Leslie Fernandez, who’s expecting her third child in mid-September, doesn’t bat an eye as her fitness coach assigns her to walk a lap around the track or to carefully do some reps with light hand weights.
Three weeks into a new exercise class for expectant women, Fernandez, who’s about 30 weeks along in her pregnancy, likes the way her fitness training is going.
“It’s nice to have a set schedule twice a week to keep you motivated and on track, with other women,” she said.
“You’re not intimidated” when your workout buddies are likewise pregnant, Fernandez said.
The new “Bump-N-Pump” class (“bump” being perhaps the newest way to describe a pregnant woman’s figure) is offered at the Woman’s Center for Wellness, a department of Woman’s Hospital.
The new, eight-week series of classes on Tuesday and Friday mornings, was launched in July at the center located at the corner of Jefferson Highway and Bluebonnet Boulevard.
The next series of classes will be from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays from Sept. 6 to Oct. 27.
“We hope to start one every quarter,” said Anne Shawhan, the exercise specialist who leads the class.
The Bump-N-Pump classes are open to women of all levels of fitness at any stage of pregnancy, with their doctor’s approval, as well as women who are six weeks to six months post-pregnancy.
Local obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Terrie Thomas said that, with their doctor’s approval, women who exercise throughout pregnancy are reaping health benefits that include better weight maintenance throughout the pregnancy and an easier time with weight loss, once the baby arrives.
Women in certain situations, such as those carrying multiple babies or who are at-risk for medical conditions such as pre-term labor or high blood pressure should check carefully with their physician on physical activity, Thomas said.
For low-risk pregnancies, some level of physical activity throughout the pregnancy is “absolutely” a plus, she said.
The Bump-N-Pump class that premiered this month numbers four women, ages 28 to 37, all in different stages of their pregnancies.
In addition to Leslie Fernandez, whose due date is Sept. 19, classmates are Lindsey Duvall, 33, expecting her second child Oct. 10; Cherith Craft, 28, expecting her third child Nov. 18; and McCall Dempsey, 29, expecting her first child on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2012.
“I need to stay in shape to keep up with two babies, and I know the recovery will be easier if I stay in the gym,” said Duvall, who has a 1-year-old daughter.
Her classmate Craft appreciates the scheduled workouts.
“It’s hard to stay motivated, especially when you have two kids at home. It gets you here,” she said of the class. Shawhan tailors the workouts for class members, depending on where each woman is in her pregnancy.
At any level, though, it’s an impressive workout.
The women begin on the second floor of the Fitness Center, alternating laps around the indoor track with workouts with light weights and exercise balls.
Before heading downstairs to the indoor swimming pool, the women have a quick refreshment break to drink water, juice or a smoothie and have a snack.
The swimming portion includes swimming laps in the pool and doing special aqua exercises like “water jogging.”
Who knew that pool “noodles” put under the shoulders and knees would provide enough of a platform to support crunches in the water?
Or that a noodle is a very good tool for slow motion, underwater jump-roping?
“We mix it up and progress week to week,” said Shawhan, who is also the chief executive officer and head coach of Fitbird Fitness, a triathlon training company.
Shawhan stresses that women don’t have to be swimmers to participate in the class and can do water exercises, as opposed to swimming.
Some of the specific benefits of exercise for pregnant women, she said, are improved circulation, which in turn helps reduce conditions such as swelling of the feet.
Exercises that strengthen the back can help reduce back pain, she said. And exercise helps people sleep better — a plus for pregnant women who especially need their rest, she said.
Shawhan said that, in the end, exercise also helps prepare women for childbirth “by giving them the endurance needed to get through labor.”
For those post-pregnancy weeks and months, exercise helps in a number of ways. For one, it can help restore the strength of the abdominal muscles — but not by traditional exercises like crunches, Shawhan said. More subtle abdominal work than that is required in that early post-pregnancy period, she said.
“I love it,” said mom-to-be Dempsey of the new exercise class. “I think it’s given me a perfect transition to doing what’s best for me in my pregnancy.”
The eight-week Bump-N-Pump course is $300 for the general public and $200 for Woman’s Fitness Club members.
For information on the Fitness Club membership at the Woman’s Center for Wellness or other information about the classes, call (225) 924-8700.
Woman’s Hospital staff members also teach exercise classes for pregnant women and new moms at the Destination Maternity store, 5921 Bluebonnet Blvd.
The three different classes are: cardio and strength training for pregnant women; prenatal yoga; and an exercise class for new moms and their babies.
For more information on those classes, call Woman’s Hospital at (225) 231-5475.