How intense should my workouts be during pregnancy + after birth?

How intense should my workouts be during pregnancy + after birth?

Exercising during pregnancy and after birth can be a bit of a confusing topic.

On one hand, you want to make sure you’re not over-exerting yourself, causing yourself injury and/or doing harm to your unborn baby (if you happen to be pregnant reading this).

And, if you are pregnant with your due date in sight, and/or postnatal wanting to burn off some excess fat, you need to get a bit warm and sweaty for exercise to make a real impact on your muscles, heart and lungs.

The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) suggests pregnant women work out for a minimum of 20-30 minutes per day, on most days of the week.

And, pretty much the same guidelines apply to postnatal women after you’ve had your Doctor’s check, depending on the type of birth you’ve had and other medical issues.

WHAT INTENSITY LEVEL SHOULD I BE WORKING OUT AT?

You’re looking at a “moderate” intensity scale for pregnancy and postnatal, so this gives you an idea:

  • Level 1: I’m watching TV and hob nobs
  • Level 2: I’m comfortable and could maintain this level all day long
  • Level 3: I’m still comfortable, but am breathing a bit harder
  • Level 4: I’m sweating a little, but feel good and can carry on a conversation effortlessly
  • Level 5: I’m just above comfortable, am sweating more and can still talk easily
  • Level 6: I can still talk, but am slightly breathless
  • Level 7: I can still talk, but I don’t really want to. I’m sweating like a pig
  • Level 8: I can grunt in response to your questions and can only keep this pace for a short time period
  • Level 9: I am probably going to die
  • Level 10: I am dead

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So, “moderate” would be around 5 or 6 on the scale, depending on the fitness level you entered the environment at.

If you attend/attended my pregnancy fitness classes, you’re working at the desired level.

Any new mum who comes to Mummies and Buggies for their first class wearing a long-sleeved top instantly regrets it, because we get sweaty!

It’s not high impact I’m talking about here.  It’s safe, effective, modified exercise that gets your heart rate going.

WHY DOES THE INTENSITY LEVEL MATTER?

I’ve been teaching pregnancy and postnatal exercise for 11+ years and I’ve worked with over 1,000 mums-to-be and new mums in that time.

Many of them come back to me in their second, third and even fourth pregnancy, so I must be doing something right here.

I’d say, in the last 3 years, I’ve upped the intensity of my fitness classes considerably because:

a) it’s often the only structured pre/postnatal workout you’re actually doing each week,

b) I’ve got to make it worth your while coming out,

c) I have an obligation as a Pre/Postnatal Fitness Trainer, to get you fit for birth and beyond, and

d) I update my skills regularly to align with new research and findings

Pilates-based exercise is great for core, posture and that mind/body release, but it won’t aide much in lines of weight loss or cardiovascular fitness to enable you to withstand labour.

HOW MUCH MOVEMENT SHOULD I BE GETTING + WHY DOES IT MATTER?

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The body does cope considerably well with pregnancy, but depending on what “baggage” you’ve come to pregnancy with, will depend on how your body copes with pregnancy itself.

If I could get more women to train with me during the pre-conception phase or 1-2-1 for labour preparation as soon as they find out they’re pregnant, I’d be a lot happier.

And, it’d make my job a heck of a lot easier if you see what I mean?

If you:

  • get pain frequently,
  • you’re not moving very much during the day,
  • you’re getting breathless going upstairs,
  • you can’t carry a bag that weighs 5kg comfortably in one arm for 30 minutes without lifting your shoulder up, and
  • you’re not reaching your daily target of 10,000 steps

You’re simply not moving enough.

And, you’re probably not moving enough at the desired intensity either.

Nor, are you potentially providing certain parts of your body with the desired amount of loading to be able to withstand all of the physical demands your baby will ask of you as they get heavier and heavier and heavier.

WHAT’S THE ANSWER TO WORKING OUT MORE + MORE EFFECTIVELY?

Well, if this is NOT what your current workout is providing you:

  • Level 4: I’m sweating a little, but feel good and can carry on a conversation effortlessly
  • Level 5: I’m just above comfortable, am sweating more and can still talk easily
  • Level 6: I can still talk, but am slightly breathless

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Then, you’ll want to book on my pregnancy fitness or postnatal buggy workout classes in Lady Bay.

My Bump to Babe pregnancy fitness classes on Mondays and Wednesdays in Lady Bay provide cardio, toning, Pilates, stretching and tonnes of education about what happens to your body during pregnancy.

And, my indoor postnatal buggy classes known as Mummies and Buggies are held 11am Wednesdays in Lady Bay and provide you with toning, cardio and pelvic-floor safe workout that gets you warm and sweaty to help burn off some of those excess calories, post-birth.

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Claire Mockridge
Claire Mockridge is an Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert, Pilates Teacher and Train-the-Trainer. She's worked with over 950 pregnant and postnatal women and enjoys empowering and educating her clients on safe and effective exercise. Claire is a Health Columnist for the Nottingham Evening Post, a Health Expert for BBC Radio Nottingham, regularly writes for the national press and is the Winner of Theo Paphitis' Small Business Sunday Award.

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