Entering into a new phase of fitness has taught me a lot these past few months, not the least of which being that there’s a serious lack of attention paid to prenatal programs for women who want to work out — thoroughly, safely and effectively — while pregnant. From what I’ve seen, most of the options out there seem to fall into one of two camps: Either wing it in your usual classes, trying to modify and keep up where you can, or hit up a prenatal yoga class, which ends up just being a lot of slow stretching.
That feels lovely, yes, but I can’t help but wonder about the functionality beyond learning to control breathing and practicing relaxation techniques. Both are important tools for labor, sure, but what about properly prepping the body and strengthening those special muscles to aid in getting Baby from point A to point B on delivery day?
This is something I’ve been especially focused on during my weekly MYMA Mama prenatal movement classes; both the exercises we do and don’t do come with the specific purpose of helping to ease our bodies into the idea of labor. So when my friend, fellow blogger and LUNA teammate Tiffany mentioned she’d heard about a new series of similar prenatal workouts in the area, we both jumped at the chance to check ’em out.
Tiffany’s about 19 weeks along, and I’m 24 weeks, so we’ve both hit what I’ve been calling the “sweet spot” of the second trimester where workouts are fun again — and not just an energy suck like those first few months where our bodies were working overtime to turn a tiny ball of cells into something! We both also enjoy a good workout; so when Jessa Freeman, founder and owner of Mod Physique, invited us to her studio last weekend to take a Mod-Mama class, we hoped it’d hit the mark when it came to expectations.
The first thing I noticed when we stepped into the room was a lack of mirrors. This is by design, as Mod Physique prefers that students gain more body awareness by able to “feel the movement” in their bodies versus being distracted by their reflections.
Fair enough, especially now with an expanding belly — once in a while I’ll catch a passing glimpse in a mirror and have to to a double-take because I don’t recognize my shape-shifting self!
Instructor (and soon-to-be-new-mom!) Kerri Maskol started the class by explaining that we’d be addressing some of the alignment and postural changes that occur during pregnancy. That means strengthening the core to help support the lower back and getting those glutes firing to help balance things out as the pelvis starts its forward tilt.
In layman’s terms, this means ballet barre and Pilates-based mat and resistance training with props — all of which are done with the philosophy that “just because you can’t do crunches doesn’t mean you can’t keep your core strong and your body healthy.” Amen to that.
After leading us through a gentle, cardio-based warm-up to help loosen up our muscles, Kerri wasted no time in getting us into some of the more advanced (read: challenging!) moves. Think upper body strength work for holding baby, core and pelvic floor work to prepare for pushing and recovery, hip stabilization from fine-tuning surrounding muscles, as well as some soft stretches in between.
This was no walk-in-the-park prenatal class by any means, though. Both Tiffany and I were laughing as we found ourselves doused in sweat and grunting as we felt the burn of the isometric holds and floundered our way through the stability work while trying to navigate our now-changing centers of balance.
Kerri kept a keen eye on form throughout, slightly adjusting us during each exercise for maximum impact and safety. And at the start of each exercise, she’d remind us to “hug baby in” in order to keep our cores engaged and lower backs out of the equation. This turned out to be a really helpful cue!
We ended class with a 90-second squat at the barre, which she reminded us would be the length of a contraction during the more intense part of labor (Huh?! Cue slight wave of panic). It’s not only a thigh-burner of a stretch now, but it’s also a great position to practice for later when we want to help open up the hips so baby can more easily pass through.
I appreciated the variety in class, as well as the fact that “prenatal” didn’t translate to “we’ll just sit and stretch.” And I’m even more excited to have found another fitness option to add to my pregnancy repertoire.
The lesson in all of this? It is possible to get an awesome workout that’ll challenge your body, as well as help prepare it for what’s to come in just a few short months.
And despite not getting down on the mat to do traditional ab work, my core was pleasantly sore the next day. They’ve also got a post-natal series, which I’m looking forward to checking out once Baby H makes his/her debut in the spring.
Oh, and the only responsible thing for two preggos to do after burning a bunch of calories during a weekend workout is to re-fuel, right? At least this was Tiffany’s and my reasoning when we stopped off at Pip’s Original on the way home…
Pips’ has earned the reputation of being one of Portland’s best doughnuts shops; I usually don’t buy into the hype, but after trying them I’d wholeheartedly have to agree. Made-to-order, these mini bites of heaven are perfectly spiced and crispy on the outside with a nice, fluffy cake-like center.
They remind me of my favorite cider mill doughnuts back home in the Midwest. Totally worth the wait (and there usually is one) if you’re in Portland anytime soon!