By Phuong Lien Get up and work it out
Reclining on a sofa, her face blushed with energy, Mabel eagerly casts insights on her seven-month-old pregnancy: “Being Asian myself and having lived in Hong Kong many years, I understand people’s concern and hesitation of being physically active during pregnancy. There are still many superstitions that are not backed by scientific evidence that people follow due to cultural pressures. I think one reason behind these beliefs is our instinct to protect the babies developing inside us. Furthermore, when one is pregnant, it’s hard enough to get up and get dressed everyday, while we feel bloated, and sick in the stomach.”
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Her fix? “Get up and do some work-out!” Mabel’s years of experience in the fitness industry informs her how a woman body would behave when she has to carry an extra weight for 9 months with all these changes in hormones and physical appearance: it calls for serious stamina. That and plus the energy to go into labor delivering the baby safe and sound.
“Thus is my stand on fitness during pregnancy! If you are not bed-ridden, or forbidden to exercise by your physician, fitness will bring the following benefits to your pregnancy: bring you more energy, help prepare you for the rigorous childbirth, reduce pregnancy discomfort, make the birthing process go easier, help you sleep better.” Mabel remarks. These are all results of a bodily system well-oiled to carry out the holy task of motherhood, and to some extent all mothers would love to follow a suitable pregnant program to better prepare for their special day if that’s all what it takes.
Mabel Mak Planet Yoga 2
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about stretching with your bump is the feel-good effect. It bestows generously on you, during and long after you hear the first crackling joy of birth. Not only exercising helps you sleep better, reduces stress and lifts your spirit (think endorphin, lots of it!), a few simple, coordinated movements a day to activate your body memory “will actually make it significantly faster for you to gain back your slim figure after delivery” as Mabel observes.
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Yoga is a mom’s best friend
It is believed that yoga is a marvelous form of exercise, especially for ladies who bundle. Mabel makes sure she has her yoga fix almost daily during her terms: “Yoga is great for pregnant women for several reasons. First of all, Yoga helps me breathe and relax, which, in turn, helps me to be well prepared for the harshness and the physical demands of labor, birth, and motherhood. Second, the stretching in yoga is a great way to tone up my muscles, making my body limber enough to prevent wear and tear in my joints by activating the lubricating fluid in joints.” Another aesthetic side to Yoga is that it can reduce bloatness, an annoying thing during pregnancy that turns you into a swollen onion. And what’s more, you can actually enjoy reading your favorite magazine in the loo because unlike other un-exercising moms-to-be, you won’t suffer much from constipation (which is very common with pregnancy) thanks to yoga-induced accelerating movement in your intestine.
Mabel has one-on-one yoga classes specially designed for her, as well as a tailor-made exercise routine. “My yoga instructor and personal trainer really made the difference. I believe anyone who is able to, should have a Personal Trainer and Yogi to work with them!” Her routine normally consists of: Yoga 3 days per week, with 15 minutes of breathing exercises – learning to control the breath, followed by 30 minutes of postures to strengthen the core and legs, and ending with 15 minutes of stretching.
Do what you love, and you will love what you do
“If your doctor says it is ok for you to exercise then I recommend those activities especially Yoga, for breathing and learning to concentrate & relax.” But Mabel believes the most important thing is to follow your heart. “Many women enjoy dancing, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, biking, or walking. My message to women is don’t let your pregnancy stop you from doing what you love!”
Mabel suggests a little orientation kit for an exercise-inspired mom-to-be. First a check-up with your physician to make sure what kind of activities you can enjoy: “Ask your doctor all the questions regarding your health, the fetus’ health, what you are allowed and not allowed to do, especially in term of fitness. If you are already exercising, you should discuss this with your physician as well. Tell him/her of what your plan regarding your fitness in the next 9 months.”
She notes: “If you have been active, then just keep doing what you like best, but don’t overdo yourself, don’t do activities which are strenuous. During pregnancy, avoid activities which involve bouncing, jarring (up and down movements), leaping, sudden changes of directions, or activities which risk abdominal injury. Don’t exercise if you are feeling fatigue, dizzy, sort of breath, or pain in your back or pelvis.”
With ladies who didn’t frequent the gym that much before but still want to do something to welcome a smooth delivery, Mabel suggests: “Start slow. Start gradually.”
“Even 5 minutes a day is a good start if you’ve been inactive. Add 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes. Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes and wear a supportive bra to protect your breasts. Drink plenty of water to avoid overheating and dehydration. Skip your exercises if you’re sick. Opt for a walk in an air-conditioned mall on hot, humid days. Above all, listen to your body and have good judgment.”
Mabel ends the conversation with a glowing smile: “The most important thing is to enjoy your pregnancy! It is quite beautiful!”
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