Monday, August 25, 2003

The Inactive Person’s Guide to Pre-Natal Workouts

The Inactive Person’s Guide to Pre-Natal Workouts
Andria Brown

I don’t work out. Stating it so plainly makes it sound like I may be proud of this fact, but I’m not. I just seem to be missing the gene or the neuron or the inspiring inner Oprah that makes other people feel slack and depressed if they sit around too long.

But then I went and got pregnant, and everything I read told me that I needed to be active, both for my health and the baby’s. At first it seemed feasible, but then the first trimester fatigue hit and my activity level went from one to zero. By the time I felt like doing anything more rigorous than napping, I’d practically forgotten how to tie my eight-year-old, mint-condition Nikes. I knew I needed help to get back on (or at least near) the exercise wagon. I also knew that whatever I chose to do was going to have to be easy, engaging, and at least sort of fun. I tried a few different things, with varying levels of success.

The Exercise Book:
A very good friend of mine gave us a book called The Pregnant Couple’s Guide to Working Out Together, by Isa Herrera. This just goes to prove that even very good friends don’t know everything about you. On top of being less than motivated by a two-dimensional instructor, I have a really hard time converting text and images into actual activity. This just didn’t work for me. (Important note: this isn’t a review of the book – reviewing the book would imply that I’d actually, you know, read it.)

The Exercise Tape:
I’d tried a few yoga tapes before getting pregnant and they seemed to hold my interest for at least two weeks at a time, so I thought I’d give a pre-natal workout tape a try. The one I chose, based mostly on its reviews, was Leisa Hart's FitMama – Prenatal Workout. I was a little scared by the fact that Leisa Hart is the “Buns of Steel” lady, but I was actually surprised by how little I resented her. She’s very perky, but she’s also good at communicating everything she’s doing and goes through the steps before asking the viewer to participate. Plus she says nice affirming things about how sexy pregnant bellies are. This is a perk, especially when you feel like a Fantasia elephant twirling around the living room. Or when your partner is standing in the kitchen trying not to laugh at your mambo combo.

The workout itself is very manageable, even for a newbie like me. The tape is broken down into several sections, starting with a Salsa workout, then moving on to a Yoga section, then floor and relaxation exercises. Starting out, I followed the recommendation to do either the yoga or salsa, and then skip ahead to the stretching and breathing. This made me really wish I had the workout on DVD, especially on the days where I just felt like going through some guided Kegels or getting a good stretch in (the DVD version has recently been released). Just the aggravation of having to fast forward has kept me from using this tape regularly. Which brings me to …

The Exercise DVD:
I was only able to find one non-yoga pre-natal workout on DVD: Kathy Smith’s Pregnancy Workout. I’ve been trying to think of one word to sum up my feelings for this DVD, and the only word I’ve come up with is: blurgh. I hate this video. I hate it for so many reasons I can barely articulate them, and many of those reasons aren’t very articulate at all. For starters, I hate Kathy Smith’s style. She doesn’t explain anything, she goes from one step to another without warning, and her routines are awkward. I took dance for six years and I’m good at following demonstrations, yet I still spent half this workout tripping over myself.

I also hate the creepy Stepford Moms in the background (Leisa had a similar problem with finding a diverse group of moms-to-be) and the cheesy baby-themed graphics. I hate Kathy’s eye shadow. I hate, with the red-hot fire of a thousand suns, the “Mommy Rap” that’s inexplicably stuck in the middle of the video. There’s a line about putting down the bagel and doing another Kegel that made me want to throw a gallon tub of ice cream through the television. (The rap is clearly a parody of the 1986 Chicago Bears Super Bowl Shuffle, which makes me hate it even more, considering that the tape originally came out in 1989 so it was dated and stupid even then.) I hate the music and the set and the wardrobe and basically everything I saw or heard on this DVD. Which, I have to admit, wasn’t everything on the DVD. I turned it off after the rap and haven’t been able to bring myself to get through the rest.

The Exercise Class:
Working out in public has its pros and cons. The financial investment and knowing that there are actual living, breathing people expecting to see me makes it more likely that I’ll show up. On the flip side, my anxiety, shyness, and general reluctance to get criticized for anything make me hesitant to expose myself to the huge embarrassment possibilities inherent in an exercise class. But in an effort to get over myself and do the best thing for the kid, I gladly signed on when local parenting oasis Mothersville offered a pre-natal yoga series. So far I’ve only attended one class, but I think I’ve finally found my exercise solution. The group is just large enough that no one feels singled out, yet small enough that the environment feels intimate. I’m sure having a good instructor is key here, and I’m lucky that ours is experienced and professional, yet very warm and supportive. I was initially worried about the 75-minute class time, but the first night went by very quickly.

The best part of the whole experience, however, is getting to meet other moms-to-be and having the chance to talk about what we’re going through. That’s the element you just can’t get from a home workout, and it’s probably even more important in the long run than any physical activity could ever be.

No comments: