One of the many beauties of barre is that it is maintainable during all aspects of life, including pregnancy! Owner & instructor Rachel (RT) and instructor Jaclyn (JH) have maintained their barre routine throughout their entire pregnancy and share with us the modifications needed and its benefits!
How did barre help you during your pregnancy – overall, early and later stages?
JH: Barre was so helpful to me throughout my pregnancy! In the first trimester I had morning (all day) sickness. I tried everything to feel better and exercise was the only thing that gave me some relief. Getting off the couch when I was feeling so awful was really hard! I found that I was much more likely to attend class when I planned to meet a friend or told the instructor I was planning to see her at her next class.
Later in pregnancy, barre kept me physically strong so I was able to avoid many of the discomforts that women often feel in the later stages of pregnancy. I was actually surprised how good I felt! I found myself waiting to feel worse because I had been told of the horror stories and discomforts that come at the end of pregnancy; luckily I was able to escape most of the typical discomforts!
RT: Barre helped me so much! I have done barre through my two pregnancies now – currently awaiting the arrival of #2 🙂 I attribute so much of my being blessed to feel really good throughout my pregnancy (and up until the very end!) to continuing to take barre classes and staying active! I have read that staying active is really good for baby, but I also found that it helped ease and decrease the usual aches, pains and discomfort that accompany growing a baby.
I would also say that staying active and strong has kept my energy level so much higher. But the greatest part is when I have felt exhausted, which is inevitable, getting a barre class in actually has made me feel so much better & energized afterwards, and more able to face the rest of the day. So from early on, when I was feeling sick and like the last thing I wanted to do was exercise, I knew that getting myself to a barre class was the best thing I could do as I always felt better (even less sick) afterwards! Now in the final days before baby, I am grateful that I have been able to do barre until the end, because I still feel so strong and know that will help both during labor and delivery and the bounceback afterwards!
What modifications did you use and how did they change throughout pregnancy?
JH: When I found out I was pregnant, I checked with my doctor regarding restrictions. She gave me the okay to continue with barre classes since my body was used to them as long as I monitored my heart rate.
Each class I had to listen to my body, because what my body needed each day was different. Modifications that I found particularly helpful at the end of pregnancy were: push-ups and planks from the knees to keep my back flat and protected and core engaged, keeping my heels on the floor during portions of thigh and seat work because my calves often cramped, opting for upright positions during seat work to ensure I was able to maintain a neutral spine, and staying up much higher during curl work.
RT: The most fantastic thing about barre classes is that you can totally do pretty much all of class through your entire pregnancy, as long as you are listening to your body (and your doctor okay’d it)! So many other exercises would need to be modified so much that you feel like you’re not participating or getting a workout, but the beauty of barre is that the exercises are so muscle-focused and low impact that there isn’t anything that could be harmful to you while pregnant.
Other than simply feeling more tired (I am carrying a baby, after all!) and needing to call on my mental strength earlier than normal, I didn’t need to modify class much until later in my third trimester, and even then, it was just slight modifications to the ab sections and doing pushups on my knees (I never appreciated how much core strength pushups take until I was pregnant trying to do them!). I love that I can still do the ab work we do in class (because having a strong core is so helpful during labor & delivery!), but to adjust so I’m more comfortable I’ll simply take more breaks, hold on when I would normally release my hands for a challenge, not lower my legs as low for my “point of control”, etc.
While it seems counter-intuitive to do core work while pregnant, as long as your doctor says it’s okay, it can be one of the best things you do – having a strong core helps your body adapt to the inevitable postural changes that occur as your belly grows, and having strong ab muscles help support the baby’s weight!
There are other kind of “funny” parts of class that I need to modify simply because my belly gets in the way – like seated leg lifts (you bend one knee into your chest and hug it while lifting the other to work your thigh…I just kind of bend one knee out to the side instead because my leg runs into my belly these days!
What was your favorite part of class while pregnant?
JH: Earlier in pregnancy arms became my favorite portion of class because it felt like the one part of me that was unchanged when the rest of my body was becoming foreign to me. Later in pregnancy back dancing became my favorite because that position allows baby so much space and I was told they love it!
RT: I think upper body work! Lower body work feels more challenging because I’m carrying extra weight, and it’s kind of natural that the shape of your lower body changes while pregnant, but I love that my shoulders, arms and upper back haven’t really changed and I’m still able to see the hard-earned definition just as easily as before!
Any advice for other women who are pregnant?
JH: Always listen to your body and don’t be afraid to talk with your instructor about modifications. Every portion of class can be modified in some way to make it accessible!
RT: Of course, talk to your doctor before taking classes, but other than that – just give it a try! All of our instructors are equipped to help you if you feel you need a modification for any part of class – so just ask! Even if (or maybe, especially if!) you are feeling sick or exhausted in the early weeks, it is incredible what the endorphins from exercise can do for you – sometimes that’s the only thing that made me feel much better in the first trimester! Plus, I always told myself that once I was out of the first trimester and feeling better I knew I’d feel the desire to exercise again, and it’s so much “easier” to continue class rather than “start over” after couple month break.
Overall, listen to your body, because pregnancy is such a special time and a time to really respect yourself and your body – that means something different to everyone, but to me that means continuing to focus time each week on my physical and mental strength and taking pride in how much I can do (even if it’s not as much as before :)!
How has barre helped to keep you mentally strong?
JH: This is my first baby and I experienced all the anxiety that goes along with being pregnant for the first time and becoming a first time mom. Going to barre helped to keep me feeling confident and to keep those anxieties in check! The community at the barre has been so supportive! I always leave class happier and more confident than when I walked in the door!
RT: Enough cannot be said about the strength of someone not giving up in a barre class when her legs are shaking uncontrollably! Continuing to go to class and surround myself with that kind of strength has helped me stay motivated to not give up myself and push myself harder, to stay mentally strong, and visualize my goals I’m achieving when class “hurts so good” rather than giving up or taking a break!
Do you feel barre helped support a healthy labor and delivery?
RT: Oh my goodness, absolutely!!! My doctor and nurses attributed my quick labor and delivery to staying so active with barre up until the very end (I took class the day I went into labor with my first!). Enough cannot be said for going into the hard work of labor having a strong body and strong core, especially, and it’s incredible how the mental strength developed in class translates to being able to manage contractions! We often say something like “no pain, no gain” in class – and this is the ultimate “no pain, no gain” scenario!
How did barre help you bounceback?
RT: I’m hoping I have a similar experience the second time around, because after my first child I really felt like I was able to pick up where I left off after just a short break to recoup. My muscles remembered the shakes! 🙂
It was also so great to be back in class and the supportive barre community, and to feel like I’m still “me” and retain that part of my life – because so much changes so quickly after giving birth, it’s nice to retain that piece of yourself. It’s also so incredibly important (even though difficult) to dedicate those couple hours during the week to yourself – because the rest of the time a newborn’s schedule pretty much rules all!