Pregnancy fitness: The dos and don’ts of prenatal exercise with Siobhán Byrne
As soon as you announce that you’re pregnant, you’re usually met with the onslaught of unsolicited advice. People tell you what you should eat, wear, watch and usually, how you should exercise.
But with so much information out there, it’s hard to know where to turn which is why we enlisted the help of fitness expert Siobhán Byrne.
Siobhán is director and co-owner of popular Bodybyrne Fitness and a full-time trainer to boot. She’s also a mum of two and a keen advocate for prenatal exercise.
This year Siobhán will be joining our excellent speaker line-up at Vitality, Ireland’s largest festival of natural health and wellbeing which takes place on September 28 and 29 in the RDS Simmonscourt.
In the run-up to the event, we asked her to outline some of her top tips for expecting mums.
Do: Leave your pride at the door
“Pregnancy is not the time to be achieving personal bests. Being pregnant is about getting yourself to a stage where you feel comfortable, happy, healthy and good,” explains Siobhán.
While it’s important that mums remain active, Siobhán believes that they also need to enjoy their training without worrying about hitting targets or smashing goals. Training during pregnancy should be all about helping you to feel good, not completely exhausted.
“It’s a time for keeping your body ticking over and keeping the habits that you’ve been forming before you got pregnant. Everything should be in a controlled environment where you feel comfortable.”
Don’t: Make comparisons
Remember that every pregnancy is different. You might have trained non-stop while carrying your first baby but perhaps you struggle to get out of bed with your second. This is completely normal. Instead of fighting it, embrace it.
“On my second child, I felt really lousy for a while and couldn’t train. When I train clients, I always tell them, you have to do what works for you when you’re pregnant. That could be walks for some people, for other people, they might strength train all the way through. You have to do what makes you feel great.”
Do: Complete exercises you enjoy
The key to enjoying your pregnancy exercise routine is to focus on exercises that you actually enjoy. Try out different options to see what suits you at different stages of your pregnancy.
“I did a lot of swimming,” explains Siobhán. “But when I got pregnant I didn’t like the feeling of the stretch across my stomach while I was doing the front crawl so I stopped. That’s why I always say to women, do what makes you feel good. Only do things that are natural to you. If you’re good at running and you like running already there’s no problem with keeping it up. Just make sure your surface is good. Be clever about things.”
Don’t: Exhaust yourself
During pregnancy, you should tweak your workouts to suit your energy levels and mood. It’s also important that you don’t overexert yourself in the gym.
“I change how my clients train when they’re pregnant,” explains Siobhán. “I give them a lot more rest time. They’re still working their muscles hard but I would never get them to the point where they’re fatiguing or breathless.”
Do: Eat a balanced diet
Food and nutrition are a huge part of any training programme. But should you alter your diet while pregnant? Siobhán encourages mums to up their intake of nutritious, healthy food.
“When I work with a pregnant client, I usually advise them to reduce the amount of heavily processed food they eat and bring up their lean protein such as chicken, good veg and good carbs such as sweet potatoes, brown rice and oatmeal.”
“Get nice fats in from nuts, seeds, avocados and things like that but not too much. I advise against cooking with too many oils.”
Siobhán also believes that pregnant women should pay attention to their body and cravings as often we can tell when we need a certain food or nutrient.
“Your body will tell you when it needs something. Without being airy fairy, you should just listen. It’s all about balance, don’t start cutting out things willy nilly. Be sensible. Choose wisely.”