The best pool workouts for pregnancy
Pools are fantastic for mums-to-be. The water offers protection like no other environment, ensuring you won’t ever lose your balance and fall. Because there’s a low level of risk (plus the fact that the water can help soothe some common pregnancy ailments, such as swelling in the ankles and feet), you’re free to take up swimming at any stage of pregnancy, whether you’ve just found out your pregnant or if you’re one week away from the due date (providing your waters have not broken).
If you’re a regular at the pool and have been swimming for ages, you may be looking for ways to add some variety to your exercise routine, something that’s fun and also gives your pregnant body the best possible workout.
Of course, that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with simply swimming laps, changing up your strokes every now and then; this is sure to give you a great exercise session. But if you’re bored by swimming, there are other activities to try before completely giving up on the water.
If you join an aqua-aerobics class (one of the best choices of exercise for pregnant women), your instructor will have devised a diverse, fun, and safe workout. Here are some ideas of exercises you can experiment with in the pool.
Pool exercises for a great workout
Warm-up – first, it’s good to do a warm up to ease your body into your routine. Warm-up exercises can be done at the shallow end of the pool with the water at chest height. The water will provide resistance that will help work your muscles. Squats are a great choice for the warm-up period. Simply use the same form as you would out of the pool, bending your knees and lowering yourself as far as is comfortable. You can also do knee-ups, where you march on the spot, bringing your knees up towards your chest while moving your arms from side to side.
Treading water – as you’re probably already aware, treading water is simply where you stay in one spot and keep yourself upright in the pool by pumping your arms and legs. This is good to do between sets of swimming or water running (see next), and it gives the body a workout itself. You can use a pool noodle if you need a bit more support.
Water running – The pool isn’t just for swimming. You can also run through the water, which will give you the same cardiovascular workout you would get if you were to run on dry land. Just be prepared to move a lot slower than you’re used to (water running is basically like running in slow motion).
When water running, your movements should be the same as when you’re running on land, but they’ll need to be much more exaggerated to move against the resistance of the water. Pump your arms and bring your knees as close to your chest as you can get them (this will be harder now that your tummy has done some growing).
However, before you turn into an aquatic sprinter, you should equip yourself with a flotation belt. The flotation belt is strapped under your belly and will help you stay buoyant if you venture toward the deep end. Water running in the deep end, where your feet don’t touch the bottom, is beneficial because it will work your leg muscles more so than if you were to push off from the bottom of the pool.
Here’s a good workout you can try without even having to do any swimming at all. Try running 50 meters in the pool and then tread water for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat this three or four times. Depending on how challenging you find it, you can then try to gradually increase the distance you run in increments of 25 metres and the time spent treading water by 10 seconds.
Flutter kick – Hold on to the side of the pool with your legs stretched out behind you, and then kick your legs as fast as you can for a minute. Relax and then repeat. You can also grab a noodle or kickboard and flutter kick to each end of the pool.
Cross-country skiing – Standing in shallow water, put your right leg forward and your left leg back. Your arms need to be in the opposite starting position, so have your left arm forward and right arm back. Then perform a scissor kick so you switch the position of your legs, swinging your arms to do the same. Keep up this movement so you keep alternating between the two positions. With the front leg, your knee should be bent and the ankle flexed, while the back leg should be extended with the foot pointed. And always make sure your arms are moving in the opposite direction to your legs. This exercise can also be done in deep water with a flotation belt.
Side leg lifts – Simply stand in the shallow end with your feet shoulder width apart. Lift your right leg up sideways to the right as far as comfortable and then bring it back down. Do 10 repetitions before doing the same with the left leg.
As for your choice of swimming stroke at this stage, the breast stroke is a good choice because it helps to strengthen the chest and back muscles and doesn’t cause you to twist your body. However, if you experience pain at the front of your pelvis or have symphysis pubis dysfunction, the breast stroke is likely to cause you pain.
You may need to do a bit of experimentation to find a stroke that is comfortable and enjoyable for you. You may find the backstroke easy to do, as it ensures your face stays out of the water at all times.
Whatever stroke you choose you must continue breathing normally when swimming, so don’t try to go underwater and hold your breath and diving or jumping in, is definitely a no-no.
Some useful reminders
Don’t forget to apply all the usual safety advice when at the pool. Because the water naturally cools you down, it can be easy to forget that it’s still possible to overheat while exercising in a pool. But you can push yourself too hard, so remember to take a water bottle with you and have it in an easily accessible place.
And, as always, if you feel yourself getting too out of breath to the point where you wouldn’t be able to have a conversation with a person swimming next to you, that is a sign you’re pushing yourself too hard. Stop and take a breather at the side or get out of the pool completely.
When entering and exiting the pool, be sure to do so slowly and safely. Although the water itself provides a very safe workout environment, the slippery edges of the pool can present a risk. Make sure you take extra care to keep your balance.