Jumping, Jogging and Leaping to Fitness?!

Jumping, Jogging and Leaping to Fitness?!

March 2015

This month, our resident pre and post natal fitness expert Dr. Joanna Helcke shares with her the latest thoughts on fitness trends in pregnancy. Dr. Joanna Helcke is an expert in pregnancy and postnatal fitness, winner of the UK’s most prestigious fitness award - the 2014 FitPro Award for Excellence in Fitness - and a regular contributor to the national media. She is the creator of the UK’s first week-by-week online pregnancy fitness programme. For weekly pregnancy health and fitness advice sign up to Joanna’s newsletter at www.joannahelcke.com Read on for her expert advice.

Pregnant or new mum: Jumping, jogging and leaping to fitness

There’s no doubt that body weight training of the high intensity variety is one of the 2015 fitness trends.

It’s actually been around for a long time and I’ve been doing workouts that involve short, sharp bursts of very intense exercise for years but now it’s suddenly hit the headlines and the gym studios are offering all sorts of “packaged” versions.

Given the kind of person I am – the all or nothing type – I actually really like this kind of training but… but… but… I do worry on a number of fronts when it comes to pregnancy exercise and early post natal fitness. 

I know from experience that many of you are like me – you love that feeling of getting a really great workout. It’s the adrenalin and post-workout endorphin lift that we all enjoy.

And so you should, and I certainly don’t wish to be a killjoy but simply to look at how to make things safe for this special time in your life

I’d like to give high intensity interval training (HIIT) a go in pregnancy: can I?

Some of you will have been doing HIIT workouts prior to pregnancy and, in all likelihood inadvertently in early pregnancy when you weren’t yet aware that you were expecting.

Does that matter?

Well the answer mainly lies in you:

If you were doing your workouts and suddenly noticed that they were feeling about 100 times harder than they used to and if your body was crying out for you to stop, then the short answer is this: stop!

I hope you did.

In early pregnancy the body has to work exceptionally hard to lay down all the foundations for growing your little baby. It’s a time of immense change.

Some people breeze through it with not a breathless moment whilst others feel as though their exhaustion is so deep-seated that they simply have to take it easy.

It’s simple: take it easy.

Don’t work through the fatigue.

Take your workout down to a level that feels GOOD. By good I mean comfortable and not the wow-that-was-good–it-nearly-killed-me variety of good!

And what if you’ve never had a whiff of a HIIT session in your life, let along done one?

Should you give it a go in pregnancy, in a bid to get fit for your little one?


Now is not the time to be going on a major fitness drive. It’s a time for maintaining fitness and mobility and for using exercise to stave off pregnancy aches and pains

Now that I’m a mum can I give high intensity interval training a go?

I find that postnatally I tend to be confronted by two main types of mum: there are those who need to take quite a long time to emerge from this phenomenal transition into motherhood, especially if their pregnancy, labour and birth were not easy.

This is perfectly normal.

And then there are those who feel as right as rain from day 1 of motherhood and want to bounce back into postnatal exercise as quickly and energetically as possible.

I understand you both.

After the birth of my first son I remember feeling a major sense of achievement if I managed to leave the house (with all necessary equipment in tow) by midday!

By the time I gave birth to my third I did the school run the following morning – no joke – and started exercising 7 days after giving birth.


NO that is NOT advisable.

NO you should never do that.

NO I wouldn’t have done that if I’d known then what I know now.

Oh, and by the way, I wouldn’t have found myself on the receiving end of a pelvic floor operation if I’d not been so foolish…

So why do I tell you this?

Because it’s all about high impact exercise – and HIIT most definitely falls into that category – and its effects on the body when you are postnatal.

Did you know that you are postnatal for at least 6 months after giving birth?


But it’s true and you must respect and look after your postnatal body in those 6 months.

What’s wrong with high impact postnatal exercise?

It’s simple really…

Your pregnant body went through more changes than it will have ever experienced before:

·         The abdominals were stretched, lengthened and weakened on a monumental scale

·         Your pelvic floor was placed under increasing daily pressure as your baby grew and pushed down on the pelvic floor muscles.

·         Your posture changed as your bump grew and this affects your back and general alignment, often causing all sorts of aches and pains

·         Your joints were placed under increasing pressure as you found yourself carrying an ever-growing baby.

All this leaves its mark on your body, even once you have given birth.

The pelvic floor doesn’t simply “ping” back into shape.

Most of us need to do some pretty serious pelvic floor work to get back to where we were pre-pregnancy.

Now imagine this: there you are busily doing your daily pelvic floor exercises and all the while you’re doing a spot of HIIT work.

What’s that going to do to your body?

Put it this way: every time you do a jumping squat, a jumping lunge, a skip or a hop you have to land.

Yep, that’s right – gravity and all that!

And when you land, your pelvic floor takes a real bashing.

Keep up with the bashing (AKA high impact HIIT) and you’ll soon develop a bit of a pelvic floor problem.

As in?

You know…

Little accidents when you sneeze, cough or jump.

Not nice.

So what’s the solution?  

The solution is to keep your postnatal exercise low impact.

Don’t be down.

Don’t tell me that sucks (as my 15 year old would say!).

Because it is perfectly possible – and I really really really mean this - to do HIIT training and to work very hard without a jump in sight.

It’s true.

My Mama HIIT class does that and judging by all the red sweaty faces and the heaving chests, it’s working!

But also there’s my pet love: weight training.

Weight training is fantastic for the postnatal body: done properly with excellent technique it will make you fitter and stronger than you ever were pre-babies, and it is the best way to really sculpt the body.

And… there’s no impact!

Hey what about me? I’m pregnant!

No I haven’t forgotten you!

Weights are great in pregnancy too but I wouldn’t suggest getting to grips with weight training for the first time ever when pregnant.

Wait ‘till you’ve had your little one and then get a really good trainer who is both great with weights and knows his or her postnatal “stuff” to show you!

Finally thoughts…

So you see, I’m not a killjoy when it comes to HIIT workouts – I love them, I see the appeal of them but you have to be prepared to modify them to make them appropriate postnatally.


In pregnancy? It’s that same old corny phrase: listen to your body and do what you’re told!