#002 – Exercising During Pregnancy

 In FWF Podcast

I brush up on my ‘mackem’ and chat to fitness entrepreneur Katie Bulmer-Cooke, who dishes out her top tips on exercise during pregnancy

Words by: PHILIPPA HENNESSY

With baby number two due on Christmas Day, you’d forgive BBC’s 1 The Apprentice candidate in 2014, Katie Bulmer-Cooke, for putting her feet up, but not this hardworking northern lass. Dividing her time between caring for her eight-year-old daughter with personal fitness training in her hometown of Sunderland (both in person and online) and professional speaking and presenting, on top of running her sport and fitness management company, powah.com, she’s mastered the art of juggling her family and career.  

Here, I probe her about pre and post natal fitness for new mums and mums-to-be.  Having been closely involved with my wife’s pregnancies and sympathetic to her weight woes, I can say, that although some of what you should and shouldn’t do comes down to common sense, staying fit ‘Katie’s way’ when you’re carrying a bump is more than this and, judging from a glowing  full-termer, has evidently been tried and tested.

“There are things which change in pregnancy you can’t do anything about, but you can prevent excessive weight gain by making simple adjustments to your diet to get the nutrients you need and, of course, by exercising.  Staying fit can make you feel so much better about yourself which makes it easier to cope with your emotions and the many transformations your body is undergoing.

“The key to exercising during pregnancy is to keep active and listen to your body, particularly towards the end of the second and third trimester. If you’re tired, put your feet up,” she stresses. “Keep yourself ticking along with anything like walking and swimming. You can still do resistance training but consider your breathing – if you’re struggling to breathe comfortably then it’s time to pull back a little and work in your comfort zone.”

Read on for Katie’s guide to safe exercising with bump, baby and beyond… 

ADAPT YOUR TRAINING 

  • Trimester 1 (up to 12 weeks)  If it feels okay, you can continue with your normal exercise regime. 
  • Trimester 2 (13 to 28 weeks)  This is when big changes start to take place, especially in the second half.  To avoid straining your joints, reduce the weights, using ones that feel light and moderate to you, rather then heavy. And, take a wider stance when squatting. 

STAY WITHIN YOUR MEANS!

  • Trimester 3 (29 weeks to 40)  You’ll now have a large bump to consider which is pulling your center of gravity forward and restricting your range of movement. Your blood volume will significantly increase and also your heart rate, causing shortness of breath. Weight training is still good to do, as long as you’re not having to hold your breath and, make sure you lift them up from the bench, not the floor.  Don’t push yourself – this is not a time to achieve your personal best.

Stretching and strengthening exercises that improves your cardiovascular system will give you more energy should you have a long labour.

AVOID CORE EXERCISES… in the traditional sense 

  • Sit-ups or crunches: As your bump grows, your rectus abdominis – the front ab muscles that make up then six-pack – lengthen and then separate to allow your bump to come grow through the middle – resulting in them becoming weaker and less effective at supporting and moving your body.  
  • Planks: These will always elevate your blood pressure, so are not advisable.

PREVENT A POOR PELVIC FLOOR

Being pregnant and giving birth stretches the muscles of your pelvic floor – the muscles that keep your bladder closed. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can’t stop your bladder from leaking.  You can train your pelvic floor just sitting on your chair – doing it as often as you can throughout each stage of pregnancy and beyond.

How to:

  1. Take a breath in through your nose and as you breathe out, imagine you’re stopping yourself from passing wind.
  2. Pull up at the back, as if to stop yourself passing water.
  3. Pull up at the front and draw you’re belly button in towards your back, breathe in and relax all three.
  4. Just remember ‘wind, water, belly button’.

POST-BIRTH

Again, listen to your body and, what exercises you can do, depend on what kind of delivery you’ve had.  Start the pelvic floor exercises straight away. And, if you’re up for a stroll around the park with the pram, then go for it.  

If you’ve had a normal delivery, you can start thinking about returning to exercise after six to eight weeks.

If you’ve had a C-section, you can normally resume exercise by about 12 weeks. 

      *Don’t start exercising until your GP has given you the go-ahead*

Approach your return to mainstream training with caution – take your time – your body has been through the most incredible thing and has spent nine months adapting.

BABY STEPS

1 ‘Wind, water and belly button.’

2 Ease yourself back into training, doing a little bit at a time, gradually building it up with body weight exercises, walking and swimming.  

Everyone’s different but very few post-birth tummies spring back to their former glory instantly and it can take up to a year to get back to your former self. It’s not advisable to rush straight back into a circuits class, yet something like Pilates or yoga is great. And of course, a good diet.

So, there you have it – first-hand from the expert herself.  If you still have unanswered questions about pregnancy exercise, then check out her website, katiebulmer.com.

With a couple of minutes left before my interview with Katie wraps up, I can’t resist asking her one final question – completely pregnancy unrelated:

Q: What did you learn from your time on The Apprentice?

A: I learned a lot about myself – when you work on your own, you don’t have anyone as your yardstick to compare yourself to. You don’t always know what your strengths are and I discovered that I’m a good team player and that you don’t necessarily have to study business at university to be good at business.

If her boardroom success under the watchful eye of Sir Alan Sugar, isn’t on its own, a shining example of her natural aptitude for business, her life after The Apprentice most certainly is… for Katie Bulmer-Cooke (“that’s Cooke with an ‘e’ because it’s posher”) is going from strength to strength.

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