I’ve been singing the praises of barre for years now and thought it was time I talked to the pros about it. I’ve teamed up with the ladies at Barre Body Studio to talk about the benefits of a barre workout during pregnancy.
Meet Marlo. She’s the Founder and Owner of Barre Body Studio and is the definition of #momgoals. A few years ago, I took one of Marlo’s classes and was so amazed that the little ball of energy bopping up and down in front of me was actually expecting! She had the cutest little baby bump and was glowing from the inside out. I thought to myself ‘that’s exactly how I want to feel when I’m pregnant’. Marlo has three kids and throughout each of her pregnancies has taken excellent care of herself. She made physical activity a daily priority when she was pregnant and went for walks, did yoga, barre, pilates and step classes. Working out while pregnant kept Marlo feeling her best and allowed her to recover really well postpartum.
Like most women, Marlo experienced nausea particularly during the first trimester. However, the hour or so she took for herself to exercise was the only hour in her day when she felt somewhat normal. Marlo talked herself into exercising because the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of movement far outweighed the desire to do the opposite. While she doesn’t believe that you should be working out with 110% exertion throughout pregnancy and that there is definitely a time and place for resting, fitness and movement are key to optimal health at any stage in life.
I know a lot of women who are skeptical of working out while pregnant. While I don’t blame them, I also feel like some guidance needs to be given. If you were very sedentary prior to conceiving, it wouldn’t be a smart idea to pick up exercise now. But have a chat with your doctor or midwife to get cleared before doing any form of exercise during pregnancy. Marlo suggests noting how you feel before, during and after you workout – “If you go into a workout feeling a bit tired or achy and complete your workout feeling rejuvenated, then you have your answer!” She says that as long as you listen to your body, you will not regret it.
Barre Classes during pregnancy
I’ve been going to Barre Body Studio since it opened in 2012 and haven’t looked back. Yes, it’s girly. Yes, it’s based off of ballet and pilates. And yes, it’s freaking HARD.
When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I decided to fully commit to barre classes for one reason and one reason only. It felt damn good. “Barre classes are full body workouts which help pregnant women build strong and healthy bodies which will carry them through their pregnancy, into postnatal recovery and beyond” says Marlo. Her favourite exercise when she was pregnant was leg work at the barre because she had the support of the barre to rely on while strengthening her legs, core, and back body.
Tips for pregnant ladies heading to barre class
Chat with your instructor before class
Marlo definitely recommends chatting with your instructor prior to class starting. That way, you can discuss modifications that will set you up for a successful class. The instructors at Barre Body Studio want to assist you throughout your pregnancy and ensure that you feel safe and well taken care of at the studio.
Take the time to learn modifications. It will make your pregnancy experience that much more enjoyable! More on modifications later 😉
Listen to your body
Listening to your body is the best way to find out if something is right or wrong for you. “Barre is a low impact activity that can be maintained throughout pregnancy, however, there are some exercises that may not feel as comfortable” says Marlo. For example, little bridge, abdominal work or having your heels lifted may suddenly not feel right at some point in your pregnancy. As long as you’re listening to your body’s queues and making the necessary modifications, you can likely continue on with barre classes until the later stages of your pregnancy.
Barre Modifications for Pregnant Ladies
One of the reasons why I love barre so much while pregnant is that you can do the vast majority of the moves without having to modify them too much. That being said, each pregnant lady is different and some of the regular moves may not be super comfortable for some. I took a class with one of Barre Body Studio’s founders, Tara, who just so happens to be Marlo’s sister! Cute right!? Tara is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to movement and fitness and is also a Mom. She’s so aware of how pregnant women feel and will offer the exact modifications that your body is craving. Here are the top barre modifications to keep in mind while pregnant:
Generally speaking, warm ups in barre consist of toe taps, jumping jacks and lunges. To modify, simply take out the jump and replace it with the low impact version. For example, while everyone else is doing jumping jacks, keep at least one foot on the ground at all times and switch sides as you pump your arms up and down. Removing the jumps will be less jarring on on you and your baby and you’re able to focus more on controlling your core. If you want to amp it up while still keeping it low impact, remain in a low squat during your modified version of jumping jacks.
Runners lunge is a great stretch and toner and is used at the beginning and throughout a barre class. Rather than placing your hands on the floor while you’re in a lunge, place your hands on your hips. This will allow more room for baby and will also keep your head above your heart (especially important if you suffer from vertigo as many pregnant women do).
Most core work that is done on the mat can simply be modified by placing a ball behind your back to keep you elevated during the exercise. This, again, keeps your head above your heart and also allows for less of a range of motion – something you want when pregnant!
There are also some fantastic side line core exercises that are perfect for expecting moms. You can shred your obliques by doing a standing side crunch at the barre for example.
When doing chair at the bar, place a ball behind your back where your bra strap would be. This simple action offers so much more support. But don’t let that fool you, because it doesn’t make chair pose any easier! Just more comfortable 🙂
Side Line Mat Work
Mat work is my absolute favourite! You may look like you’re ready to collapse and fall asleep right there but some of the most difficult barre exercises are done on the mat. When lying on your side, it feels really good to place a ball between your rib cage and the mat. This not only keeps you elevated but will give you comfortable support.
While it might be tempting to take a little nap with your forehead to the barre while doing a fold over leg exercise at the barre, it’s best for us pregnant ladies to stay upright. You’re keeping your head above your heart this way and also offering more support for your core.
The mental aspect
If you’ve ever taken a barre class, you know that it takes a tremendous amount of mental focus. Practicing to focus inward instead of outward is a skill that you build with each class that you attend. And that, my friends is priceless in the lead up to labour and delivery. Marlo says that when we are able to build mental focus and strength, we are capable of so much more and that’s the most beneficial aspect of barre, especially for expectant women.
This mental strength builds and builds until eventually you’ve defeated what you thought was impossible so many times over that you begin to really believe in yourself. Physical exercise breaks down emotional and mental walls, allowing us to truly experience what is happening in that moment. This mental freedom opens the door for so many other aspects in our lives including labour and delivery.
During pregnancy, your body changes so rapidly and it’s really easy to become self conscious or worry about weight gain. Keeping up with physical exercise will take care of these fears for you and also boost your confidence like crazy. When I’m at barre, I feel:
The mind body connection is so powerful and as a pregnant woman, could you really ask for more!?
What the mental phases really look like
“Wow, this is hard! My butt’s gonna look amazing though.”
“Is she literally trying to kill me? My butt cheek will fall off! No, I can do this. OMG I’m going numb. Just. One. More.”
“HA! I did it! OMG I can’t believe I just pushed through that. That was insanely hard! I’m a badass.”
How barre helps with labour
Now that you know how barre can mentally help you through labour, let’s talk about how barre helps you physically through labour & delivery. Perhaps you are familiar with Midwife Guru, Ina May? Well, she suggests that doing at least 300 squats per day throughout your pregnancy will make for an easier labour. Ummmmm, nice idea Ina, but seriously? All the power to you if you can pop out that many squats, but if you’re more like me, then listen up. Barre is KING.
The amount of squats, hip openers, and pelvic floor training you do in a one-hour is insane but you don’t even realize it because it’s such a fun workout. These exercises open up your pelvic outlet, allowing more room for baby and will also strengthen and prepare your muscles for childbirth.
My last barre class before I had Henry was just 4 days before I went into labour and I returned to barre 5 weeks postpartum. I was cleared to exercise by my midwife and my body was craving to get back into it and I’m so glad I did! I eased back into barre with Barre Body Studio’s Mommy & Me classes.
It felt amazing to be back at the studio working out with like minded women and it also gave me a push to get out of the house 😉 These workouts are no joke by the way. You’re doing the same barre exercises as you would in a regular class but this time with a baby. Half the class is spent with your baby inside a carrier while you do a warm up and weights. The remainder of the class is spent on mats – one for you and one for your little.
Henry really didn’t like the carrier when he was super little, so I brought it but never actually used it during the Mommy & Me barre classes. Instead, I used him as my weight and it was totally great! When it comes to mat work, I would suggest bringing a swaddle blanket (mainly for spit up) and a colourful, quiet toy. Most of the babies were too distracted by each other or their Mommies to care about a toy though.
I made sure to breastfeed Henry immediately before each class with the intention that I’d then get in a full uninterrupted workout. But alas, there were many times when I had to stop and breastfeed or change him in the middle of class. That’s the beauty of Mommy & Me classes – real, messy life is totally welcome and totally expected 🙂
Give it a shot!
For more on the benefits of barre while pregnant, be sure to check out the following posts!
Love, peace & barre