‘Exercise while you are pregnant has benefits’

Samantha Shepherd training while pregnant at Alnwick's Real Fitness gym.

Samantha Shepherd training while pregnant at Alnwick's Real Fitness gym.

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Negative comments and strange looks. This is what exercise-loving Samantha Shepherd, known as Sammi, sometimes had to contend with during her workouts at the gym. Some people just failed to comprehend how and why she was training during pregnancy.

Maybe it’s because, with baby bump, she looked visibly different to other gym goers? Or maybe it was down to ill-informed observations that she has heard in the past, like running can make breast milk curdle! Or maybe it’s because in years gone by, women were urged to cut down or avoid exercise during pregnancy.

But times have changed. Not only is it okay to participate in fitness activities during pregnancy, but doing so can have a positive impact on baby and mum. Indeed, the official NHS website encourages pregnant women to keep up their normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as they feel comfortable. It also points out that exercise is not dangerous for a baby and there is evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

And post-natal specialist and sports rehabilitator Sammi, from Amble, is keen to highlight these advantages and pass on tips to others, on the back of her own experiences. She said: “Exercise during pregnancy has so many benefits for the baby, your body, labour and the recovery phase. You can start exercise when you are pregnant even if you haven’t been working out previously. Just build up exercise slowly. If you have been exercising beforehand, carry on, adjust and modify when necessary. If something doesn’t feel right, stop, or if you’re unsure of movements, ask advice from a pre and post-natal exercise specialist. I believe you’re the best judge of how you feel, just work with that during your workouts.

“If you want to work out, but can’t for medical reasons, then you must listen to the consultants and work within their guidelines.”

Sammi has always been into sport and does CrossFit – which is a strength and conditioning programme using interval workouts and other exercises. She has two boys. One is nearly two, while the other is just four months. She trained in Dubai, where she was living at the time, for her first pregnancy, and at Alnwick’s Real Fitness, on Lionheart Enterpise Park, the second time round. Real Fitness offers sessions for pre and post-natal women.

It was in Dubai where the critical comments came, but Sammi said: “For every negative comment I received, there was more positive ones. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, everyone is different. Just make sure you work in the limits correct for you.”

Tweaking her routine and exercising within the boundaries were part and parcel for Sammi during both her pregnancies. Reflecting on her first experience, she said: “I reduced the intensity immediately, making sure I had the breath to talk through a workout and not overheat. I stopped maximum effort strength training straight away and I would take everyday as it came. If I felt morning sickness or too fatigued, I would not train or reduce training accordingly.”

She did plenty of pelvic-floor exercises and added: “I found that, probably as my abs had never had to stretch before, when I went into any move which involved extending quickly, I would get a sharp strain sensation through my abs. This was more so at the end of my first trimester. When this happened I would stop straight away and I went more toward strength training, because it was more strict and controlled movements. Around the end of the second and start of the third trimester I reduced the ranges of movements.”

Things were easier second time round and she was more confident working out while pregnant. She said: “I found exercising while pregnant helped me stay physically and mentally stronger and boosted my energy levels.”

The original article was sourced from Collette Pryer, CrossFit coach at Real Fitness. She coaches CrossFit classes, Mums & Bubs and Real Fitness Kidz. She’s pregnant and is blogging (at tinyurl.com/hvc87yy) about training through her pregnancy.