How your core keeps you strong in pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a time of real excitement but also anxiety and change in your body. Things that aren’t usually a problem can suddenly become one. One way to ensure you keep your body strong and functional is to include regular exercise with a specially trained teacher advising you. Why? As the body changes your normal exercise routine will almost definitely need to be adapted. It is also a good idea to add in movements that will build movement patterns for motherhood. The ideal time to prepare for postural changes, lifting, feeding and moving about with a baby is in pregnancy. It may not feel like it, but you have more time and head space when pregnant than after baby comes!

Top areas to focus on:

  1. Your core. This includes your pelvic floor, lower back, lower abdominals, waist muscles. Now you don’t need to be doing hard-core ab workouts (stay away from those) but you do want to strengthen these muscles in a kinder way. They need to be strong enough to support the growing bump, your posture changes and to support your pelvis. They also need to be able to relax for labour.
  2. Shoulders are the number 1 complaint I see in classes. Whether it is from desk working or carrying another child, now is the time to tackle it. Get some release work or massage in to complement the strengthening work. Start to work out where normal should be for your shoulders so you can listen to your body. Move within it’s range to prevent further issues. The moves we use in pilates are all about working within your normal range but also strengthening and improving it.
  3. Supporting your pelvis. Yes working on your core will help with this, but there is more to it. Your gluts and inner thighs are also key. So make sure you have some exercises to target these areas.
  4. Getting up and down to the floor. This is something you will need to do a lot with a baby so it is time to get practicing. Bending over is going to hurt your back. So instead lunging, hinging and squatting are your friends.
  5. Breathing. It destresses you, it helps your pelvic floor heal, it strengthens you. There are so many benefits, getting someone to watch you breath and correct you, could be the best thing you do!

Here are some simple core strengthening and shoulder focused moves you can do on a stability ball, chair or stood.

 

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