In this five-part series, wellness entrepreneur and new mom Hannah Bronfman speaks with other moms and experts about all the life-changing topics that come with motherhood — from pregnancy and postpartum health to balancing mom life and a career.
When it comes to staying fit during pregnancy — or anytime, really — moving your body is definitely key. That’s according to Dr. LA Thoma Gustin, a physical therapist who also happens to be pregnant with her first child.
The mom-to-be chatted with new mom Hannah Bronfman about everything from prenatal workouts to her experience with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a pregnancy condition that’s been compared to a severe form of morning sickness.
While locking down the right workout routine can sometimes seem overcomplicated and confusing, especially if you’re a beginner, Gustin says her goal is to make things easy.
“The fitness world can be very intimidating, so I feel like simplifying things,” Gustin says. “I feel like people just remember it easier if you break it down a little bit more simply.”
That’s why stretching is Gustin’s go-to exercise for women who are expecting. You can do it almost anywhere, it can help with easing pain, and it’s an easy way to get your body moving — which is the main thing.
“Sleeping on one side or the other has been rough for me,” Gustin says, admitting that she preferred to sleep on her back or stomach pre-pregnancy. “So I’m waking up every morning with a stiff back.”
That’s when she breaks out her yoga ball.
“I’ll sit on it and then lay on it and do back extensions on it. That’s been amazing,” Gustin says. “I will sit on a yoga ball and do a million different stretches and movements. Because, ultimately, the more you move,” she adds, “the less pain you’re going to feel.”
“If I’m standing in the kitchen, I’ll stretch. If I’m watching TV, I’ll stretch,” she continues. “The amount of time I stretch is the biggest key vs. exactly the stretch I’m doing.”
That said, for Gustin’s first trimester, moving at all was a challenge she hadn’t expected.
“Going into my pregnancy, I was very fit, exercising all the time,” she explains. “Then HG just hits you like a ton of bricks. Basically I was bed-bound for a couple of months. I went on maybe two walks, so I was just laying down all day, every day.”
Gustin’s body eventually became deconditioned, and she lost a lot of weight. It wasn’t until the second trimester when she could get out of bed and start moving again. Just going for a walk up and down the street was a huge accomplishment for her.
“I was just patient with myself and really slowly got back into [a fitness routine],” essentially, she says, doing regular workouts with modifications.
While Gustin hesitates to talk postnatal fitness, particularly because she’s not there yet with her own pregnancy, the physical therapist does offer general advice for people who are looking to keep up some form of fitness after they’ve given birth.
“So [doctors] tell you don’t do anything for six weeks or [more] if you have a C-section. During that time, obviously you’re not jumping back into your full exercise program, but you do want to start turning on those deep core pelvic floor muscles,” Gustin recommends, mentioning the familiar kegel exercise. “That’s with the breath work, or zipping up your core and lifting that pelvic floor up and relaxing it.” Those exercises aren’t super taxing, she says, and you can do them basically anywhere.
“You can do them sitting or lying down or while you’re breastfeeding,” she says, again keeping it simple.
So when you do hit that six-week mark — or more — you won’t be starting from the absolute beginning.
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