Getting knocked-up doesn’t mean you have to hit the brakes on your exercise routine, but it might be time to look into a prenatal fitness regime. With that in mind, and with one of us having a (gluten-free) bun in the oven, we’re bringing you a series focusing on prenatal fitness classes around Toronto.
With all of the twisting, crunching, and core-torching work in a typical Studio Lagree class, you might assume the studio is totally off limits for a pregnant woman. Luckily for those of us preggos unwilling to surrender our regular megaformer date (and who were starting to become a little tired of twiddling our thumbs during a 15-minute core block in a regular class), Lagree has come to the rescue with its weekly pre- and post-natal fitness classes.
Led by the studio’s resident physiotherapist, Kathryn Zbarsky (who also happens to be a neurofunctional acupuncture and performance provider, as well as a rehab pilates instructor in addition to teaching at Lagree) the workout focuses solely on the movements pregnant women and new mamas can safely do. Dedicated core work is limited to side plank variations, saw (a movement in which you shift weight ever so slightly back and forwards in a forearm plank) and catfish (think an incline plank with a pike). While deep crunches may be off the table, Lagree uses core work in these classes to assist in the prevention and management of diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles).
The all-important pelvic floor muscles are strengthened in these prenatal fitness classes thanks to kneeling and standing inner thigh work, while our butts are shaped and kept strong through Lagree’s signature leg moves including lunge variations and squats (thrilling for those of us whose pregnancy goals include “not looking pregnant from behind”).
As with most other prenatal classes, one of the most appreciated aspects of the weekly class is simply the chance to connect with other mamas and mamas-to-be who share a love of staying fit and strong, and who never judge you for leaving mid-escalator lunge for a trip to the washroom.
We caught up with Master Trainer (and mama-to-be herself) Bianca Gross to get a few more details on why a prenatal fitness class at Lagree is so important.
Well TO Do: Studio Lagree has had prenatal workshops in the past, but what made you finally add a standing class to the schedule?
Bianca Gross: The demand for a safe workout during pregnancy that is also challenging is growing more and more every day. Many of our regular clients become pregnant and still want to practice Lagree Fitness so we decided to create a class just for them. Safe for baby but still gently intense for mom. Surprisingly, many of the Lagree moves are safe for pregnant women but our pre- and postnatal class takes the guessing work out; all movements in the routine ARE safe.
WTD: What are some of the different needs of pregnant and post-natal women in a Lagree class versus the rest of the clientele?
BG: Pre- and postnatal women have to focus more on their pelvic floor and abdominals muscles. These muscles change dramatically during and after pregnancy and if conditioned correctly, will help in the birthing and healing processes. At Studio Lagree we recognize that conditioning these muscles must be done carefully, gently, and appropriately, as pre- and postnatal bodies change daily.
In our Lagree classes, spring loads during pregnancy and post pregnancy might be different than regular clients. Additionally, the use of support bars and cables become important for pregnant women whose balance may be off because of a growing belly; we ensure that movements that involve crunching the midsection are replaced and that we limit the range of motion on certain movements to avoid overstretching or pulling muscles due to the increased levels of relaxin that a pregnant body has.
We believe that it is extremely important that pre- and postnatal women stay active (as permitted by their doctors) and take care of themselves physically in order to meet the demands of their ever-changing body and future lifestyle (carrying baby around!).
WTD: What are some Lagree moves that are beneficial for prenatal and post-natal women?
Gentle abdominal work is safe, like saw, wheelbarrow, and planks. It is recommended that all core work for pre- and postnatal women be done only at the front of the megaformer, where there is less tension and as they get further into their pregnancy we recommend 2-3 yellow springs to assist in the movements. Standing inner thighs is a wonderful movement that allows women to strengthen the supporting muscles around their pelvis while mentally engaging their pelvic floor in the movement.
Most lunges and squats are useful and safe, although adductor work may need to be modified and some kicks, like donkey and spider, may not be comfortable. Kneeling and seated arm exercises are great options for upper body. The beauty of Lagree Fitness and the Megaformer is that modifications are available for every body. And if practiced properly, the workout is safe yet challenging and effective.
WTD: What are some of the things women might not know that they shouldn’t be doing during pregnancy and why?
BG: The most common mistake a pregnant woman will make is to crunch or compress the belly (the baby). In early stages of pregnancy, this is generally ok unless the woman does not feel comfortable. As the belly/baby grows, it is important to keep it free and open with a decent amount of movement in all directions.
It is also not recommended to lay flat on your back or stomach in the second and third trimesters. As the baby grows, laying on the back puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, slowing blood flow and nutrients to the baby. Laying on the stomach is often not even possible, but if so should be avoided, again to keep the belly free and open.
Studio Lagree’s prenatal fitness and postnatal fitness classes are held on Tuesdays at 1:30pm at the Forest Hill location. To sign up, click here.