Fitness expert Carly Rowena, 31, has revealed her top tips on exercising during and after pregnancy.
The Norwich-based Influencer, who is modeling the new maternity activewear range from JoJo Maman Bebe, gave birth to her first baby Jax in December 2018.
A champion of body positivity with over 419k YouTube subscribers, Carly insists exercising during pregnancy is perfectly safe – and will lead to an easier labour.
Carly pictured here modeling the new maternity activewear range from JoJo Maman Bebe. The Norwich-based Influencer gave birth to her first baby Jax in December 2018
Carly told Femail: ‘I had a really long labour and I had to stand throughout as I couldn’t get contractions any other way.
‘I think this would have happened whether I’d done exercise or not. The fact that I had maintained a strong body throughout meant I was able to stand for the 39 hours and I was able to do my labour on just two paracetamols.
‘I know that’s because I managed to keep my fitness levels up and had a stronger back.
‘As long as someone has been working their pelvic floor muscles and has been keeping a general level of fitness, labour should be easier because you are more physically fit and your body knows what it can take.’
If you are already exercising prior to falling pregnant, Carly says you can continue to exercise as normal but with a lower intensity.
Carly added: ‘If you are already working out, you can continue to do so after falling pregnant. You just need to reduce the intensity to around 75 per cent.
‘If you haven’t worked out before then you have to be more careful. The main thing is you have to think about why you are doing it. A lot of people still have the mind-set to exercise to lose weight and when you’re pregnant that’s not really why you’re doing it. You’re doing it because you want to have a really strong and healthy body.’
Carly found the fourth trimester the hardest in terms of fitness and advises you to wait six weeks after giving birth before embarking on any extreme exercise. During this period you should continue to work on your pelvic floor muscles
The fitness expert pictured here with her daughter Jax. Carly gave birth to her daughter in December 2018
Carly explains that working on your balance, strengthening your back and having a strong core are key during pregnancy. You don’t even need to join a gym or have equipment, she suggests walking with a back pack full of tin food cans.
She added: ‘Chuck some baked beans cans in a back pack and go for a walk. It will make it a bit harder and you should be breaking into a sweat. Avoid anything that makes you feel dizzy or sick.
‘Swimming and pilates are fabulous. Anything that has an instructor is going to be fine, as long as you’ve told them you’re pregnant.’
And there’s one exercise mums-to-be must adopt – pelvic floor exercises. Carly believes a strong pelvic floor will really help post pregnancy.
She said: ‘A lot of people think it’s the labour that causes a lot of problems but it’s actually the nine months of the extra weight of holding a baby. Having a strong pelvic floor will really help you post pregnancy.
CARLY’S PELVIC FLOOR WORKOUT ROUTINE
Sit comfortably and relax your body
Keep breathing throughout
Squeeze and lift muscles from your anus to your vagina up at the same time
Aim for three sets of eight second squeezes
Repeat twelve times either while lying, standing or sitting
‘Your pelvic muscles help you to control your bladder, bowel and aid sexual function. Strengthening this muscle can help prevent incontinence, treat prolapses and make sex better too.’
One in three women and up to 70 per cent of new mothers are affected by incontinence and other pelvic floor problems.
The best way to feel your pelvic floor muscle is to think of stopping your flow of urine when on the toilet. However this can be harmful to your bladder so it is not recommended to do this regularly but it gives you a guide on how to find it.
Carly said: ‘Adding kegal exercises into your daily routine will help strengthen and tone your pelvic floor putting an end to unwanted leaks and there are real sex benefits too.
‘Sit comfortably and relax your entire body, remember to keep breathing. Squeeze and lift the muscles from your anus to your vagina up at the same time. Aim for three sets of eight second squeezes twelve times, either while lying, standing or sitting.’
When it comes to getting your pre-baby body back after giving birth, Carly, who gave birth in December to her daughter Jax, said she found the fourth trimester (from birth until the baby is three months old), the hardest for fitness.
Carly said: ‘I went from being able to exercise all the time when I was pregnant to being able to do very little in the fourth trimester. Your routine had gone, your food goes out of the window because you’re sleeping at random times and you’ve got to be there for your baby.’
The fitness expert insists exercising during pregnancy is perfectly safe – and can lead to an easier labour. Pictured modeling the new maternity activewear from JoJo Maman Bebe
Carly is a champion of body positivity and frequently posts inspiring pieces on her social media. The blogger from Norwich has 157k followers on Instagram
For the first six weeks, she advises not to do any extreme exercise except to continue to work on your pelvic floor muscles and take deep breaths to help with core muscles.
She added: ‘A lot of us because we’re so stressed, we breathe through our chest which means we take in less oxygen. It’s better to breathe from your stomach and that will help get the core muscles to contract and go closer together which is really important.
‘Try to do five deep breaths in the morning and evening. Making sure your stomach is contracting and try to hold your pelvic floor.
There are many small exercises mothers can do at home during the first six weeks to ease back into exercising. Movements such as ‘simple deadlifts’ which involve simply picking up a pen from the floor.
Carly said: ‘I would do body weight squats, body weight lunges and simple deadlifts. Just put a pen on the floor and just try and pick it up whilst standing.
‘Walk with your baby in a sling and try to make sure your back is not over arched. After the first six weeks, get yourself a PT who can run you a good strong core programme with back and legs.’
The Influencer is launching the new JoJo Maman Bebe activewear range for expecting and breastfeeding mothers. The collection has lots of technical innovations and features like belly bands that come up over the bump for extra support and tops with nursing clips
Carly has 157k followers on Instagram and she frequently posts workout videos and body positive messages to her followers.
But living your life on social media can run the risk of being on the receiving end of negative comments, which became even more prominent when exercising during pregnancy.
Carly said: ‘I’ve always had such a lovely audience. They’ve always been amazing and very supportive but when you’re pregnant you do attract a different group of people.
‘It’s a small percentage but it’s the ones you notice the most. People were saying I was going to lose my baby or I was killing my baby because I was doing exercise.
‘It makes you really anxious because when you’re pregnant you spend every day thinking you’re going to do something wrong anyway.
‘A lot of people were telling me I was putting abs before having a baby which I wasn’t. I lost my abs within two weeks. I’m pregnant, I’m not going to have abs!
‘My job is fitness and I love it. If I just stopped during those nine months then I would have found it really hard to get back on track. It’s the same as eating and sleeping and going to the toilet, fitness is part of my day.
‘I did get a lot of negativity on social media. There’s so much misconception out there. People are really scared and they don’t know what to do. We just need to educate people and make them feel a little bit safer and show them the right and wrong things to do.
‘I try to educate with my posts and with my YouTube videos but if people got too heavy I blocked them. I don’t need that negativity in my life.’
Carly has teamed up with JoJo Maman Bebe to launch their new activewear range for expecting and breastfeeding mothers.
The collection has lots of technical innovations such as fast wicking and anti bacterial finishes. The range also has features like belly bands that come up over the bump for extra support and tops with nursing clips.
The designs can be worn during and after birth as mothers ease back into their workout regime.
Carly said: ‘I love the burgundy vest and full-length leggings. The fabrics that JoJo have used are thick and super supportive.’
The JoJo Maman Bebe activewear range is available online and in store at the end of March. Prices range from £25-£39.