Last trimester exercise! The end is in sight…

At my prenatal exercise class the other night, my teacher told me that the exercise I had been doing in my barre class were actually quite dangerous! I have always loved Barre and anything ballet based, so thought that I’d be okay to continue throughout my pregnancy. I have read many places that if you did a certain exercise before you became pregnant, you’re safe to continue it throughout! Obviously I was so wrong. So no more hip opening pliés and leg raises. However, here are a few of my favourite exercises that I am okay to do in my final month.

Yoga based stretches

I’ve really slowed down my yoga practice as is it has become a lot less dynamic.I do a couple of incredibly modified Sun Salutations to warm up, some side stretches, following with some yoga poses (including the ones mentioned here) and then I end with some pelvic floor work and some light twists.

I am generally unable to go straight into Downward Dog without first putting my knees on the mat. I still find it great for stretching out my calves which have become so tight with the extra weight.

FullSizeRender 5As you can see, it is a very short Downward Dog as I am really trying to get into the lower calf muscle, the soleus, as I feel that it is so tight it’s causing crazy heel pain! A complete self-diagnosis, but it really seems to help me. Also, I can see from this photo that my arms are not straight-I think it was because I was about to come down as there was a huge amount of uncomfortable moving around going on in my uterus!

 

Another favourite is the wide-legged squat, which I am also hoping to use during labour. I’ve always loved this pose anyway as my inner thighs get such a great stretch.

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A few other stretches I have been doing include a mini back stretch on my knees (also stretches my hip flexors as I do a lot of sitting at work) and a quadricep stretch, which again also stretches out the front of the hip.

I also use my green theraband (about £2 from eBay or Amazon), the green being of a high resistance, but you can find many different types online. I use this to perform a number of pilates based exercises to strengthen my back, chest and arms. I also use them to add resistance to my lunges.

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Using the theraband to perform arm raises-it’s a shoulder burner!

And of course I have to mention my block that I love to sit on when doing seated stretches else my big tummy gets in the way of forward folds! The block offers me extra height and helps the baby tip forward into the pelvis, especially now as he is head down, a good position for birth. I also find my strap (as seen in the photo below) great for stretching out my lower back.

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Sitting on my block and using the strap to create a slight twist and alleviate lower back pain.

Finally, if a bit random, a tip given to me by my Pilates instructor: use a rolling pin under your feet to create flexibility and improve tone. I have always had what I call ‘straight’ feet (not flat but not high arches either) and am trying to improve the arch. I roll the soles of my feet across the top of the rolling pin for 5 minutes for each foot every day. It really hurt at first (apparently that’s just the tight muscle fibres breaking down!) but now it feels like a really great massage.

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It is safer to do this on a mat so that you don’t slip! After doing this exercise for a month, I am able to point my toes without cramping and am getting less pain in the soles of my feet when I walk to work. Who knew a rolling pin could be incorporated so easily into an exercise regime? At least it’s getting some use seeing as I rarely use it for baking….

 

 

 

With only four weeks to go until my due date, it was actually a relief to be told that I needed to take it easier exercise-wise as I wanted to cut down anyway, but felt that it would be a lazy thing to do! I can’t wait to get back to my dynamic vinyasa flow self-practice, but am happy to slow down for the safety of myself and the baby.

Hypnobirthing (Natal Hypnotherapy)

Now in my 7th month of pregnancy, I have become more and more anxious about the impending birth. Random questions such as ‘will I die during childbirth?’ (pretty ridiculous) and ‘what if I just can’t push it out?’ have been ever more present in my mind. Friends of ours who have a one year old recommended we try Natal Hypnotherapy, a version of hypnobirthing devised by Maggie Howell.

I’m pretty open to trying hypnotherapy, although I’ve tried it a couple of times to treat anxiety and I didn’t feel any different after! I think that I had been trying too hard to relax maybe. Meditation and deep breathing has always helped me to relax before, so hypnobirthing sounded great. I was pretty desperate to try anything to help me calm down!

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Example of an affirmation for use during labour

Ruth Sabrosa was recommended to us, a lady who originally used the technique during the birth of her daughter and then later trained as a practitioner. We booked The Natural Pain Relief workshop which was held in Ruth’s home in Muswell Hill. There were two other couples there so it was a nice quiet environment. We were asked to speak about our fears-we all had quite common worries, mainly surrounding pain! The day consisted of three hypnobirthing sessions, with us lying on the floor and Ruth talking us through the relaxation. I really found these sessions beneficial, and some of the things that she was saying did help to allay my fears. The only thing that I wasn’t so keen on was the group work. This was a bit like being back at school where we had to draw diagrams and present back to the class. Others may find this useful, though.

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Relaxing before a hypnobirthing session

My husband and I have since been listening to the relaxation downloads and practicing the other techniques to relax, and both look forward to these times. I am definitely less scared of the birthing process. I did have the feeling that the course promotes natural birth, and felt a little that we were being told that medical intervention is bad, although this was not said outright. I have an open mind, though, and should I end up needing pain relief, I will not feel bad for asking for it!

Ruth is such a warm person and I would recommend anyone who is fearful of labour to attend her classes. She is very open to any questions and gives great advice. I also believe that the techniques that we learned can be used in everyday life to alleviate anxiety.

Fitness during pregnancy

Before I became pregnant or even planned on become pregnant, I had always envisaged that I would eventually be one of those ‘fit’ pregnant people like those we see in magazines, who manage to stay toned and glowy throughout their pregnancy. At the minute, due to the exercise I am currently doing, I look like this…

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Going back seven months when I did become pregnant, these thoughts of having to stay fit were still there, but for the first five months I felt so nauseous and tired-it was as if I had a permanent hangover. I was also being told by every yoga and dance class instructor that I couldn’t join their classes until after three months of pregnancy; even now, I haven’t met one that will happily have me in their class at 7 months pregnant. These factors prevented me from exercising as much as I used to. I would occasionally go for a jog and did a modified yoga practice at home, but my jog turned into walking due to cramping, and I decided a prenatal yoga dvd may be safer. I did try a few prenatal yoga classes at Triyoga in Camden and Frame in Islington, but these were too slow and I felt were a waste of money and time for me. I also went to a trial class at Maternally Fit in Islington, but I found this class boring and beginner level, and the instructor uninspiring.

From my sixth month, I started to feel better and so have got into a stead fitness regime, as outlined below.

Prenatal Yoga

The DVD I am using at the moment is by Katy Appleton. A work colleague attended her teacher training so I thought I would give this one a go. There are three different levels one can choose; I follow the ‘Shine’ section as it is the most dynamic. It is not a vinyasa flow style but it does make feel like that it helps me maintain some of my strength and flexibility. There is also a section on hypnobirthing which is more like a savasana-although I wouldn’t recommend this as an alternative to a hypnobirthing workshop, it is very relaxing. I have always been quite particular about the voice that a yoga teacher uses, and have to admit that I find Katy’s voice a little irritating, especially when she elongates certain syllables (“sunnnnnn salutation”), or uses certain phrases like “…show your luminous gratitude for the gift of your baby”. I am no earth mother so cannot relate to such phrases, and have never seen being pregnant as a miracle. However, the DVD is good enough for me to ignore these minor points!

Swimming

I used to swim so much when I was at school and swam for my county, but then gave it up due to becoming bored (story of my life!). I had heard from so many people that swimming is one of the safest forms one can do when pregnant, so my husband and I have been going swimming once a week to Pancras Square Leisure Centre.

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I do 20 lengths of 25 metres each length which takes roughly about 20 minutes. When I first went, I overdid things by doing front crawl, constantly running out of breath but pushing myself anyway, and ending up with crazy cramping in my tummy. Now I just to breaststroke with rests when I feel like it. The weightless feeling in the water is amazing! I honestly don’t feel pregnant and heavy when in the water; when I get out the pool I can really feel the difference of how cumbersome my body feels without the water to support me. This is my favourite exercise at the minute.

Equipment Pilates

I have been seeing Kamil, a one-to-one pilates instructor at Triyoga Camden for about a month now. I wanted to work safely on my core strength, and as I know that pregnant women should avoid sit-ups and too much abdominal work, I wanted to see a professional about this. I took advantage of the Pilates Starter Pack for £190 which includes an initial assessment and three private sessions, saving £70 altogether. Sessions involve work on a reformer and other equipment and light weights to tone and strengthen my legs and arms whilst maintaining a strong core throughout the exercises. I have been continuing to do these every other day using my husband’s theraband instead of hand weights. Once my starter pack has run out, private sessions will cost £65, semi-private £40, and a small group £33. I really can’t afford the price of private sessions, so will look into group sessions either at Triyoga or elsewhere.

Walking!

Not the most fun thing to do in the world, but it’s pretty easy to fit into my day. I walk for half an hour twice a day to and from work instead of getting the bus up a stupidly big hill. I do get incredibly breathless, but I feel like I’m getting a good cardio workout! I try and walk everywhere now.

So, compared to my old pre-pregnancy routine of dancing, yoga and running, I have cut down dramatically, and I have to keep reminding myself that this is for the safety of the baby, and is only temporary! My husband and I do still like to dance around to 80s songs at home, so it’s not all ‘serious’ exercise!

At last-a dynamic prenatal yoga class

After attending prenatal classes at various studios in North London, I ended up not going to my weekly class due to the sheer boredom I normally experience there. I don’t use yoga to ‘connect with my baby’ or ‘see the light within’; I have always practiced purely for strength and flexibility which results in a more chilled out me. I understand that the purpose of prenatal yoga is to relax the student through breathing and gentle movement, but I am also aware that there are still many poses a pregnant student can practice.

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I decided to search online for a free yoga class and came across Do Yoga With Me , a website full of free yoga classes for all levels. The class I did this morning was an hour long intermediate prenatal class, Prenatal Power Flow. This class actually got me sweaty and my legs ached during the flow for once! The teacher is a little irritating (in my opinion) in that she talks a lot about the ‘miracle’ of birth and the ‘light growing inside of you’ but the flow was so dynamic I concentrated on my breathing instead.

At 22 weeks pregnant I am finding hard to keep up my running due to a lot of breathlessness, so am determined to practice a more dynamic yoga flow, so I will continue daily with this video as well as one relaxing class per weeks.

Next week I will be trying equipment pilates at Triyoga Camden!

Mum’s Delicious Filipino Curry

Since becoming pregnant I have found that there are not many meals that don’t leave me feeling nauseous. One thing that I still absolutely love is my mum’s chicken curry.

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It is so tasty yet relatively low in fat, and goes great with thai jasmine rice and green salad. Apart from peas , vegetables are not added to the curry as they tend to spoil it. I so look forward to it when I’m visiting my parents for a break from London! Here I share the recipe with you.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

Chicken thigh and drumsticks (not boneless)
1 medium onion
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1/4 tsp ginger powder
4 tbsp tomato puree
4 tsp hot curry powder (add water to make into a paste)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 pinch coriander powder
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 oxo sized coconut cream blocks
1/2 cup garden peas
season to taste

Method

  1. On a medium heat, saute the onion, garlic and ginger.
  2. Add tomato puree. When this starts to bubble, add the curry powder and cook until a paste is formed.
  3. Wash the chicken in running water and put straight into the pan (do not remove the excess water from chicken).
  4. Add two pinches of salt. Turn up the heat until ingredients start to boil.
  5. Add soy sauce, coriander, sesame oil and then stir. Turn heat down to simmering. Cover the pan.
  6. After 10-15 minutes, stir and add the coconut. Do not stir again and do not cover. Increase the heat a little.
  7. When the coconut has melted, stir. Add the peas, simmer and then cover.
  8. When chicken is cooked, bring to a quick boil and remove from heat.
  9. Add garam masala, stir, and then serve.

Enjoy!

 

Maternity style?

I am finding it incredibly hard to dress in the same style as I did pre-pregnancy. I used to buy most of my clothes from American Apparel and Urban Outfitters and would normally wear high-waisted shorts, skirts and jeans with cropped tops.

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My pre-pregnancy style

I now feel frumpy and unfashionable. This isn’t the end of the world, I know, but I no longer feel like me. I just feel like a nauseous fat person. I scavenged Topshop Maternity, who’s maternity section is absolutely tiny, with a selection of dark coloured items in boring styles. Completely unimaginative. Yet some of the items fit me so I bought them. I didn’t really have much of a choice, as Urban Outfitters and American Apparel do not stock maternity wear (at least not in the UK) and the shops that do stock in the UK are not really my cup of tea (think Gap, New Look…) and only hold their stock online. I honestly believe that their are no decent fashionable maternity lines; most of them look to me like they are for older mums, or those who don’t particularly care what they look like and would simply like comfort.

I can still just about fit into some of my regular clothes…

Whilst I know that it would be pretty difficult for a pair of high-waisted jeans to stay up on a pregnant tummy, it would be great to see some fresher takes on stylish maternity clothes than what is currently available in the UK!

Getting sweaty at a prenatal class Frame style

I love Frame. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Frame is a dance/fitness studio with locations including Shoreditch, Queens Park and recently opened (and my local) Kings Cross. Before becoming pregnant, I regularly attended ballet and Music Video classes at the Shoreditch studio. Now, at nearly 14 weeks, I’m only allowed (as advised by instructors) to take part in prenatal and Get Leggy classes.

Outside Frame Kings Cross
Outside Frame Kings Cross

Tonight’s Frame Bumps class was seriously hard, and I can thoroughly recommend it to non-pregnant people as well. We worked through a series of plies and lunges plus exercises with therabands and then a load of core work. I thought I was fit before this class but I was proven wrong!

A non-sweaty me in the studio before the class
A non-sweaty me in the studio before the class

Lisanne the instructor was encouraging with high energy that we all tried to match. Small muscles that are not worked in regular gym workouts were focused on making my arms incredibly shaky!

The waiting area inside Frame's Kings Cross venue
The waiting area inside Frame’s Kings Cross venue

I’m looking forward to Get Leggy with Susie on Monday morning, a mixture of ballet based moves and kickboxing to hopefully give me a bikini worthy bottom!

I love Frame for it’s quirky classes (80s Rave, Jane Fonda Tribute) and the passionate instructors. Frame is a breath of fresh air which, unlike some studios, don’t take themselves too seriously.