Meet Brit…gorgeous, happy and pregnant! And super fit!
Brit Williams is an ex fitness journalist who got restless behind the desk and decided to combine her passion for science and storytelling by launching her own brand: Fit Brit Collective.
Her aim is to inspire people to be more active by designing creative, effective workouts and producing helpful wellness content. She is pre and post natal qualified, has worked with dozens of relevant clients in the Wimbledon area and now enters the circle of motherhood as she enters her second trimester of pregnancy! But there’s no stop for her, which meant that on Monday, she hosted a pregnancy and early baby wellbeing event with NEOM at their Wimbledon Village branch. The event was buzzing, not only with mamas but with beautiful baby’s and my wild toddler in the mix!
It was a small event and not really publicised so I hope that Brits Q&A will benefit you tired pregnant or newborn mothers! She certainly gave me a huge amount of tips should I decide to have another terror anytime soon ;)!
What are the main physical differences women notice, relating to their fitness, during pregnancy?
One of the most fascinating things that happens during pregnancy is a massive increase in blood volume by 50%. The blood vessels dilate to help circulate nutrients through the body and to the placenta more efficiently, so one of the first signs of pregnancy is often a feeling of lightheadedness as blood pressure drops. This can also make it harder to control body temperature, so it’s very easy to overheat while exercising. While you can continue to do most of the same exercises early in pregnancy, it’s especially important to build in more rest periods during the first trimester, when overheating can increase the risk of miscarriage. This shouldn’t make women afraid to be active though. A sensible approach with lots of water intake and lots of rest means workouts are still enjoyable and hugely beneficial!
Another physiological change to be mindful of when exercising is the increase in relaxin – a hormone that softens the tissues around the joints. You may notice you become instantly more flexible. Still, it’s not advisable to drop into the splits just yet! Strength-based exercises should remain a priority throughout pregnancy to help prevent the joints from becoming overly flexible and moving through any unconditioned ranges of motion. Regularly training the core, glutes and upper back muscles in particular will help to reinforce the lumbar spine, which needs to be strong to support a growing bump. Preventative exercise will also help to circumvent any lordosis – an exaggerated arching of the lower back due to the strain of pregnancy on the spine.
Of course, there’s more than one bump to bear in mind when pregnant, and they’re located just north of baby. As the breasts grow, definitely take care to invest in well-fitting supportive sports bras. You should begin to reduce high-intensity exercise from around 4-5 months, but even medium-impact workouts can cause extra sensitivity and those future feeders deserve the best!
Why it is important for women to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy in order to reduce pain and stiffness, and what are the suitable exercises they should do?
Movement is hugely therapeutic in most circumstances, and that’s certainly the case during pregnancy. In the early months when nausea and fatigue can take hold, simply getting some fresh air and walking an extra bus or tube stop can help you manage symptoms and maintain your activity levels (not to mention immeasurably improve your commute). Light exercise was an absolute saviour for me when I felt at my worst.
In the bigger picture, keeping your muscles and joints well conditioned with regular strength work is crucial to support the spine during and after pregnancy. Muscle memory is incredibly powerful to have onside when you’re ready to get back into training after labour! I’ve been training glutes like crazy, and I joke that I want to have the best mum butt ever, but really there are a host of non-superficial reasons to train your posterior and filling out your maternity jeans (from both sides) is simply a satisfying side effect!
Prioritise low-impact exercise like walking (you can continue jogging until around 5 months if you’re experienced), swimming, Pilates, pre-natal yoga and circuit-based weight training. I personally love circuits because I get all the strength benefits I need from the exercises themselves, and the quick transitions from one move to the next helps to keep my heart and lungs in good working order.
Consider adding bands to your routine if you don’t already use them – they are brilliant for glute activation and tabletop position on your hands and knees will give you a host of exercise options when lying on your back becomes uncomfortable as your bump grows. The TRX also provides a great way to recruit your core without any uncomfortable crunching or twisting – I am currently practising every variation of rowing and flying under the sun because I’m conscious of strengthening my upper back to preserve my posture through pregnancy, breast-feeding and beyond.
Post-exercise endorphins can also help to manage any feelings of anxiety you have throughout pregnancy to make the experience an overall positive one. Anything you can do to preserve your sense of self and feel empowered and in charge will serve you well when it times come for the biggest workout yet: labour!
How can pregnant women or mums in general get a better night’s sleep?
As your body temperature is harder to manage during pregnancy, investing time to get cool and comfortable will help you nod off in peace. Take a cool bath or shower, wear light bedclothes and practise some deep breathing to restore the status quo before diving under the duvet.
Make sure you don’t go to bed hungry – some light evening snacking will help to prevent any midnight cravings. Cherries are high in sleep-promoting melatonin and happen to be in season, so tuck in with abandon. Include some unrefined grains in your evening meals too – this is not the time to cut carbs – as the tryptophan is essential for uninterrupted ZZZs.
I also keep a bottle of Neom’s lavender pillow mist to help cement the Circadian rhythm that tells me it’s time to switch off. Just don’t go overriding those signals; the blue light from your phone or iPad screen do not make for a good night’s sleep, so resist the temptation to have one last scroll and give yourself a good excuse for a bit of digital detox.
What are your personal Top 3 tips from your own pregnancy experience?
Don’t compare or judge yourself. Everyone will want to share their pregnancy and birthing story, and that support is absolutely useful, but remember that every pregnancy is unique. Listen to your body when it calls for rest, and absolutely enjoy your exercise when you’re gifted with ample energy!
Movement is therapeutic. When I least felt like crawling away from the sofa was when I most benefitted from a gentle stroll or some light stretching. The actions you take can help to define your pregnancy, so own your pregnancy and empower yourself with some can-do endorphins.
Train with (new) purpose. The 9 months of pregnancy (and indeed the 9 months after) are not the time to be striving for a new PB. It’s wise to reduce the intensity of your cardio and drop a bit of weight during your conditioning sessions almost right from the outset, focusing instead on exceptional form and working to around 70% of your maximum effort. If you’re naturally competitive with yourself, set some alternative goals that give your training new purpose. Strive perhaps to exercise 3-4 days a week, to maintain a 60 second plank, or to strengthen those pregnancy-specific muscles we’ve discussed and add new butt-strenthening band work to your regime. This will help you feel focused during exercise, and rightly proud of yourself when you’ve achieved another workout.
Why do you need to drink more water when pregnant?
As the body is working extra hard to support the baby, hydration is essential to prevent overheating. Mother nature can be cruel as the extra pressure on your bladder also means you need to pee more frequently, but an extra glass a day is well worth a couple extra trips to the loo! Staying well hydrated also enhances feelings of mental sharpness and helps you recognise hunger signals better, so H2O is your best friend when it comes to tackling ‘baby brain’ and ensuring that your weight gain remains controlled and healthy through pregnancy.
What kinds of food would you advise to energise the body when you are expecting?
Indigestion can be a side effect of a growing bump, and your energy levels can swing up and down quicker than usual, so eating smaller more frequent meals can help you feel comfortably full and energised throughout pregnancy. This is not the time to diet, as your own body and that of your growing baby’s needs balanced nutrients to remain as healthy as possible. I recommend a rule of thirds when it comes to dividing your plate: strive for roughly 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs and 1/3 healthy fats in every snack and meal. This balance will help to regular metabolism and maintain blood sugar levels for a happy stomach and bump.
Be mindful of getting a few key nutrients and minerals in your diet, too. Magnesium rich foods are important because magnesium is essential in protein synthesis, energy production, blood pressure regulation and sleep regulation – basically everything that makes us feel strong, sharp and energised. Spinach, bananas, pumpkin seeds, almonds and kefir or yogurt are great magnesium-rich options.
Two servings of oily fish per week will help you get your recommended dose of omega 3s, which are essential for managing inflammation in the body and absolutely critical for baby’s early development. Omega 3s are known as brain food for a reason and they will also help expecting mums feel sharp in mind and body.
While you may feel hungrier than usual, you don’t actually need extra calories until you hit the third trimester, when the NHS recommends an extra 200-300 calories per day depending on your activity levels. Think quality nutrition over quantity in the early stages – the rule of thirds will help you strike a healthy balance of satisfying your cravings without overindulging.
Brit lives in Wimbledon and has a brilliant class called “ladies who lunge” (love it!) which is open to pre and post natal women and will be running for 4 intensive weeks 11 Sept – 2 October. All details on here