I knew in my rational brain that exercise during pregnancy was totally healthy. Yet when I got that first positive test, I was scared that any movement would knock the baby loose. Should I keep jogging? Doing high-impact aerobics? Ab work? So many worries a pregnant mom faces! Because I’m sure I’m not the only one with irrational fears, I love getting expert opinions on exercising during pregnancy and how to best adapt them for your new “condition.”
Today, Francina Segbefia, a fitness instructor at Revolve, an indoor cycling studio in Washington, D.C., shares her tips on how to keep cycling during pregnancy. Francina is a certified Schwinn, FreeMotion and Spinning instructor and has more than seven years of experience leading indoor cycling classes. So if you’ve ever wondered about the safety of cycling while pregnant, read on for reassurance that you can adapt that indoor bike to pregnancy and still get a great workout!
Why is cycling a great workout for pregnant women?
There are many, many exercises that women can continue to do while pregnant, although certain activities, such as contact sports or exercises that have compromising positions (like lying flat on your back or too much forward flexion) should be avoided. I teach Zumba and also do cardio exercises on the treadmill and elliptical, but I love cycling during my pregnancy (1) because it is a very low-impact exercise and you do not have to worry about excess weight and force on your joints like you do with other cardio exercises, and (2) you can get a great workout for heart and lungs and feel and good amount of intensity that is easy to control. It’s so easy to adjust the intensity of your cycling workout when you need a break. You really don’t need to make too many adjustments and as a participant, it’s great feeling like you can keep up with the rest of the class.
How can moms ensure that they’re being safe while they’re cycling?
Moms can ensure they are being safe while cycling by using common sense. Check with your doctor first and foremost, and explain to your doctor the type of exercise, the length of time the class will be and the physical position your body will be in and just get the assurance that it is okay to continue with the activity. Then, just listen to your body. If you feel really uncomfortable on your bike, it’s likely that you just need an adjustment to the seat and handlebar positions. Pay attention to your breathing and how your body feels. If you feel like you are overexerting yourself, ease back, catch your breath and take it easy until you can continue at a more intense level. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout and just do the best you can!
What adjustments should be made on the bike to accommodate the bigger belly and changing body? Any alignment tips for expecting moms?
The bike only needs minor adjustments. First, raise the handlebars to a height that feels comfortable for your belly. At some point, the most comfortable position will be to raise the handlebars of the bike to the highest position. This will allow room for your expanding belly. Second, make sure that your seat is positioned at the correct height and fore/aft position. Many riders have their seats positioned too far forward and — especially with potentially some added stress to a pregnant woman’s lower back — it’s really important that the spine is in the correct position. If you are not sure, this is definitely the time to come to class early and have the instructor take the time to do a proper bike fit to ensure that you have proper body alignment. During class, take breaks and change your body position frequently if it feels better. If the class is doing a very long seated climb and you feel the need to come out of the saddle to stretch your legs or to allow your belly some room to stretch, do it.
Can cycling put pressure on the low back or any common places pregnant women experience discomfort?
If a mom has been cycling before, continuing with the classes should not add extra stress to the lower back if properly positioned on the bike. Also, if you feel out of breath or any kind of pain (not just discomfort), slow down and stop the exercise. You may need to build up endurance if you are new to cycling, but just taking everything at your own pace and listening to your body is the best advice. Bike setup is critical. Even if you have been cycling for awhile, your bike positions will need to change as you progress through your pregnancy.
Anything else we should know?
Take time to stretch after class. Many of us have the tendency to rush out after the cycling portion of class is finished without stretching. It is especially important to stretch your legs and lower back after cycling so your muscles do not get too tight. In addition, including classes such as yoga or Pilates will also help to create more rounded fitness program. And don’t forget to have fun! You are making a great decision to keep your body healthy and in turn keeping your baby healthy.
It’s so easy to get intimidated by indoor cycling classes, but I always have to remind myself that it’s not a competition and you can work to your level, particularly if you’re pregnant. A big thanks to Francina for sharing her expertise!
Do you love the indoor cycling scene? —Erin