What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You: Outdated Guidelines for Pregnancy & Exercise

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Disclaimer: This post does not constitute medical advice. If you’re pregnant – and especially if either you or your pregnancy are considered high-risk – always check with your health care provider for exercise recommendations before starting new a fitness routine. 

In a recent physical therapy appointment, my PT asked about how workouts were going now that pregnancy has progressed to the “oh-she’s-definitely-pregnant-not-just-overindulging-during-the-holidays” stage.

For the most part, great, I told her. Although no training’s happening at the moment, I put myself on a loose schedule of cardio, strength training, PT exercises and workout classes throughout the week to keep moving.

The major difference between this and my first pregnancy? I’m feeling larger and dealing with the usual minor discomforts earlier this time around.

And the biggest similarity? Oddly enough, how other people are reacting to my current state – particularly when it comes to fitness: instead of addressing the obvious and offering advice/adjustments, it feels like most instructors simply opt for avoidance.

Yes, there are potential ramifications and legal complications for trainers giving pre- and post-natal fitness advice when they’re not qualified to do so. But given the fact that the average pregnant women isn’t sure what she should (or shouldn’t) be doing, some general guidance would be helpful.

Literally, I have to bite my tongue every time I see another pregnant woman past her first trimester doing sit-ups. 

And what’s even crazier is that some doctors still adhere to dated exercise principles (aka the heart rate one below). This is not to say you should ever go against your doctor’s advice, but rather that you should shop around and find someone who is up on the latest research if you’re wanting to work out at a certain level with baby on board.

So today we’re tackling a few of my biggest pregnancy pet peeves (outdated exercise guidelines and common myths!), as well as some common-sense do’s and don’ts for a happy, healthy pregnancy for both you and baby:

Myth #1: Keep your heart rate below 140 bpm. 

This is perhaps the most common preggo urban legend, but did you know that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists (ACOG) actually removed this recommendation from their guidelines back in 1994?

It’s still a prevalent piece of advice, however – in fact,  a 2010 study of 93 practicing physicians and midwives found that 64 percent of all respondents believed that maternal exercise heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute.

Your best bet? Again, check with your doctor for specific metrics, but also consider using breathlessness and perceived exertion to keep yourself in check during workouts.

Myth #2: Don’t lift more than 25 pounds. 

This is actually an arbitrary number, meaning there are no studies that show that lifting more than 25 pounds has an effect on birth weight or premature labor.

It is true that a woman’s capacity to safely lift a load decreases throughout pregnancy, but this has more to do with a change in center of gravity affecting balance, as well as hormones causing connective tissue, ligaments and tendons to soften in preparation for labor.

The safest game plan? Gradually reduce your maximum load as pregnancy progresses, and pay special attention to keeping proper form to avoid unnecessary injury.

Myth #3: Vigorous exercise will overheat the baby. 

You’ve heard the term “bun in the oven” but no woman wants to inadvertently cook her poor fetus!

Interestingly enough, pregnant bodies have a few mechanisms in place to prevent this, however: First, increased blood volume and a lower sweat threshold make it easier to get rid of excess heat. And, second, mama’s weight gain means more tissue that needs to be kept warm.

Of course, use common sense and don’t run in the heat of the sun at the warmest time of day. But as long as you hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and keep cool with sweat-wicking fabrics and proper ventilation, etc., you should be good to go.

Myth #4: Ab workouts are off limits. 

Yes, doing crunches, sit-ups and other ab exercises on your back are a major no-no after the first trimester because they put you at an increased risk for diastasis recti. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your core!

Depending on the state of your stomach (check with your doctor or a physical therapist first), things like planks may even be off-limits. So modify, as needed, and monitor for “coning” to help avoid separation of your abs.

What else can you do? My best advice here is to see a physical therapist who specializes in pre- and post-natal work to develop a personalized program to keep your core strong – yet safe – during pregnancy.

Myth #5: If you weren’t active before, now is not the time to start. 

You can use your pregnancy to get off the hook when it comes to a lot of stuff, but never – I repeat NEVER – is it an excuse to be totally inactive (unless you’re on doctor-prescribed bed rest, of course).

The exercise benefits to both mama and baby are so great that it’s worth the time and energy investment throughout your pregnancy – just (again) use common sense and stay away from activities that increase your risk of falling. Be mindful of the belly!

If you’ve been active, perfect – simply stick to your usual routine, dialing it back to adapt to your changing body. And if you’re new to working out, even better – now’s the best time to start a wonderful habit with lasting positive effects on both mama and baby for years to come.

Again, it’s worth repeating: Always clear any kind of activity and/or exercise with your doctor. S/he knows your unique situation and can give the best advice.

And, above all else, listen to your own body. You’d be surprised at how mama intuition kicks in when you leave expectations and ego at the door and simply appreciate what your body is able to do!

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The Essential Gift Guide for Expecting Mamas

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Stumped on what to buy the pregnant lady in your life this season? Or maybe you’re the one who’s knocked up and just in need of a little pick-me-up?

I’ve got you covered: Starting clockwise from the upper left corner, here’s a handy list of gifts to make any mama-to-be’s life a little easier.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Mama-To-Be Tea Sampler: Because when you can’t have a cocktail, you turn toward these four herbal remedies for nausea, heartburn, anxiety and labor prep, respectively.

Leachco Back ‘N Belly Contoured Body Pillow: Support in just the right places to help you sleep like a baby…even if baby is doing his or her best to keep you awake at all hours with those karate kicks.

Serola Sacroiliac Belt: Recommended by my PT and vouched for by me, this keeps cranky SI joints and other pelvic problems (thanks to relaxin hormones) in check so you can keep moving with less discomfort.

Simple Wishes SuperMom All-in-One Nursing and Pumping Bra: I sang the praises of this brand’s pumping bra last time around, and for baby number two I’ve upgraded to their three-in-one version for maternity, pumping and nursing. Loving it so far!

Prenatal Physical Therapy: Either I’m ‘older and wiser’ or maybe just older and accepting that the concept of ‘bouncing back’ doesn’t really apply. In any case, it’s a smart investment to not only ward off aches and pains, but also prepare for labor and set your body up for success when it comes to healing after.

The Spoiled Mama Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks: It glides on, isn’t super sticky and smells like orange-chocolate, which is basically the stuff pregnant women’s dreams are made of, right?

Move Your Bump Workout: After following fit mom and health Nancy Anderson on Instagram, I was so inspired (do it for baby, she says!) that I pre-ordered her pregnancy workout program, which will be released December 20.

Expecting More®: The 4th Trimester Workout: Another Instagram fit mom, Sara Haley is a former Reebok Global Master Trainer, as well as a pre- and post-natal exercise specialist. Her 4th tri workout includes modifications for diastasis recti and c-sections, and is how I plan on easing back into fitness post-baby.

Ingrid & Isabel Active Legging with Crossover Panel: One of the few maternity workout pants I’ve found that is versatile (wear panel over belly or folded down), stays put, provides support and flatters blossoming curves.

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids: Required reading (don’t let the title scare you away) with practical marriage advice and insight into successful conflict resolution that’ll come in handy when the going gets tough – which isn’t ‘if’ but ‘when’ as your relationship dynamic changes overnight.

Prenatal Massage: Another pregnancy non-negotiable. There are so many benefits, for both mama and baby, but the best part is lying for an hour on your stomach thanks to that glorious cushion with the belly and boob holes.

True Botanicals Basics Duo: Billed as “pregnancy-safe skincare that works,” this liquid gold isn’t cheap but is worth it when it comes to peace of mind for mamas who want results without toxins that may be harmful to developing babies.

Mamas, do you have any other faves to add to the list? Please share!

Recipe: (un)Candied Walnuts + Impress Guests with this Quick Holiday App

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Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like visits from family and friends, all kinds of comfort food, and the smell of something cinnamon wafting from the oven.

This recipe just happens to combine all of that; plus, I was curious to see if I could mimic my favorite candied nuts without the use of added sugar.

While these walnuts don’t have quite the same candy-like taste, they do have all of the flavor, making them perfect for snacking by the handful or adding to dishes where you don’t want to get smacked in the face with sweetness.

And the ingredients are easy enough to have on hand; so whenever you’ve got guests at your door, you’ll know bellies will be happy and folks will be filled with holiday cheer.

Havarti-Date Bread Bites with (un)Candied Walnuts

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c walnuts
  • 1/2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 package pre-sliced Havarti cheese
  • Extra 1/4 c date paste for spreading on bread

Directions for the (un)Candied Walnuts: 

  1. To make candied walnuts, preheat oven to 350ºF and mix nuts, 1/2 c of the date paste, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and hot water in a bowl until nuts are evenly coated.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread nuts on it in a single layer. Bake about 10-15 minutes, watching very carefully, and remove as soon as the nuts look dry – they will burn if left in too long!

Directions for the Havarti-Date Bread Bites: 

  1. While nuts are cooling, cut baguette on an angle into inch-thick slices and arrange on another baking sheet.
  2. Spread a thin layer of date paste on bread slices and cover with a piece of Havarti cheese.
  3. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove, top with a candied walnut and serve immediately.

StitchFix (Maternity!) Shipment No. 15 Review

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Well hey, StitchFix, it’s been a while! But with baby on board these past few months, I’ve been waiting until now to update my maternity wardrobe.

I kept all the items from my last fix (read about it here), so I tried to be just as specific this time around with my requests – namely, a pair of fun jeans and a dainty-yet-unique necklace, plus a few tops and sweaters to use as the bump grows.

New to StitchFix? Read all about how it works here

Now let’s take a peek at what showed up in this month’s box…

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First up was the Just Black Maternity Andrea Released Hem Skinny Jean ($88).

At this point (17 weeks along) forgiving waistbands are essential, so these immediately caught my eye.

I’ve got a few pairs of standard blue and black denim from last round, but this time I’m all about color – especially as we enter the dreary Portland winter months.

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Next was the Romolo Munroe Feather Pendant Necklace ($28).

Pretty basic, yes. But I like the beaded detail on the chain, it’s a perfect length and it’ll add some interest to outfits without overwhelming them.

Plus, I’m not a fan of A) much or B) big jewelry, so this will be a great staple for accessorizing.

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Third was the Skies are Blue Olivina Hooded Slub Knit Cardigan ($58).

It’s got a classic color and shape, plus the open design is good for all stages of pregnancy and beyond.

The sleeve detail on the bottom threw me a bit, though – it’s a spandex-type material that goes maybe a quarter of the way up your arm – but maybe it’s good for keeping sleeves pushed up?

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After that was the Kensie Lona Zipper Sleeve Pullover ($68).

To be honest, this was the only piece that didn’t thrill me straight out of the package, but I withheld judgment because you never know until you try it on.

The color is mix of gray, taupe and green, which is kind of ‘meh,’ though, plus the shape is a little boxy for my taste…but we’ll see.

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And last but not least was the Loveappella Maternity Jillyen Roll Cuff Knit Top ($48).

As soon as I pulled this top out of the box, I knew it was my style – casual and sporty.

The material looked a tad see-through, however, so I definitely wanted to see how it looked on before deciding.

So what did I end up keeping?

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Once again…everything!

Here’s my reasoning: The jeans and short-sleeved top were no-brainers. I don’t currently have anything like the hooded sweater (which is great for fall layering!) or the necklace.

And the sweater I was so-so about? Factor in the 25 percent discount if you purchase all five items, and it made sense to keep the whole box.

Well played, StitchFix, well played!

Want to try StitchFix? Use my referral link to fill out your style profile and get started.

Disclosure: This is *not* a sponsored post; I pay for StitchFix on my own, and since I love the service, it’s fun to share my experience. If you sign up using my referral link, I’ll get a credit…so thanks in advance for fueling the next fix! 

Recipe: No-Sugar-Added Pumpkin Spice Cookies

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Fall is just around the corner, and I couldn’t be more excited. Bring on crisp weather, colorful leaves, scary movies and all things pumpkin!

In celebration of the impending change of seasons, I bring to you this healthier take on a fall favorite: no-sugar-added cookies that are soft, chewy and not cloyingly sweet.

They sit squarely at the intersection of cookie-muffin-scone; the perfect accompaniment to your morning coffee, that upcoming tailgate, a random afternoon snack or simply tucked into a lunchbox with love.

Because it’s not fall without a little pumpkin in your life…right?

No-Sugar-Added Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c butter, softened to room temp
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 15 oz can pureed pumpkin
  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 c chopped walnuts

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mix all dry ingredients (flour, flaxseed, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices) until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream butter with mixer and slowly add in other wet ingredients (eggs, vanilla, date paste and pumpkin). Mix until well blended.
  4. Slowly (1/2 to 1 cup at a time) add dry mixture to wet mixture, mixing until all of the dry mixture has been incorporated.
  5. Add walnuts into batter, and mix well.
  6. Drop by large tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper on baking sheets, and press gently with back of spoon to flatten slightly.
  7. Bake for 12 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden brown.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy immediately, and freeze leftovers to keep them fresh until needed.

Portland Fit Fix: Getting Back in the Saddle at Starcycle

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If I could give my fellow moms out there one piece of solicited advice, it’d be this:

Forget about the shoulds, and celebrate the dids.

Case in point: I’m ashamed to admit that it’s been more than two years since my last Starcycle class; in fact, the last time I was in the studio, I was newly pregnant with Wyatt.

Since then, my once uber-disciplined (hello, Type A) fitness regimen has been a lot more…well, fluid.

First it was sleep deprivation. Then it was a move out to the ‘burbs. And the icing on the cake has been a hip stress fracture sustained after training for and racing a half marathon this past spring.

Needless to say, running and I are currently on a break. Not permanently, but indefinitely while I figure things out.

So when Starcycle reached out about a special ride to commemorate their latest news, I jumped at the chance to pedal along with some inspiring local ladyboss mamas.

The ride itself was very similar to what I remember in the previous class – a high-energy, heart-pounding workout in a candlelit room where you can clear your head – but what’s evolved is my awareness and appreciation of the studio’s commitment to work(out)/life balance (read: childcare!).

Trust me: Being able to take a few minutes for yourself while knowing your little one is in good hands is practically priceless. Starcycle not only offers solid 45-minute sweat sessions, but the studio makes working out easy and realistic for riders, especially moms.

And now there’s a good chance you’ll get to experience it yourself since the brand’s new leadership hires will support franchise operations and studio expansion as part of the Starcycle’s national growth.

Sure there’s a time and a place for metrics, mantras and mechanics…but when you’re in need of a much-needed mental (and mama) break – to break a sweat – Starcycle is just the ticket.

Recipe: No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars

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I think we can all agree that snacks are pretty awesome.

That quick energy boost is a must, whether you’re deep in race training, pushing through the mid-afternoon slump of a work/school day or chasing after a toddler with a battery that just keeps going and going…and going.

But, alas, very few snacks lie at the intersection of “treat yo’self” and “treat your body well,” which is why I’m really excited to share this recipe for my No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars.

You guys: If fudge and a brownie had a baby, it’d taste just like this – but the best part is that they’re made with just a handful of whole-food ingredients.

Not only did they pass the husband-taste-test with flying colors, but they’re also loaded with protein, fiber, natural sugar and all kinds of vitamins and nutrients. So get your snack on!

No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 c almonds
  • 1 c walnuts
  • 2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates
  • Near-boiling water (to soak dates)
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 c brown rice syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 c almond butter
  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds

Directions: 

  1. Pre-soak dates in hot water for 10-15 minutes, then drain.
  2. Process almonds & walnuts in food processor until they’ve reached a mealy consistency. Place into a medium bowl & set aside.
  3. Process soaked dates and warm water in food processor, adding in cocoa, vanilla and coffee until well blended.
  4. Continue processing date mixture, adding in brown rice syrup, almond butter and the nut meal from step 2.
  5. Transfer ooey-gooey goodness into a medium bowl, and add in oats and seeds. Stir to combine.
  6. Press into a 9×9 pan lined with parchment paper, and freeze for 30 minutes to harden.
  7. Lift bars from pan and chop into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container in the freezer to keep from getting too sticky at room temp.
  8. When ready to eat, enjoy straight from the freezer!

Let me know if you try these; I’d love to hear your thoughts!