Core Exercises for Pregnancy

Thursday, October 15, 2015
Good morning! How is everyone? We are happy happy over here. Mostly because Thursday is Aria's "nasty sticks" class. That's gymnastics for anyone who doesn't speak Aria. 

I had a simple pink and green breakfast this morning. Sometimes you just need a little color in your morning.

Avocado, radish, spinach, sourdough toast
Aria (after eating 2 of her own breakfasts) walked over and peeked on the table at my breakfast. Then in the cutest of cute voices said "Oh peese mama, can I have some?" while doing the "please" sign.

I just can't say no to that.

Even though she speaks in sentences now, she still signs the words she learned as a baby. I love it.

After breakfast we got dressed and I of coarse wore my uniform...leggings and a sweater.
Leggings all day long.

People keep telling me that because I'm 33, I can't wear leggings out of the house anymore. That's insane. I mean, there's a 70% chance that at any time I could break into a run, some yoga, or another workout of some sort. Leggings are a necessity!

And of course theres my absolute disdain for real pants. That too.

I have been thinking a lot about core work and stabilization the past 6 weeks, because of the pelvic injury I've been dealing with, how painful and limiting it has been and because it could have been prevented. 

Three months prior to my first pregnancy, I had just finished spending a year training for Ironman. That entire year, I was swimming, biking and running enough hours a week for it to be a second job. I was in the best shape of my life. I felt like I was entering into pregnancy in the best possible place and giving my baby and my body all the right things.

I had a strong pregnancy, continuing to swim, bike, run throughout until the day I went into labor. I even raced 5 times through that pregnancy.
The entire pregnancy I neglected to do any core training. Zero. I didn't know any better.

After having my daughter I was so eager to get back to training, that as soon as I felt good enough, I jumped right back into running. I didn't bother to start with strengthening the core, that had done so much hard work the past 10 months and that I had been unknowingly neglecting. I didn't take care to let it heal and rest for the appropriate amount of time. I didn't properly build back up any of the strength I had lost, nor did I allow the muscles that had been working so hard to overcompensate for the ones that were not activating, to heal while reactivating the others.
Again...I didn't know any better.

The incredibly weak internal core, and an incredibly painful pelvic injury that has resurfaced in this pregnancy. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your core during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is an optimal time to ensure that you are doing some core training. The muscles of your core stabilize your entire body and create a strong, protected area for your baby. As our bodies change throughout pregnancy, the increasing weight in the midsection coupled with the hormones relaxing our joints throughout the body, put a lot of extra stress on the spine and pelvis. This can not only lead to discomfort, but it sets the stage for a chain reaction of muscles overcompensating to correct the imbalance, leaving your core weak and vulnerable.

The thing about it is, it's also easy to do! It just takes a little bit of time every day and a few exercises!

This time around I am paying special attention to my core! Strengthening, stabilizing and stretching. It has already helped me out of the hole of this injury, which is amazing because I'm not getting any smaller right now and because the hormones in my body are still extremely present. Which means, that even with all of the added stress of pregnancy, the exercises are doing exactly what they are supposed to.
All of the training and certifications I worked for, these past 2 years have really opened my eyes and given me the tools to help myself and help other women...and I love it.

Your core is essentially a box made up of your diaphragm, transverse abdominus and your pelvic floor.


The diaphragm is essential for maintaining appropriate intra-abdominal pressure, which is a primary ingredient to a functional core (Fit for Birth). A strong functional diaphragm enables the other core muscles to activate properly and strongly.

Transverse Abdominus

The TVA is the deepest of the four abdominal layers. Think of it as a corset on either side of your abdomen. When functioning properly, it stabilizes the spine and entire core.

Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor muscles form the bottom of the core box, supporting the uterus, vagina, bladder, bowels and inner organs of the abdomen. Additionally, the pelvic floor can indirectly cause sacroiliac joint pain, when not functioning properly (Fit for Birth).

Below are a couple of my favorite core strengthening exercises for pregnancy that you can do any time, anywhere! They are easy and appropriate for any level of fitness!

Diaphragmatic Breathing - Begin by laying comfortably on your back, with your knees bent and your head supported by a pillow. This position is generally the easiest to learn the proper technique because you can see and feel the rising and falling of the belly and ribcage easily. Place one hand on your upper abdomen below your sternum. Breathe in deeply and take notice of your hand rising and your belly expanding. Your ribcage should also expand during the inhalation.
Exhale slowly, feeling your belly and rib cage relax into a resting position.

Once you feel comfortable breathing using your diaphragm in a laying position, move to seated position and standing. Practice for 1 -2 minutes a few times a day.

This exercise may not seem like a lot, but it engages and activates your entire core. Your diaphragm also regulates the entire musculoskeletal system, gastro-intestinal system, hormonal system and central nervous system (Fit for Birth). All important parts of your body to have working properly when you are nourishing a baby!

Cat/Cow - Begin on your hands and knees, with your arms directly under your shoulders, planted on the ground, and your knees hips width (or more, depending on how pregnant you are and what's comfortable) apart, directly under your hips with a flat back.

As you inhale, arch your back, reaching your tailbone upwards and your chest forwards, allowing your head to gaze forward softly (cow).
As you exhale, round your spine towards the sky, using your breath to gently pull your baby up towards you, allowing your head to follow your spine (cat).

Start with 5 rounds. You can do this a few times a day.

Squats - "Squat 300 times a day and you are going to give birth quickly" - Ina May Gaskin

Heck yea!

Squats can be done holding on to an object for support or on your own. Both are very beneficial, so do what's comfortable for you.

Stand with feet a shoulder width or more (depending on what is comfortable) apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles and relax your shoulders, while lowering your tailbone to the floor (as if you were trying to sit down in a chair). Lower to about halfway between your standing height, and the floor and pause there for a count of 5 -10 seconds. Lift slowly and bring the rest of your body into alignment. Start with one set of 10 repetitions. As you get stronger and are able to hold the pose longer, increase your time.

Wall slides -Position yourself with your back against a wall, with your feet a little bit forward, leaning against the wall. Inhale as you lower into a sitting position, then exhale as you push back up. Start with 15 reps.

One Leg Balance - Stand with feet hips distance apart and arms on your hips, or stretched out on each side, like an airplane. Lift one foot slightly off the ground and move it forwards out in front of you, then out to the side, then back behind you, while balancing on the other. Switch legs.

During pregnancy your center of gravity shifts. Be mindful of that and do this exercise only if you are comfortably balanced on one foot.

You can start with 10 reps on each side.

Birth Ball - Just sitting on your birth ball, rather than in a chair or on a couch is fantastic for your core! Sitting on the birth ball encourage you to assume the proper posture, engaging your core and back muscles without even thinking about it. Make it a normal routine to sit on it at home, and you could even take it to work if your workspace allows for it!

Enjoy the day friends! We are off for a long walk to the park.

Disclaimer: This information is derived from experience and training as a certified Personal trainer, a certified Fit for Birth Pre and Postnatal Exercise Specialist, a doula, and my own experience as an athlete. Always consult your doctor or midwife before starting a new exercise program. 

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