Exercise Prescription for the Beginner, Recreational, and Competitive Athlete from Preconception -10 weeks after conception – First Trimester

When when working with women clients who are thinking about becoming pregnant (preconception), or are in their first trimester (conception – 12 weeks), there are some things to consider when designing workouts.

Things to consider before conceiving:

  • Not the time to be training for major competition
  • Exercise Regimen should be at a plateau
  • Be as healthy as possible
  • Well Nourished
  • Ovulating Regularly
  • Mentally Prepared for the changes that pregnancy brings
  • Education on early pregnancy and the changes her body will go through.

The following is adapted from Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Dr. James F. Clapp, THE source for up-to-date exercise research and development.

Beginner-already pregnant and never exercised before

Dr. Clapp recommends

  • three 20min. Sessions per week (no more than this)
  • at a moderate level of perceived exertion
  • Keeping it consistent throughout the first trimester

Ex: Pre-Pilates: Hug the Baby, Lateral Thoracic Breathing; and Walking or Swimming

Recreational – Has an established routine of exercise such as running, aerobics, etc. (not including Pilates)

Dr. Clapp recommendsWoman tying shoelaces

  • Adding an alternative form of exercise, while keeping her endurance component – This is where Pilates comes in as the perfect addition or transition to an already established routine.

Ex: Pre-Pilates, Pilates on the equipment, in addition to her regular cardiovascular activity.

Competitive Athletes 

  • NOT the time for rapid increases in exercise, an all-out sustained effort, for high-altitude training, or middle to long-distance competitive events.
  • Possible Physiological effects of competitive training – anovulation, dehydration, hyperthermia, and hypoglycemia.

Adding Pilates to a competitive athlete’s regimen, swapping out a few days of regular training with Pilates sessions, will allow for a safer, yet challenging activity.

*Generally, it is recommended that pregnant women don’t start any new activity until the pregnancy is well established, in the 2nd trimester, at 12-14 weeks.

If you have a new client come to you in her first trimester, the following will give you ideas of what you can do with her, versus turning her away. And make sure she has clearance from her doctor.

  • Pre-Pilates exercises

1. Breath-Lateral Thoracic Breathing

2. Scapular Depression (and elevation)

3. C-Curve and Neutral Spine

4. Pelvic Floor

  • Proper Posture
  • Education on exercise during pregnancy

Other Activities to encourage during the first trimester (in moderation)

Swimming, Walking, Gentle Stretching

If your established client becomes pregnant, it is usually safe to continue with the activity she has done. Again, make sure she has checked with her doctor.

Next – Precautions and Contraindications During Exercise

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