Keeping fit with a baby on the way is something a lot of expecting moms struggle with and have questions about! What are the best workouts? How much is too much? Is this the best thing for my baby? Revolve DC instructor Francina Segbefia is a lawyer and mother by day and fitness extraordinaire by night. The former figure competitor (think bodybuilding) turned indoor cycling and Zumba queen talked with Skinny Mom to share her tips for every expecting mom who wants to have a fit pregnancy!
Skinny Mom: What is the very first thing you say to a woman when she says she wants to have a “fit” pregnancy?
Francina Segbefia: You are making a great decision to keep your body healthy and in turn keeping your baby healthy.
SM: Others are quick to tell you that you shouldn’t be working out while pregnant, and that it’s all about the baby. What do you have to say to these naysayers?
FS: Moms can ensure they are being safe while working out by using common sense. Check with your doctor first and foremost, and explain to your doctor the type of exercise, the length of time the class will be and the physical position your body will be in, and just get the assurance that it’s okay to continue with the activity. Then, just listen to your body. If you feel really uncomfortable on your bike, it’s likely that you just need an adjustment to the seat and handlebar positions. Pay attention to your breathing and how your body feels — if you feel like you are overexerting yourself, ease back, catch your breath and take it easy until you can continue a more intense level. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout and just do the best you can!
SM: As someone who chose to have a fit pregnancy, what did you do to combat the first few months of nausea and exhaustion? What do you recommend women try doing to make sure they’re still active?
FS: Trust me, this is tough to do in the first trimester, especially if you have morning sickness, which I did. Because I am a group fitness instructor, I still had to show up to my classes in my first trimester, and I’m really glad I did. The workouts helped control my morning sickness immensely. It may have only been temporary relief on some days, but any relief was welcome. If you have morning sickness, try a light workout and see if it helps. Take a group fitness class like Zumba or cycling where you can focus on something else for that hour and see if it helps. It definitely helped me.
SM: What is your take on strength training versus cardio?
FS: I think both are important. You get different benefits from strength training than you do from cardio, so doing both will give you a more balanced workout routine. And strength training doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights in the gym. You can strengthen muscles by doing yoga, Pilates, barre classes, or simple body weight exercises. Cardio is great for your heart and overall cardiovascular system. There’s been mounting evidence that a strong healthy heart in mom, leads to a strong healthy heart in baby. All in all, do what feels good when it comes to exercise. If you are in pain or feel very uncomfortable, stop what you are doing. Listen to your body!
SM: Did you continue with core exercises during the nine months?
FS: I did modified core work such as planks and standing ab work. No exercises that required me to be flat on my back.
SM: Women who are used to high intensity training – like a killer cycling class! – might feel as if they can’t work out the way they usually do. Do you recommend dialing down?
FS: Check with your doctor first and foremost and explain to your doctor the type of exercise, the length of time the class will be and the physical position your body will be in and just get the assurance that it is okay to continue with the activity. Then, just listen to your body. You may need to build up endurance if you are new to cycling, but just taking everything at your own pace and listening to your body is the best advice. Like I said before, if you feel like you are overexerting yourself, ease back, catch your breath and take it easy until you can continue a more intense level.
Bike setup is also critical. If you have been cycling before, continuing with the classes should not add extra stress to the lower back if properly positioned on the bike. Even if you have been cycling for awhile, your bike positions will need to change as you progress through your pregnancy. If you feel really uncomfortable on your bike, it’s likely that you just need an adjustment to the seat and handlebar positions.
SM: What are the top five exercises/activities you recommend during pregnancy?
FS: There are many, many exercises that women can continue to do while pregnant, although certain activities, such as contact sports or exercises that have compromising positions (like laying flat on your back or too much forward flexion) should be avoided. I teach Zumba and also do cardio exercises on the treadmill and elliptical, but I love cycling during my pregnancy because it is a very low impact exercise and you do not have to worry about excess weight and force on your joints like you do with other cardio exercises. Plus, you can get a great workout for your heart and lungs and feel a good amount of intensity that is easy to control. It’s so easy to adjust the intensity of your cycling workout when you need a break. You really don’t need to make too many adjustments and as a participant, it’s great feeling like you can keep up with the rest of the class.
Take time to stretch after class. Many of us have the tendency to rush out after the cycling portion of class is finished without stretching. It is especially important to stretch your legs and lower back after cycling so your muscles don’t get too tight. In addition, including classes such as yoga or Pilates will also help to create more rounded fitness program. And don’t forget to have fun!