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Muscle mom: Gearing up for childbirth is like prepping for a marathon

November 4th, 2013 11:21 am by Danielle Braff

Muscle mom: Gearing up for childbirth is like prepping for a marathon

Chicago Tribune


While being pregnant always sounds like a great excuse to sit around all day eating chocolate-covered pickles, it’s actually prime time to get into shape.

“No runner would think about doing a marathon without training — and the biggest aerobic fitness challenge most women will face is labor,” says Mary Jane Minkin, an obstetrics and gynecology doctor and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine. “So why would you think about approaching labor without training for it? I’ve run plenty of half-marathons, and labor is more of a fitness challenge than a half-marathon.”

These exercises have been approved for healthy pregnant women by Minkin, and they were created by Michelle Dozois, Los Angeles-based trainer, mother of two and star of the DVD “BodyFit 360.” This workout can be done two to three times a week on alternating days and could be complemented by walking daily for 20 to 30 minutes. As your pregnancy progresses, Dozois suggests using a chair to assist with balance during the lower-body exercises.


10 reps

Muscles worked: All the major muscles in the legs with a focus on quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

How to do it: Standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart or slightly wider, perform two squats by shifting your hips back as your bend your knees, as if you were going to sit in a chair. Stand and repeat the squat. After doing two squats, step your right leg back about 2 to 3 feet and then bend both knees, allowing your body to lower. Try to maintain a 90-degree bend in your knees at the bottom of the lunge. Lift back up before repeating the lunge. Return your right leg back to squat position and repeat the sequence. Continue lunging back on the same leg until you complete all 10 reps.

Modification: Use a chair for balance. The chair should be positioned on the same side as the rear lunge leg.


12 to 15 reps

Muscles worked: The entire upper body with a focus on the chest, triceps and deltoids.

How to do it: On your knees, lean forward and put your hands on the floor in front of you so they are directly below your shoulders. Your body should form a long line from the top of your head to your knees. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the floor while keeping your core engaged. Press back up to starting position.

Modification: Stand about 18 inches away from a wall with your hands resting on the wall and your body in one long line from the top of your head to your feet. Bend your elbows so your upper body moves toward the wall and then presses back out.


10 reps

Muscles worked: All the major muscles in the legs with a focus on your quads, glutes and inner and outer thighs.

How to do it: Stand with your feet together before taking a big step out to the side with your right leg, bending your right knee while shifting your hips back. Make sure your toes face the front and your knees stay in line with your toes. Your weight should be centered over your right heel. Keeping your torso engaged, push off your right foot, bringing your leg behind your left foot in a curtsy squat. As you come up from the squat, stand and step back to the side lunge.

Modification: Use a chair to assist in balance.


12 to 15 reps

Muscles worked: Triceps and deltoids.

How to do it: Sit in a chair and wrap your hands around the seat next to your hips. Press your hips just out in front of the chair. Bend your elbows, lowering your hips toward the floor. Be sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Press back up, concentrating on engaging your muscles in the back of your arms.


15 reps

Muscles worked: Inner and outer thighs, calves.

How to do it: Standing with your legs 2 to 3 feet apart, toes turned out and torso tall, bend your knees and lower into a plie squat. Make sure your knees don’t drift over your toes when you bend your legs. Keep your spine long and push off your right leg, sweeping it across toward your left leg, and gently tap your toe in front of your left foot. Sweep your right leg back out to your lower plie position. Repeat your sweep.

Modification: Use a chair for balance.


10 reps

Muscles worked: Core, glutes, shoulders and back of thighs

How to do it: Kneel with your knees directly under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your core engaged and your spine neutral as you reach one arm in front of you and reach the opposite leg out behind you. Try to reach the arm and leg out as far as you can, keeping them parallel to the floor. Hold for one breath while focusing on keeping the body still. Return to start and switch sides.


Next, start from the beginning of the routine and repeat everything. On exercises where you only used the right side, switch sides when you repeat (double squat, side lunge, plie).


5 breaths

From your kneeling position, bring your feet closer together, keeping your knees wide.

Sit your hips back over your heels and reach your arms out in front of you.

Stay here for five breaths, releasing the tension in your hips, lower back and upper body.


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