Thursday, April 11, 2019

Why you need strong glutes during and after pregnancy

Your glutes are the largest and strongest muscles in your body. They are vital to good posture and make everyday movements like sitting, standing and picking up heavy objects easier. If your glutes and hamstrings are strong and long, you are less likely to experience pain and injuries in your knees, hips, pelvis, and back.

For Pregnancy, Labour and Beyond 
Low back pain is the most common complaint of pregnancy.  It is usually a result of the growing uterus pulling the pelvis forward putting pressure on the lower back.  This is exacerbated by tight, weak glutes.  By strengthening the gluteal muscles and concentrating on correct alignment you can avoid some of the pain and discomfort that weak postural muscles can cause.  

You’ll also need those strong legs and glutes for labour and delivery.  Labour is one of the most physically intense feats you will ever experience.  

After baby arrives, you’ll be doing a lot of sitting while feeding your baby.  Hours and hours of sitting. This further weakens and tightens the glutes.  Most infant care tasks require mom to bend over, causing poor posture in the upper body as well.  Strong, long glutes and hamstrings improve alignment and posture. 

Strong Glutes

  • Help stabilise and support the lower back and pelvic floor
  • Decrease back and hip pain
  • Help give you good alignment and optimal positioning in the pelvis for baby
  • Give you the strength and endurance for labour and birth
  • Assist in good alignment and posture postpartum
  • Improve self confidence
Here are a few of our favourite glute exercises


Glute Bridges

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the mat.  Arms lie by your sides. feet, knees and hip bones should be in one line. 
  • Slowly raise your seat until you are resting on your shoulder blades.  Engage your glutes and inner thighs.  
  • How do your knees feel?  You may need to adjust how close or far your feet are from your seat.
  • Hold for a few seconds and return to the mat.
  • Start with 1 set of 10 repetitions


  • Stand tall with feet hip width apart or a little wider.
  • Look forward the whole time.
  • Send your tail bone back like you are siting down on a bench.
  • Push through your feet back to standing.
  • Start with 1 set of 10 repetitions
*Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regime*

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Safety Precautions for Exercise During Pregnancy

The New 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy gives the following advice 

  • Avoid physical activity in excessive heat, especially high humidity.
  • Avoid activities which involve physical contact or danger of falling.
  • Avoid scuba diving.
  • Lowlander women (ie living below 2500m) should avoid physical activity at high altitude (>2500m). Those considering physical activity above those altitudes should seek supervision from an obstetric care provider with knowledge of the impact of high-intensity physical activity on maternal and fetal outcomes.
  • Those considering athletic competition or exercising significantly above the recommended guidelines should seek supervision from an obstetric care provider with knowledge of the impact of high-intensity physical activity on maternal and fetal outcomes.
  • Maintain adequate nutrition and hydration- drink water before, during and after physical activity.
  • Know the reasons to stop physical activity and consult a qualified healthcare provider 

Reasons to stop physical activity and consult a qualified healthcare provider 

  • Persistent excessive shortness of breath that does not resolve on rest.
  • Severe chest pain.
  • Regular and painful uterine contractions.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Persistent loss of fluid from the vagina indicating rupture of membranes.
  • Persistent dizziness or faintness that does not resolve on rest.

What are the contraindications to exercise during pregnancy?

What are the contraindications to exercise during pregnancy?

The first list is Relative Contraindications.  This means that whether or not you should be active is relative to other factors and you will work with your healthcare provider to decide what is the best choice for you.
  • Recurrent pregnancy loss
  • Gestational hypertension
  • A history of spontaneous preterm birth
  • Mild/moderate cardiovascular or respiratory disease
  • Symptomatic anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Eating Disorder
  • Twin pregnancy after the 28th week
  • Other significant medical condition

The second list is Absolute Contraindications.  This means that you should not exercise during this pregnancy if you have any of the following:
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Premature labour
  • Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding
  • Placenta previa after 28 weeks’ gestation
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Intrauterine growth restriction
  • High-order multiple pregnancy (ex. triplets)
  • Uncontrolled Type I diabetes
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Uncontrolled thyroid disease
  • Other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder
These lists come from the 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy.

Why Frequency Matters

One of the most notable prenatal exercise guideline changes for 2019 is Frequency.  Where as the previous guidelines from 2003 recommended 3-4 days/week, the new 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy recommends exercising at least 3 days of the week, but ideally most days of the week. 

Why the change?

First, after an extensive research review, the guideline panel could demonstrate that being active most days of the week during pregnancy is safe.

Second, the panel could confidently declare that exercise during pregnancy can reduce gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension and preeclampsia by 40%. This benefit is directly related to frequency.

If you have had gestational diabetes, you know that one of the things your healthcare provider asked you to do, was move your body daily.  This is because exercise helps to stabilize blood sugar and regulate insulin.  It also helps with healthy weight gain, which is a life-style factor for developing gestational diabetes.

Third, regular exercise is more effective than sporadic exercise when it comes to preventing and managing depression and anxiety.  Aim to do something each day.  It can be a simple as a walk or as organized as attending a Fit 4 Two class

If need some motivation to exercise more frequently, consider registering for more than one Fit 4 Two class a week.  Our participants tell us that registering for 2-3 classes a week helps them to stay on track.  If you do not live where we offer programs, check out our online fitness programs

Pelvic Floor Success

The pelvic floor is made of several muscles that support the bladder, uterus and rectum while allowing the urethra, vagina and anus to pass through.  This prevents pelvic organ prolapse while allowing for normal body functions like urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse, vaginal birth, passing gas and bowel movements.

A healthy pelvic floor:
  • functions well with or without conscious contraction and relaxation. 
  • can contract and release consciously and unconsciously
When doing pelvic floor exercises, it is important to remind yourself:

  • Contract on the exhale.  Work with your breath.
  • Release and expand on the inhale
  • The release is as important as the contraction
  • Working with your breath will take practice
  • Try different positions
  • When you are starting out, 50% success is 100% success
When we inhale, our lungs will with oxygen and our diaphragm bears down. This increases the pressure inside our torso in all directions.  We call this increased intra-abdominal pressure. It is difficult to obtain a quality pelvic floor contraction when working against intra-abdominal pressure.  Instead, we inhale to expand and exhale to contract.. 

Another benefit of working with our breath, often called 'core breathing', is that we can give equal focus to the contraction and the relaxation/expansion. Historically, the emphasis was put on the contraction alone. We know now that being able to consciously release our pelvic floor is just as important as being able to consciously contract it. 

Here are are couple of our favourite pelvic floor exercises.  All our Fit 4 Two classes include pelvic floor work.  If you haven't tried a class, please join us for a free trial.  If you do not live in an area that Fit 4 Two serves, check out our online programs. 

The Jelly Fish
Visualize a jelly fish contracting and expanding.  Your pelvic floor is a jelly fish. Inhale to prepare 1-2, 3, 4.  Exhale, slowly contract your jellyfish. Inhale, slowly expand your jellyfish.  Exhale contract 2, 3, 4.  Inhale expand 2, 3, 4. Do 10X.

The Diamond
Visualize a line from your pubic bone, to your right sitting bone, to your tail bone, to your left sitting bone, back up to your pubic bone.  This will make the shape of a diamond.  Inhale 1,2,3 4.  Exhale contract your diamond, 3, 4.  Inhale expand your diamond, 3, 4.  Exhale diamond comes up, up, up.  Inhale diamond goes down, down, down. Do 10X.  

Sunday, January 27, 2019

10 Reasons to Exercise Throughout Your Pregnancy

“Prenatal physical activity should be considered a frontline therapy for reducing the risk of pregnancy complications and enhancing maternal physical and mental health.” (2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy)

1. Energy
One of the best ways to increase energy levels is to get moving.  Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.  This results in more energy for everyday tasks. 

2. Comfort
Most pregnancy aches and pains come from muscular imbalances, pressure of the growing uterus and a shifting of the spine and pelvis.  Regular exercise, especially muscular endurance, prenatal specific core work and stretching can help prevent and reduce these discomforts.

3. Improved Pelvic Floor Health
Regular pelvic floor work, giving equal focus to the contraction and the release, may help with urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, low back pain and even labour.

4. Decreased Digestive Discomforts
Regular exercise improved circulation, reducing nausea and constipation.

5. Mental Health
Exercise is a safe and accessible way to prevent and manage depression and anxiety.  It’s also a fantastic stress buster. 

6. Healthy Weight Gain
Healthy weight gain helps to prevent pregnancy complications such a gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and an increase in labour interventions. 

7. Prevention of Gestational Diabetes, Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia
Regular cardiovascular exercise helps to prevent and manage gestational diabetes and maintain healthy blood pressure. This reduces the incidence of labour interventions and cesarean birth. 

8. Prevention of Swelling, Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids
Regular cardiovascular exercise promotes healthy circulation.

9. Stamina for Labour and Parenting 
Ask any woman who has gone through labour and she will tell you that it was one of the most physically intense endeavors she has ever experienced.  Ask any parent of young children and they will assure you that parenting is seriously physical work.  Fact: Being strong, fit and healthy will help make parenting more manageable.

10. Decreased chance of caesarean birth, instrumental delivery, newborn complications

Motivated? Learn how to exercise safely throughout your pregnancy. 

The NEW 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy

The NEW 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy was recently released.  This is a summary with some added tips from Fit 4 Two. 

Cardiovascular Exercise and Resistance Training
”All women without contraindication should be physically active throughout pregnancy.  Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to achieve clinically meaningful health benefits and reductions in pregnancy complications. Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of three days per week; however, being active every day is encouraged.”(1)

Moderate-intensity means you can talk but not sing.  “Pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic and resistance training activities to achieve greater benefits.”(2) We recommend focusing on muscular endurance, as we do in our classes, which is usually defined at 2-3 sets of 12-20 repetition with a moderate resistance.

Choose activities that you enjoy, are comfortable and do not put you in danger of falling, colliding with others, projectiles, high altitudes or decompression (I.E. scuba diving).  Some examples are low impact aerobics class, power walking, stationary cycling, swimming, aquatic fitness and of course Fit 4 Two classes. If you were already doing moderate to high impact exercise like running, it does not cause you pain, and you are following the guidelines above, then it should be safe to continue.  We recommend discussing this with your healthcare provider.

Core Exercises
Pregnant women need strong core muscles in order to prevent pain, injury and to maintain good posture and function.  “Pelvic floor muscles training (PFMT) may be performed on a daily basis to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence.  Instruction on proper technique is recommended to obtain optimal benefits.” (3)   The great thing about attending Fit 4 Two classes is that set side time at each class to learn about and work on pelvic floor health.

“Pregnant women who experience light-headedness, nausea or feel unwell when they exercise flat on their back should modify their exercise position to avoid the supine position.” (4)

If you have Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation), or are not sure if you have one, please read this important article.  Certain core exercises can actually make it worse.

Maintaining healthy flexibility and mobility can prevent pain and injury during pregnancy.  Pregnant women should stretch gently after each workout and consider adding prenatal yoga to their routine.  Stretches for the chest and front of the shoulders can help with preventing and correcting excessive kyphosis (rounding forward of the back and forward position of the chin) and internal rotation of the shoulders, both common pregnancy posture challenges.  Excessive lordosis, when the growing uterus pulls the pelvis forward, creating an excessive inward curve of the lower back, is common during pregnancy and leads to low back pain.  Stretches for the low back, hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings can help.

During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin softens connective tissue to make room for your growing baby.  It is postulated that this may make pregnant women more vulnerable to overstretching.  For this reason many healthcare providers recommend gentle stretching.

Have you tried a Fit 4 Two class yet?  What's stopping you? Join for for a free trial

1,2,3,4 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy