My brother-in-law once posted on social media, “What are you training for?” I think he proposed it as a joke, but it got me thinking. We changed out the word for physical activity – growing progressively more and more intense with our vocab.
“Activity” became “exercise”
“Exercise” became “working out.”
“Working out” became “training.”
My, haven’t we gotten intense? Truth be told I don’t care what you call it; to me it’s completely irrelevant. (Unless you’re actually training for something like a race or competition. Then, by all means, call it training.) But it got me thinking. Could something like a focused approached to our activity help us actually get it done?
I responded to my brother-in-law’s question with a quippy remark of my own:
I thought I was just being funny, until I realized that it’s completely true. Labor and delivery are one of the most (if not the absolute most) physical experiences any woman will ever face. (I could possible throw men into that category too, but since I haven’t the experience of a man and don’t want to delve into any gender issues or fights I’ll just leave it at women.) Why wouldn’t we approach labor as an event we have to train for, much like a marathon or a triathlon? And we have an even longer time frame to really physically and mentally prepare ourselves: 9 months.
When elite athletes – or mere mortals- begin to train for a major event, everything is taken into consideration, and they focus on the most effective way of accomplishing that event:
- Adequate sleep
- Proper diet and nutrition
- Building endurance and muscle strength
Since labor takes longer than a marathon (even sometimes an ultramarathon), we can apply those ideas to our preparation for labor and delivery. It seems only logical.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know my feelings on nutrition, and the correlation between exercise and sleep, not to mention maintaining fitness. (If not, go ahead and check out some of my previous posts!) So that covers some of those ideas listed above. But what about building muscle strength and practicing? How the crap do you practice for labor?
My short answer is weight training. Especially the lower body and core. (Although, I am a big fan of lifting the upper body, but that’s for a later post.)
The muscles that you use (besides the obvious uterus) during labor and delivery are actually easy to train once you know what they are: the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominis.
- Pelvic floor: To strengthed your pelvic floor muscles, I’m sure you heard that you need to do kegels. (Activating the muscle that would stop the flow of urine.) My favorite way to perform these is to get into a deep squat and then do a couple of sets of 15-20 kegels. Go ahead and adjust however you need to feel comfortable. Another option would be to sit back against a wall or couch with your knees pulled back and your hands behind your knees (almost a mock delivery position) and perform a couple sets of 15-20.
- Transverse Abdominis: To strengthen you TA (Which is the muscles that acts like a corset around your midsection – lies beneath the “6 pack”) I have 2 favorites:
- Sitting straight up in a cross legged position, place both hands on your belly. Inhale deeply into your diaphragm. On the exhale, concentrate on pulling your abdominals in, as if you were “hugging” the baby with your belly. (You can also throw a kegel in there as well.) Inhale and release out again. I like to do a couple sets of 10-15. (Incidentally, this also helps with deep rhythmic, belly breathing which can assist in pain management during labor.)
- Pelvic tilts: Either sitting back, propped on your elbows, or standing in a small squat, tilt you hips forward and back. Be sure not to use your glute muscles and focus on bringing you hips up to meet your rib cage. This can also relieve lower back pain.
As I said in my last post, I was focusing more on weight training, now that my running has slowed down. Strengthening my lower body not only helps with toting the extra poundage I have in this last trimester, but it prepares the muscles in your thighs, glutes and hips for labor. (If you don’t think you’ll use them, you’re wrong.) Below is a short and simple lower body routine that I’ll do maybe once or twice a week in addition to my running. You can use the weights you had been using before pregnancy, or no weights at all since you have a nice little weight in your belly right now. Warm up before and cool down after, and as always, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any workout routine, including weight training.
- Circuit one (repeat 2-3 times before moving on)
- Squats: 10-15 reps
- Reverse lunges: 10-15 reps
- Weighted Donkey kicks: 10-15 reps
- Calf raises: 15-20
- Circuit two (repeat 2-3 times before moving on)
- Plie (wide leg) squats: 10-15 reps
- Curtsy lunges: 10-15 reps
- Straight leg deadlifts: 8-10 reps
- Circuit three (repeat 2-3 times, this circuit focuses on static holds to mentally prepare you for labor. Since each contraction is about 30-90 seconds long, that’s how long I hold. Start at 30 seconds and work your way up.)
- Deep (yogic) squat: Hold for 30-90 seconds breathing deeply, 2-3 reps
- Deep plie squat: hold for 30-90 seconds breathing deeply, 2-3 reps
As I get bigger, I will probably lighten up on my weights (I’ve already moved from 10 lb dumbbells to 8 lbs) to even no weights. And that’s ok! I’m already doing squats with an additional 23 lbs, so I have nothing to be ashamed of.
I hope you found this helpful for your “training.”
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