Swim, Hike, Sun: How to Safely Train Outside During Your Summer Pregnancy
Listen up, pregnant people: if your doctor tells you to keep your heart rate below 80BPM and to not lift over 20 pounds, you need a new doctor.
Over the last decade or so, mountains of research have emerged about the many measurable benefits of engaging in physical activity (before) during and after pregnancy. This data disproves the outmoded advice to avoid intensity and strength training time and time again and yet – I see countless women who come in six to eight weeks postpartum who haven’t worked out since their eight week ultrasound – per the advice of their OB. Which is a shame, because when you dig into the research you’ll read how, “Exercise… is an essential element of a healthy lifestyle, and obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should encourage their patients to continue or to commence exercise as an important component of optimal health… Observational studies of women who exercise during pregnancy have shown benefits such as decreased gestational diabetes mellitus, cesarean birth and operative vaginal delivery, and postpartum recovery time. Physical activity also can be an essential factor in the prevention of depressive disorders of women in the postpartum period. Physical activity and exercise in pregnancy are associated with minimal risks and have been shown to benefit most women, although some modification to exercise routines may be necessary because of normal anatomic and physiologic changes and fetal requirements. In the absence of obstetric or medical complications or contraindications, physical activity in pregnancy is safe and desirable, and pregnant women should be encouraged to continue or to initiate safe physical activities.”
Now that we’ve covered that you should be exercising during your pregnancy, let’s discuss how you should be going about it – because as with anything, there are dos and there are do nots. And for the sake of remaining thematic, let’s talk about how you can get outside during your pregnancy! Because it’s summertime, and the livin’ is sweaty.
Just Keep Swimming
By far – swimming during your pregnancy is one of the best ways to stay safe and active – plus it feels… indescribably good. Keeping pregnant hips open and limber is a main pillar to any prenatal fitness program, and swimming is an excellent way to do just that. It’s metabolic conditioning (improving which has been shown to have long-lasting benefits for baby, too), it’s low-impact, it’s resistance training, it’s a triple whammy.
Ready, Set, Hike!
Would you believe me if I told you there is a free, all-natural, organic, super contributor to inducing labor naturally, delivering a baby productively, and making your postpartum recovery faster – and everyone on planet earth has access to it, but only a fraction of pregnant mamas actually put this power to good use?
Want to get your baby in a more optimal position for birth? Go for a walk (or in this case, a hike).
Want to get your baby down and out? Get as vertical as you can during delivery.
Want to help speed up your recovery postpartum? Lie down (and stay there as long as you can).
10/10 physicists would agree – gravity can both help and hinder your prenatal and postpartum journey, depending on whether you decide to use it to your advantage or not. And what is one of the absolute best ways to use gravity advantageously during your pregnancy? Hike.
Unlike your standard daily neighborhood walks (which are also great), hiking forces your hips to shift, lift, and adjust with every step – effectively allowing baby to jostle down toward your Main Street; getting into a more optimal position for labor and delivery. One thing to note: while pregnant, the body releases a hormone called Relaxin (yes, it’s real) to loosen, relax, and lubricate our muscles joints in preparation for birth. So as you hit the trails, be mindful of your steps and focus on keeping your footing stable.
One other thing to note: gravity is arguably the biggest reason our pelvic floors experience so much wear and tear (I see what I did there) during pregnancy. So regardless of your delivery method, you spent approximately 10 months fighting gravity to keep your insides in – which would tire out even the most well-trained pelvic floors. Which makes the lying down part during your postpartum period crucial.
Readers, I would be remiss not to emphasize that when it comes to training, just because you can, does not mean you should. It’s no surprise that pregnant people experience many physiological changes during pregnancy. From joint instability to core dysfunction to pesky (albeit mostly temporary) nerve problems – so hear me when I say: you will reap the most reward from training (even if it’s just swimming and hiking) with an informed prenatal/postpartum fitness coach. Though exercise during pregnancy is encouraged, I feel strongly that prenatal fitness should be coach-led, individualized, and supported by a trained professional.
But I digress (for now).