Episode 305 Perinatal Fitness with Gina Conley from MamasteFit

51m | Jun 3, 2024

The amazing Gina Conley from MamasteFit joins Meagan today to answer your questions all about perinatal fitness! Gina is a birth doula, perinatal fitness trainer, and founder of MamasteFit. ​​In partnership with her sister, Roxanne, who is a labor and delivery nurse and student-midwife, MamasteFit is a place for women to find education courses and fitness programs to be their strongest selves during each stage of motherhood. 

Gina shares her expertise on how exercise affects babies during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum. She also touches on topics like when to start prenatal exercise, what to do if you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, how late into pregnancy you can exercise, weightlifting, and which movements to incorporate to create more space in the pelvis. 

Gina’s comprehensive prenatal fitness book, Training for Two, will be released in September 2024. It is a fantastic resource for all pregnant women!

Link to Gina's Book: Training for Two

MamasteFit Website

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details 

01:00 Review of the Week

03:59 Is it bad to exercise during pregnancy? 

09:00 How will exercise affect my baby’s development? 

13:40 Better pregnancies, better birth outcomes

16:23 What do I do if I wasn’t active before pregnancy?

19:30 Movements to incorporate

20:59 Three pelvic levels 

23:19 The mid-pelvis and outlet

25:56 Being told that your pelvis is too small

30:36 How late in pregnancy is okay to work out?

32:31 When is it too late to start exercising during pregnancy?

34:43 Postpartum fitness

39:20 Weightlifting and pregnancy

45:51 Training for Two

Meagan: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the show. We are going to be talking about prenatal fitness today with the one and only Gina Conley. Gina is the founder of MamasteFit, a prenatal fitness training company based out in North Carolina. Gina is a fitness trainer specializing in pre and post-natal fitness and a birth doula. She combines her expertise in both to prepare her clients for a strong pregnancy and birth. 

Fitness in general is one of my all-time favorite things to do and talk about. I do notice a difference when I’m not moving my body, but when it comes to pregnancy, there are a lot of questions surrounding fitness. Is it safe? When is it okay to start? Is it really okay to start later on? How to start? And so much more. 

I can’t wait to dive in on all of the amazing information that Gina is going to share after the Review of the Week. 

01:00 Review of the Week

Meagan: Just a reminder, if you have not left a review, I would love for you to do so. You can leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Google, Spotify, Facebook, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. 

Today’s review is by Janae Rachelle. It says, “The Best There Is.” It says, “I am so happy I found this podcast. After having two prior C-sections, I was convinced I would have to have another C-section for my birth this November. I feel empowered and educated and hopeful I can do this. Thank you for all of the true facts and the safe space where we can all talk about our birth trauma and space where we don’t sound ‘crazy’ for wanting to do something God created our bodies to do.”

Thank you, Janae Rachelle, for leaving that review. You are right. This is that space. This is the space where we do talk about all of the crazy things, where we talk about the trauma, where we talk about the things where in the outside world if we were to discuss them, people would and sometimes do look at us like we may be crazy. But Women of Strength, if you are wanting to pursue a VBAC, if you are wanting to learn about the evidence about VBAC, this is definitely the place. 

All of these stories here are going to share so much information, guidance, facts, and all of the things, and definitely leave you feeling inspired. 

03:59 Is it bad to exercise during pregnancy? 

Meagan: Okay, it’s been so fun. We’ve actually had just a couple of returning guests from the show who have also been on 2-3 years down the road. Before we started recording, Gina was like, “I just had someone say that they listened to my episode that was on your podcast before”, which was 3 years ago. It’s fun to see that people one, are still listening all the way back to 3 years ago and then two, have you back on the show. So welcome. 

Gina: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. 

Meagan: Yes. It’s such an honor. You know that I just love you to pieces. I’m so excited to talk about fitness, prenatal, postpartum, and all of the things today because this really is a topic that as a first-time mom, I didn’t really know much about. When I was first pregnant with my daughter who is now 12, I was just determined. I was like, I’m going to run. I’m going to run a half marathon. This is going to be so great. I’m going to be one of those running through with a big belly. 

I was so excited to be fit and active. Let me tell you, I was the opposite of that. When I was training, I started having round ligament pains and pelvic pains. When I talked to my doctor, he actually told me to stop. He told me to stop which is kind of crazy to me looking back that it wasn’t even just like, “Maybe do less miles or don’t train for a half marathon right now, but do a 5k.” It was just like, “You should just stop. It’s too much.” 

I don’t know why I took that advice as, Okay, I should stop and I should eat Chinese food every day because orange chicken sounded amazing and I should really just not do anything besides be unhealthy.

That’s truly how I felt like I was in my first pregnancy. I don’t think providers all over the world are telling people not to work out necessarily like mine did 12 years ago, but I think that it’s a very daunting topic and we don’t know what to do. I think a lot of people who may not be very physically active before pregnancy are unsure what they can do during pregnancy, if it’s safe, and all of the things. 

We have a big list of questions today to ask you and really, number one is Is it bad to work out during pregnancy? My easy answer is no, but I think it’s a real answer. Can we talk about that? Working out during pregnancy– is it bad? Is it good? Tell me all of the things. 

Gina: There is a lot of fear-mongering and fear involved with exercise during pregnancy. There is this really long list of things that you shouldn’t do so it gets really overwhelming to know, Well, what can I do? when the majority of the things that you see are Don’t do sit-ups. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. If you lift weights, you’ll have a miscarriage. 

A lot of fear that comes with fitness during pregnancy is, Is it going to affect my baby’s development and growth? Am I harming my baby by exercising? And then the second is, Is it going to affect my pregnancy length? Am I going to have a miscarriage or go into pre-term labor because I was exercising during my pregnancy? 

The answer to both of those is generally no. Just as a disclaimer, there are absolutely complications in which the benefits of exercising do not outweigh the risks of exercising. These are usually folks who have preexisting heart and lung conditions, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, if you are actively in pre-term labor, if your placenta is detaching, or have severe preeclampsia. There are circumstances in which exercising is not safe and your provider should be very clear in communicating that to you. You will probably already have preexisting exercise recommendations if it is a preexisting health condition. 

But for the majority of us who are of a normal-risk pregnancy, even some high-risk pregnancies, exercise is typically very safe to do. So a lot of research supports that it does not cause miscarriage and it does not affect the length of your pregnancy which is one of the major concerns with exercising. The risk of miscarriage is highest in the first trimester and it doesn’t differ whether you exercise or you don’t. 

Exercise does not cause miscarriage. It’s just something else that folks like to be blamed for when they do have a pregnancy loss. It was because I went running. It was because I lifted weights. Typically, there is nothing that you could do do prevent that pregnancy loss and it just sucks to be mourning this and then to have this additional guilt put on you like it was because you were lifting weights. There are people who are sedentary and don’t exercise at all and have miscarriages. Are we blaming them that it’s because you didn’t exercise? No, because it’s one of those things that is out of our control. 

09:00 How will exercise affect my baby’s development? 

Gina:The second thing is, is it going to affect my baby's development? Like, is it going to make them too small? Is it going to make them too large? One of the things that can make your baby too small is the placenta. So if the placenta hasn't developed properly or there's an issue or complication with the placenta, it can make your baby too small. 

Well, exercise helps to improve the function of your placenta, especially if you exercise in the first half of your pregnancy, which is really cool. Your placenta will be more voluminous. It'll be larger and it'll have improved functional capacity. It's going to be able to transfer oxygen and nutrients to your baby much more effectively. It's going to help provide immune function to your baby. It's going to provide hormone function to your baby. It's also going to help remove metabolic waste more effectively. It's going to be a much more efficient organ, which is going to help to support your baby's growth. 

The second half is like, is it going to make my baby too big? I think most folks are not concerned about exercising and making their baby too big, but exercising could decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Obviously, you can still exercise and eat super healthy and still develop gestational diabetes. It's not a foolproof method to avoid it. 

But exercising can help reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes by 39% which is pretty substantial. And if you do develop it, continuing to exercise and eat well can also help to reduce the risk of you needing to get insulin or medication to manage your gestational diabetes. Those are the things that are contributing towards developing a baby that's too large. So having gestational diabetes that's controlled with insulin, uncontrolled gestational diabetes, and those two things can be mitigated with exercise. 

Exercise can actually help your baby grow more optimally, to have really good body composition, and be a really good size.

In addition, which is really cool– and this is stuff that I was researching when I was writing my new book, Training for Two, which comes out in September. I'm really excited about it. I guess it's like the twins in my current pregnancy. 

Meagan: It’s awesome. 

Gina: But one of the things that I was researching because our editor was like, “We really need to highlight why exercise is so beneficial for baby because this is something that's going to help motivate people to move their body.” Something for me that has been helping to motivate me during my current pregnancy to move when I'm kind of like, But I don't really feel up to it is one, it helps to improve your baby's nervous system development, which is really cool. It helps to increase their blood volume as well. They have more blood reserve to respond to the stresses of labor and to postpartum after they are infants. 

When they're in the world, it improves their brain development. They have more cognitive function. And these are all things that are probably in response to the stimulus of exercise. So we're introducing more stimulus to them during exercise because of this controlled stress that we're introducing which is helping to build all these new neural pathways and helping them just start doing things a little bit earlier. 

What that translates to in the first year of life, they have more motor skill development, so their fine and gross motor skills. They're crawling earlier, they're walking earlier, they're rolling and doing things earlier. They have more cognitive function. That's responding with higher levels of IQ and improved language skills. 

Meagan: Wow. 

Gina: So there's a lot of benefit to just being active. It doesn't have to be go and lift super heavy weights. It can just be going for walks every day, doing yoga every day, and doing intentional movement throughout the day is exercise. It doesn't have to be like how I exercise. Then what happens is that even though there are all of these benefits to exercising and fairly little risk unless you have like a complication which your provider will ideally walk you through. 

Even though there are all these benefits, there's still a lot of fear involved with working out during pregnancy. A lot of it's just outdated guidance and folks. I think it probably relates to the fear of women lifting weights and exercising, too. Maybe it's a little bit of that as well. And then make it somebody who's pregnant and it's just like a double whammy. So we have this mentality of like, Well, it's better to be safe than sorry

And it's like, Well, actually, you can be sorry. You can actually be sorry if you don't move your body intentionally during your pregnancy because one, not that your baby would be less developed, but we're going to say no thanks to those additional development things that they're having with the nervous system and their brain development. Those are two really big deals, I think. We're going to say no to a larger, more functional placenta which really helps to decrease the risk of developing certain complications during pregnancy. We're going to say like, I'm good with increasing my risk of developing like a prenatal complication, which again, exercising does not equal no complications, but it does reduce the risk to include preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, and gestational diabetes. 

13:40 Better pregnancies, better birth outcomes

Gina: And if we have a healthier pregnancy, it's going to serve us better during labor as well or in the preparation for labor. We develop complications. It increases the necessity of a medical induction. It increases the number of interventions that were being used during our birth. And yes, I am so thankful for medical intervention, for C-sections, and for these things that save lives. But if we can use less of them because we're healthier going into our birth, that's going to help improve birth outcomes as well. 

This is a VBAC podcast. So if you're wanting to have a vaginal birth after a C-section, being healthier during your pregnancy by moving your body intentionally is a really good way to help reduce the risk of needing these additional interventions. I'm thankful for them. But if you don't need them, let's go around that. Let's do that path. 

Meagan: Let’s avoid them if we can. Absolutely. And let me tell you, talking about my first pregnancy where I just kind of quit, I mean, I didn't even really walk. I mean, not even like a 30-minute stroll at night. I just stopped and I really didn't pay attention to my protein intake or what I was really eating. I mean, I was literally told this at the end that I was unrecognizable. Everything about my body was trying to just make a baby and it was showing in a negative way because I was struggling. I got super swollen. I gained a lot more weight. I really was not in shape. 

When labor came, it was harder. It was a lot harder. And then postpartum was really hard. And then having to catch up to all the things that I did to my body, but then not even to think about all the things that you just said about the baby. I mean, I was one of those people that signed up to the “no thanks”. I mean, essentially, right? It wasn't in my head that I was saying that. And then after my, that pregnancy, I was like, I will not do that again

I did. I started changing my ways and doing intentional movement. I became a Barre coach and really wanted to be active. It was a night and day difference, night and day difference. I don't think my baby's less smart or whatever, but I will say that like what you said, I can look back and be like, Oh, oh, I can recognize those things. So that's kind of interesting. 

Gina: So it's not like if you don't exercise, you're screwing up your baby’s life or anything. I don't know how to feel the differences between the two, but if you can do things to help improve your baby's growth and development, I think we would want to do that. Even if it's just going for a walk, just move your body. 

16:23 What do I do if I wasn’t active before pregnancy?

Gina: I think one of the things is the next question that's on the list is like, Well, what do I do if I wasn't active before pregnancy?

Meagan: Yes. 

Gina: Because I do have folks that'll either come to my gym– we're located in Aberdeen, North Carolina. We have an in-person training facility. And so we'll have folks that show up and be like, “I have never exercised before in my life, but I heard it's really good for me and I'm pregnant. Help me.” You can absolutely start an exercise program during pregnancy. This is hard to know because you get told, “Whatever you're doing before pregnancy, you could just continue during your pregnancy, just do a little bit less.” 

What if I was not doing anything? How do I do less than that? Like what does that even look like? 

Meagan: Right. 

Gina: You can absolutely start an exercise program during pregnancy. Yes, it will look different than pre-pregnancy workouts. If you were an active person before pregnancy, there will be some sort of modification that needs to happen because workouts can't look exactly the same when we're pregnant. But if you're like, Okay, how do I even begin? Just pick 20 minutes where you go for a walk. Pick 20 minutes where you choose a Peloton on-demand video. They have prenatal ones on there too where you just follow that. We have prenatal on-demand workout videos as well. We also have a prenatal app-based program, so we have some different options as well. 

Just choose a 20-minute option and just move. Just move your body. Use lighter weights. We're not trying to get super sore. You probably will be sore the first week or so. It's just part of getting used to the program.

Meagan: It’s not normal, yeah. 

Gina: It's normal, but don't be working out so hard that you're incapacitated the rest of your day, start for 20 minutes and do that three times a week, and then the next week do it four times and then increase it to 30 minutes. Then maybe it's 40 minutes and then you're walking more. We're just going to start really slow and manageable, and then we're going to just slowly increase during pregnancy. 

The main goal during pregnancy is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. That's the minimum goal. So if you exceed that, that's totally fine. Research supports that even higher-intensity activity is perfectly safe during pregnancy. A higher volume of exercise is perfectly safe. But the bare minimum that we're trying to aim for is 150 minutes. That's five days a week for 30 minutes or whatever the math is for the other one. 

But you can also do more than that. I would start with 20 minutes of something that feels manageable for you and do that and if it's, “Hey, I need to follow a program,” we've got programs for you. We've developed them for pregnancy specifically. There's Peloton on-demand. There are so many workout programs out there for pregnancy too. They're going to have safe modifications for you. 

You can hire a personal trainer. You can join an in-person gym. We're just looking for you to move your body in a way that feels manageable for you and it's okay if it's not perfect pregnancy workouts either. Now if you're an active person or you're like, Okay, I have done my month of exercising. I'm feeling more confident, this is where we can start to really ensure that our workouts are not only keeping us active and moving us during our pregnancy but also helping us actually prepare for birth. 

19:30 Movements to incorporate

Gina: Common workout programs are really focused on front-to-back type movement patterns. This is the sagittal plane. This is like squats, deadlifts, cleans, clean-and-jerks, box jumps. Everything is very front-to-back because this is the way that we move our bodies. When we walk we typically walk in a front-to-back movement pattern. 

However, we also need to be moving laterally and rotationally as well which is another myth. Can I twist during pregnancy? Yes, you can twist. It’s necessary to twist. If you don't twist, your back will hurt. I promise you it's okay to twist. Now we don't want to do such deep twists that we’re compressing our belly because it would be really uncomfortable. Not because it would be harmful for you, but we want to we want to be comfortable during our pregnancy. 

We want to also be incorporating movement patterns that are in other planes of motion ot just front-to-back. We also want lateral movements like lateral band walks, side lunges, and movements where we're just we're going in this direction. And then we also want rotational movements. So like when I'm doing lunges, I'm adding an internal to an external rotation or I'm doing a rotation with a core exercise. 

We want to think about what type of movements are we incorporating or are included in our workout programs because that is really important to creating space in our pelvis which is not the point of this episode, but fitness can really relate to labor in that aspect as well. It's keeping you strong during your pregnancy. It's helping to support your baby's development. It's helping to decrease your risk of complication but we can also use it to help prepare for our birth. 

20:59 Three pelvic levels 

Gina: And so there are three pelvic levels and I'll go over this super quick. The top opens in one way, then we have the middle, and then we have the bottom. We have inlet, mid-pelvis, outlet, and they all open with different types of movement patterns which is where moving in different planes of motion is going to be really helpful. The top of the pelvis opens with wider knee movement patterns like an external hip rotation with an anterior tilt with abduction. Legs are moving out. Think knees out, ankles in so really deep squats for example. 

An anterior tilt or arching your back is going to be really helpful because this makes it easier for you to find external rotation. It also changes the pubic bone angle and makes it easier for baby to enter into the pelvis. The good news is we already do that during pregnancy. That's a common postural tendency that we have. We like to live in that position. It's comfortable for us. We have more weight on the front. We're just extending in our spine and just loving that spot. 

However, we also need to be able to find other types of movements such as a posterior pelvic tilt or rounding in the back. This one is really important to opening the top of the pelvis in addition to an anterior tilt. So with a posterior pelvic tilt, we have this big chunk of bone on the back of our pelvis called the sacral promontory that moves backward when we tuck our butt underneath or we round in our back. That anterior pelvic tilt creates a little bit more space in the front half of the inlet and then that posterior pelvic tilt creates more space in the back. 

We want to be able to shift between the two but because we always favor this extended position, it can be really hard to find that rounded position. If you had a prior labor where baby just never entered and they were like, “Your pelvis is just too small. Baby just can't fit in your pelvis,” it probably was more related to whether or not you can find– and I don't want to blame anybody for what happened with labors but just helpful tips. If you're having a hard time finding a round in your back or tucking your butt underneath, it's going to be harder to create that front-to-back space in the pelvic inlet and it can make it harder for baby to enter. 

So during our prenatal workouts, we want to think about, Okay, what can we do to help me find more of a rounded position? We can release tension in our lats or musculature. We can release tension in our hip flexors. We can incorporate pelvic tilts into our movement patterns. Those are some things that we can do to help us find this more rounded position. 

23:19 The mid-pelvis and outlet

Gina: The next pelvic level the mid pelvis is asymmetrical movements like side-to-side, hip shifting, and so we have a little bit of external rotation and a little bit of internal rotation. We're just going back and forth between the two. 

Then the bottom of the pelvis with the pelvic outlet is essentially like the opposite of the inlet where we have an internal rotation at the hip where knees in, ankles out is creating more space side-to-side. A slight posterior pelvic tilt can help to make internal rotation easier, but we're not necessarily rounding in our back as we're pushing because it's not really that comfortable. 

Anterior pelvic tilt or a little bit more lat tension can kind of pull that sacrum back so we're kind of back to that pelvic tilting a little bit in the outlet, but we're really focusing on that internal rotation to create space. But if we recall, our favorite positions during pregnancy are extension and external rotation. That rounded position is harder and internal rotation is harder. In addition, that prenatal posture tends to make the back half of the pelvic floor really tight so we need to one, be able to release tension in the posterior pelvic floor and help us find more internal rotation. We can do that with our prenatal workouts as well. 

This is where hip-shifted exercises can be really beneficial like finding internal-external rotation with our single leg movements. These are all things that we incorporate within our prenatal programming because we have been observing birth and people working out for a really long time and we want to help you move through your pregnancy and through your birth. We also have a free birth prep circuit that I'll give you the link for that you can put in the notes as well. It has six movements that help you release those common areas of tension. 

We also have our prenatal fitness program if anybody's interested in working out. We have lots of different options for that as well. But when we're looking at our prenatal workouts, we need to look beyond just one– we just want to be active and intentionally active and then two– we want to think, Okay. Well, how does my workout help to support my birth preparation? How is it helping to create more space in my pelvis? How is it helping me release tension in my pelvic floor? Those are things that are going to help us to support us during birth. Yeah, that was a really long answer to you. 

Meagan: No, it was an amazing answer. It's interesting because I never really thought when you were like, “Front-to-back”, we focus so much on front-to-back. There's that lateral movement that a lot of the time we skip and I didn't even think of that. I know in your book, we've got a couple of little teasers online within your book. You've been showing different ways to work those sides and move your body in different ways. That is amazing. 

25:56 Being told that your pelvis is too small

I love that you talked about the pelvis, the inlet, the middle, and the outlet because I'm pretty sure you probably have known this within the VBAC community. How many times are we told that our pelvis is too small? I mean, all of the time. 

Gina: It makes me so mad. Once you get told something really random or a fun fact about your pelvis like, “You have a really prominent sacrum or pubic bone.” What does that mean? 

Meagan: Yes. What does that mean? 

Gina: How can I take that information and do something with it? Instead of acknowledging that yes, each of us has different types of pelvises. Similarly, we're all from different ethnic backgrounds. Of course, we would have slightly different pelvises. We have different femur lengths. 

Meagan: Right. 

Gina: However, we can all still figure out how to squat and figure out how to do movement patterns that make us functional humans even with differing bone structures. It just blows my mind that we don't acknowledge the fact that the pelvis can change shape and diameter and displacement with movement. Our baby is also shape-shifting and wiggling their way through the pelvis as well. But the only person to blame is you. It’s because your pelvis is just too small. 

Meagan: Right. I know. 

Gina: Maybe you didn't know how to support me. 

Meagan: I know I have those same feelings. It's very frustrating. I think it's probably a little extra salt on the wound because I was told that. I was told that I would never get a baby out of my pelvis. Like you were saying, you're like, “Well, maybe I just wasn't supported well enough. Maybe I wasn't given the tools or the positions,” like what you're describing. 

I mean, with my first labor, I just sat there in the bed, clinging to the side, and then got an epidural and sat there. Really? Like, so I wasn't moving my pelvis. I wasn't doing those asymmetrical movements. I really wasn't working with my body to get my baby out. Okay. So a question that I know that we have received is the anterior placenta. So does fitness change if or what we're doing change if we have an anterior placenta? 

Gina: Really, if you have an anterior placenta, a posterior placenta, it closes out on the side, it doesn't really matter where it is unless it is covering the cervix. At that point, like, there will probably be some sort of modification, because we don't want to have any sort of cervical dilation or cramping or urinary irritability that can cause the cervix to begin to dilate which may cause the placenta to start to detach which would not be ideal. 

So typically, if you have any sort of placenta previa, potentially like a low-lying placenta in the third trimester, after 28 weeks, we probably want to modify it to where we're not doing super deep squats. We're not exercising at a high intensity. It's low to moderate. If you are experiencing any bleeding or cramping during your workouts, you’re stopping immediately. 

But in regards to the placenta being in the front or the back, there really is no difference when it comes to exercise. The baby is pretty snug as a bug in a rug. 

Meagan: Snug as a bug in a rug. They are pretty protected in there. They are pretty deep in there. 

Gina: They are. They are. Now when it comes to certain birth options, sometimes an anterior placenta– usually with an ECV if baby’s are breech, providers don’t want to do it if you have an anterior placenta. It may be harder for you to feel your babies. You should feel your baby but it may be muted. You would be like, I kind of feel you, when in comparison, if you had a posterior placenta, there’s a little alien rolling around in your belly.

Meagan: Right. Or you might not feel kicks until them later on in your pregnancy when someone with a posterior placenta is feeling those little butterfly kicks early one. 

Gina: Yeah. It will be more muted. But in regards to exercise, the only placenta position that would result in modifications is a low-lying or placenta previa where the placenta is covering the cervix. But usually for those, if you found out at your 18-week anatomy scan, they usually resolve within a few weeks so you can always ask for a repeat scan, but typically, we don’t need to modify until the 28-week mark. But again, if your provider has given you specific guidance on what they consider to be safe for you with exercise because again, they are looking at your medical records. They are looking at you as an individual and this is just a podcast. 

Definitely go with their guidance, but typically, they do move. There usually is not an issue into the third trimester with that either. 

Meagan: Yeah. Okay, so good. 

30:36 How late in pregnancy is okay to work out?

Meagan: Another question is, How “late in pregnancy” is okay for me to work out? We’re talking about early, what we’re doing. We may be started to feel really good. We may be increasing our physical activity. We might be more mindful. Now, it’s on top of intentional movement. It’s on birth prep and really getting ready for this birth journey. Is there a time when we should cut off physical activity or is it okay to be doing squats and lateral movements and yoga one day and go into labor the next day?

Gina: You can workout until the day that you give birth. Now, how intense your workouts are will probably decrease toward the end of the third trimester. For us, around the 36-37-week mark, we do certain tapering in the program which means we start decreasing overall volume and intensity of workouts because one, we are just more tired at the end of the pregnancy. We still want to move and be active, but we also need to be in the mind that, Tonight, I might go into labor so I don’t want to be super sore from my workout. 

Similar to if I was training for an athletic event, not that birth is a competition or anything, I wouldn’t want to be doing my hardest workout the morning of the competition. Again, birth is not a competition but with that type of fitness mentality, you’re like, Okay, well birth is probably going to be physically demanding even if it’s super fast. It’s still physically demanding. I probably don’t want to be super sore or super fatigued going into that. 

So around the 36-37-week mark, you can decrease overall volume. If you were working out at 200 minutes a week, maybe at week 37, we are only doing 150 minutes a week, and at week 38, we are doing 100 minutes a week and then maintaining that so whenever your baby decides to come. 

32:31 When is it too late to start exercising during pregnancy?

Gina: We also get folks who ask, When is it too late to start? I would say if you gave birth, it’s too late. It’s probably too late for prenatal fitness at this point. Kind of like, When is it too late to get an epidural? It’s when your baby is born. When your baby is born, it’s too late to start a prenatal fitness program. 

We will have folks who are 35 weeks. They are like, I’ll just wait for postpartum. I’m like, You might have 2 months left. That’s a long time. 8 weeks, that’s a whole fitness challenge or whatever. You know those ones where it’s like, “6 Weeks to a Bigger Booty”, it might be 6 weeks until a baby. That’s still a good period of time to move your body. It doesn’t have to be training for a PR, it’s just learning how to release tension, starting to build up some stamina, some endurance for the big day. 

Now, if you’re 38 weeks and you’re in that, I could go into labor anytime, I probably wouldn’t start a lifting program at that point. I would probably be focusing more on yoga and mobility-type things. Walking, just trying to release tension in my body. I wouldn’t be like, Let me go squat and deadlift for the first time in my whole pregnancy. I would do more breathing and stretching. That would be more reasonable to me. 

Once you hit the 36-37 mark and you’re like, Can I start something now? Absolutely. A prenatal yoga program would be my recommendation. Going for walks and things like that. If you’re 32, 33 or even to 35 weeks, I would say that you can start a lifting program. I would say to start our prenatal program at that point because we do have a monthly option. You can just grab the months that you need. We also have a just third-trimester program on demand. 

You can still intentionally move, but it’s just going to be a little bit more mindful to the fact that we are kind of at the end of this journey, but it’s definitely not too late to start unless you gave birth. At that point, it’s probably a little too late. But what can you do? 

Meagan: Now you’re going into postpartum after your baby is born. 

Gina: Yeah, then we can focus on postpartum stuff. 

34:43 Postpartum fitness

Meagan: Which is also a thing. There are postpartum programs. There’s a lot after birth that we can do. I know this wasn’t in the questions that we were talking about but it led into this where a lot of people don’t know when they can start working out after birth. For my second C-section, at that point, I was a Barre instructor and at 4 weeks, I went back before I was technically cleared. I was just following my body doing the very minimal. 

When is it appropriate to start a postpartum training program? 

Gina: It depends on the program. We have a free early postpartum recovery course that is intended to start within a few days after birth which is just breathing mobility and some stretches. It’s really, really gentle stuff just to reconnect with our body but it’s not like, go lift weights or anything. 

Usually, I would recommend doing a gentle program like that for 4-6 weeks. I’ll give you the link to that as well as another. It’s just a program that we offer. After the 10-week mark is when most folks can start to return to fitness. This will vary from person to person, whether you had a vaginal birth, whether you had a C-section, whether you had a hemorrhage, how much support do you have postpartum, and how your healing has been so far. It can really vary from person to person. I can’t even say 4 weeks for unmedicated vaginal birth, 10 weeks if you had a labored C-section because even within that is a whole realm of where you might be. 

Meagan: It is. 

Gina: So just giving yourself some grace and knowing that there is plenty of time to return to fitness. Obviously, we don’t want to wait 5 years, but it’s okay. 

Meagan: You don’t have to jump into it. 

Gina: Yeah, it’s okay if it’s 12 weeks before you start a program. It will be fine. Again, we don’t want to wait for 5 years. That’s a long time to live with whatever we are having postpartum. Usually 4-10 weeks is when I say if you feel ready and you want to start moving your body, that’s usually a good time to start. 

We’re looking for bleeding to pretty much be stopped. We’re not having any issues still lingering from birth so we are not having any infections from birth. We are not having post-birth surgeries or anything like that. That may delay things a little bit longer. If you’ve had a hemorrhage, that will delay you a little bit just because your blook is trying to replenish itself from all of that. 

Sometimes a C-section blood loss or hemorrhage can be a little bit higher, but you can also have severe hemorrhage from a vaginal birth as well. Just honor how you are feeling. 

Then when you do return to fitness, it is a gradual slow process of reconnecting with this new body. I know there sometimes is this mentality of, I want to bounce back. I want to get back to who I was, especially if postpartum is hard, which it is, or if birth wasn’t what you expected, which it can be for a lot of folks. There can be this, Let me get back to something that reminds me of myself and who I was before so I’ll do my workouts and get back to my workouts. 

Meagan: That was me. 

Gina: I love working out. That’s a part of my identity. I can sympathize with that desire, but if we rush that process, it’s going to delay you in the long run. You’ll be 4-6 months postpartum. You’ll be like, Why am I still leaking? Why do I still have a diastasis? I just feel unstable. But when we take the time in the beginning to really reconnect, really focus on the foundational core work, and really rebuild slowly which is painful to do sometimes. Not painful physically, but painful mentally, it really helps so, so much in the long run. 

So take your time. Again, we have a program to support you if you want it but there are so many programs out there too that suit everyone’s individual needs depending on the sport that you are trying to get back to as well. 

Meagan: Right, I love how you talked about mentally it can be so hard. It was for me. It just was so hard. I just needed to get out and move my body. I did follow my body, but so what you were saying, mentally it is hard and can hurt us but physically it was too much for me. I did have to take a step back. I went to this hour class. I cut it back, but it set me back 3 more weeks because I was like, Okay, I probably shouldn’t have done that. Noted. Thanks body. 

Gina: It happens. It happens to the best of us. 

Meagan: Thanks body for letting us know. I was able to return. I love how you talked about reconnecting with our pelvic floor and all of the things. Breathing in itself is so powerful, so I love that you are focusing on that. We’ll make sure to put in the show notes the link for your program. 

39:20 Weightlifting and pregnancy

Meagan: Okay, so last two questions. Weightlifting is a big one. I love weightlifting myself and I follow quite a few accounts who have gone through pregnancy like yourself and weight lifted. I am flabbergasted to see some of the negative comments on pregnant people lifting because it bugs me. It bugs me that people are so negative about it and judging them like, What are you doing? You kind of touched on that earlier. I don’t know why lifting sometimes with women in general, but then add pregnancy to that is really hard. You kind of mentioned that maybe at the end you’re not going to join a weightlifting program, but how can someone start with a very gentle approach to weightlifting? I do feel like especially if weightlifting is not something you are used to, it can be very, very intimidating. 

I know in your book, you have a section where you’re like, Instead of doing this, try this. Instead of doing deadlifts, try these, which is awesome because it can give us an idea. But can you guide someone who is like, I really want to weightlift but I’m so intimidated to start? What is a gentle way to start approaching that? 

Gina: If you live by us, you can just come to our gym and we will walk you through it which is usually the easiest way to learn how. If there is a lifting class somewhere or an intro to lifting or even a women’s fitness-type class, that could be a good way to get introduced to, How do I lift safely? 

Some CrossFit gyms will have Intro to CrossFit which can or cannot be great for starting during pregnancy, but they can at least teach you how to squat, how to deadlift, how to bench press, and there are barbell gyms out there that might have lifting classes. Even just box gyms like Planet Fitness or Gold’s Gym might have lifting classes. 

Hire a personal trainer to walk you through what to do. That can take some of the intimidation out because you don’t have to walk into this gym into this section that is male-dominated and be like, “Hello. I am pregnant. I am trying to squat. Can you hand me a dumbbell?” 

So it can be really scary to do that. You can also purchase some weights for your home. Dicks Sporting Goods has really good deals on gym equipment that is very inexpensive. It is cheaper quality so they won’t last you a long time, but if you’re like,  I just need to get started, that can be a great place to go. Amazon has really good sales pretty frequently to get cheap equipment that is still a moderate quality. Rep Fitness is one of our favorites for higher quality equipment that is still affordable then Rogue would be the super expensive brand. I would say them and Rep Fitness are the same quality. 

It depends on how much you want to invest. You can get the stuff and have it at your home as well. Usually, I would say to grab some dumbbells. If you want to explore barbell, buy a barbell and some bumper plates. They have sets that you can get for that. You can buy yourself a squat rack. That’s if you want to do barbell stuff. You can also do a ton of stuff with just kettlebells and dumbbells. 

I really like resistance bands. Those are huge in our programming. They are really un-intimidating. They are very easy to use. They are an attachment point for resistance bands. A box to step up on. You can also use a stool. It’s easy to get started, but you just have to figure out what type of environment you want to get started in. Do you want to start with a coach-type environment to guide you through it or do you want to try to figure it out on your own? 

With our programming, we walk you through how to do each movement especially with the on-demand one so you can see, Okay, this is how I’m supposed to do it, and then there will be some experimenting to figure out what feels good for you in your body to be like, Okay, when I squat, I have to spread my feet out a little bit more and that feels better for me, kind of thing. 

That can be a good way to get into it. Know that it is safe to do. I think that is probably the first fear that it is safe to do. I think that’s what you were saying. Folks love to comment some hateful things on people who are lifting weights during pregnancy. The comment the same shit on a female just lifting weights who is not pregnant. I don’t know if it’s dudes out there who are feeling very inadequate with themselves that they are like, I cannot stand that there is a strong woman out there so I’m just going to comment and critique her, then like I said before, you add on the additional layer that now she is pregnant and we have this overall belief that exercise is dangerous, people say some horrible things. 

I’m like, You do know you don’t have to comment on things, right? 

Meagan: I know. You can actually just swipe on. 

Gina: Those can be inside thoughts. 

Meagan: Yes. If you don’t have a nice comment to say, leave me alone. 

Gina: Yes, because you know what happens? You comment and then you get more pregnancy content on your feed then you’re like, Why is this pregnancy post popping up on my feed? It’s probably because you commented on this pregnant woman who was lifting weights and you said some nasty shit. That’s probably why it’s popping up on your feed, bro. 

Meagan: I love it. Oh my gosh. I know, but it actually makes me very angry and it’s not even just men. It’s women too. Why do we have to berate people for being active and choosing to lift weights during pregnancy or run marathons during pregnancy or do whatever they want? It is their body. Let them do it and honestly, we need people to share like what you guys do. We need these videos because it does offer us inspiration and also offers us a sense of, Oh, what they’re saying over here isn’t true. I want to learn more about this. 

It’s so frustrating, but it’s possible. So if you want to lift weights, Women of Strength, and you’re listening, go for it. Go for it. Check out their program. Get the book which we’re going to talk about right now I’m hoping and learn more. Learn more about fitness in pregnancy and the benefits for both mom and baby which we were just talking about in the beginning of this. 

45:51 Training for Two

Meagan: Let’s talk more about your book. You said earlier this is like the twin to your current pregnancy. I’m sure this is like another baby. I’m so excited for you. I’m so proud of you. I hope everybody in the world gets it. 

So tell us more about it and all of the things. You’ve got three parts, right? 

Gina: So right now, this is just one part to the book. Hopefully it turns into a three-part series so I need your pre-orders so that we can make a second part and a third part. 

Meagan: Pre-order everyone. 

Gina: That’s how we get the next two parts. 

The first part which will hopefully be a three-part series is all about how you can use prenatal fitness to support a strong pregnancy, a pain-free pregnancy and then also use that to prepare for birth because prenatal fitness is not just a list of pregnancy-safe “exercises”. It’s not just take out all of the sit-ups and crunches and all of the jumping and now it’s a pregnancy program which is what the majority of pregnancy programs are. It’s just a bunch of random exercises that just don’t involve crunches and sit-ups. Cool. That’s a great first step. 

But we can take it way further by ensuring that our workouts are also helping us to prepare for birth. We’re taking the pelvic floor into account. How are we integrating that in the overall system? How are we learning to release tension? How are we increasing mobility within our hips so we can find that internally and externally pelvic mobility. What movements are we incorporating to help increase the pelvic space so we can create more space for baby to navigate through? 

What kind of movements are we incorporating into our workout that helps us for our baby’s position? We’re not trying to force baby into any position, but we want to make it easy for them to find whatever their best position is. We can do that with our prenatal workouts. The book is going to break that down for you. It’s definitely a little bit heavier on the lifting side so it includes modifications for how to deadlift during pregnancy and how to bench press during pregnancy. 

All of these main lifts, we incorporate tons of accessory exercises such as core exercises that you can do during pregnancy, what signs and symptoms to be mindful of when doing core exercises, how to protect your core and pelvic floor during pregnancy. We incorporate exercises to help with pelvic stability because pelvic pain is super common but you don’t have to be in pain during pregnancy. 

Similar to you, my provider when I told him I had pelvic pain, they were like, “That sucks. When you give birth, it will go away.” I’m like, Well, that’s not true. There is a lot you can do during pregnancy to help resolve that as well. 

The book is a collection of all of the things I have learned through working with in-person prenatal clients and supporting in-person births. Hundreds of clients have helped me gain this information to write this book. My educational background and things that I’ve researched and studied have all been consolidated within this book specifically to prenatal fitness and using your prenatal fitness to stay strong and then also to help you prepare for birth. 

There is a little bit in there on labor. A bunch of that stuff got taken out because I write a lot. I have too much knowledge in this head of mine so that’s why I need a three-part series then there is one chapter on early postpartum recovery as well. We also include how to recover from a C-section in there. It’s just the first month postpartum so it’s just a taste of what book three will be. 

So help me get part two and three by pre-ordering the book. It’s on Amazon. I’ll give you the link as well. It’s $24-25. The book comes out September 14th so hopefully after my baby has been born. I will be very sad if I’m 43 weeks pregnant so I will be in the infancy of my postpartum with a newborn when this next baby, baby B has been born and would love your support with preordering it. 

We’re trying to figure out pre-order incentives right now. We may have a chapter that got cut, so if you pre-order, you get that chapter as a PDF which is all of the labor stuff- how to address labor stalls, laboring positions, what a contraction is. 

Meagan: So good. 

Gina: It was such a good chapter, but that will be in part two which is going to be birth. Part three is postpartum fitness so help me get the other parts by ordering the book. 

Meagan: Yes. 

Gina: It’s on right now. I am really excited about it. So yeah. 

Meagan: I am so excited for you. Yeah. it’s $24.99. That is amazing. We will make sure like she said to have the links to all of these things including this book pre-order link in the show notes. 

Right now, as soon as you are done listening and you’re like, Dang, that was an awesome episode, go down. Click the link and support her by buying her book. It is called Training for Two. She’s absolutely beautiful on that front cover holding her sweet baby bump. You guys, I’m so excited for this book. I’m so excited for you and I’m so grateful that you were with us today sharing all of this information. 

Gina: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. 


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