controlled
  • Morbid obesity
  • Severely low weight or BMI
  • Intrauterine growth restriction in this pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Orthopedic problems or sports injuries
  • Epilepsy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Smoking
  • Any other medical condition that makes you unsure whether exercise is okay

Fit and Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MDFit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.

Is Exercise Good for Babies?

Research shows that exercise, and even vigorous training, are safe for you throughout pregnancy. So go ahead, exhale.

Not only is a fitness practice safe, but also it will improve your health during and after pregnancy. Even better, research shows that your fitness routine or training is both safe and healthy for your growing baby. Here’s your next one-liner comeback for the doubters: “Fit mama, fit baby.” Let those words help guide your 40 weeks, not to mention the postpartum family life you’re going to build.

baby, boy, curious,

The research on the effects of exercise on fetal development has kept pace with studies of the impact of exercise on women’s bodies during pregnancy, and results show that your activity brings benefit to the baby in utero. Babies of women who were active during pregnancy tend to be leaner at birth and exhibit somewhat better neurobehavioral maturation. These babies also have lower rates of long-term weight issues at age 5 as well as slightly higher brain function during childhood.

From early pregnancy through the third trimester, a fetus can tolerate your exercise very well because a woman’s body adapts to pregnancy in a way that regulates the impact of her activity on the growing baby. For instance, your body has an improved ability to regulate your core body temperature by cooling itself through sweat and heat dispensation from your skin. Similarly, fetal heart rate can increase when you exercise, but it returns to normal after you finish working out. This and other fetal responses to your activity are temporary and have no permanent effects on the baby’s development. Regular and sustained workouts can increase the placenta’s volume in early and mid-pregnancy but have no adverse effects on any pregnancy outcomes.

Fetus, sonogram, baby, pregnancy, pregnant, ultrasound

What about intensity? Well, maintaining a fantastically sweaty and vigorous level of exercise does not carry any negative health consequences for your growing baby, either, as long as that level of exercise is familiar to you and your body. There are no significant differences in the fetal heart rate (FHR), Doppler health, birth weight, and Apgar scores among babies of vigorous versus moderate exercisers.

The upshot is that training is good for your pregnancy health, and it actually benefits your baby as well. The base you’re building for a fit pregnancy is achieved by the concept of wellness: doing what feels good to the body for the sake of mom-baby health. It’s safe and healthy to train and work out, but scale it back if you experience any of the adverse symptoms listed earlier or if you feel depleted and stressed by it to the point that it fails to enhance your general wellness. As athletes, we feel empowered by our agency over our bodies in the world, and pregnancy is no time to lose that self-possession.

Fit and Healthy Pregnancy by Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MDFit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.