Martial Arts and Pregnancy: What You Need To Know Before You Train For Two

0 Posted by - October 19, 2018 - Training, Wisdom

Highlights from Andrea Allen’s pregnant kickboxing routine
Source: YouTube

Anyone who loves martial arts — or even just a good workout — can probably sympathize with this. On October 3, Andrea Allen really wanted to do some kickboxing. The fitness instructor from Queen Creek, Arizona might have been 40 weeks pregnant at the time — and a few days past her due date — but she had energy to burn and clearly wanted to do some kicking and punching, so she put on her workout gear and cardio gloves and got to work. 

When her husband saw what she was doing, he decided to film part of her high-intensity routine. Two days later, she gave birth to their fourth child… and a viral video.

Allen’s impressive energy and eye of the tiger quickly became a hit with her fellow fitness buffs, and anyone else who thought it was cool to watch a pregnant women kick some butt. While she was busy welcoming her daughter Eastyn Mae into the world, her video became a hit on social media and mainstream outlets like MSN. 

And we can understand why. It’s a pretty fun and motivating clip:

Seeing her workout — and the excitement around it — got us thinking about pregnancy and martial arts. Allen is a fitness professional who specializes in pre-natal exercise, so she was completely qualified to know what was safe and understand her own limits and her own potential. But what kind of training is recommended for other martial artists during pregnancy? What will keep you and your baby fit and healthy during those nine months without any unnecessary risks to your wellbeing? 

Of course, if you if you are pregnant, or could become pregnant, and are trying to figure out how to train during this period in your life, the very first thing you should do is talk to your doctor(s). They’re the experts and will be able to give you sound recommendations on what you should be doing based on their education and experience, as well as your particularl situation as an individual in their care. The next people you should talk to are your instructors at the gym, who are likely to have their own experience with pregnant students and an understanding of who you are as a martial artist and what will and won’t work for you during this time. Finally, it might also be helpful to see a fitness professional who specializes in pre-natal training as their insight and training can be invaluable when it comes to putting together the safest and most effective training program possible for you and the baby. 

That said, it doesn’t hurt to do a lot of supplemental research on the topic while you’re talking to the pros. Here are some articles on the topic that we’ve found helpful: 

First, Sander Nagtegaal, a Kung Fu teacher and MMA practitioner, breaks down a number of helpful dos and don’ts for the expecting martial artist in Martial arts and Pregnancy: About Fighting and Babies. He cautions against full-contact sparring, moves that require your body to absorb a large of amount of shock like jumping and heavy bag hitting, and high intensity training that pushes you out of the recommended heart rate zone. He also recommends being careful with passive stretching. Pregnancy hormones loosen your ligaments, which can lead to increased range of motion during this period in your life, but if you’re not careful about your flexibility training, it could also lead to injury.

On the list of things you can do, Nagtegaal suggests non-contact sparring and reflex training, kata training, and cross-training. Basically, pregnancy obviously isn’t a great time to put your skills to the test against opponents in sparring and competition, but it can be a period where you practice and refine your techniques and your form. You can also keep up your fitness with other forms of non-contact cross-training so that you’ll be all ready to go when you’ve recovered from childbirth and your doctors have cleared you to return to the gym.

Evolve MMA’s blog also has a number of helpful tips in Prenatal Training: 14 Things You Need To Know. Their guide is geared more toward general exercise, but the wisdom is still beneficial for martial artists in any discipline. No matter what type of training you do, Evolve recommends that you stick to it during your pregnancy. “Don’t start anything new,” they write. “Being pregnant is a very special time. If you’ve never worked out before, consult your doctor first. Generally, walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga are your best bets if you’re an exercise newbie. If you’ve been exercising regularly, stick to your old routine as much as possible and modify it as needed.”

Their other points are equally rational and responsible, emphasizing smart training over hard training, listening to medical professionals, hydrating, and making sure that you are paying attention to your body. “Feeling weird? Stop immediately! If your body is telling you to stop exercising, now’s not the time to push yourself! Listen to your body, especially when something hurts of if you feel out of breath. A good rule of thumb to follow when exercising is to slow down when you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. You should feel like you’re working out, not punishing yourself.”

Finally Laure Baudot, a Karate black belt and mother of three, has a number of helpful tips on the topic that come from her own experience as a martial artist who has trained through pregnancy in her blog, appropriately titled Pregnant Lady Does Karate. In a post called 10 Rules For Doing Pregnant Karate (which we highly recommend reading in full), she details a number of important tips on modifications, breathing, balance, and cross-training. 

Baudot also suggests talking to other people who have trained through their pregnancies. “In my case, I was lucky to be able to consult with my Sensei’s wife, among others, who had trained while pregnant. (My Sensei’s wife was a trailblazer in more ways than one: not only was she one of the first women to train pregnant in my dojo, thirty years ago, she was also one of the first women to practice karate in my dojo, period.) Regarding the question of whether I should keep training, the answers varied. Some practiced a gentle version of karate. Others trained vigorously. Talk to people. Get a sense of how others have handled pregnant karate. Then decide for yourself.”

And that last line might be the best advice of all. Talk to the professionals in your life. Do your reading. Reach out to training partners and anyone else who has been through what you’re going through, and then make the choices that are best for you and your baby. Martial arts training is a very personal and individual journey, and every pregnant person is going to have their own answer to these questions. Whatever yours is, we wish you the best!

Have you trained while pregnant? Are you thinking of doing martial arts during your pregnancy? Let us know in the comments!

And don’t forget to check out our online store. We’ve got the martial arts gear you’ll need for any kind of training- including pre- and post-natal!