Better Bodies

Helene Ahlson – Training During Pregnancy Part 1

Helene Ahlson has been a Better Bodies ambassador for more than ten years. We have followed her journey during all these years and now Helene is facing a new chapter of her life as she is expecting a child. Pregnant or not, Helene is sticking to her training centered lifestyle and here she shares some of her own tips for training during pregnancy.

A year ago I didn't expect this to happen. I was in the middle of my career with figure competitions, my own business as a Personal Trainer, Fitness coach, model, TV / movie jobs, and hosting training camps all over the world.

At that moment my path was crossed by a person with the biggest heart and a personality I could not let go of. And now I'm here... more than half way through my first pregnancy, which of course feels amazing!

I'd like to share some of my experiences so far and som previous knowledge that I have when it comes to training during pregnancy.

HeleneP2-960x1280

Even though this is my first own pregnancy I have as apersonal trainer trained and helped many women both during and after pregnancy.

A pregnancy consist of nine months and they are usually divided in three 3-month periods, called trimesters. During the first trimester (week 1-12) big changes are happening even if they aren't physically visible. Being tired and nauseous is common during this period, which may lead to difficulties finding energy to work out. But, as most people probably are aware of, and research confirms - physical activity is a cure for many things and that is even the case here. It is always better to for example try go for a little walk than to do nothing at all.

If you feel OK there's no reason to not train as usual but listening to your own body signals is crucial. From now on your body decides the pace and wins over dedication and determination, not the other way around. Besides that there are three things I think are important to think about from the start:

1. Don't attempt to beat world records during your pregnancy. The goal should be to maintain your physical status and prepare for the upcoming birth and the time and recovery thereafter.

2. The most important training during pregnancy is Kegel exercises. No matter what kind of birth you'll have your pelvic floor muscles will be exposed to a lot of pressure the last few months of pregnancy. If you can not activate these muscles while pregnant, you will definitely not be able to do so after the baby has arrived either.

3. Focus on strengthening your core muscles through specific core training and do a lot of posture training (the back side of the body) to create some relief when your belly is growing and the weight shifts forward.

HeleneP3-1280x960

During the second trimester (week 13-27) the physical changes will start showing well. During this period most women start feeling strong and well as the energy returns. A lot is happening physically in this trimester. The joints are getting softer due to an increased level of the hormone relaxin, which among other things is responsible for loosening up connective tissue and cartilage in the pelvic area. The belly is growing and the load from it is pushing on the pelvic floor and the abdominal muscles are separating more and more. When the separation is as wide as or wider than two fingers, it is recommended to stop training the abdominal muscles.

If you're used to training and have been able to train as usual during the first trimester then you can probably continue with most exercises even during the second trimester. There are however some exercises you may need to consider excluding from your workouts going forward:

  • lunges, side steps and diagonal leg movements (with uneven impact) and any varieties of these. It is recommended to keep your feet parallel on the ground

  • jumps and anything high impact, avoid training with risks for trauma to the belly, like boxing

  • too heavy overhead presses

  • deadlifts and squats where the pelvic floor is being put under even more stress

  • all forms of training that triggers back or pelvic pain

  • too high heart rate during too long time (lactic acid)

  • exercises putting too much pressure on the straight and outer abdominal muscles.

My advice to those who wants to and can train is to do it smart with exercises for the whole body where the core muscles indirectly are activated and thereby trained.

Here are a list of exercises that I'd recommend for the second trimester. Please note that these are for those who already train and have been able to do so without issues.

  • leg extensions

  • squats (this might need to be excluded depending on your situation)

  • leg curl

  • leg curls on exercise ball

  • hip thrust (without pressure on the belly)

  • deadlift (this might need to be excluded depending on your situation)

  • chins/lat-pulldown

  • row

  • high wide grip row

  • push-ups

  • bench press or alternatively dumbbell press

  • seated shoulder press

  • lateral dumbbell raise

  • reversed fly with dumbells

  • most biceps and triceps exercises

  • core exercises (see above)

  • most exercises in machines where there is less impact

Try adding some Kegel exercises during the workout and in between sets, that way you get that important training done as well. Also, always remember to keep a good upright posture. Feel free to follow me on Instagram to see how I train during and after my own pregnancy. @heleneice @heleneice_video

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