Healthy Mamas: Prenatal Pilates at 32 Weeks (Part 4)

Hellooooo THIRD trimester….and all of the aches and pains that can accompany it!  I am 32 weeks pregnant and am definitely feeling the weight gain and changes going on in my body, but again, Pilates has saved me.  It allows me to continue to move, stretch, work and breathe which are all so important for the mind, body and soul anytime, but especially right now!

32 weeks Quad Stretch

Here are a few changes that one might experience in the third trimester:

  • increased ligament laxity as the body prepares for birth
  • pain accompanying increased laxity!
  • heaviness in the front of the body causing strain and tightness in the upper and lower back
  • difficulty finding a comfortable position
  • fatigue due to changes in sleep as well as increased strain on the body
  • swelling
  • pelvic floor weakening
  • digestive issues and shortness of breath due to increase pressure and decreased space for organs such as the diaphragm, stomach and intestines, due to the ever growing uterus!

Again, the Pilates system is amazing for this stage of pregnancy.  The equipment and springs support the body and provide opportunities for movements that aren’t possible in many other forms of exercise or everyday life!

Click on the red links to view the videos and use the “back” button on your browser to return to the post.  Z only made a couple appearances this time.  Enjoy the soothing sounds of the springs in a quiet studio!

Spinal movement is important for a healthy spine and it just feels SO GOOD!  Cat with the Push Thru Bar is a supportive way to get flexion and extension of the spine while also opening the shoulders and upper back.  I modified it slightly to add more lumbar spine flexion by allowing the hips to sit back toward the heals.  Kneeling Mermaid with the Push Thru Bar is a great side body opener.  It creates more space for the ribs and lungs to allow for improved breathing!  Knee Stretches on the reformer incorporates this increased spinal mobility into a more dynamic exercise, using and supporting the openness in the lungs.  The breath supports the movement and the movement supports the breath!

Tricep Press on the low chair promotes decompression of the spine as well as shoulder and chest opening.  Side Arm Series on the reformer is a challenging set of four exercises (I just showed one of each) that I love doing to improve my upper body strength. It also requires hip opening and core control to be able to stay stable on the moving carriage.

The Ped-o-pull, an often forgotten about piece of equipment, was originally developed by Mr. Pilates for a client who was an Opera singer.  The exercises promote chest opening and increased lung capacity.  It is great for pregnant mamas because the exercises are done in standing and as in most Pilates movement, they promote flexibility AND strength! Another exercise that also shows a powerful combination of flexibility and strength is the Plie Press on Paddle Back on the low chair.  This one makes me feel strong and confident in my changing body!

Two other pieces of often underutilized Pilates equipment are the Foot Corrector and the Ladder Barrel.  The feet are so important in balance and support of the whole body and they certainly take a beating during pregnancy!  The foot corrector is a great way to build strength and support from the bottom UP!  Ballet Stretches on the ladder barrel are a stable supported place to get an amazing stretch through all parts of the legs and hips. The hip muscles have to work extra hard to support the increased weight of the upper body while keeping everything together as the ligaments get more relaxed.  It is important to have strong, open hips toward the end of pregnancy to prepare for the birth process.

See you in a couple of weeks!


Pilates –It’s Not Just For Dancers

**Guest post by Katie Kennedy, PT, DPT, CSCS, PMA®-CPT**

Pilates –It’s Not Just For Dancers

Historically popular among dancers, Pilates has become a key training component for all athletes, including runners.

When I tell people I’m a Pilates-based physical therapist, their first reaction is often, “Oh…you must work with a lot of dancers.” My response is, “Pilates isn’t just for dancers.”

I work with all types of athletes in their rehabilitation from injury and to help them become stronger in their respective sports. For me personally, I do Pilates for one main reason, which is to be a faster runner. Not only can Pilates training help correct muscle imbalances and prevent injury, but it also helps develop key capacities for better running.

Olympic running coach Jack Daniels states that some of the most important aspects to running are VO2 max (oxygen capacity), and running economy (runner’s movement efficiency). Pilates addresses these areas through controlled breath work.

The very first thing that you learn in Pilates is how to breathe to your fullest capacity. Take a moment and inhale. Where is your breath going? Are you breathing into your throat, middle chest, or all the way down into your low belly? Pilates incorporates a breath that fully utilizes your lungs with every movement. Fewer, more effective breaths during a run means less energy spent on breathing.

Pilates also emphasizes developing a strong core and improving flexibility, coordination, and balance.

Running is a series of single leg bounds. Without proper balance and stability through one’s body, energy can be wasted on unnecessary steps or balance recovery. Core strength gained through Pilates training aids with body control by enhancing transverse abdominal and hip strength for dynamic pelvic stability. With good stability through the pelvis, the hips are allowed to move within their maximum range. Having full hip extension allows a runner to access their glutes for a powerful push off, providing more force production with every foot strike.

Pilates involves smooth, flowing movement. Quality of movement is much more valuable than the quantity of movements. Practitioners develop uniform movement patters and become more aware of their body and where it is in space. These concepts and heightened body awareness can translate to more fluid running form and cadence. Moreover, the flexibility and mobility acquired throughout the whole body can decrease the likelihood that an athlete will get injured, especially common running ailments such as ankle sprains, iliotibial band tightness, or knee pain.

I love Pilates because of the natural benefits it provides—from developing core strength to improving running mechanics. Like running, however, Pilates takes hard work and dedication to become stronger. Whether you’re training for 5Ks or marathons, consider complementing your current training regimen with Pilates to improve your running times!


Katie, a three time marathon runner, is a Pilates-based Physical Therapist at InsideOut Body Therapies in Durham, North Carolina. She is using Pilates to attempt to better her marathon PR of 3:04 (2015 Boston Marathon) at the upcoming 2016 Boston Marathon.

Call the studio (919-361-0104) to schedule a Pilates-based Physical Therapy evaluation with Katie and visit our website to see her full bio.