goop Label: the December edition
Shop the collection »

Do

Exercising Through Pregnancy—And Getting Your Body Back After

Pregnancy is a time of extreme emotions: Exhilaration and joy, countered by feelings of anxiety and helplessness, both in terms of what’s happening to your body in that moment in time and space, and also what’s happening to your baby. In short, you spend 40 weeks wondering what will happen on the other side: Whether everything will go off according to plan, whether your baby will be safe and happy, and whether you’ll ever look and feel the same. (Answer: You won’t, though Tracy Anderson promises that you can actually look better! And on that same tip, Dr. Oscar Serrallach has some important advice on countering post-natal depletion, too.) Below, Tracy shares some advice on exercising (or not) through pregnancy—and also what to do on the other side.

A Q&A with Tracy Anderson

Q

You created the Pregnancy Project when you were pregnant with Penny. Obviously, your life is fitness, but did you work out and train all 40 weeks? How did you stay motivated near the end? Any tricks?

A

Even my OBGYN, Dr. Michelle Hakakha (author of Expecting 411), would give me a sweet chuckle of reassurance, telling me it was A-ok to continue doing my muscular structure and my dance aerobics workouts during my pregnancy with Penny. One of my favorite mantras is that, yes, I do know a lot about the body, but just like any doctor or expert, I don’t know more than you know intuitively about your own body. Pregnancy is a unique time, when we have the opportunity to really tune in.

I suffered a miscarriage before Penny, so when I found out I was pregnant with her I was hesitant to cough! In those first few weeks after finding out, it felt best just to let the pregnancy settle in. While I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits and importance of exercising during pregnancy, I also believe that being healthy is all about balance. When pregnant, you may need to use a different set of skills to tap into what your body is going through. If you are already an avid exerciser, you have become a certain kind of athlete for yourself and you alone. But when a new life begins in you, there is more to the equation than there is when your body is working just for you. No matter your fitness level, the most important thing to consider when deciding when to start or stop exercising is simple: when your OBGYN says so. Beyond that, it comes down to you and your ability to hear your body’s needs.

For me, once I was given the green light to exercise from Dr. Hakakha, I waited a few weeks until I felt my own green light, then started slowly with muscular structure work. I literally did the workouts in the exact order they’re in in the Pregnancy Project. Before I found out I was pregnant, I had been planning to create a pregnancy series—but I didn’t plan on actually being pregnant in it! After I got the news, it was actually Gwyneth’s idea to do it real time. So, I did the entire program as I had designed it, but I walked. I never did my dance aerobics while pregnant, even though almost all of my clients do it successfully all nine months.

Staying motivated was easy for me because I knew if I didn’t keep my muscles on point, getting back to me—when it was just me my body was working for—would be a much more difficult journey. I wanted to stay connected and prep my body for birth and motherhood. Keeping our intellectual, emotional, and physical selves aligned is a daily practice, and doing so—to whatever degree you are able—is even more vital during pregnancy.

Exercising while pregnant actually helps to alleviate a lot of the bummer side-effects we all endure, and once you prove that to yourself a few times, that’s trick enough to get moving.

Q

Your Method and many exercise methods, actually, are done in a heated space. Is that a definite no-no for pregnant women? What’s the workaround?

A

Women who have advanced through my method have scaled up to the entire experience: the heat and humidity, music, focus, and performance level. They have been programmed to run their bodies in heat and have greater tolerance for it than the average person. Most of us are blessed enough to live in a comfortably controlled climate day in and day out, even as the seasons change. Most of our gyms are air conditioned. The studies on women and heat during pregnancy show that most women instinctually remove themselves from heated environments before it gets to a temperature that can pose harm to the fetus. I say this loud and clear to my clients to remind them that they have the strongest understanding of and connection to their own bodies. They have been trained to have a higher tolerance to heat, which general studies on pregnancy and heat don’t take into account.

I am not one to take chances. Pregnancy isn’t the time to be sweating it out—the purpose of an intense sweat is to engage all of the muscles in a way that is essential pre- and post-workout but not during pregnancy. In the studio, we always set up special spots and fans for our mommies-to-be. To me, a hot yoga studio or one of my heated classrooms isn’t the kind of area I’d want to be performing in while pregnant, so find a spot in your home to dedicate to exercise or don’t be afraid to ask your gym to accommodate you.

Q

What sort of cardio is appropriate for pregnant women? Do you advise your clients to continue on with dance cardio, or is it modified? Can you do cardio throughout the entire pregnancy? Should you wear a heart rate monitor?

A

You can do any cardio you like during pregnancy, as long as your doctor has given you the go-ahead to work out and it is a cardiovascular discipline (i.e. running, biking, swimming) that you’ve been doing regularly and effectively for at least 4 to 6 months prior to your pregnancy. I didn’t do any dance during my pregnancy. The weight transfers, turns, and jumping just didn’t feel right to me when I was pregnant. Instead, I walked and focused on my muscular structure work. But most of my clients don’t give up dance cardio. You can and should do some form of cardio during your pregnancy, as long as your doctor is agreeable—and so is your gut. I think a heart monitor is a great way of measuring to help you stay aware of what is a healthy zone for you and the baby, but this number can’t be generalized and is a guideline that should be set by your doctor.

Q

Are there specific moves that are important for the opening and stretching out the hips? What about supporting the lower back? Anything in particular that’s essential?

A

It goes beyond a few stretches. To really stay connected as your joints and ligaments are being stretched, and your entire center of gravity shifts, is tough—it’s like your newly shifted spine is carrying a full backpack, complete with laptop, on the front of your body without straps. If you were less than physically connected before, your body will probably become even more disconnected during this period, which should be one of the most naturally connected moments in life. For example, if you started with a weak back, then things are about to get critically and consistently challenging—and exercise should become your greatest support. About 80 percent of all pregnant women suffer some kind of back pain during pregnancy. I believe there should be a difference between pain and of feeling the process of your body shifting and changing throughout each phase of pregnancy. I believe that the more connected you are, and the more secure you are with moving in your own body with control and confidence, the more likely you are to have a relatively pain-free pregnancy, and the better set-up you will be for a speedy return post-baby. Continuous support of the lower back and stretching of the hips should take place during your exercise routine—which should ideally happen four to seven days per week. There should be a morning stretch and an evening stretch. Nothing stressful. I really believe in getting into a very focused zone with both yourself and the new life you are housing.

Q

What happens to the core when you’re pregnant? Can you effectively work it without stressing the baby in any way?

A

The center of your body can and should be worked, but not by crunching on your back—instead, you need to let go of your center and utilize the supportive and stabilizing muscles in other ways. Your uterus grows from a couple of ounces to a couple of pounds by the end of pregnancy. When the uterus returns to its normal size four to six weeks post pregnancy, if you did some work, paid attention, and perhaps were strategic enough to ensure that all of the muscles that pass through your core are still awake and alert, they will come back to form and in many cases may even be better than before.

You may have heard the myth that if you are carrying the baby low and popping out from the hips you are having a boy and that if you look more like a round beach ball it’s a girl. Well, as much as my mom loves her gypsy gut, she is wrong about this one. Every woman’s abdominal muscles are different and the way the baby sits depends on how much your joints loosen, how the baby is laying, and if and how the abs separate. Many women suffer from a substantial split making it even more important that they are in touch with ways other than crunching in terms of strengthening their core. You must also wait for your doctor’s OK before resuming exercise because the abs can become separated and that is not what we want. Throughout the Pregnancy Project, I work the core in ways that are not so obvious to an observer.

Q

As you well know from your own experience, every pregnancy is different. What’s your advice for women who blow up, regardless of how well they might be eating, or how much they might be exercising?

A

Pregnancy is a time when women are more sensitive to blood sugar highs and lows, being revolted by a food or flavor, and being desperately in need of another with the most animalistic sense of urgency. It is best for the mother to try and do her body service—and serve the baby well—by trying to stick to a 25 to 35-pound weight gain. This can be managed best with a plan and set of guidelines for the pregnancy that aren’t too strict that they prohibit you from the occasional milkshake-911. Your body has cravings that shift and change throughout pregnancy for many key reasons. The body is doing something completely new and unique. Different hormones at different levels come into play and there is also a great deal of emotion involved. Try not to think of your diet as eating for two because in reality if you already have an existing healthy diet, you only need to add about 300 calories per day for the growing little one. You should work out, but this is not the time to run a marathon. You should not push yourself to exhaustion with exercise during pregnancy. I really love a plan that takes hold of your health, your physical connection to yourself, your growing little one, and your self-respect to not only create a happy, healthy home in the womb but a happy, healthy, balanced lifestyle for your baby once they are here.

Q

Any foods that should be avoided?

A

Avoid alcohol, caffeine, unpasteurized foods, undercooked or raw meats and fish, seafood high in mercury, herbal tea, non-organic foods, raw sprouts, and unwashed fruits or veggies. It’s a good time to raise your standards, too, and not eat inflammatory foods like commercial eggs, wheat, citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, fried foods, processed foods, and white flour. Also, really make sure your foods are organic, including your meats. Try to source as close to nature as possible. Reach for proteins first, before carbs, but know that you will need carbs, too. Go for olive oil, lean proteins, organic dark or wild rice, and super nutrient-dense veggies and fruits.

Q

You say that you can take any woman’s body and make it even better post pregnancy than it was before—what’s the trick?

A

There isn’t a trick, and to do this takes real focus. I have a plan and formula to rebuild the body back step-by-step, skin tone and all, but the key is to start as soon as your doctor releases you to work out—while the relaxin hormone is still present. It is always easier to design muscles that aren’t overdeveloped than those that are; I have found post-pregnancy to be an ideal time to rebuild muscular structure and overcome road blocks that were difficult to shift and change before. Waking muscles back up in an order and manner that makes sense is also easier when you are working to scale back up your endurance. It is a more difficult journey to show up for mentally, but the reward of owning it incrementally and naturally is one that keeps women from yo-yoing because it happens without quick fixes. Setting up a space in your home to be near the baby is key. Start with either one of my post-pregnancy DVD’s and do them until you can get through seven consecutive days without a break. Then move onto Metamorphosis, where your program changes every 10 days, or move onto my TA Real-time streaming. Starting with beginners and then moving onto advanced muscular structure while scaling up the cardio will not let you down. It is essential to our health, and the ability for each of us to care for our children with our most connected foot forward, so protect your time to exercise after giving birth—and yes, we can all have better bodies post-pregnancy, 100 percent!

You may also like