Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Pure Barre Pregnancy: Pure Barre Pregnancy Modifications

[Friends and family: The reason for this post is that when I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was search for articles about pure barre modifications while pregnant. I found several helpful articles which were all great, but not as much as I hoped.  So, here I am, paying it forward!]

Disclaimer: I am not a Pure Barre instructor, owner or employee, nor am I a doctor (but I am a lawyer!), so this is not medical or technical advice.  This is just my own personal experience and some practical insight, as if we were having a friendly informal conversation about it.  Pure Barre is an intense workout and should be done with your OB's blessing.   

A Pure Barre Pregnancy 


First time wearing my sticky socks around 11-12 weeks, at a 90 minute full body burn! 

Overview: 
Pure Barre is very possible and even fun while pregnant! And I think it's really helped to manage my weight gain and help me feel good about how I'm carrying.  Ultimately I took over 100 classes during my pregnancy and was there on my due date (my goal) and one day after.  I returned to PB around 4.5 weeks postpartum (with clearance from my doctor).

It's important that you are already familiar with the technique and the difficulty, and it really helps to have a baseline of "pure barre strength" before you get pregnant (so you can still do those dreaded ledge exercises on your hands and knees during seat with a bump!).  I had been taking PB pretty regularly for a year and a half before I got pregnant, and was going several times a week the month I got pregnant (including the day I found out I was pregnant, in Hawaii)  But be prepared, as baby grows so do you, and that weight will be a strain!

Also to be clear, I was overweight before I became pregnant, and so I was not one of those "little" pregnant ladies who barely showed.  I was fortunate that I carried very forward and had that classic "bump," but was NOT small, and gained at least 35-40 lbs during my pregnancy.   But I lost my baby weight quite easily postpartum and I suspect that pure barre before and after helped.   

If I had the time, I'd try to go 4-5 days a week, but unfortunately with work I really only manage 3-4. I think PB is most effective if you don't miss more than 1-2 days between classes, but that also depends on if you're walking, running or doing other exercise while pregnant.  

My biggest piece of advice is that EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT!  Your body will change daily and your PB experience will change with it.  Every pregnant lady is different so don't feel bad if there are others in your studio that are doing more than you do!   The best advice I got was from another woman in the studio who said, "just do what you want and you'll be fine" which I have found to be so true.  The instructors are a great resource and you should use them, but don't be afraid to "wing it," especially if you're experienced in the technique and the proper posture.  Also, there were moves that I wasn't into at 35 weeks that I was able to do at 39 weeks so sometimes your body is just into it and sometimes it isn't. 

Finally, this is required reading! http://jjsways.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-80-thoughts-you-have-during-pure.html

Clothes: 


Around 34 weeks.  Regular Beyond Yoga pants and Old Navy maternity tank. Pup sold separately.
If you're lucky like me, you had instructors who had babies before you got pregnant, and you paid attention to their style.  I'm still fitting into most some of my largest and stretchy pants, and wear long tanks (like the emijay "see you at the barre" tank) to cover the bump.  My bra selection is quite limited so that's an excuse to spring for some new stuff (which you'll continue to wear after, especially if breastfeeding!).  I have a few looser, "maternity" options for when I'm bigger so I don't stretch out my nice regular pants.  My mom insisted that she get me a pair of Beyond the Bump capris, which are very comfortable, and then I found a pair of Beyond the Bump leggings that were severely discounted, which  were great!  Once I was close to full term, I was limited to my maternity PB clothes, and even those were strained, but if I was desperate I could have used my husband's workout clothes, and I didn't. 

Water:
Water deserves it's own section.  What's great about a PB class if you have plenty of opportunities to gulp down water, so not only is it important for fluids, etc. it's also just a great opportunity to load up on water during the day.  I know on the days I go to PB I'm better hydrated than on my off days.

Also, if you're breastfeeding postpartum, drinking water during class is VERY important.

Instructors: 
I chose not to reveal my pregnancy to my instructors until 11 weeks, which made sense for me.  That was also when I started wearing the "baby on board" socks, which are fun :-) (my debut of the socks was during a 90 minute total body burn intensive, awesome, right?).  My studio does not require a doctor's note but some do, so be prepared either way.  It's been fun for my instructors to see my belly grow and they are some of my biggest cheerleaders!  They have a handout they can give you with modifications, I never saw it and I'm not too concerned about it.  If you're an experienced LTBer, it's not that hard to figure out modifications. 

Odd Pregnancy-Related PB Issues:
- I got awful heartburn during class! It was very strange.  I considered packing TUMS in the gym bag but it never got to that point, I just drank a ton of water and pushed through.  

- If you're fighting the first trimester fatigue (or any trimester fatigue), get yourself to the studio anyway, it helps.  I had weekends when all I did was PB and lay in bed with my dog.  

- I had a series of headaches during a few weeks of my second trimester.  Nothing helped, so I went to PB anyway.  

- Bathroom breaks: you will need them! I suggest you go after seat during the beginning of "round back," the least useful section of PB while pregnant.

- I had a setback in week 24, when I had sciatic pain on my left hip (likely NOT caused by PB), which completely hampered my walking and was very painful.  After about 9 days of rest, ice, and heat, nothing changed. So I decided to try "active recovery" instead, by returning to the barre, with the hope that some PB "physical therapy" and stretching would help.  Two days in the verdict is unclear, I'm not sure it helped, but my pain went away about 5 days later, and mentally it was GREAT to be back.

- Pelvic floor issues:  I realized postpartum that I have pelvic floor tightness.  (The opposite of what you have to do kegels for.)  The one legged stuff at PB seems to bring it on, both before and after the baby was born.  Just be mindful of that muscle group because there are lots of changes happening! 

Modifications:
This is what you're here for, right!  This is what has worked for me.  My original goal was to get to 20 weeks without a major modifications which, for the most part, worked.  Even at 28 weeks, I didn't modify as much as I expected.  Here's how I break up the working sections of class, your terminology may be different (and I've never been an instructor) so bear with me: 

First 100s 
Plank
Push Up series 
Tricep dips 
Upper Body w/ Weights (or without) 
Thighs 
Seat
Round Back 
Flat Back 
Final Abs Series
Cobra/Back 
Back Dancing(Bridge)

Weeks 4-15ish (before you start showing):  

I don't think you need any modifications because of your pregnancy here.  I chose to go down on my knees during plank to protect my back, and otherwise took it more easily than I used to (which I recommend) but really don't be afraid to challenge yourself in the same way as before. 

Weeks 15-20: 

I stopped doing the chair pose in thighs and instead stood up at the barre to limit back strain (which I probably should have done before I was pregnant - UPDATE: 8 months postpartum I'm back at doing chair!).  I modified my cobra stretch but I still do it, and on most days I stayed up on my hands and knees during back stretch and stuck out opposing legs and arms.  I had to modify the final abs series a bit to protect my back, but I'm sure that varies. 

Weeks 20-30ish: I continued to to everything I had modified before, but: 

First 100s I kept my legs up a lot higher, and eventually kept them on the floor, and for the roll-up I keep my legs down.

Plank (even on my knees) is harder! 

Push Ups: I still do push ups on my toes, but I always keep both feet on the floor (I don't do any alternating lifting the feet).  There's only so much my arms can take with this extra weight!

Thighs: One quirky symptom was calf cramps when we're on our toes during thighs!  It's happened almost every class for a few weeks. (This eventually went away, which was also strange) I just come down on to my feet and am fine.  I always stand up for chair but I still do water ski. UPDATE: At 28 weeks my belly is starting to get in the way while I'm at the Barre...I can still do everything but, it's different... 

The stretches between thighs and seat are a little more tricky with the bump but I still do the split stretch.  It feels so good! 

Seat:  I "lose steam" during seat (or, on bad days, "the wheels come off"), especially if we're standing at the barre on one leg (again, not much different than before, just worse, standing pretzel sucks for everyone!).  I take a lot more breaks than I used to, and modify a lot more to keep pressure off my standing hip, which is just harder with more weight.  Sometimes I stay upright at the barre if there's a fold over, other times I'm able to do it, do what makes sense and don't push it too much.   The "seatbelt" position is getting harder so I might have to face the barre soon.   Also, when on all fours, it's much harder to not arch my back and keep my hips tucked.  I do the best I can and take several breaks.  Eventually I was done with being all fours in seat, and did everything at the barre.  It was just too hard to protect my back. 

Round back is harder, I do a lot more table top/foot on the floor during that time.  Be careful when rotating during the stretch between round back and flat back.  

I don't modify flat back (yet). Eventually I couldn't really keep my legs together or in diamond anymore, so I just did the best I could. 

Final Abs Series:  I always keep the ball behind my back (I did that pre-pregnancy and now postpartum), and don't push it as much as I used to.  All of the abs on my back are a little trickier, because the center of my abs is basically hidden from here on out.  I can't get my legs to a 45 degree angle very easily, so I just keep my feet on the floor (knees bent) or keep my legs up high, depending on how I'm feeling, and often grip my legs.   I still do the reverse crunches, I'm carrying high and they feel fine. 

Back Dancing: I can't physically keep my feet together during back dancing anymore, so I just keep them further apart and protect my back, no big deal. 

Be purposeful with your stretching! It's great for overall pregnancy comfort and I have to think hope it will help with labor!

Weeks 30-40: There is a huge difference between 30 weeks and 25 weeks, at least for me!

First 100s:  I keep my feet on the ground the entire time.

Plank:  I can still do it on my knees, but I'm not sure how much longer, I'm running out of space!

Push Ups: Still doing the full pushups!

Weights:  I pushed myself until about 38 weeks and then it was funny, my arms started getting tired faster, so I took it pretty easy at the end.

Thighs and Seat: Same, except I'm carrying around more weight.  I do not do anything on my hands and knees, I lean against the barre.

Abs against the wall: I usually take a bathroom break.

Final Abs series:  I could still do it, but it's wasn't the same.  If it wasn't for back dancing and final stretching I'd probably have left class after seat.  I feel like I'm still getting a workout in, and it's great for my obliques (I'm carrying VERY forward).  I focused on upper abs and obliques at the end.

Concerns:
The most common thing I read is to be careful about positions on your back.  I also see a lot about modifying the abs sections, I haven't modified much at all and won't until my doctor tells me to.   I think the biggest thing is DON'T GET HURT. Now is not the time to push it.  My round ligament pain sometimes gets worse during PB so I try to take it easy on those days, knowing that a few days later, I'll probably be fine. At 28 weeks I told my nurse practitioner that I'm still doing Pure Barre and would continue to until she told me otherwise, she said that it was all good, and also said that I'm carrying really well and my weight was good, which I think is largely because of my PB practice.

Happy Thoughts
The instructors and clients in the two studios I regularly attend are so POSITIVE and sweet. Seriously, they constantly tell me that I look great and that I'm doing really well.  In a world where everyone wants to tell you that you're huge and that you're "not going to make it to August,"  having this safe, happy space several hours a week while pregnant is invaluable.  The value of that support cannot be understated.

After class on my due date - I made it!
Beyond the Bump tank and capris



Happy tucking for two :-) 

Update: some postpartum thoughts! I never thought that going back 40 lbs lighter 4.5 weeks after having the baby would be 10x harder than going at 40 weeks! So give yourself some time and be patient.  It took several months before I felt like myself again at the barre, but it does come back! 

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