The days of sitting back and relaxing during pregnancy are long gone. Swimming, walking, mum-to-be yoga, prenatal pilates, aqua aerobics… the list goes on. But if you were a bit of a fit chick before pregnancy, a light stroll and a few laps of the pool aren’t really going to cut it in the workout stakes, are they?
Step up Angelica Horvatic, a personal trainer who specialises in keeping mums-to-be fit and healthy, as well as whipping lardy blobs of new mums back into shape. Trained in the UK specifically in pre- and post-natal exercise, she has strong views on mummy fitness. ‘Yes, pregnant ladies are in a special condition, but they’re not disabled, they’re not ill,’ she says in her typical no-nonsense style.
Keeping up any sort of exercise programme for as long as possible makes for a more comfortable pregnancy, an easier birth and a happier mum and baby, but, Angelica says, treating mothers-to-be with kid gloves is a little patronising, particularly for gals who have gone to great lengths to work out pre-bump. ‘Of course it depends on your level. If you’ve never exercised before, a little increase would be good, so some gentle walking, swimming, pre-natal yoga are all ideal in this case. It’s not the time to train for a marathon. But, if you’ve already been training for a marathon, then why not continue? Whatever you did before, you can do now – with modifications.’
Which is why you’ll see Angelica’s clients kick-boxing, sparring and lifting weights – all activities which would make many non-pregnant women wince. It’s certainly not about dangerously over-exerting yourself, but rather, as many fit, expectant mums will tell you, learning to listen to your body and exercise within its new limitations.
Angelica has been training Naomi Munro, who’s expecting her second child in August, for over a year, helping her shift the baby bulge of her first-born, Jack, and stay in shape for the arrival of baby number two.
I join Naomi, a diminutive Aussie, and Angelica in their one-on-one session in the garden of Naomi’s Umm Suqeim villa. Jack is busying himself with his ride-ons and footballs and certainly doesn’t look as perturbed as I do when mum straps on a pair of boxing gloves (pink, naturally) and starts jabbing away at a punchbag. ‘I did a bit of pre-natal yoga when I was pregnant with Jack, but to be honest, I found it really dull and I was uncomfortable lying on my back and sitting still,’ explains Naomi. ‘If I’m going to exercise, I want to sweat and feel like I’m doing something. I need to find it challenging otherwise I get bored.’
Fair enough, but don’t you have to be careful during pregnancy? Of course, says Angelica, but that is why many clients turn to her – for the peace of mind of having a qualified trainer monitor your every move and offer encouragement along the way. Be it in the first trimester, when nausea and raging hormones can make mums sensitive to the bright lights of a gym, strange smells or even someone looking at them the ‘wrong’ way, to the second term when they can (and often do) take on the world single handedly, right the way up to the final stage when the sheer logistics of moving around make traditional exercise tricky.
Angelica understands these changes, she knows what’s safe and what’s not, but she is not afraid to get tough. There are some no-nos. Certain positions – on the tummy and on the back – are out and expectant mums shouldn’t exercise in the heat and humidity because if they are out of breath, there’s insufficient oxygen getting to the baby. For that reason, all sessions include a lengthy warm-up and cool-down and a gradual build-up of activity so that the heart rate rises steadily. Angelica can focus on pregnancy problem areas, including the lower back and building strength in the arms and shoulders for when bambino arrives, while also advising and monitoring clients on their eating habits. All her lessons are custom-made to focus on her client’s needs and wants, as well as their mood and energy levels on the day.
‘It’s the whole package,’ she says. ‘I design an individual programme but it has to be very flexible. Sleep patterns change, energy levels are different from one day to the next, so it cannot be rigid,’ she explains. ‘Of course I always encourage my clients, even if they don’t feel too well, but we can adapt it and include lighter exercise such as aqua aerobics. My aim is to increase their positive energy and how they feel about themselves during the whole pregnancy and motherhood – their entire future really!’
Naomi, who is juggling motherhood, pregnancy and a part-time job, is certainly happy. Having a personal trainer that comes to her home is both convenient and an incentive to stay in shape. ‘Angelica is brilliant. She knows what I can and can’t do, but she also asks how everything feels, and if it doesn’t feel right, she changes it. Even my doctor agrees and says, “You’re not sick. Carry on as you are.” The early months were tricky because I had morning sickness, but now I enjoy being pregnant. If you stop, pregnancy can feel like a prison sentence, but if you keep active, then you enjoy it. I feel great!’
To book a consultation with Angelica, call 050 227 9044. Sessions cost from Dhs250. As with all exercise, you should consult your doctor before embarking on a new programme.