Introducing Prenatal Pilates (Fuse-style)

Open the pages of any celebrity magazine, and you’ll see that that not only are baby bumps all the rage, our country seems to be experiencing a serious baby boom. Two of the clients who came to me for bridal personal training are both pregnant now. Several other long-time students are as well. Originally, I had planned on holding back on offering a prenatal Pilates class at the studio, but I realized that the time is now. First, because these are some of my favorite students so I want to keep working with them for the next several months, and second, there’s a serious lack of fitness options for the pregnant student in D.C. Prenatal yoga is great, but it shouldn’t be the only thing to do. Plus, since I’m certified in both prenatal Pilates and postnatal Pilates, it seemed like a waste of knowledge not to develop a class… Introducing Push-Prep – the latest in the Fuse menu of classes. At one point, Pilates was generally contraindicated during pregnancy… yet no one could give a really good reason why it should be. Sure, there are plenty of exercises that don’t work when you have a bowling ball in the way. You can’t lie down on your stomach. You can’t lie down on your back for too long once the baby weight increases (it can press on the inferior vena cava and lower aorta and cause some serious complications). You don’t want to do too much deep abdominal work because that increases risk for diastesis recti (a splitting of the 6 pack muscles that’s actually quite common in pregnancy). What’s left to do? The answer is – plenty - especially on the Pilates apparatus! To quote my instructor Carolyne Anthony of the Center for Women’s Fitness, “Women have been having babies for years. And they have never stopped moving while doing it. If you look at our lives today, we have problems during labor BECAUSE we don't know how to move our bodies properly. What Pilates teaches us all (regardless of whether we are pregnant or not) is good body mechanics, proper posture and strength and flexibility. Sounds like a great formula for pregnancy.” So our new class focuses on working the areas that help with labor, delivery, and carrying along a baby bump, some extra pounds, and boobs that are bigger than pre-pregnancy. We include yummy exercises that stretch the pelvic floor to make it easier to push a baby out. We include lateral flexion to open up the ribs that have tiny limbs pushing into them. We open up the chest muscles and work the upper back to alleviate upper back pain. We stabilize the pelvis and strengthen the obliques. We work the ankles to help with blood flow and to reduce ankle swelling. And, we celebrate what a pregnant woman’s body is getting ready do – bring a tiny future Fuse Pilates student into the world. Admittedly, I have no kids (other than a dog child). So, here’s the perspective from our teacher Deb Bilek (currently sporting a baby bump of her own): DSC0015-300x199“What do you want to work on today?” Anyone who’s been to Fuse knows that this is the question we teachers pose to our students at the start of every class. It’s part of our opening script, along with introducing ourselves, and perhaps describing what Fuse is to new students. But lately, my introductory script has been slightly modified. In addition to asking students what they want to work on, I also state: “Just so you all know, I’m pregnant. This means that I won’t be able to demonstrate all of the exercises we do today, so if you need additional verbal cues, just let me know.” I share this with my students for a couple of reasons: to validate that my growing belly (and arms and ankles) are a natural state of being, and to manage expectations. Any of my regular students know that I was once able to demonstrate anything I teach, but new students may not realize that my recent reluctance to demonstrate some exercises is not a matter of ability, but instead a matter of safety. So what about Fuse and pregnancy? Fuse is a primarily a core class – we always work upper and lower abs, and many of the exercises that target other body areas are rooted in core work as well. At the same time, however, deep abdominal work during pregnancy is not a good idea. So where does that leave pregnant Fuse practitioners? Ultimately, it is possible to continue practicing Fuse while pregnant, with the understanding that not all exercises are accessible to the pregnant body, and many need to be modified to accommodate the pregnant form. There are a range of Fuse exercises that I have started avoiding in my own practice as a manner of managing a healthy pregnancy. Some of these include (but are not limited to): lower lift, prone work, and cross legs. Other exercises can be safely modified to accommodate my ever-changing body. For instance, I’ve noticed that pushups are becoming more difficult for me as I continue to gain weight – so dropping to my knees during chataranga pushups, rather than remaining in a full plank position throughout, has been a good way for me to modify the exercise while still working my shoulders and triceps. As an expecting mother, I have a responsibility to exercise in a way that’s safe for me and for the budding life inside me. I’ve learned that accepting my body’s changes is an important element of pregnancy, and must be considered throughout my exercise routine. Yet as a teacher, I have a responsibility to coach my students safely through a class, even if I’m temporarily unable to demonstrate some exercises that I cue. I’m hoping that this and future guest blog posts will illuminate some realities – be them challenges or solutions – of practicing Fuse while pregnant. The truth is that you can still be hardcore when pregnant – so long as you’re safe! So, if you’re with child, feel free to come to our studio and try out our prenatal Pilates class. Once, the child is out, leave him or her with your spouse. We don’t have daycare available… at least not yet. Stay hardcore (even while pregnant), Mariska and Deb    

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Posted in Exercise science, Fuse Pilates, Pregnancy, Prenatal Pilates, The Fuse Teachers and tagged , , , ,

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