Running, Heavy Lifting and High Impact Exercise in Pregnancy

Recently I have been asked questions about continuing to lift heavy, run and do high intensity exercises while pregnant.

I came across an article about one of these training modalities and pregnancy. It was brilliantly written and had great information around all stages in pregnancy. However, I was a little disappointed that the pelvic floor/core was not discussed and the possible complications of this training could have on the pregnant mum and in those early post natal months so that the mum had a more complete picture when making her decision. Also no mention of what professionals to engage for guidance IF you want to continue these kinds of training.

No, we do not have to be wrapped in cotton wool during pregnancy, we have to be empowered with the knowledge to make the best decision for ourselves and our bodies longevity! 

If a pregnant mum wanted to continue running, heavy lifting and do high impact exercise, my questions would be;

1.     Do you know how your pelvic floor and core was functioning prior to falling pregnant or where it is at NOW?

2.     If you choose to continue doing this type of training, are you regularly being monitored by a women’s health physiotherapist (WHP) and being coached by a fitness professional who is experienced in pre natal training?

3.     Are you paying attention to how your body is that day, before you start to exercise and willing to make modifications based on your appraisal of yourself?

If the answers are yes, yes and yes - GREAT. WHP recommendations are that this is the right training for you based on YOUR body. Your fitness professional makes the modifications for each stage of pregnancy based on how show up to the session that day and understands the pelvic floor/core and how to use it in exercises, then awesome keep going. You are clearly training using your intuition, listening to your body and have sought the right professional help.

If the answers are no, no and no (or even a couple of no’s) then I would say that maybe we need to look at what more information you need, to make the right decision for you. A decision that is not just based on the argument, “I was doing it before so therefore it is safe for me”. Perhaps you are training with an expectation of what you think you should be doing, and what others expect you to continue doing. 

Over 90% of the women I have trained, including myself in my first pregnancy would have fallen in the no, no and no category.

Here are (some) of things to consider;

Your pelvic floor will have to stretch to accommodate the baby sitting on top of it, so it is already loaded (think of an elastic band stretched apart).

If you do not know how to properly use your pelvic floor, core and use your breath when performing exercises, what could be happening is that when under load from external weight there could be bearing down on, the already stretched pelvic floor resulting in an increased risk of dysfunction like incontinence and prolapse post birth or in pregnancy.

As the baby grows the linea alba down the midline or (connective tissue that connects the 'six pack abs') has to stretch to cater for the little human growing inside of you.

Similar to the above if you have no awareness of what is going on down there, you could be exacerbating an already weak and stretched midline, which is all connected to how the pelvic floor will function. You could be creating more of a separation which may result in rectus diastasis. Where there is a rectus diastasis there is a high chance there is a pelvic floor dysfunction like incontinence.

Hormonal changes and lifestyle factors will create change in the body, affecting the way it functions, and will affect the way the tissue in the body will perform.

How much water have you had? Did you drink and move, really HOW hydrated are the tissues in your body?

How much sleep have you had? Has your body had the chance to both physically and mentally repair?

What does your nutrition look like? Have you eaten to combat the oxidative stress levels in your body, have you eaten to repair and nourish the tissues? Have you eaten to reduce the inflammation in your body? Have you eaten enough to give YOUR body enough nutrients after the little human takes what it needs? Remember your body is HARD at work creating that little human.

How connected are you to your friends and family?  Have you had a fight with your partner? Do you have issues with a colleague from work? All of this adds to stress on the body.

What has your movement looked like that day? Have you been feeling sick and lying on the couch all day? Have you been sitting at your desk all day? Have you been doing repetitive movement? Is your body moving with efficiently? What is your posture like?

How many stressors do you have stacking on top of each other? How do you really feel emotionally today? How are you managing the stress levels in your life?

ALL of the above helps us understand are we ready for the work out we are about to do.

If you have all the information, are you making the right decision for YOUR body? Are you seeking help and guidance from the right professionals?

Are you giving yourself the best chance of recovery post birth so that you can get back to what you want to be doing without any complications and set backs?

Are you choosing to listen to what your body is trying to tell you?

Let me tell you, the two to three year period that you have to put yourself first (including your pregnancy), to really consider if you are making the right decision, is like a moment in time.

It pales into insignificance to if you were to end up with a dysfunction like a hernia or a prolapse that will have to manage and live with for life, even if you have surgery you will still need to manage it in order not to relapse – you do not want to have to deal with this on a mental or physical level if you can prevent it, trust me I know, I live with prolapse.

The emotional toll it takes on a woman who was so physically fit and active before who LOVES this kind of training is not pretty, especially if they can not see the alternatives of what they could be doing and are stuck only on what they can not be doing.

Do yourself a favour empower yourself with the right knowledge, so you can continue to live the life you want to be living for the rest of your life.