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Personal Training Diploma – Ante & Post Natal Course

By Arwen Abendstern

By Arwen Abendstern

Another week, another flight. This time it’s a flight to London to attend the Lifetime Ante/Post Natal course. This is one of the two elective elements in the Personal Training Diploma, and I chose it for two reasons.

One – I suspect that my future clientele will contain more mothers than elderly people. I don’t know this for certain but it’s my current guess.

Second – It was on at the right time. I’m away travelling in March and I wanted to finish my diploma by then. This course was on before I left and uniquely for Lifetime this is a weekend course.

Day One

The venue was Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing in Bloomsbury which is a decent gym. However the lecture room is a basement room next door which is very basic compared to the other venues I’ve attended in Birmingham and Edinburgh.

The tutor, Alison Merry, started as a midwife before becoming a Personal Trainer, so she is ideally placed to teach this course. She started out telling us that midwifes are taught nothing about training in pregnancy, nor are doctors, which surprised me.

We discussed the benefits of training during pregnancy, which included among others, a reduction in stress, positive benefits for the baby, reduction in the ‘symptoms’ of pregnancy, and an easier labour. Alison noted that the final one was a major selling point!

We then covered some of the myths and concerns about exercise during pregnancy including :

  • Increased risk of miscarriage – no studies conclusive either way though expectant mothers are advised not to start an exercise programme during the first trimester. However women who already exercise should have no fear of continuing the exercise they are already doing – with various caveats covered later in the course.
  • The foetus will overheat – extremely unlikely. The mother’s body undergoes significant changes to improve temperature regulation. However these changes may also make the mother feel like she is overheating!
  • Yoga and Pilates are good for pregnant women – not necessarilly. A few reasons for this: During pregnancy the hormone relaxin causes ligaments of the pelvis to relax, however it also causes all other ligaments to relax. This means that care must be taken when stretching at the end of a range of motion. Also due to the release of progesterone, maintaining static holds for a long length of time may cause blood pooling.
  • Keep heart rate below 140 – false. The foetus heart rate is about 140, but there is no good scientific basis for the mother keeping her heart rate below this.
  • Swimming is good for pregnant women – maybe. It depends on the range of motion – some strokes like breaststroke may actually cause pelvis problems.

We also covered in considerable (some would say excruciating) detail the changes to the women’s body during the various stages of pregnancy, including a number of opportunities for class discussion. In the room we had two pregnant women, as well as a number of mothers, so it was interesting to listen to the various opinions flying around. Somehow I didn’t find it quite as easy to contribute to the discussion as I normally do!

Day Two

The day started with pelvic floor exercises, and learnt about why we would want to do it and how to coach someone. The benefits include avoiding incontinence and better sex, so that should encourage most people, not just those who are pregnant to do it!

Finally we had a practical session in the gym, where we got to try different cardio machines, resistance machines and free weights – all with a heavy backpack on our front to mimic pregnancy.

It was enlightening to see how much it impeded exercising and made some of the basic exercises awkward or impossible. The best machine for cardio work seems to be the upright bike – rowing is near impossibl, running is diffcult and the knees bang against the bump when using the recumbant bike.

The sessions before and after lunch concentrated on post natal complications and exercise, the descriptions of which made most of us wince (can I just mention episiotomy?), made some of girls decide they never want to be pregnant, and made me glad I’m a man!

We finished the day with another session in the gym, concentrating on post natal exercises, and showing how we would go about testing for [rec???], before the assessment to finish off the day.

Final thoughts

I found this to be the most challenging course of the personal diploma – there was a lot of information that I’ve never covered before, and to be honest it’s not an area I was that interested in before. 

Despite this I learnt a lot and came away from it with much greater knowledge and an insight into an area of fitness training I had never really considered. It’s also an area which is poorly understood, poorly serviced, but an area where exercise could provide so much benefit.

Finally, I now have not only an understanding, but also a deep admiration for what women go through in the course of their pregnancy. Mum (and mothers everywhere)- you’re amazing.

The tutor on the course Alison Kelly provides training and programs for pregnant women through the website Blooming Fit.

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