If the idea of training women whist they are pregnant or after they have had children gives you heart palpations, FEAR NOT! It’s not as difficult as you may imagine.
There are definitely some considerations you should take into account when working with pregnant clients, but it shouldn’t be an automatic hand-ball if you have limited experience in this area. It’s a matter of knowing the considerations and contra-indications of your client’s conditions and having the confidence to implement this knowledge when working with this group of clients.
Traditionally, women were warned against exercising whilst pregnant as it was a danger to their unborn child, however after much research in this area the benefits far outweigh the myths associated with training whilst pregnant. There are so many changes that happen to the female body whilst pregnant, not only physical changes but emotional and hormonal changes as well. If you, or anyone close to you is pregnant or a Mum, you can vouch for the crazy up and downs that pregnant women can experience.
This may include:
Extreme happiness followed by a bout of unspeakable anger and then finishing in spectacular fashion with tears about how cute that puppy was on the toilet paper commercial all in about 3.5 seconds. (ahhh what on earth just happened?!)
Bizarre food cravings at odd times of the day or night like the need to have foods that are ONLY orange in colour & flavour or pickled onions dipped in ice cream at 2am in the morning (because that is clearly the time of day that your body needs these ice cream covered pickled onions!)
Not only are pregnant woman dealing with this emotional craziness, their bodies are changing at a rapid rate as well.
Some common symptoms in the first trimester include breast tenderness, morning sickness & fatigue. Moving into the second trimester, the body will now start to undergo some major changes such as the appearance of the baby bump, the widening of the hips, the tilting of the pelvis. Some women may start to experience bladder weakness, or heartburn no matter what foods they are consuming. Then finally by the third trimester, the body will completely change. You may notice the infamous pregnant waddle, swollen feet and ankles; the splitting of the pubic symphysis, leg cramps, splitting of the abdominal wall- the list could go on and on and on.
Exercise makes you feel good!! We know this, study upon study upon study has revealed the countless benefits that exercise has in reducing aches and pains, improving and stabilising our moods (thank you endorphins), improving the effectiveness of system functions such as cardiovascular and nervous systems as well as improved self-esteem and general appearance. These are the reasons that we continually preach to our clients to motivate them to continue training.
These benefits are just as important to preach to our pregnant clientele. Pregnant women should be encouraged to continue training throughout their pregnancy but there are things that we, as PT’s need to be mindful of to keep both the mother and the babies safety at the forefront of their training programs. A low to moderate intensity training regime has a multitude of benefits to both the mother as well as the health of the unborn baby. Some of which are listed below:
- Avoid commencing a brand new fitness program for the first time whilst pregnant
- Avoiding raising the body temperature too high or exercising to the point of exhaustion
- When using weights, use lower weights with higher repetitions
- Always wear a heart monitor- keep heart rate below 140bpm as a general rule of thumb
- Extend the warm up and cool down duration for at least 10 minutes
- Change positions slowly and very carefully
- Be mindful of the trimester your client is in when working with them, and when they hit the 2nd trimester, avoid overhead exercises and isometric holds. Also avoid any exercise or position that involves your client being in a supine position in this trimester.
Some of the most beneficial exercises to prescribe to pregnant women include the following. Always keep in mind your clients previous physical activity levels.
- Strength training (dependant on intensity and your clients experience levels)
- Running (dependant on intensity and your clients experience levels)
- Pregnancy Specific Classes such as “Preggibellies” or “Pilates for Pregnancy”
- Exercise in water (swimming/water aerobics)
- Encourage your client to engage in incidental exercise such as climbing the stairs instead of taking the escalators or getting off a train two stops early instead of right at the door of the office.
Training pregnant women can be some of the most rewarding work you will do in your personal training career. As long as you stick to the recommended guidelines (as can be found on both Fitness Australia’s and Physical Activity Australia’s website). It also comes with the benefit of being able to meet the little cherub once your client finishes up and delivers their baby. The added benefit is that the rapport & trust that you have built up with this client during their pregnancy will ensure you have a client for life. These are the clients all personal trainers want.
Did you know Australian Fitness Academy offers ‘Exercise and Pregnancy Contemporary Training Guidelines’ as a workshop. You can find out more here.
Written by Ashlee Lane
Ashlee is the Academy’s VET Fitness Program Coordinator. She believes that education is key. Improving the quality of trainers from the beginning of their careers with passionate, caring and knowledgeable lecturers will set a high standard for the future of our industry.