Pregnancy fitness tips from Charlotte instructors who have been there

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The next time you hit up a spin class, yoga session or boot camp, don’t be surprised if a pregnant woman is bumping along right beside you — or leading your workout.

Working out — sometimes intensely — during pregnancy isn’t the taboo it was even five years ago. The key, of course, is listening to your body and following doctor’s advice.

The instructors at Flywheel Sports, a high-energy spin studio, like to joke that pregnancies there usually come in threes. Earlier this year, four of them were pregnant at the same time.

Instructor Jennifer Dufresne, a former college pole vaulter and elite competitor in the Spartan series races, is expecting her third daughter this summer. During her first pregnancy, she stopped leading classes at 20 weeks pregnant.

“By my second and third pregnancy I was not only cleared by my doctor to be more active, but I truly wanted to be and I was more excited about my growing belly,” she said. “I taught at Flywheel until 37 weeks during my second pregnancy. I took a Flywheel class the day I went into labor. I ran through my second trimester (instead of walking), while performing more strength workouts using free weights. I got my TRX certification during my third trimester! The same has held true through my third pregnancy.”

She’s not alone. Charlotte trainer Emily Breeze Ross, a two-time CrossFit Games competitor, caught international attention (not all positive) for heavy weightlifting during her pregnancy last year.

Fitness instructors agree that the key is having a doctor who is on board with your plan and can guide you through the changes your body is experiencing and help you modify.

It’s also important to let your instructor know — even before you’re showing — so they can give you advice as well.

“Be totally open and honest with your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” said Flywheel instructor Sarah Pitts, who gave birth earlier this year. “Even invite your doctor to a workout to make sure it is safe for you to be doing. Our doctor has been amazing throughout the entire process. She is a Flywheel rider, which has made me feel safe knowing she understands what I am doing every day and is in total support.”

So what about a more average athlete and mom-to-be who just wants to stay somewhat fit and healthy?

Charlotte fitness instructors point to some of their favorite low-impact workouts: spin/cycle, barre (with modifications), prenatal yoga, swimming and circuit training.

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Pregnancy isn’t the time to start on a new high-intensity workout or try something your body is totally unfamiliar with. And above all else, it’s important to listen to your body.

When I was pregnant with my daughter last year, I worked out comfortably three to four times a week up until 31 weeks pregnant. That’s when I started experiencing some unusual pain. I found out a couple of weeks later I had a condition that caused me to retain an unusual amount of amniotic fluid — the result of an intestinal blockage my daughter developed in the womb known as duodenal atresia. (She was born at 35 weeks.)

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People often tout the benefits of exercise for delivery and recovery, so I was curious about that during my second pregnancy. I never worked out leading up to the birth of my son, and I found recovery much harder than I expected. (Especially considering I was just 24 at the time.)

Six years later — besides the extenuating circumstances — my daughter’s birth went very smoothly and my recovery was almost immediate. I like to joke to people that her five-hour delivery took longer than my second marathon — but shorter than my first.

Of course, getting back in shape post-pregnancy is still a journey. Dufresne offers this advice:

“While one may feel regret about having alone time to workout post baby, squeezing in time to be around adults and doing something good for oneself can really make or break a day,” she said. “Trust me. Even a 30-minute walk is enough time to refresh your mind and ultimately make you a better mom.”

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Erin Dunn
Charlotte Agenda Writer