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Prenatal Workout Review - Summer Sanders' workout does the job, but wasn't my favorite
September 2, 2013
I bought several pregnancy workout videos, and thought it would be a good idea to write a review of all of them at once: Amira’s Bellydance and Yoga for Pregnancy; 10 Minute Solutions Prenatal Pilates; Shiva Rea’s Prenatal Yoga; Perfect Pregnancy Workout vol.1; Summer Sanders’ Prenatal Workout. Let me start this by saying that before my pregnancy, my level of fitness was somewhere in between couch potato and world-class athlete – I usually worked out a few times a week, doing 20-30 minutes cardio and some light weight-lifting, but was not running marathons or anything like that. I wanted to maintain a similar level of fitness during my pregnancy, while building muscles and flexibility specific to labor and burning enough calories to offset my very increased appetite. Whether you get one of these or not, my overall advice is that working out during pregnancy really, really helps – it helped me stay more comfortable as I expanded and my center of gravity shifted, it helped me feel good about the changes that were happening to my body, and it helped prepare me for a relatively smooth and manageable labor and delivery (no medication).
Amira’s Bellydance and Yoga for Pregnancy: This was one of my favorites, and I think in the long run it really helped prepare my body for labor; it also helped me to relax, stretch, and feel good as I got bigger and bigger. Some of the reviews here point out that it is not a very intense workout – that’s true, but I felt like there was plenty of stretching and strengthening, and through much of my pregnancy high intensity was not what I was looking for – the goal of this video is not to increase athleticism, but to help the body adjust to pregnancy and prepare for labor. Amira is a very encouraging coach, and much of the commentary is designed to be relaxing, informative, and comforting; I also appreciated that she looked like a real pregnant woman in the video, rather than a super fit, still skinny woman who just happened to have a bump. The bonus material – interviews and some dance performances – was not all that appealing to me, but I liked Amira’s intro statement about her own experience and the history of bellydance. The interviews might be more interesting/helpful for someone who doesn’t have sisters/girlfriends who have been through this before.
10 Minute Solutions Prenatal Pilates: This was another favorite. I really like the format, where you can choose how many of the 10-minute segments to do, and in what order, and I felt like the workouts were manageable and well-suited to pregnant bodies. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was doing the flexibility workout more than the others and often just one or two at a time, but for the first two trimesters, I would usually do three of the workouts at a time. I was somewhat familiar with pilates already, but not an expert by any means, and I found the workouts easy to follow (with a little practice needed the first few times); I think this would be good for those new to pilates, and the format means that even people who are not used to working out can start off with a manageable amount and work up from there. The instructor sometimes gives conflicting cues about breathing patterns, but generally she is clear, informative, and easy to follow. Seeing someone well into her 3rd trimester doing these exercises was very inspiring. Some of the workouts don’t require any equipment, but some require light hand weights and/or pillows.
Shiva Rea’s Prenatal Yoga: I didn’t get this until near the end of my pregnancy, but the few times I did it made me wish I had it earlier. The pace and level of difficulty are definitely geared towards beginners, and much of the emphasis is on toning and stretching in ways that are particularly geared towards pregnancy and labor (kegel exercises and hip stretches). This is a very relaxing and slow-paced video – not a killer workout that will leave you sweating and panting. There are modifications for each trimester, but with many of the moves, I found I could do the 1st trimester version and didn’t need the modifications. It did require some equipment: a yoga blanket (? Not sure what this is – I just used a regular blanket folded up), a strap (I used the belt from a bathrobe), and a yoga brick (this was needed for some of the later trimester modifications – I just skipped it).
Perfect Pregnancy Workout vol. 1: I had read great reviews of this, but was disappointed and only used it a few times. Basically, it was too strenuous for my pregnant self – the instructor is a world-class athlete and I guess this is the workout she had put together for herself during her pregnancy – nothing wrong with that, but her level of fitness and her fitness goals were just a little different from mine, and I really couldn’t keep up. That said, there were a few moves that I liked and did separately when I just needed something quick (like the labor squats). I did like it that kegels were built into this. If you feel you are up to it, it is an intense and thorough workout. The final section, on preparing yourself mentally by doing an intense endurance exercise, seemed silly to me at the time, and it still seems silly now that I’ve been through labor: 3 minutes of arm circles is difficult, but conquering this difficulty will not be enough to prepare you for making it through labor (which can be manageable if you are well-prepared!).
Summer Sanders’ Prenatal Workout: This video was ok, and definitely offers a thorough workout, but it was not my favorite. It has three separate workouts, one for each trimester, and you can choose the complete version or an express version for each one (I think the complete version is just the express workout repeated a second time) – I almost always did the express version. The 1st trimester workout was way too hard for me (I wanted to spend most of my 1st trimester sleeping), the 2nd trimester workout was just about right in terms of intensity, and the 3rd trimester workout was a little too light (for me). The moves here are fairly traditional and will certainly tone major muscles groups without any frills; I would have appreciated more stretching. There were a few pregnancy-specific moves that I often did separately (labor lunges, plie squats). Summer Sanders and her trainer/sister-in-law are encouraging, but their chatter doesn’t hold up well and starts to get annoying after watching it a few times.