Your Fit Pregnancy: The benefits of a mindful approach to exercise

We’re so excited to announce our first Ovia Guest Expert series! Meet FitBump founder Kira Kohrherr. An AFAA certified and ACE pre/postnatal certified personal trainer, she has over 15 years experience and works with moms to maintain fit, healthy pregnancies. A 21X Half-Marathoner and 4X Marathoner, Kira is pregnant with her first child, due in August 2016. Read on to find out how Kira approached fitness in her pregnancy and how you can have a healthy, mindful pregnancy, too!

Whether I knew it or not, fitness has always been a part of my life. I grew up on a farm where playtime involved exploration in the form of running, jumping, or climbing. When I took an early interest in basketball, my father built me an indoor half court in our barn. As an adult, I began running races from 5ks to marathons and signed up for crazy competitions with names like “Civilian Military Combine.” (Yes, it’s exactly like it sounds.) I viewed pregnancy as my next great athletic challenge, but this was unknown territory. And unlike training for a marathon, where you knew the physical obstacles ahead of you (Tight hamstrings! Sore quads!), I was entering a realm with a lot of question marks. At the top of my list: what were the true benefits of prenatal exercise?

FITNESS &  PREGNANCY: THE BENEFITS CONTINUE GROW

A recent study at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences measured the outcome of exercise on common pregnancy complaints. This blind study showed that participation in regular group exercise during pregnancy contributed to improvements in some areas related to maternal well-being and quality of life. Women who exercised regularly had significantly better results and reported less nausea/vomiting as well as a reduction in poor circulation in the lower extremities. Added benefits listed were less fatigue and feelings related to sadness, hopelessness and anxiety.

Putting this theory to test, at the beginning of my pregnancy, there was one week where I experienced a bit of mild nausea and fatigue. I switched my workout schedule to an early morning routine and within four days, my symptoms had alleviated, and by the following week, were gone all together. Every pregnancy is different, but sometimes a simple workout adjustment can go a long way.

More studies are also exploring not just short-term benefits for mom, but long-term benefits for baby-to- be. A 2016 study from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University in Houston reported that mice offspring of active parents were just as active as mom throughout adolescence. Although it’s a long way to go from mouse to human, your choices now may have extended benefits to your family unit. For someone who can envision backyard obstacle courses and mini family triathlons, I’m ready to buy into this theory!

A MINDFUL APPROACH TO EXERCISE

Exercise and exercise science are continuously evolving. There have been numerous studies outlining the physical and mental health benefits of strength training, yoga and aerobic/cardio exercise during pregnancy. As the case supporting prenatal fitness continues to grow, the new question becomes, “What type of exercise during pregnancy is right for me?”

This is where mindfulness is key. The general rule of thumb is to stick with what you’ve been doing prior to pregnancy. Now might not be the time to experiment with a new routine, but instead modify and supplement where it makes sense. With all of the changes happening in your body, take an assessment of your current programming. Cycling is a great low impact cardio exercise; however, if you are prone to tight hip flexors, you may want to offset that with yoga classes or walking to alleviate some of the tightness in preparation for labor and delivery.

I had been looking forward to pregnancy as the biggest athletic event of my life. The ultimate challenge. Something to strategically tackle and conquer, like chasing my next best race time. But as my body changes each week, my mindset has shifted. There are many things I can still do, but things that I think twice about. Just because I can do it, should I?

For me, my modified routine includes run/walk intervals, HIIT training without plyometrics, prenatal yoga, and a focus on upper back openers and lower back strengtheners. I was pleasantly surprised that my strength and cardio have remained on par with my pre-pregnancy levels; however, it’s disappointing that running isn’t as easy as I’d like it to be. I thought I’d be that woman who didn’t experience pelvic pressure when hitting the road, but the humanness of the body is very humbling and eye opening.

To get that zone-out, Zen fix that I usually achieved on my runs, I’ve ve also added daily meditation that involves visualization of the finish line – with a much better prize than a race medal.

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