The Pregnant Woman’s Guide to the Gym

An hour of cardio usually flies by for me at the gym, thanks to my secret motivational strategy: watching “Law & Order” reruns on the club’s TV. I hop on the elliptical machine as the opening credits roll, and before I know it, Sam Waterston is finishing his closing argument to the jury.

At least, that was the case before I got pregnant. In my first trimester, some days, to my amazement, I’d poop out 10 minutes into the show—before the detectives even identified the body.

“Many active women are surprised at how pregnancy affects their workouts,” says Renee M. Jeffreys, M.Sc., a prenatal-fitness consultant in Milford, Conn., and co-author of Fit to Deliver (Hartley & Marks). “But remember that these are normal, short-term changes.”

So should you dial down your cardio? Are certain machines off-limits? Can you still do Pilates? The answers depend largely on what your fitness level is, which trimester you’re in and how you’re feeling, Jeffreys says. But this much is certain: The gym is a great place to be pregnant. If one cardio machine or strength exercise isn’t comfortable, there’s always another one to try.

Getting yourself to the gym may take an extra dose of motivation, but the payoff is huge. Consistent exercise during pregnancy can minimize aches and constipation, help you sleep better, and lower your risk of gestational diabetes and depression. You may even end up having a shorter, less complicated labor. Developing good workout habits during pregnancy will help you get your body back faster after delivery too.

Though my first trimester was rough going, my second was a breeze, and my third wasn’t half bad, either. With my stamina back, I’d usually make it all the way through “Law & Order” at the gym—except, I’d spend the commercial breaks in the bathroom.

Whether you take classes, work out in the cardio room or

lift weights, everything changes when you’re pregnant.

Here’s how to adapt.

Class Action

If you have access to prenatal exercise classes, sign up. Not only are the workouts modified for pregnancy, but you also get to bond with your fellow moms-to-be over charming symptoms such as heartburn, swollen feet and hemorrhoids. You might even get labor tips.

If your favorite classes don’t come in the prenatal variety, it’s fine to keep going, as long as you pay attention to how your body feels, limit your intensity and stay within the normal range of motion. Just make sure the instructor knows you’re pregnant and is knowledgeable about modifications you can make, Jeffreys advises. If your instructor hasn’t worked with pregnant women, find one who has. Keep in mind that highly choreographed classes like Step aren’t the best choices for expectant women since they require quick direction changes and a heightened sense of balance. Hereare the most common classes you’ll find at the gym and what you need to know about benefitting from them whilepregnant.

Pilates Pilates helps maintain your abdominal muscle tone, which will support your growing belly, minimize back pain and give you more oomph for pushing during labor. But mat classes can be problematic after the first trimester because so much work is done lying on your back. Either opt out of these exercises or use an angled foam spine support (found in most Pilates studios but not many gyms); this will keep your head higher than your belly. You can still do the side-lying leg work, upper-body exercises and stretches.

Yoga Yoga not only strengthens your core and improves flexibility, but with its gentle movements and emphasis on breathing and meditation, it also fosters a sense of calm. In the second half of your pregnancy, avoid exaggerated twists and movements that tug on your belly, moves that require you to lie on your back or belly for prolonged periods, and inversions like headstands and shoulder stands.

Water aerobics Ah … relief. You can’t trip and fall; you won’t overheat; and for once you won’t feel like a big clod. No wonder water aerobics is a third-trimester favorite. Your joints will thank you! Wear aqua shoes so you don’t slip on the bottom of the pool.

Safe, Effective Cardio

When it comes to cardio exercise, Fit to Deliver co-authors Karen Nordahl, M.D., an OB-GYN in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Renee Jeffreys have a rule of thumb: “If you were really active before pregnancy, stay really active. If you weren’t, now is a good time to become active.” For beginners, Nordahl recommends 30 minutes of walking three days a week.

During pregnancy you’ll need to scale back on the intensity. Gauge your intensity using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale from 0 to 10: Aim for an intensity between 3 and 5 (you should be able to talk but not belt out show tunes). Ignore heart-rate readouts on the cardio machines; since your blood volume increases during pregnancy, and your resting heart rate is considerably higher than normal, heart rate isn’t an accurate gauge of intensity.

Which cardio machine is best during pregnancy? Try them all. That way, if one becomes uncomfortable, your body will already be accustomed to the alternatives.

Treadmill Walking on the treadmill is ideal since you can control the terrain. Add moderate hills when you’re up to it; go flat when you’re not or if hills trigger calf cramps. If you’re a runner, let your body tell you when it’s time to switch to walking; nearly everyone does.

Elliptical The elliptical trainer places little stress on your joints. However, the motion may feel uncomfortable if you’re experiencing symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), apain in the front of your crotch.

Stationary bike The recumbent and upright bikes are both good options. Many women like the back support the recumbent offers, though in the third trimester your belly might get in the way of your knees.

The Right Weight Routine

Strength training is safe and one of the best ways to minimize aches and pains. Weight machines are ideal, especially for gym newbies, because they control your range of motion. “During pregnancy, your joints get looser, and it’s easy to move outside of your normal range,” says Jeffreys. However, if you’re accustomed to doing free-weight exercises, you can continue.

Steer clear of any machine with a pad that presses against your belly, such as the seated row machine or abdominal machines. In addition, forgo any overhead lift, since this kind of motion can increase the curve in your lower spine (aka hyperlordosis).

The strength routine below targets the muscles that are key to reducing discomfort during pregnancy. Do 1 or 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps for each except the Plank. Choose a weight that allows you to perform the repetitions properly and comfortably. And after the first trimester, avoid any exercise done while lying on your back.

Upper/Middle Back
Best Machines: Seated cable row, lat pulldown
Pregnancy Benefit: As your breasts get bigger, your shoulders round forward. Strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades helps counteract the slump.

Best Machine: Seated chest-press
Pregnancy Benefit: It’s important to create muscle balance in your upper body by working your pecs.

Best Machines: Biceps and triceps
Pregnancy Benefit: Strong arms. Soon you’ll be schlepping a baby, a diaper bag—and the groceries.

Lower body
Best Machines: Leg extension and seated leg-curl
Pregnancy Benefit: Your quadriceps and hamstrings bear the weight of your pregnancy as your belly grows.

Best Exercise: Plank
Pregnancy Benefit: Keeping your abs strong will help prevent pregnancy-induced back pain.
How to: Lower onto all fours so your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Lift your knees off the floor (don’t arch your back) so your body forms a straight line. Hold for 1 to 2 breaths, working up to 5 breaths.


March 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

How to Lose Weight With a Sweat Suit

You can use sweat suits, sometimes called sauna suits, to make you perspire more during exercise, maximizing the calories you burn. Wearing these suits helps to warm your body to a higher temperature and is a useful aid when trying to lose weight in an efficient, responsible manner. You should use your sweat suit while adhering to practices put in place to keep you safe and help you reach your ideal weight.

  1. Step 1

    Wear the sweat suit when exercising. Aerobic exercise or repetitive motions work best. When done with aerobic exercise, your suit’s effectiveness will be raised by making you sweat more profusely. Performing 20 to 30 minutes of continuous motion counts as aerobic exercise and wearing your suit doing this three times a week can encourage healthy weight loss. Boxers often wear these suits to lose weight quickly for fights, as well.

  2. Step 2

    Drink plenty of fluids. Whether it is drinking enough water or sports drinks, hydration of the cells in your body is an important aspect in your weight loss. Excess sweating while you are wearing the suit means that you will need to replace the liquid your body has lost. Plan on drinking at least 1 cup of non-alcoholic and decaffeinated liquids per 10 to 12 pounds of your body weight per day to stay hydrated. Drink throughout the day to provide continuous hydration, as well as whenever you feel thirsty.

  3. Step 3

    Replace vital nutrients in your body. Your body loses much of its salts and simple sugars when you perform rigorous exercise in your suit. Replace these with healthy snacks such as multigrain bars, yogurt or fruit. You can replace your body’s essential electrolyte with sports drinks and with food. Take a multivitamin to supplement your diet as your body will be “flushing” itself at accelerated rates while you wear the sweat suit.

  4. Step 4

    Get a proper fitting suit. Finding a fitting sweat suit affects more than your comfort when you are wearing it. Your range of motion, the suit’s effectiveness and the risk of injury are also tied into the fit of your suit. While you want a suit that gives you room to move your limbs freely during exercise and fit over your clothes, you should also ensure that there isn’t too much free space.

  5. Step 5

    Be aware of the risks of wearing a suit. Sweat suits can be dangerous if you don’t keep yourself hydrated. While you do lose some weight through sweating, the majority of your weight loss will be water weight. Sweat suits are effective tools when used in conjunction with diet, but should not be the center of your regimen. Avoid wearing a suit over an hour if you are not exercising in it and 30 minutes if you are exercising. If you recognize signs of dehydration, which include dizziness, headache and parched lips, don’t wear a suit at all.

February 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm Leave a comment

Exercises to Reduce Flabby Arms

Human arms are composed of three major muscle groups: biceps brachii, triceps brachii and forearm. The issue of flabby arms is typically in reference to the upper arm, where the biceps and triceps muscles reside. Exercises that work the triceps muscles will help you reduce the hanging fat you see when you raise your arm to wave. Exercises for the biceps will also help reduce the appearance of arm fat.

    Proper Form

  1. Weight-training exercises can be done using your body weight or with dumbbells. Performing these exercises with proper form will help you target the desired muscle groups. An example of improper form would be using momentum or gravity to carry you through a motion instead of using the targeted muscle. If you are a beginner, proper form should be mastered using just your body weight before adding dumbbell resistance to your exercises.

    Another key to proper form and reduction of injury is to concentrate on keeping your core engaged. Do not slouch or arch your back.

  2. Guidelines for Beginners

  3. Beginners, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.

    For the first two weeks, complete two to three different exercises for each muscle group. Do this twice a week on nonconsecutive days. Concentrate on proper form and make sure to breathe out when you lift and breathe in when you lower the weight. Complete one repetition of each exercise and stop when the muscle is fatigued. You’ll know the muscle is fatigued when you can no longer complete a repetition with proper form. Rest for 15 to 30 seconds between each repetition.

    Over the next four weeks, work your way up to two to three sets of each exercise. For each set, complete 10 to 12 repetitions of the exercise.

  4. Experienced Weight Trainers

  5. Changing your workout every 12 weeks will help encourage muscle growth. Changes can be made to the order of your exercises, the number of repetitions in each set or the exercises performed. Or use different equipment or increase the amount of weight.

    If you always do biceps curls first, hammer curls second, and 21s last, try doing them in reverse order. Supersets are another option. One superset consists of two exercises that target opposing muscle groups. An example of a superset would be to do 10 repetitions of biceps curls followed immediately by 10 repetitions of triceps extensions.

    If you’ve been doing three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for the past eight weeks, try pyramid sets for the next eight weeks. An example of a pyramid set would be doing the first set for 12 repetitions with 10 pounds of resistance, the second set for 10 repetitions with 12 pounds of resistance, and the third set for eight repetitions with 15 pounds of resistance.

  6. Triceps Exercises

  7. The following exercises can be done with or without added resistance: triceps presses, dumbbell kick-backs, dips behind back and one-arm triceps extensions.

    Exercises that require gym equipment are triceps cable press-downs, one-arm cable reverse press-downs, lying triceps extensions, close-grip presses, lying dumbbell extensions, lying cross-face triceps extensions and dips.

  8. Biceps Exercises

  9. These exercises can be done with or without added resistance: 21s, biceps curls, alternate biceps curls, concentration curls, reverse curls and hammer curls.

    Exercises that require gym equipment are standing barbell curls, preacher curls, incline dumbbell curls, lying dumbbell curls, two-handed cable curls and machine curls.

February 25, 2010 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment

How to Get Bigger Muscles Fast

  1. Step 1

    So not only do you want to know how get bigger muscles, you want to get there quickly?

    Well, welcome to everybody’s dream. We didn’t want to wait for 3 years to put on 20 – 30 pounds of muscle. We didn’t want to use steroids and HGH. One thing that we were willing to do was work hard at an intelligent plan that was based upon facts and evidence to produce outstanding results quickly and naturally.

    There was just no way, we thought, that 8 lbs of muscle is all the human body is capable of gaining per year naturally. We had all experienced much greater gains than this and we didn’t even know what we were doing. It was at this time that we decided to begin evaluating, researching, and testing products and programs to help us separate the good from the bull crap on how build muscle. What we realized is that it is quite possible to put that 8 lbs of lean muscle on in less that 10 weeks. With the right diet and training program this is within your reach too.

    We’ll give you the brief point by point rundown on what we found to be the absolute best way to body build muscle very quickly. The information can be divided into 3 categories. Nutrition, Training and Rest.

  2. Step 2

    Nutrition, it is argued, makes up at least 50% of the reason you will grow. This is the area people make there biggest mistakes and their most frequent mistakes. It is where most people fail and where most people give up. You should use those statistics to help you prepare your mind and attitude for the work that will be necessary in this area. You will need to force yourself to eat when you are not hungry. You will have to eat when you don’t feel like making something at that time. You will have to eat when it is inconvenient to do so. You’ll have to eat a lot and you’ll have to make sure you are getting the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats. Failure in this area wastes the hard work you’ve done in the gym. Here are some brief tips for your muscle building diet.

    i. Start with 16 times you body weight in calories per day. Your goal is to gain 1 – 2 lbs per week. Depending upon whether you are hitting numbers higher or lower than this adjust your calories up or down by 200 – 250 calories per day accordingly.

    ii. 3 – 4 grams of carbs per day. These will provide the energy to work your muscles harder and also provides energy for your body to break down protein into amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle.

    iii. 1 gram of protein per day per pound of body weight. Anymore than this is unnecessary. Your body is unable to breakdown and use any more than this. You should space your protein out over all of your daily meals.

    iv. Consume a good amount of essential fats. Believe it or not your have to eat fat to burn fat and you have to eat fat to build muscle. It will aid in the production of testosterone which is essential to making tremendous gains in the gym.

    v. Eat a big breakfast and then at least once every 3 hours until bed time. You should try to get a good amount of your carbs in at breakfast and before workouts. Space your calories out fairly evenly over the day’s meals. Higher calorie breakfasts and post-workout meals are also recommended.

  3. Step 3

    Training is another huge part of the muscle building plan. Your muscles will not grow if you don’t work them. Here are some simple tips to help you get huge quickly.

    i. Use exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups into one movement / lift. Squats, Dead Lifts, Military and Bench Presses, Clean and Presses, Clean and Jerks, Chin / Pull Ups, Rows, Dips etc. These will help get your workouts done faster and will build both functional and explosive strength better than any other exercises.

    ii. You should find 80% of your maximum lift ability for each exercise you do. That is your rep weight. You should be able to do 4 – 6 reps. If you can do more increase weight if you can do less decrease it.

    iii. Use super sets to get your time at the gym done quicker too. A good starting plan would be to chose 6 of the above exercises, do three sets of 4 – 6 reps of each exercise but put them in a super set to get you done quicker. Try to combine exercises into your super sets that work different muscle groups.

  4. Step 4

    Finally, rest. Be sure you always get enough sleep and don’t over do it.

    i. 3 Days per week with at least 1 day off in between is all you need to produce intense results. Workouts don’t need to last any longer than about 35 minutes. Get it, get done and get out is our gym motto.

    So, that should give you a good foundation to start from to build muscle quick. Go eat like a horse and kick some butt in the gym. Don’t forget to rest. It is then that your body will heal itself and grow.

February 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm Leave a comment

How to Stay Motivated When On a Running/jogging Program

  1. tep 1

    Define your goals – set a specific goal of weight loss or performance standard (3 miles in 30 minutes, lose 10 lbs in 30 days). Write down a plan of action to achieve that goal.

  2. Step 2

    Music – find some great music to listen to while running. The right songs can motivate, inspire and give you that little bit of extra energy to take it to the next level.

  3. Step 3

    Run with a partner or group – running with others can be motivating and fun. Find a friend who likes to run or a local running club that meets regularly for runs.

  4. Step 4

    Consider getting some of the other running gear that is available on the market: running socks, compression shorts, moisture wicking shirts, etc. These products can make a big difference in your comfort, which in turn makes you more likely to continue.

  5. Step 5

    Avoid injury – Warm up properly. Don’t press yourself too hard on any one run (you can’t do it all in one day). Listen to your body. If you have pains and aches then respond. Take a little while off, stretch properly and see a doctor, if necessary. Working through an injury can really kill your momentum so its best to take preventative measures.

  6. Step 6

    Accountability network – tell others your plans to embark on a new running challenge. Share with good friends and/or family members your specific goals and ask them to keep you on track. Knowing they are going to ask you about your training can be very compelling to make yourself follow through.

  7. Step 7

    Track your progress – It feels good to see yourself improve and increase your endurance and that will translate to continued success.

  8. Step 8

    Strive for the goal. I’ll make a promise to you. Running will (eventually) become fun. That’s why so many people do it. So keep on running!

February 23, 2010 at 6:41 pm Leave a comment

How to Properly Warm up Before Running

  1. Step 1

    Walk for at least several minutes. Never stretch cold muscles.

  2. Step 2

    Ankle rolls – shift your weight to your left foot then lift your right foot and point your toe down. Touch your toe to the ground and move your ankle in a circular motion. Rotate your ankle clockwise for a few seconds then counter-clockwise for a few seconds. Repeat on the left ankle.

  3. Step 3

    Knees/thighs – while walking, gently swing your foot up to your rear. Do this gently and smoothly to slightly stretch and warm up your thigh muscles. Alternate legs.

  4. Step 4

    Hips/glutes – while walking, gently swing your bent knee up near your chest. Alternate legs. This will loosen up your hips and rear.

  5. Step 5

    Start slow and easy – when you take your first running steps, start slow. Step easy and soft. Make your steps as light as possible, lifting your foot just enough to make the next step. This will minimize the impact on your knees allowing them to warm up.

February 22, 2010 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

How to Increase Your Running Endurance?

  1. Step 1

    Develop a run/walk schedule. Set out for a particular amount of time to exercise and do alternating periods of running and walking. For example, the target exercise time is 30 minutes. Run for 2 minutes, walk for 3 minutes and repeat 6 times. Once you can complete this comfortably, increase the running time and decrease the walking time. Strive towards 8 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking, repeating 3 times. Then work towards 14 minutes of running, 2 minutes walking, 14 minutes. This is a quick way to ramp your endurance up to 30 minutes of non-stop running.

  2. Step 2

    Focus on time, not distance. For example, rather than trying to run 3 miles, try to run for 30 minutes. Its much easier to measure and track your increases if you go by time. You can focus on improving your speed later.

  3. Step 3

    Breathe steady and consistent. Try timing your breaths with your steps. A certain number of steps during inhale and the same number of steps during exhale. Consistent breathing will provide your body with the oxygen it needs to perform. It will also drastically help your cardiovascular system improve in efficiency.

  4. Step 4

    Run on a treadmill. Treadmills require a little less physical exertion and are easier on the knees. Ramping up your time on a treadmill will make it easier for your body to adjust.

  5. Step 5

    Take a day off in between runs. Give your body time to recover. This will decrease the chance of knee, shin, ankle pain and allow your muscles to recover.

  6. Step 6

    Run only one long day per week. It takes running long distances to improve endurance but long runs can be very hard on the muscles and joints. Most long distance runners will run one long run on the weekend and several proportionally shorter runs during the week.

  7. Step 7

    Engage in non-running cardiovascular exercise on your non-running days. Examples: bicycle, swimming, elliptical machine, etc.

  8. Step 8

    Music for motivation – the right music will inspire you to push harder and go a little further.

  9. Step 9

    Stay hydrated. If you are running more than 30 minutes then consider buying a water bottle carrier that goes around your waist. Take small sips regularly throughout your run. This will do wonders for your comfort and performance on longer runs.

February 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

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