Fitness Fail Friday

A few weeks ago I posted my first book review, a two-thumbs-way-down assessment of the book my OB’s office gives to all patients for free, entitled Your Pregnancy Week By Week. My post asked why pregnancy is viewed as pathology, and the pregnant woman as a virtual invalid, weak and very much in need of medical intervention.

And then two days ago I posted about the pregnancy exercise myth that women should never let their heart rates exceed 140 beats per minute. This myth is based on a guesstimate made in 1985; laboratory testing has subsequently disproven it many times over (the first time, six months after its advent), the doctor who originally came up with the number rescinded his recommendation (as soon as he saw the results from the first laboratory tests), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists eventually, quietly removed it from its updated guidelines for pregnancy exercise (only in 1994; they were rather behind the times), and then publicly rescinded it in 2002 (who likes to admit they made a mistake?).

Point being, this information is dead wrong, and it is harmful. It makes pregnant women out to be weak and fragile creatures, and it stops conscientious mothers from engaging in exercise that would be beneficial to them and to their babies. But back to the book, Your Pregnancy Week By Week. Not a big surprise to me, the authors warn us pregnant women that we should not let our heart rates exceed 140 BPM. (And if ever we should accidentally cross this very dangerous threshold, we should stop immediately and rest until we dip back below 90 BPM.) Even though this is blatant misinformation that has been disproven time and time again.

The authors limit us to stationary biking (but no spinning classes – too intense!), swimming, preggo aerobics classes, and brisk walking (but not with the dog – you’ll throw your back out!) Their other recommendations to us? We should start with short workouts (walking?), only 15 minutes long, and then rest for five minutes in between these bursts so that we can recover. And when we are finished exercising, we should lie on our left sides for 15 to 20 minutes. What? Why? Are we going to keel over from a walk around the block?

They have a whole litany of precautions and prohibitions in their “Week 3” section. Apparently we are supposed to limit any and all physical activity the moment we discover that we are pregnant. I mean, I understand the notion that if you were not active before, pregnancy is not exactly a good time to begin an exercise regimen, but for those of us who have been active?

In addition to this little fear-mongering, misinformational section the authors include what they term an “Exercise of the Week” for every week of pregnancy. Which brings me to my title of “Fitness Fail Friday.” Each week I will be sharing another massive fitness fail from this book. Keep in mind that this is the exercise for the week . . . so we are supposed to do it once a day for the corresponding week of pregnancy, and supposedly we will be fit an healthy and ready for labor? You be the judge. For your amusement, our exercise of the week, scanned in directly from the book . . .


This is one of my favorites. I like to call it the “sit in a chair and lift one leg to parallel” exercise. Yep, that is all you have to do. And supposedly, it is going to strengthen and tone your legs and glutes. Because gravity does provide such massive resistance that your muscles are going to have to work excruciatingly hard. Yeah, right. Squats, lunges, deadlifts are actual exercises that will actually strengthen and tone your legs and glutes. Sitting in a chair and extending your leg? Not so much.

Let me explain further why I find this “exercise” so amusing: this past winter my father had a total knee replacement (that part is not amusing), and the same day of his surgery, as in a few hours post-operation, the doctors had him do some leg exercises with his operative leg. One of them was the exact same exercise you saw pictured above. That is amusing. Yes, apparently pregnant women can only exercise their legs as strenuously as somebody who just had a total knee replacement. And when he got out of the hospital, he progressed, doing ten or fifteen repetitions (more than us preggos) at least twice per day, along with a whole slew of other exercises. We though, are apparently supposed to do less and less as our pregnancies progress. Wait until you see the recommended “exercises” for weeks 30 through 40.

Nick and I have both gotten a lot of good laughs reading the exercise guidelines from this book, but then again it also makes me mad – mad enough to drop-kick my copy, were such strenuous activity allowed. Why are we as pregnant women treated like we are disabled or invalids, or like we are more fragile than somebody who just got rolled out of the operating room? I am competent, strong, and active. My body is functioning at its peak, doing the miraculous work of building another human being; what I am doing is a sign of strength, not of weakness, and I refuse to look at myself as being weak or disabled. I feel healthier, stronger, better than I have ever before in my life. And I think it is about time the medical profession woke up and smelled the (decaf) coffee that is brewing.

And now, here are my entirely disallowed, overly strenuous, OB-prohibited, probably dangerous enough to kill me and the baby exercises for the past week. Oh yeah, and I spent about five hours walking the dog this week.

Friday 4/8

Today was (accidentally) a double workout day. In the morning I did the CrossFit style workout I had planned the night before:

3 rounds for time:
20 squats
20 knees to elbows
10 ring dips (with band assistance)
5 pull-ups (still with band assistance, but less than a month ago!)
10:24

The knees to elbows are henceforth modified; I simply bring my thighs to parallel with the ground, because the tummy is beginning to feel like an obstacle. It is a good thing for me that this was a very light workout, because on my way home from work I got a text from Nick saying that he had discovered a CrossFit gym in our little home town and was going there to work out! WooHoo! I had to join him. And lucky for me, this workout was relatively light, too.

15 minutes – as many rounds as possible of:
5 wall ball (6lbs)
10 overhead squats with ball (this was my limiting factor, I am terrible at overhead squats!)
150m row
6 rounds + 5 wall ball + 4 overhead squats

Saturday 4/9

The very nice people at Extreme Fitness invited us back for another workout on Saturday morning, and Nick and I were happy to return. We were not so enthusiastic when we found out that the workout was Filthy Fifty.

So first, a 400m warm-up jog, and then . . .

Filthy Fifty
50 Box jump
50 Jumping pull-ups
50 Kettlebell swings
50 Walking Lunges
50 Knees to elbows
50 Push press
50 Back extensions
50 Wall ball shots
50 Burpees (with pushup and jump)
50 Double unders
28:26

Sunday 4/10

Yoga – about a half hour, focused on the lower body. At a slightly lower intensity, since the last two days were pretty tough.

Monday 4/11

Rest. It was a long day at work, anyway.

Tuesday 4/12

30 1-arm kettlebell clean and jerks (left arm)
30 1-arm kettlebell clean and jerks (right arm)
30 1-arm kettlebell swings (left arm)
30 1-arm kettlebell swings (right arm)
8:20

Today I broke out the 18lb kettlebell, which I have not used in quite a while. I can pull a lot more weight when doing swings or cleans, but the jerks are tough for me.

Wednesday 4/13

P90X day today! I did the chest and back workout – 45 minutes of push-up and pull-up variations, and I keep switching to skinnier and skinnier bands for the pull-ups. My goal it to remain using one light assistance band even as I gain weight during pregnancy, and then after the baby arrives and my weight drops, I will hopefully be a pull-up monster!

I am sharing this post at Primal Toad’s Primal Cave Friday.

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3 Responses to Fitness Fail Friday

  1. Linda Nelson says:

    Ellen…
    I think that you are wasting too much precious energy on this book you got from the doctors office!!! Most pregnant women I have know (or have known) are told by their docs that they can continue whatever exercise routines they had pre-pregnancy and yes this includes spinning classes. So, just throw that book out!!!

    Pregnancy is one of the most amazing, wonderful times in a women’s life…enjoy every minute of it and don’t dwell on the negative…focus on the positive!!!

    A happy mommy = a happy baby!!

    Linda
    xoxo

    • elliemaeh says:

      No worries . . . I am a very happy mama! Just wanted to expose some of the worst of the misinformation that I found. Like I said, Nick and I had a pretty good time reading through that book.

      We also found some nice people at this gym in Milton who do not seem to think that working out during pregnancy is at all strange, so it is good to have some more community support. We will probably be going back there this weekend.

  2. Pingback: Fitness Fail Friday, Volume III | A Mom On A Mission . . . . . . to nurture and nourish her family

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