Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Barre Workouts During Pregnancy

If you’ve been around the healthy living blogosphere as long as I have, you've read about a lot people who seem to have an endless amount of self-discipline (not to mention time and energy) when it comes to fitness. I am not one of those people.

Sure, one day in 2006, I got myself off of the couch and made a decision that changed my life--I started running. But I’m pretty sure I would have stopped if running hadn’t become more than just a workout for me.

Running, and working out in general, is an integral part of my social life. If you’re one of my close friends, I’ve probably run with you sometime in the past six years. I meet friends at the gym; I pick them up on the way to yoga; I’ve even signed up for bootcamp classes with my husband. Point being, I like to have a buddy. I do better if someone is counting on me to show up. I am--and I think most friends would agree--reliable if nothing else.

But right now, basically everyone I know is pregnant, and many of the people who had been my pregnant workout buddies are entering their last few weeks of pregnancy, leaving me to my own devices when it comes to workout plans.

This is not a good scenario for me. Luckily, I still have a running buddy who meets me once a week for short and progressively slower runs. And, I keep my commitment to show up a twice a week to Zumba because, as the instructor, I have approximately 25-30 people relying on me to do so. But that’s only three workouts a week, and my strength training is lacking.

I decided a few weeks ago to go back to barre-style classes. I have done these classes on and off over the last several years. But, it had been awhile and, unfortunately, the studio I loved in the city, Bar Method, is no longer close by.

The Dailey Method offers a similar workout and gives me the opportunity to sign up for a class through an online reservation system, which (sometimes) tricks my brain into believing that the commitment is more concrete than a promise to myself that I'll make it to the gym. Though I had a not-so-great first experience with the Dailey Method pre-pregnancy (that’s another story), I chalked it up to the instructor and I decided that I would give it another shot around 20-weeks pregnant.

Disclaimer: This is not the smartest thing to do. You shouldn’t begin new exercise programs mid-pregnancy. But because I have been doing strength training (albeit rarely) during pregnancy AND I have a fitness background of sorts AND I had experience with this style of class, I trusted myself to... well, trust myself in a less familiar workout scenario. I do not recommend that you do the same.

Barre-style classes are typically low impact and sculpt and strengthen all of the major muscle groups. The class begins with a warm up followed by arm exercises that include using light weights and usually incorporates push ups and triceps dips. After several sets of ab work, you take your place at a ballet barre and begin various thigh exercises. These are typically variations of squats and plies, some done on the balls of the feet. The class moves on to “seat” work, which basically means, exercises that work your ass muscles, then more abs and a good amount of stretching, both at the barre and on the floor. Many of the exercises emphasis small movements, and typically, they are very challenging and fatigue your muscles quickly.

Because the classes are low impact and focus on strengthening and stretching, many studios promote the classes as appropriate for pre-natal exercise. Some Bar Method studios actually offer classes specifically for pre-natal participants. The Dailey Method, at least the studio near me, promotes their classes to pregnant woman, but does not have pre-natal specific classes.

I have mixed feelings about the classes really. I loved Bar Method when I took it regularly in the city, and Dailey Method just doesn’t seem as organized or effective (but I’m also dealing with different physical limitations). After getting more familiar with the class and some of the instructors, I like it more than I initially did, but I definitely get the feeling that many of the instructors at my studio aren’t completely comfortable or familiar with providing a pregnant woman with modifications for all of the exercises.

Because I do have some fitness qualifications, I feel comfortable getting through these classes, which often include fairly complicated exercises, safely. However, if you do not have prior experience in these classes and/or you cannot take a class specifically geared to pregnant exercisers, I’d recommend finding something else.

Here's the thing that many people don’t realize--and I didn’t know before entering the world of Zumba--is that many fitness instructors (barre classes and everywhere else) probably have a personal interest in fitness and some kind previous participation in fitness (i.e., I have a dance background) plus a fitness certification of some sort, which involved studying for and subsequently passing an exam (like the one I got). That’s not to say these exams aren’t difficult, but most people working as fitness instructors do not have years of schooling in anatomy, kinesiology, physical fitness, etc. Many are competent, some are less so, and often because of instructor limitations or class size or other factors, it’s up to the participant to make sure they are working at an appropriate intensity level and safely executing the exercises. This is true for everyone, but becomes even more important when you are exercising for two. If you're pregnant make sure you (and your doctor) are comfortable with your fitness choices.

1 comment:

Jadzia@Toddlerisms said...

For me, it was more important to do any kind of exercise during that last trimester than to focus on what or how much. During the first pregnancy that was step aerobics (sans the step) and weight training up until the day before delivery. (Brilliant, I know. Labor and delivery ended up kicking the crap out of me anyway.) The subsequent pregnancies I had not QUITE as much ambition. But the barre workout sounds like a great choice! Because bouncing around late in pregnancy doesn't always feel that great.