It’s hard when you’re pregnant, because you don’t have any stress releases — you can’t go and have loads of wine or other naughty things.” Pip Black is 40 weeks pregnant and, as the co-founder of Frame Studios (surely Britain’s hippest gym, with attendees such as Florence Welch and Pixie Geldof), believes she has found the answer. “Exercise is my hour to myself — it’s a bit like going for a massage and releasing all your worries.” The fashion consultant and Frame regular Yasmin Sewell, now almost 20 weeks pregnant, agrees: “You’re not only working your muscles, but also focusing on what you’re doing, and not on your 900 emails. If I have that shut-off time — doing Pilates, swimming, cycling — everything works better. It’s a really nice escape, yet it’s also fun and energetic.”
Traditionally, pregnancy is seen as a time for putting your feet up, wolfing down the doughnuts and protecting your unborn charge. But, argue researchers at Iowa State University, pregnant women need to be more active. They found that expectant mothers spend 75% of their waking hours sedentary. What’s more, fewer than half of those who met the guidelines for 30 minutes of daily exercise during pregnancy avoided excessive weight gain — not ideal when this can lead to hypertension, pre-eclampsia, postpartum obesity and an increased risk of obesity in their offspring.
After the celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson gained more than 4st in her first pregnancy — “a lot of women use pregnancy as an excuse to let their bodies go” — she fought back during her second with more “pregercise”, and only half the weight gain. “There’s no reason your butt can’t look as good as possible, for as long as possible,” she says. Similarly, Sewell says she “really wound it down” when pregnant with Knox, 2, but with her second, she wants to retain more of her residual fitness.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidelines, there are plenty of reasons to stay fit in pregnancy: “Women who do strength conditioning exercise during pregnancy tend to have a shorter labour time and fewer delivery complications.”
Exercise can also help relieve tiredness and lower-back pain and reduce varicose veins and swelling of the feet. It improves sleep, and can lessen feelings of stress and anxiety. The NHS, meanwhile, advises that regular gentle exercise can help prevent postnatal depression.
Black is evangelical about pregercise. “Staying active throughout my pregnancy has meant I am still full of energy,” she says. “If you’re not active, you’ll feel tired and lethargic, and your journey back to fitness will be harder.” But pregnancy is no time to start a routine, she warns. “A lot of people start doing more, which isn’t right. You’re aiming for about 80% of your normal fitness; it’s more about strength.” She recommends specialist pregnancy classes to work your legs, arms, back, pelvic floor and improve your posture. “And as long as you’re not overtiring or overheating yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t keep going right up until the last minute.” She warns against non-specific yoga and Pilates, however, because the abs work in Pilates puts too much pressure on your baby, and yoga can stress your back, too, which should be avoided after 25 weeks. Black speaks from experience: “I was lying on my back doing yoga, and I blacked out for a few minutes. I needed that to happen, because I was pushing myself too much.”
As the new mum and Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill says: “Listen to your body: if I ever felt tired, I would not do too much.”
Pregnancy fitness — a sliding scale
Tracy Anderson: The Pregnancy Project, £30; traceyandersonmethod.com
Expect to expend if you’re going to keep that butt in pre-preggers form. This package features nine DVDs for each month of your pregnancy. Only labour is harder.
Frame Bumps, from £8, London EC2 and W10; moveyourframe.com
A challenging workout that combines Pilates, yoga, fitness and weights, with an emphasis on working those arms, buns and legs. Can be modified depending on how far along you are.
Mary Helen Bowers’s Prenatal Ballet Beautiful, £12; balletbeautiful.com
A modified version of the former New York City Ballet dancer’s online workout, featuring ballet poses, stretches, weights work and core-strength exercises.
Clean & Lean Pregnancy Guide Video by James Duigan, £6; bodyism.com
The man who trained Elle Macpherson and Christy Turlington during their pregnancies guides you through 40 minutes of stretches, yoga and breathing exercises.
10-Minute Solution Prenatal Pilates, £7; amazon.co.uk
Fit your workout into 10 minutes, or do all six dynamic sessions consecutively for a bigger burst.
Pregnancy Health Yoga with Tara Lee, £13; taraleeyoga.com
Calm your body and mind, and boost energy, strength and relaxation with this pregnancy classic. And if that’s all too much, you can always exert some pressure on the fast-forward button.
Come and join us
Win one of 60 free places at a 30-minute Hiitgirl workout, with The Sunday Times Style magazine and Sweaty Betty, on September 13, 2014, in one of three slots at 10am, 11am and noon at a Hoxton studio. Enter online at sweatybetty.com/stylemagazine. All winners will also receive a goodie bag worth £90, comprising a Sweaty Betty tote, workout top and water bottle, and an organic Neom candle. The workout will be followed by a 15-minute talk from the Hiitgirl founder Susan Dyson, and healthy snacks and juices from the Detox Kitchen.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS Competition closes at midnight on September 1, 2014. Over-18 residents of the UK only. One entry per person. Winners will be selected at random from all correct entries on September 2, 2014. No cash alternative to prize in whole or in part. Prize is non-transferable. Travel to and from the event is not included. Winners will be notified by email by Friday, September 5, 2014. Winners may be asked to engage in publicity around the competition. Promoter is Times Newspapers Ltd. Not open to staff of the promoter and promotional partner, or their families. For full terms and conditions, see sundaytimes.co.uk/fitnotthin