Monday, June 30, 2014

Pregnancy Exercise Video Comparisons

This post will have limited appeal, but I thought it would be helpful for anyone who is pregnant and looking to increase their fitness options by selecting one or more of the myriad of pregnancy fitness DVDs available at Amazon.  It's hard to get a good sense of the reviews there at Amazon, because one reviewer will be a triathlete when not pregnant, and another will be a total couch potato who just wants to get the blood stirring a bit, so it's hard to make a good comparison.

The day after I found out I was pregnant with this baby, we left for our big space-a adventure to Hawaii, where I ate a ton of delicious food.  When we got back to the states and got stuck in California, I ate a ton of junk food in an attempt to stave off the emotional nervousness about getting back home (didn't work, LOL).  So right away I started off gaining more weight than normal for me!

After I failed the 1 hour glucose test at 16 weeks, I got really serious about exercise, which is earlier than I usually do in pregnancy.  So since then, I have been exercising pretty much daily, and actually twice a day on most days.  Usually I do some sort of pregnancy workout video in the morning after breakfast, and then Bob and I try to go on a 40 minute walk after dinner (or I'll walk on the treadmill or do a lighter exercise video).  I had thought I had a somewhat decent selection of videos, but after a few weeks of them, it became obvious that I needed to increase my choices or go slowly insane, since I still had over 20 weeks of pregnancy left!  So I bought several more from Amazon, and now I have been using them for several weeks, so I think I can give a decent comparison/review for them all.  For the record, I'm in fairly good shape because I exercise a lot, but I'm not the kind of person that you would look at and think, "Wow! There goes an athlete!"  Especially while pregnant, LOL.  So definitely middle of the road, as far as average Amazon reviewer.

We'll go in chronological order.  I got pregnant with Nathan the beginning of October, 1996, so almost 18 years ago.  This Buns of Steel Pregnancy Workout video (yes, my copy is actually a videocassette!) is definitely an antique, having been produced in 1994, and it is the only workout video from that era that I still have around.  My kids think it is hilarious because the 3 pregnant ladies are wearing maternity leotards, and the head person wears shiny nude-colored stockings.  Yes, kids, exercise wear has come a long ways in 20 years!  The problem with only having "modern" videos is that they all mainly have some modified form of pilates or yoga.  This oldie actually has a little over 25 minutes of aerobics, and you know, it really feels good to move around!  This is not an extremely strenuous workout, but it does get the heart rate up, and it is not difficult to follow.  I like the instructor--she doesn't seem too annoying to me--so I think this video is good for something different, especially when it is rainy and I know I won't be walking outside.  After the aerobics section, there is a 15 minute section of toning, which mainly focuses on legs/rear, and not too much on arms or core.  But this video gives a nice 40 minute workout that is a good change of pace from my other DVDs.

Now the first thing you will notice about this next dvd ("Super SlimDown Pilates Yoga Blend) is that it is not technically for pregnant women.  I got it out of the library after I had Grace, and I liked it so much that I bought my own copy.  And when I got pregnant with Faith (and got a specific-for-pregnancy pilates video), I realized that all but one of the sections on this dvd could be modifed for pregnancy, just like in the pregnancy pilates dvd.  This workout really flows nicely, and I always just feel really good when I finish. It's a blend of yoga and pilates, and it works all areas but not in a vigorous, sweaty way.  The only part you can't do while pregnant is a section sort of in the middle where the instructor has you lay on your tummy and do several different exercises.  I usually do several sets of push-ups (like in the Perfect Pregnancy Workout), and when I'm done, I merrily skip to the next section.  That means it takes a little over 35 minutes instead of 40, but it's okay.  When I need a shorter workout, I often pick this one, and I still enjoy doing it when I'm not pregnant!

This "Pilates During Pregnancy" dvd is the one I bought while I was pregnant with Faith and started doing more exercise once I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  It is good and thorough, and once you do it, you will know how to modify a lot of basic pilates moves for pregnancy.  You will need several pillows to stack behind you.  There is a 15 minute ab section, and a 25 minute legs/thighs section.  It is fairly rigorous for a beginner, I would say, but doable.  Also, the instructor is in dark clothes in what looks like an airplane hanger with concrete floors and not much natural light, so it can be hard to see what exactly she is doing.   The leg section is actually harder than the abs section, and I have never done it without getting tremendous charlie horses in my hip muscles, LOL.   It's a good workout, but not particularly relaxing, so I don't usually do it in the evenings.

The Perfect Pregnancy Workout I also bought when I was pregnant with Faith.  The instructor is a former Cirque du Soleil acrobat, and she is in amazing shape (also, she has a nice little French accent).  I really like this workout because it really does work out every part of your body ("buddy" as she would say).  You do need a chair with a back, as well as some pillows.  You can use light hand weights for some of the parts, and she also gives intermediate and advanced alternatives to some of the moves.  I personally still can't do most of the advanced moves, even after using this dvd for over 5 years and 4 pregnancies, but hey, for those former triathletes, those modifications are probably excellent.  There are lots of lunges, push-ups, arm work, and other moves more like I don't know, calisthenics, maybe?  The one weird thing is this 3 minute "keep up exercise" she does at the end, where basically you do arm circles for 3 minutes while moving around.  I have read that this is supposed to help you practice focusing during labor, but I'm just going to say it has nothing to do with labor for me (and I am pretty positive I've been through labor more than she has, LOL), so I usually just skip straight to the cool-down, especially if I am in a hurry.  This is not an easy dvd, but none of the moves are really complicated or anything.  She also works out in a darkened gym, but at least there is a little more light actually on her, so you can what she is doing a little bit easier.

These last 3 dvds are the ones I ordered back in the middle of May, so I haven't used them for as long as the others.  The 10 minutes Solutions Prenatal Pilates is a good, not-too-hard workout.  There are 5 10-minute-long sections (buns & thighs, standing, core, flexibility, and total body).  I prefer to do all of them at the same time, so I can feel like I got a good long workout and used all parts of my body.  These moves are similar to the ones in the Pilates During Pregnancy workout, but for some reason they are not as difficult or uncomfortable, so I guess I prefer this one, although it is easier.  For any of you super-paranoid types, there are a few times (about a total of 2 minutes during the flexibility segment) when you are on your back, but not for long AND you are moving around, so you don't have to worry about pressure on your vena cava, unless you are really sensitive and feel faint or something.  It's never bothered me.

Suzanne Bowen's Slim & Toned Prenatal Barre workout is a good, hard workout.  I am always totally exhausted when I finish.  There is a section for the lower body, a section for the upper body and core, and a cardio sculpt section.  Then there is a short stretching section at the end.  I do either the lower body or the upper body section, along with the cardio sculpt and the stretching, and it ends up being about 50 minutes.  I do it just twice a week (so once with the lower body and once with the upper body sections per week), because the rest of that day I'm really tired, LOL.  She does these really intense sculpting moves, where you are up on our tiptoes, but also squatting, and by the end, my legs are just shaking and burning.  Whew!  Definitely the hardest pregnancy workout dvd I have, and I can definitely see doing it while not pregnant and still being quite challenged.  The moves are all pretty small, except in the cardio section, where you actually do move your whole body around.  The instructor Suzanne is not pregnant (there is also a lady who is 35 weeks pregnant who does the workout too--she is a fitness instructor herself, so she is already in fantastic shape), and Suzanne does these modifications for those in their first trimester or for post-partum.  I don't know if I'll ever get around to being able to do the modifications, LOL.  You need a straight-backed chair for this one too, and you can use light handweights for the upper arms section.  The one weird thing about the dvd is that the studio (a lovely open loft area, like in an old downtown area) has a big black pole in the middle of it, and the camera is behind the pole.  So when the camera scrolls across the 2 ladies, all of a sudden, there is a black pole down the center of the screen for a few seconds!  It's just weird, but not a big deal.  I kept wondering--why not move everything back a bit and put the camera on the other side of the pole?!

Last but not least, there is the Fit Mommy-to-Be Prenatal Yoga with Hilaria Baldwin (who sort of needs a bigger top, because she looks like she's about to fall out during some of the moves).   I really like this video for the stretching it provides.  I really started using it at my parents' house, when my hips were bothering me from the long drive in the big van.  There are 3 sections--one that focuses on the back, one for the hips, and one for "de-stressing".  The one for the hips was tremendously helpful for my hips.  I was really surprised at how much better they felt after these deep stretches!  Each section is about 23 minutes long, so I usually do 2 of them.  The instructor is in her 2nd trimester, and there are 2 other ladies doing the workout with her, one in her first trimester, and one in her 3rd (poor thing--she looks uncomfortable!).  They show modifications you can do if you want to.  You are supposed to have pillows as well as "yoga blocks", whatever they are.  I don't have them, so I just make do, and I've been fine without them (the blocks, I mean--I do have pillows, LOL).  This is a relaxing dvd, I think, and I do enjoy doing it in the evenings.  Then I feel nice and stretched out before bed, but my heart isn't pumping away, and I'm not all sweaty.

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