Basics of Training
Your most common exercise questions answered, plus a great prenatal workout
Don’t cut back on fluids. The urge to urinate more often is one of those facts of pregnancy you can’t do much about; it’s caused by your expanding uterus putting pressure on your bladder. Still, you need a minimum of six to eight glasses of water a day because of your increased blood volume in the early months of pregnancy; in the later months, dehydration could trigger premature labor.
But you can do something about pesky urine leakage: Tone your pelvic-floor muscles, which control the flow of urine. In a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study of more than 83 women with pregnancy-related urinary incontinence, the group who learned how to do Kegel exercises reported significantly diminished symptoms, both during late pregnancy and postpartum.
Here’s how to do a Kegel: Contract your pelvic-floor muscles (the ones you use to stop the flow of urine) for a count of three; then release for a count of three. Repeat twice a day for a total of five minutes. Build up to 10 reps of 10-second holds.
How intense can my cardio workout be and still be safe?
Sorry — there’s no easy answer to this. Although no adverse effects of heavy workouts have been documented, many doctors contend that not enough is known about the effects of severe-intensity exercise to say it’s safe. Other experts are more liberal in their prescriptions.
So what to do? If you want to be squarely in the safe zone, monitor your efforts by using the “talk test”: If you can easily carry on a conversation while exercising, you’re working out at a level that all experts consider safe.
If you want to maintain a rigorous training regimen, follow these three rules: 1) find a care provider with whom you can work closely to ensure that your intense training isn’t harming the pregnancy; 2) be extremely attentive to eating, staying hydrated and resting properly; and 3) be ready to quickly lower your goals if training leads to excessive fatigue or other problems.
Also make sure to take some safety precautions: See guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on page 128; don’t exercise flat on your back, especially after the first trimester; don’t exercise to exhaustion; make sure to drink water before, during and after exercise; and stop exercising immediately if you feel dizzy or experience pain or bleeding.
Will chlorine in the pool harm my unborn baby?
To the contrary — chlorine helps protect you and your baby-to-be from disease-causing bacteria and other harmful organisms. Another plus for the pool: Swimming is an ideal form of exercise during pregnancy. Many women find that working out in the water, which helps support their added weight and takes the stress off swollen legs and stressed backs, is far more comfortable than exercising on land. In fact, in a study of pregnant recreational athletes conducted by researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California, the percentages of women participating in swimming increased from 9.8 percent prepregnancy to 16 percent, 19.6 percent and 25 percent, respectively, in the first, second and third trimesters.
What’s more, there are a minimum of precautions when it comes to water exercise, according to aquatics expert Jane Katz, Ed.D., who gives this advice in Water Fitness During Your Pregnancy (Human Kinetics, 1995): Don’t jump, dive or do strenuous wall push-offs, because the impact could cause uterine trauma; make sure the body of water you’re swimming in is clean; and don’t swim in overly warm or cold waters.