Right, let’s talk about flexibility!
Flexibility is an often forgotten about part of most people’s exercise program. It is often neglected in order to fit in that last five minutes on the treadmill or because you are already running late for work.
However, flexibility training should be an integral part of everybody’s exercise routine, whether you are pregnant or not.
The ability to be able to move freely vastly improves your quality of life. From touching your toes to scratching your back, being flexible decreases your chances of injury and can help prevent any imbalances from occurring.
So whether you are an avid yoga fan, or just love stretching after a good run (although in my experience runners seem allergic to stretching), flexibility is so important, however there are some important things you have to be made aware of when you are pregnant.
One of the main reasons you will alter your flexibility routine when pregnant is a hormone called relaxin which is produced during the first trimester and remains in the body for approximately eight weeks after birth.
Relaxin levels peak during the 14th week of pregnancy and again at delivery.
The function of relaxin is to soften the structures of the musculoskeletal system, particularly around the pelvis.
The main aim of this is to aid the delivery of the baby.
However, this hormone affects all structures of the musculoskeletal system, meaning that all ligaments, tendons and muscles are softer and less elastic.
Sprains and dislocation, particularly related to weight bearing joints, are therefore more common during pregnancy and particular care should be taken doing some exercises.
It is for this reason that we recommend only to take stretches to 70%, as there is a greater risk of injury with deep stretches.
Relaxin is not the only reason why your flexibility training has to be adapted. The fact that you are changing shape every day will play a factor with some of your old stretching habits.
During the latter stages of pregnancy you will most likely find it uncomfortable in many positions so you will have to adapt your stretching around the way you feel and the size you are. For example it will certainly feel uncomfortable laying on your tummy.
More importantly however, is the fact that after week 16 of pregnancy it becomes unsafe to lay on your back on a hard surface for over two minutes.
The weight of your baby can restrict blood flow back to your heart, which can be dangerous for both you and your baby. This is the reason that most stretches should take place either standing up or sitting on a stability ball.
Tips for Flexibility Training
Stretching is recommended after the cool down during each session. There are certain factors which have to be considered when performing your flexibility training.
• Avoid bouncing into each movement due to the high level of relaxin in your body, and weaker ligaments and joints.
• Avoid overstretching the muscle and stick to the guidelines provided.
• Avoid lying on your back on a hard surface after week 16.
• Ensure your total body is stretched by sticking to the guidelines provided.
• Change positions slowly.
• Be aware of your breathing, e.g. avoid holding breath
• Be aware of possible hip discomfort. If pain occurs, stop and continue with the rest of the stretches. If pain consists consult your GP.
• Only take stretches to 70% of the maximum.
If you have any further questions regarding your stretching and flexibility then please contact us and well be happy to help.