Lorraine Scapens has been training pregnant women for twenty years. She has literally trained hundreds of women through pregnancies and the post-partum period, including herself! Lorraine has three adorable daughters – ages five, three, and one. This is exactly the kind of woman I’ve been looking for to give me clarification on the many issues I have read about and faced in my own pregnancies.
I’ve consulted experts in several fields, including medicine, physiotherapy and biomechanics but have yet to find someone consolidating this information into practical advice for women strength training through their pregnancies.
1. First off Lorraine, you’re obviously a busy Mom with three girls. How do you manage to juggle this with having your own business AND keeping yourself in such good shape?
I will try to answer this honestly: I don’t know!
No seriously, I am very organized and have had to prioritize, family first, business next and then exercise. Pre-kids it was always exercise first so it has taken some time getting used to.
What I do now is take advantage of the clients who want me to actually train with them. This recent benefit works really well as I can exercise with my clients 2-3 times a week. For those of you struggling to fit exercise in I suggest if you are sleeping through the night and are not tired the mornings are the best time to exercise. Set your alarm clock 30 minutes before you would normally get up, have your exercise gear ready and start a program that you can do at home or aim to get out for a run/walk/cycle 30 minutes is all the time you need. Mornings are the best time to exercise as nothing and no one is going to interfere with it. If you plan to do it later something always comes up!
You plan to do it later but something always comes up!
2. You’ve been training for twenty years. Why did you decide to specialize in pre and postnatal training?
It is probably the most special time in a woman’s life being pregnant. We don’t do it often and it should be embraced. I am very privileged to be experienced in pre and post-natal exercise and health care. Women who train with me or follow my programs – their confidence increases both pre and post-pregnancy as they remain positive and confident about themselves, birth and baby.
3. I suffered from a lingering diastasis recti following my second pregnancy yet I only gained 25 lbs (11.3kg) and exercised throughout. Now in my third pregnancy I’ve done a lot more research and have realized that my diastasis recti was probably worsened by the exercises I was doing in my second and third trimesters as well as postpartum. Most women know to avoid crunch exercises during pregnancy but you also recommend avoiding horizontal plank-position exercises such as push-ups and burpees. Can you explain the biomechanics behind this recommendation?
It is quite hard to explain in a few short sentences but there are many exercises that you need to avoid both pre and post pregnancy as they will increase or cause a diastasis.
Diastasis recti is abdominal muscle separation. It is caused by the pressure and force of your uterus pushing forward and upwards. Poor posture, multiple pregnancies, excess pregnancy weight gain and the wrong exercises increase the forward pressure of your uterus. Any exercises that create force around weakened abdominal muscles will increase this muscle separation.
The pregnancy hormone relaxin is released in large amounts from 12-30 weeks during your pregnancy. Relaxin – relaxes your muscle fibres and ligaments making them long and therefore weaker. This is required so your body can adapt to the physical changes of pregnancy and the demands of birth. Unfortunately this weakening of the muscles and ligaments can make you more prone to aches, pain and abdominal muscle separation.
Burpees and push-ups both put excess forward force on the abdominal wall causing premature separation during pregnancy and stopping it from healing post baby.
4. Every time a pregnant woman turns around she’s hearing “you can’t do this, you can’t do that!” Can you tell me what we CAN do when it comes to core training?
There are so many exercises women can do during pregnancy that are ultimately much more beneficial too. I haven’t crunched for 15 years! I recommend a variety of functional exercises, which are exercises that require you to support yourself. For example: squats, lunges, step ups, ballerinas, one leg squats, multi- lunges, glute exercises, side planks, cable exercises, dumbbell exercises, kettle bell and medicine ball exercises and suspension trainers!
Have a look at my YouTube channel and especially the twin pregnancy series that we are recording now. This will give you the exercises you need to do during your pregnancy.
5. Now for the pelvic floor… My favorite subject! One of the most controversial topics I’m reading about is the kegels vs. no kegels debate. Medical professionals are still recommending them and there are many research studies that have been published supporting the benefits of kegel exercises during pregnancy. Why do you caution against doing them? Is there any safe amount?
If you are exercising during your pregnancy, eating a healthy diet and have no present pelvic floor muscle (PFM) weakness then there is absolutely no need to do any extra squeezes!
You are actually exercising therefore strengthening your PFM when you are performing your functional exercises at the gym or enjoying your cardio exercise, so you don’t need to repeat! You wouldn’t do this with any other muscle group so why do it with the PFM?
Constant PFM exercise (kegels) can over-strengthen and shorten the PFM making it much harder to push baby out. On the other hand, squats and other functional exercises help to strengthen and lengthen the muscle making it easier to push baby out.
Women who have performed kegel exercises daily during pregnancy should start to learn how to relax the pelvic floor muscles, ultimately preparing for a faster birth!
Have a look at one of my articles that explains in greater detail why you shouldn’t squeeze if you are exercising.
6. You have a twelve-week post-pregnancy exercise program available for sale on your website. Can you tell me a little more about it and why it’s important after pregnancy?
The Birth2FitMum exercise and health program is available globally on the website along with the Fit2BirthMum program.
Exercising post pregnancy is very beneficial. Women who are active both pre and post pregnancy have a reduced chance of developing post natal depression, recover quicker from birth, can cope better with fatigue, have less aches and pain, gain their pre pregnancy shape back quicker and are more confident with themselves.
The 12 week program I have developed is tummy safe, time efficient and specific for post natal mothers.
Unfortunately many women still continue to do the wrong exercises post pregnancy and generally too much volume. This is why I developed the program so that women globally can benefit from my experience.
It’s easy post baby to forget what your body has been through and that your body actually needs to recover from pregnancy, labour and birth along with adapting to post pregnancy changes. Tiredness and stress both play a huge roll in how the body responds to exercise post pregnancy.
The 12 week program is easy to follow and women can start the program from as soon as 7 days post birth up to 3+ years post.
To learn more about exercising when pregnant safely and effectively visit Lorraine’s website Pregnancy Exercise.