What Are the Upper Limits?
Let’s Talk Training Awareness
We talk a lot about training. In fact, I try to keep the conversation very positive, empowering, and uplifting. I believe in the power of your environment and self-talk. However, just as in regular training, it is important to know when too much is too much.
As a doctor of chiropractic, I encounter a lot of over trained human beings (and under trained but that’s not the topic of this blog). The sport of choice varies, but these athletes (professional and amateur) are depleted, not sleeping, not eating nutrient dense foods, supplementing with crap, and actually causing more harm than good to their body.
In pregnancy, there is not a lot of information out there in regards to training and the upper limits. I don’t buy the whole heart rate line because everyone’s heart rate is different in various environments. I wrote a blog about this last August that you should check out (CLICK HERE).
So what the heck are the monitors?
Conversation and the Intensity Factor. You may have heard that you should be able to carry on a conversation while you workout during your pregnancy. This is a good general rule, but when we train with our clients we relate it to intensity. If you are in the CrossFit world and you’ve done ‘Fran’, you have probably gone balls to the wall at 100% intensity. If you are an Olympic Sprinter, I guarantee you’ve experienced 100% intensity in the 100m, 200m, or even longer distances like the 400m or 800m, depending on your race. If you are a weightlifter or power lifter, you’ve experienced your 100% when going for a maximal lift. During our prenatal training, we don’t ever want to experience that red zone or that 100% intensity zone. Different workouts call for different intensities, so in our training intensity levels vary as low as 50% and no more than 90%. Always leave a little in the tank, so that there is adequate uterine blood flow.
Baby’s Movement. Babies move around all the time. As they get bigger they will not have as much room to move around but you still feel their activity. Exercise is a positive stressor on babies just as it is on us adults. It is normal for babies to not move around very much 5-20 minutes after exercise. However, most babies resume normal movement about 20 minutes after mom exercises (Exercising Through Your Pregnancy Dr. James Clapp). Use this as a monitor, and as a way to get know your baby.
Fetal Heart Rate. One of the biggest concerns about exercise during pregnancy is the potential lack of oxygen to the baby. We know that a lack of oxygen causes the baby’s heart rate to decrease. There are many things that can cause this particular scenario- pressure on the umbilical cord, pressure on the baby’s head, and various positions in the mother. For those women that are relatively unfit and jumping into a high intensity workout, a baby’s heart rate can drop during or after exercise about 15-20 percent of the time (Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Dr. James Clapp). Also, worth mentioning, Dr. Clapp monitored over 2,000 exercise sessions of fit women, and saw a fetal heart rate decrease during or post exercise twice. And yes, these women were exercising at 85% of their relative intensity level. So what is normal? It is normal for there to be an increase in the fetal heart rate during exercise. Following the session, the fetal heart rate will gradually return to normal. The length and intensity of exercise as well as the type of exercise definitely play a role. This is why, at BIRTHFIT, we program with intention.
How Mom Feels. We like for our mothers to show up motivated, calm, and ready to learn. If a mother wakes up and feels slightly under the weather, we may push the workout a day or skip it all together. If a mother has been all over the place emotionally, we may have her keep a journal. In this journal, we ask her to write how she feels every morning. This usually involves just a word or a few sentences. This is a great way to bring awareness back to the mother and her feelings. Before, during, and after workouts, we want the mother to feel great.
I cannot stress to you how beneficial exercise is for mother and baby. The fact that the fetal heart rate goes up or remains unchanged means that there is no lack of oxygen, and if there were, these fit babies would be adequately prepared (labor and delivery wink wink). Additionally, there is no negative stress on babies as witnessed by the return to normal activity shortly after the mother’s workout.
If for some reason, activity has decreased in your belly for longer than a half hour after training, then go to your midwife or obgyn for quick check up (they can test the fetal heart rate). Just as with anything in life, train smart, responsibly, and listen to your gut. You’ve got this!
-LINDSEY MATHEWS, DC