GPP When Pregnant?

Jill - 39wksby Neil Anderson

Here is a question we are getting A LOT lately, "Can I still do GPP workouts if/when I'm pregnant?  The answer is: only if you'd like to have a healthier baby, a more comfortable pregnancy, a more comfortable delivery, a faster recovery from delivery, and only if you want to snap back to your pre-baby body/mind much faster.  Oh, also if you think you'll need stamina to survive those long sleepless nights you'll likely experience after bringing your baby home. 

For the most part, things have changed when it comes to pregnancy and exercise.  16 years ago, when I first started training, there were strict guidelines about exercising with moms-to-be.  It was pretty much frowned upon.  Back then, the effects of exercise combined with pregnancy wasn't well understood.  So guidelines were skewed towards telling moms-to-be that exercise was more harmful than good.  Doctors back then used to say things like:

1. If you haven't been exercising regularly, you shouldn't start up during pregnancy.
2. If you do plan to exercise AND have been already working out regularly, you shouldn't do more than about 5-10 mins without taking a 5 min break.
3. Your heart rate should be monitored and should never be elevated above 140 BPM. That is about the pace of a brisk walk.
4. You should NEVER strain or lift heavy weights.

Many of these notions still persist today.  And although there may be specific instances where one should still follow the above precautions as per their MD's recommendations, many of these thoughts were misguided and just plain wrong.  

These days many physicians highly recommend complete exercise regimens (especially like GPP programming) to their patients.  They even say that if you have not been working out, then pregnancy is a great time to start (when isn't, right?).  But, there are precautions.  

If you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant please keep the following precautions in mind.  These will ensure the health of your baby and you while exercising. 

1.  Upon becoming pregnant it is suggested that you taper back the intensity of your workouts by approximately 30%.  Remember, as your baby grows your blood volume will increase by 30%-50%.  That is a high amount of added strain on your heart.  Slamming out a GPP workout at 100% of capacity is shooting for trouble.  

2.  Reduce the impact.  Many of our workouts call for jumping, bounding, sprinting and general jostling around.  We worry about your uterus becoming detached (among other things).  We also worry about baby becoming injured in there.  Anything that requires more bouncing than a fair paced jog isn't suggested.  Talk to a trainer to learn how to sub the recommended movements for other exercises.  We are happy to help you with this.  Or simply make up something that is similar and lower impact. 

3. Reduce the range of motion of most exercises.  Exercises that take you to your full ranges of motion (i.e. below parallel squats) should be shortened by 30% of normal.  When you become pregnant, your hormone levels change quite dramatically.  Your body increases production of hormones like relaxin, elastin, estrogen and progesterone. These hormones soften the connective tissue surrounding the joints, which is necessary to allow the your pelvic joint to expand to accommodate the baby as it passes through the pelvic inlet during birth. Yet, all of your joints such as the knees, ankles and hips are affected, too. This puts you at greater risk of injury when exercising while pregnant but is easily mitigated by following these guidelines.

4.  You should avoid ballistic movements and stretches.  Ballistic movements are when you are speedily going one direction and you quickly/forcefully change direction.  The reason for this is the same as above in #3. 

5.  You should avoid deep stretches.  It seems like we have covered this, but it bears specific attention.  The reasons are the same as #3/#4. 

6.  Avoid exercises that require you to jump through the air and recover quickly (like box jumps).  Remember, your center of gravity is changing almost weekly due to baby's growth and repositioning.  Movement patterns that you have established for jumping onto, or over things will be quite different each time this changes.  You really can't afford to fall when pregnant for obvious reasons. 

7.  Avoid exercises that require you to throw heavy, awkward, hard things through the air and catch them again as in cleaning a bar, or kettlebell juggling.  Remember, if you miss that lift and/or the KB hits you in the stomach...well,...you get it, right?

8.  During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters you should avoid lying on your back for extended periods (several minutes at a time).  This may decrease blood supply to the womb and harm your baby.

That is about it.  Everything else is, pretty much fair game.  However, you may have (a) medical condition(s) that may preclude you from participating in certain types of exercise.  Only you and your MD would know this.  Please make sure you consult your doctor for further and more specific guidelines that apply to you before storming a GPP workout.  Make sure you tell your doc what your workouts are like.  Many have never heard of how we workout.  We are happy to speak with them if you need us to.  Please write to me (FitZoner@gmail.com) if you need help.

Pregnancy is one of the most rewarding times of your life.  Adding proper exercise to this can do nothing (presuming you are healthy and have been checked out by a doc) but add to the beauty of this experience for both you and your baby.  Congratulations!