Pilates in Pregnancy, it’s a must.

I’ve been lucky enough to teach antenatal pilates for 4 years now and in that time I must have worked with over 250 ladies. I’ve also used pilates myself through 3 pregnancies and it has helped keep me strong, shown me which parts of my body needed working on and enables me to keep working and being a hands on mum throughout. The comments we get from some of our ladies are:

“If I miss a class I really notice the difference”

“My hips and pelvis ache less and I can feel the difference Pilates is making”

“Classes help to keep me strong and relaxed during pregnancy”

“I always leave feeling better than when I arrived and with exercises to use in the week”

 

Pilates with Priya: Antenatal Pilates class

 

Antenatal Pilates offers multiple benefits including, developing your natural corset to support your back and baby, helping with the changes to your posture, pelvic floor education, breathing technique, toning the muscles and, thus, helping in weight management. Practising Pilates on a regular basis can improve posture, alleviate backaches, and, ultimately, help with labour and delivery. It can even help the baby rotate in the optimal position. I tend to have a format where I use a mixture of functional exercises that help in daily living, for example moves you will need to bend, lift, rotate, get to the floor, release stretches for the areas I know get tight as pregnancy progresses, core strengthening exercises and some move to help in labour and for baby positioning.

CAT

Lets look at some of the changes that happen in pregnancy:

1. Breathlessness:

There is around 15-20% increase in oxygen consumption during pregnancy. The breathing rate will stay the same, but an expecting mum will breathe more deeply each time. The changes in the blood vessels caused by the hormonal changes together with the changed position of the ribcage and diaphragm may make a mum-to-be feel breathless at times.

The breathing we use in Pilates helps make an expecting mum’s breathing more efficient. Focusing on breathing in an antenatal class also has a relaxing and calming effect which can then be used in labour.

2. Muscle, ligament, joint and postural adaptations: 

Hormonal changes during pregnancy have an effect on muscles, ligaments and joints. There can be more movement, stretching and instability. A safe pregnancy pilates class will help you exercise within a safe range of movement and strengthen the supporting muscles. It can really help with conditions such as SPD/pelvic girdle pain.

3. Core Strength:

Pilates exercises focus on core stability, and pelvic stability. This obviously helps keep the abdominals strengthened  but it also can help keep your pelvis in good alignment and reduce pelvic girdle pain.

4.Posture:

Pregnancy affects posture as the centre of gravity shifts. Some women adopt a posterior pelvic tilt (tucked under) with a flat lower back, whilst others adopt an anterior tilt (bum stuck out) with an increased curve in the lower back. Either way it is not helpful for the body. Knowing about neutral posture will help you correct this in day to day life and pilates will provide you will a range of exercises to strengthen the right muscles.

So if you are pregnant, antenatal Pilates with a specialist teacher is a MUST. If you can’t get to a class or want something to use in between sessions check out my specialst Bump to Birth DVD.

Exercises for combatting rounded shoulders.

Shoulders are one of my picky points. Why? Well firstly because I have had to really work on mine. They have always been a sticking point for me, I remember a Pilates teacher walking down the road with me once saying “Shoulders down” every 2 steps! Carrying, feeding and rocking babies always affects my shoulders and upper back. So I guess you could say I’m a bit picky about shoulders as I know how much it poor posture in this area can affect you.

I would encourage you to look in the mirror at your posture, side on and front on.

1. Are your shoulders level?

2. Are your shoulders rounded?

3. Can you slide your shoulders further down in your spine, so are they too far up towards your ears?

4. Do you stick your ribcage forward? (Ladies, no boob thrusting is needed!)

Here are some exercises to help you strengthen your upper back and focus on your shoulders.

Really good if you sit at a desk for some time and know your shoulderes are suffering. Also brilliant for mums who are feeding, carrying, rocking babies and babywearing.

How to stay on top of cooking healthy meals

The craziness of 2 small children and teaching classes at times others would eat means I HAVE to be ultra-organised about our meals. It’s that or live off beans on toast, which wouldn’t be very considerate for my Pilates classes 😉

So if you also have a busy lifestyle, if you are cooking around young ones or if you are wanting to save a few pennies… read on for my top tips.

Pilates with Priya: Top Tips for Healthy Meals

My top tips:

  1. Meal Planning really does work. We have a whiteboard in our kitchen and I plan out our evening meals and some of our lunches too.
  2. Use your meal plan to shop and prepare in advance. When you have a quieter day chop up some veggies in advance for example, or boil a pile of eggs for lunches, make hummus or cook a meal to get ahead.
  3. Cook in bulk when you can. If you are doing a casserole, chilli, bolognaise, soup or freezable meal cook double and freeze it. This saves me on a regular basis on days things go wrong and I realise I’ve no time to cook!
  4. You don’t have to wait until dinner time to cook. I often end up cooking our evening meal in the morning, as that’s when I have a gap in my day. It can be quite satisfying knowing dinner is already cooked!
  5. Embrace the slow cooker love. The beauty of this is you can prep it the night before and keep it in the fridge, then switch it on in the morning and by evening you have a cooked meal, often with leftovers to freeze. See my slow cooker recipes here or my pinterest board with over 50 ideas.
  6. Have a day a week you use up the leftovers. Put them on a pizza, add to pasta, put veggies in a frittata or stir fry… it may not be a standard recipe but it can save you time, money and is inventive! See Love Food, Hate Waste for top tips and recipes.
  7. Have some emergency meals in your stores. Baked potatoes can be cooked in the microwave in 10 minutes, add tuna and sweetcorn with some chopped veggies and you have a meal. We always have a jar of pesto ready for that emergency pasta dish and frozen veggies.

What are your top tips or recipes?

For more recipes pop to Dietitian UK.

Nutrition in Pregnancy: What to Eat.

Diet in pregnancy is key. What you eat in that time will influence the growth and development of baby not only whilst it is in your womb but for the rest of it’s life. It is therefore a pretty big responsibilty to eat well isn’t it. Research shows us the risk of chronic diseases can be influenced this early on by the mum’s diet – we are talking type 2 diabetes, obesity and some inflammatory diseases, so it’s pretty important stuff. Your baby’s tastes can also be influenced by what you are eating, which makes sense seeing as they are getting their nutrition from you. Here are some top tips on how to ensure your diet is well balanced and keeps both mum and baby in tip top condition.

Nutrition in Pregnancy -What to Eat.

Eating for 2?
A myth, sadly! You actually don’t need to eat as much extra as you may think when pregnanct. Many people I meet use pregnancy as a chance to over indulge. It’s almost a green light for chocolate and biscuits. However the body actually adapts in pregnancy by either absorbing more from food or by decreasing the amount of nutrients lost. It’s a very clever system, which means you don’t need to be eating much more at all when pregnant. For example non-haem iron (from plant sources) is absorbed better and less iron is lost as menstruation does not occur in pregnancy. For some nutrients such as calcium the increased amount needed for the baby is met extra calcium being released from the mum’s bones.

You will need the equivalent of an extra slice of toast and a banana in the last trimester of pregnancy, but that is about all. The best thing is to eat according to appetite, sticking to healthy, nutritious foods. It is also good to not deprive yourself, so the odd treat is still allowed! I used to have a soft spot for Crunchie’s when pregnant 😉

Key nutrients to focus on are:
Folate – extra 400µg per day for first 12 weeks of pregnancy and during conception.
Vitamin D – 10µg per day throughout pregnancy
Vitamin C – extra 10µg/day in last trimester
Vitamin A – caution, 100µg/day only, some vitamin supplements will be unsuitable in pregnancy as they contain too much Vitamin A.

Iron – eat plenty of iron rich foods. Good sources are red meat, green leafy veggies, dried fruit, beans and pulses, nuts, seeds and fortified breakfast cereals. Try a lentil bolognaise with plenty of green veggies or make some hummus with chickpeas and tahini.

Calcium – include good sources of this 3-4 times a day (yoghurt, milk, ovaltine, ready brek, dried fruit, rice pudding, custard, sesame seeds, gree leafy vegetables, fish with small bones). Why not make a smoothie with fresh fruit and yoghurt.
Omega 3’s – eat 1 x 140g portion of oily fish per week – salmon, fresh tuna, haddock, trout, mackerel, pilchards, kippers and sardines. You could make a fish pate or try sardines in tomato sauce on a baked potato.

Plan to Eat:
At least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day
Starchy carbohydrates at each meal – focus on wholegrains
Iron rich foods each day
3-4 calcium foods a day (yoghurt, milk, cheese, rice pudding, custard, sesame seeds, green leafy veggies, ready brek)
Oily fish once a week
Lean protein daily

Top Tips for getting through the first 3 months with baby.

Having a baby is a massive change and a massive strain physically, emotionally and mentally! It’s so completely worth it but it really is one of those times in life when you need as much help as you can get.

Bump to Birth Pilates: Survivig the first 3 months.

Having had 2 babies now I thought I would share my top tips for surviving those first few months:

  • Stock up your freezer before you give birth with healthy, nutritious meals, so you don’t have to worry about cooking every day. Use online shopping – it means you can shop when you want and have it delivered.
  • Buy in easy to make and eat snacks and foods – for example items to make sandwiches with, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, nut butters, eggs, baked beans, tuna, ham, cheese, cereal.
  • If friends offer to help ask them to prepare you a meal or come and help by hanging out the washing or holding baby whilst you sleep.
  • Nap when the baby naps – this can be hard to do as there is so much else to catch up on but sleep really is important.
  • Get out and get some fresh air daily, even if its just a 10 minute walk, it will boost your mood and keep you active. When you are ready try a postnatal exercise class or DVD like our one here.
  • Make sure you don’t skip meals and that you drink plenty of fluids. Include wholegrain starchy carbohydrate and plenty of fruit on vegetables in your diet as well as protein. You need to keep your energy levels up.
  • Try and get in tune with your baby and their needs. Usually they will form their own little routine of eating, being awake and active then sleeping. Along with nappy changes of course!
  • Try not to fit too much into a day. It can overstimulate baby and tire you out too! Not a great combination.
  • Remember to look after YOU – find some time for something to do without baby each week.

I hope that gives you some tips. Being a mum is the best and the hardest job 🙂

How to pick up your baby with perfect posture.

Having a new baby means you really don’t spend much time thinking about yourself. It’s all about looking after that new precious bundle of love. Whilst that is so, so important it can mean that things like your posture quickly slip and a few months down the line you end up with back, neck or shoulder issues. One of the key things that can go wrong is lifting baby from the floor. It’s something that mums do all the time so important to get right. Here I demonstrate 2 ways to safely pick up your baby, using my baby as an example.

Postnatal Hair Loss, how to look after those locks.

One of the lovely side effects I had during pregnancy was to have thicker, faster growing hair. My hairdresser was always amazed when she saw me yet again for a trim.

This extra hair growth that some ladies see is due to the hormone levels, specifically the oestrogen. Hair has a cycle of growth and loss. Usually we lose about 100 hairs a day, however in pregnancy this hair loss can be reduced giving you those extra lush locks. All good things must come to an end however and as the oestrogen levels drop so must the extra hair. It is not uncommon for clumps or handfuls of hair to come out when you are brushing or washing it. So do not panic! Your hair will go back to how it was pre-pregnancy, you will not be bald (phew).

For some mums this will happen from birth and for others it will be when breastfeeding stops.

Pilates with Priya: postnatal hair loss

Top Tips:
1. Be kind to your hair, don’t was it excessively (as if you have time to with a baby!) and be gentle when styling it.
2. Try to stay away from hair dryers and straighteners, chemicals and treatments for a while.
3. Take a postnatal vitamins and eat a healthy balanced diet. Essential fatty acids are needed for hair to grow strong and healthy so no low fat diets.
4. Talk to your health visitor or GP is you feel the hair loss is excessive as it could be a sign something else is not quite right.

Top 3 Pilates Errors and how to correct them.

Losing the Baby Weight Week 6: my first training session.

So I’ve reached the 6 week post baby place. This is usually when you get an appointment with your GP and hopefully are given the green light to exercise. In my GP surgery the 6 week check is carried out at 8 weeks. Fortunately as a specialist in the antenatal and postnatal fitness arena I know what exercise is safe to do at this stage, so this weekend I made a start. I’d love to go for a run and do some high impact work, but I’m very aware that my core is not as strong as I’d like it to be yet and my pelvic floor is still regaining strength. Also Relaxin is still in my system making my joints prone to overstretching. So I’m being patient and holding back. Doing high impact activites such as running, jumping, aerobics can put extra strain on your pelvic floor and joints. So my thoughts and advice are to take it easy and go for low impact options after birth until you have regained some core strength first, this is like your foundation for all other exercise.  My Exercise this week: I’m doing some Pilates pretty much everyday. Just 15 minutes is really making a difference and I am now so much stronger than I was. I’m loving 1/2 roll ups, swimming in hands and knees and shoulder bridges with knee folds. I’ve even done a bit of Pilates with baby asleep in the sling 😉 Hard work indeed!

Pilates with Priya: Pilates with a Sling

At the weekend I did my first weights session. I focused on squats, lunges, chest presses, shoulder rows and modified press ups. My toddler joined me with her imaginery weights and baby kicked along to the music on his playmat. Exercising with children can be done! It was nice to feel my muscles the next day! Walking is key for me too, I’m making sure I get a walk in 3 time a week, usually this is with baby in the sling or pushing the baby and toddler in the buggy – both make for a good workout 🙂

3 Band Exercises to Tone and Tighten