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I’m having a baby! What to expect in the 1st Trimester and exercises to help

Congratulations! You’re having a baby! 

Well, me too, so snap! This is my second child, my first is 5 years old and now I am 19 weeks pregnant with number 2, so I know what you’re going through.
baby on board
What’s the 1st Trimester of Pregnancy 
0-12 weeks of early pregnancy is known as the 1st trimester and a time to establish a routine. Every woman’s body is different and each pregnancy is individual. 
The focus for exercise in the 1st trimester establishing a good routine that will see you through your whole pregnancy, to help you stay active and strong in pregnancy, because let’s face it, it is hard work on your body and for a looooong time! But even more importantly, what you do now during pregnancy, sets up good preparation in your body to help you give birth naturally, with an ideal alignment of baby inside you and with to make the “job” a little bit easier. (she laughs at the word “easier”)
It’s also about pre working on returning to shape and recovery after baby is born, as the investment you make now in your body will help facilitate  this time later to be that little bit easier too.
Early pregnancy is not the time to work too hard. You may be feeling tired, sick, have some weight gain, an increase in the need to go to the loo, breasts become larger and more tender and hormones are all over the place. Avoid overheating in exercise, don’t worry about working out too hard, things may be a struggle for you at this time even though you don’t have a huge bump yet. It’s a time to realise what’s going on in your body is pretty major and amazing and listen to it.  In these early days, baby is doing it’s important forming so let’s give it some thought and chill out a little more on the vigorous stuff and start being mindful of the creation inside you, your changing body and respect the changes.  The 2nd trimester is the time where you can up your efforts so leave that for then.
Creating a good awareness focus on your pelvic floor muscles is key right now. They take a lot of strain over 9 months of pregnancy with the weight of a growing baby, as well as that extra effort during natural delivery. Learn what the pelvic floor muscles are, how to keep them both strong and flexible. We need the “bounce” in our muscles as well as the tightness so remember it’s not all about pulling up, up up down there!
Keep your movements controlled, slow and mindful, remembering to support the lax ligaments that occur in pregnancy from the hormone Relaxin by strengthening the muscles and ligaments that support around the joints.
Pregnancy is not about being wrapped up in cotton wool either! It’s a demanding effort on mum, and you need to be strong, active and healthy to cope with the demands. So although it may feel like a time to sit back, eat tubs of icecream and attend antenatal exercise classes where you only breath and then eat cake, come on ladies, invest in yourself! Strong and supple legs, back, core and pelvic floor are the order of the day so let’s keep active moving forward in our pregnancy… more on that later in our 2nd Trimester blog.
The stages of a baby
What exercises are good for the 1st Trimester?

Natural alignment of the pelvis– important for facilitating a correct birth position and so you know a benchmark of the “norm” when later it naturally starts tilting forward.

Extension of the thoracic spine– you want to work on extension of the (mid-upper) thoracic spine for later prevention of the inevitable roundness that occurs, to support the weight of the growing breasts, to maintain a good upper body alignment and to help with lower back support. This area becomes increasingly stiff as the lower back becomes more mobile.

Flexion of the lumbar spine and oblique strengthening– gain mobility of the lower lumbar spine to strengthen and stretch the back muscles. It’s important to learn how to activate, strengthen and stabilize with the deep abdominals known as the Transvere Abdominisius, along with the Obliques, which helps prevent the destablisation of the rectus abdominus which may cause abdominal separation known as Diastasis Recti, and to help stablise the pelvis and aid with lower back ache.

Focus on pelvic floor toning and stretching– the pelvic floor muscles need toning and stretching to work naturally as a support system against the weight of a growing baby bearing down on them. This is important during pregnancy, to assist and guide baby out in delivery and to regain their control after, helping to avoid those little “leaks” that can be common. Pelvic floor muscles should be worked with breathing exercises and functional movement so it’s not about just squeezing your bits aka Kegel, but making them work during normal movements like a squat.

Breathing– breathing is great as a relaxation tool  and will not only help you engage your deep ab muscles and pelvic floor, but help you relieve stress and stretch tight mid back muscles. As baby gets bigger inside you, your organs get squashed, and the added hormones too, make breathing a little bit harder to do, so focusing on your breath is a great way to bring back some focus to this area.

Finally, it’s often nice to get out and meet other mums to be. Doing a specialist prenatal Pilates or yoga class during your pregnancy will get you to meet other like minded women, who can share support with how you are feeling and in our classes, the ladies make friends and often have babies around the same time so you’ve got an instant network of new mummy friends! Please note we only recommend continuing with Pilates in your 1st Trimester if you have been doing so before you became pregnant. Otherwise, wait for your 1st scan, check all is ok with the baby and with your pregnancy and join in from 12-13 weeks.

Oh, it’s ok to eat the occasional tub of icecream too! (mine’s the salted caramel one!)

Look out for part 2- The 2nd Trimester…….coming soon!

Written by Michelle Smith
Owner, The Pilates Pod and mum of 1 (and a bit!) kids!
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

The man, the legend and his creation

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”

Do you buy that? Smart words you might think?  These are the words of Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method. Except back in  the 1900’s when he devised this fantastic system of movements, it was called “Contrology” (only later becoming Pilates after his death)

So let me just get this right… Pilates was created by a man?
How many men do you know these days who do Pilates or even less, how many teach it? Yet the system was originally created by a man and taught to hundreds of men. And not just “a” man, Joe was a man’s man!  A cigar smoking, beer loving, womanizing, man!

Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) always claimed that he was far ahead of his time with his system of exercises and he was right. In the early 1920’s he started his first studio in New York City, but today Pilates is known internationally as a key staple exercise and movement programme. Not a fad that came and went, not a wishy washy airy fairy exercise, not something that didn’t make you break a sweat, but a system of carefully controlled (hence the name Contrology) flowing movements designed to return you to life. It’s no wonder then that his (second) book in 1945 was named just this “Return to Life through Contrology”  (his first book was “Your Health”)
These days the Pilates method is taught and practiced by millions of smart cookies all over the world, who’ve cottoned on to the fact that this Pilates thing will make your back feel strong, your whole body feel toned, your vitality and energy increase, make you stand taller, walk and move easier….. basically it will make you feel fan dabby tastic!

Joe based his concepts for Pilates on having a balanced mind, body and spirit and took some of his inspiration from the early Greeks. He studied scientifically and experimentally into what upset the balance of these things.  Sleep, posture, stress, technology all played a part in his research.  You might not even know that much of Pilates work was outside of the actual exercise system we now know and love but that he also had his views on how we should sit on a chair, sleep in our bed, and built furniture to help us get this balance.
He believed in correct breathing being the basis of it all, as it is in life. Adding in body movement and mechanics, spinal flexibility and physical education.

Quite simply Pilates is a method of exercise designed to bring about balance in your body through strength and flexibility. If the body is restored to balance, it can move effortlessly without strain.  Most of the time, we are completely unaware of these stresses and strains being added to the body, causing us to be out of balance. Until it’s too late and the injury sets in to the point of letting us know about it. An ache or niggle here, later leading perhaps to more pains and a trip to the osteopath or doc.

Sure, doing Pilates will, as Joe wanted, return you to life and restore your imbalances once you have them. But imagine if you will a life where doing Pilates meant you didn’t get the imbalances in the first place?! That’s what’s it’s all about. It’s functional, basic movement. Strength training, flexibility training, body balancing.

You can (and should!) use it to help your sport improve, to get you out of back pain, to prepare your body for motherhood, to deal with the physical demands on a young developing body, or to managing the issues we face as we get older. It’s perfect for everyone; male and female alike.

In Pilates we refer to a “two way stretch” That’s one of the really cool things about it, you are always focusing. As one part of your body strengthens, the other side is stretching. Imagine in a gym, you’d have to use two machines for that. In Pilates, just the one exercise will do both! As your body becomes stronger, it also becomes longer = flexibility and strength! Winner!

We focus on the inner workings of the body, what some refer to as the “powerhouse” or “core.”
The deeper muscles of the body can’t be seen but can still be felt, and it’s these smaller postural muscles that help us with proper alignment whilst we go through our everyday movements. An imbalance in these muscles means we can’t work as efficiently, we are more likely to injure.  Time off work, time off the sports pitch, time off picking up the grandchildren for a cuddle. Do you want that?

But it doesn’t stop there! Pilates is a full body exercise. You use your brain to move your body so it’s great for the grey matter! You simply don’t have head space to think of the shopping when you’re doing Pilates, so a natural stress reliever.  We also use the limbs; our arms and legs, so you’ll be getting them stronger too.

In fact, Pilates as a class may help you in the studio, but just think of the all the benefits it gives your whole life outside the class room! For a full Pilates experience, you should also be using the equipment such as the “Reformer” to really condition the body, but it’s so easy to start with just you and a mat, anywhere, anytime.

And what’s not to like about that?! Just be sure your teacher knows a bit about what they are talking about!

For more information on Pilates, check out www.thepilatespod.co.uk