Review of Annette Fletcher's Prenatal Stretch & Strengthening

If anyone had told me that pregnancy would make me more likely to exercise -- and not just to obsessively buy workout DVDs but to use them too -- I would have called them crazy. After all, how could the discomfort of a growing belly make me more energetic? It turns out that at least when it comes to light, yoga/pilates/stretching type workouts, the small aches of pregnancy actually make working out a must!

Stretch with movement
There seem to be a ton of prenatal videos out there (I have about 13, and will try to review them all!), and one of the newest is Annette Fletcher's Prenatal Stretch and Strengthening. I received a review copy from World Dance New York, and I wager I'm one of the few people to have used this program already! When I first received it, I did the warm-up, lying down moves, and final stretches. It was a weeknight and I was too tired to go for the standing moves too! But today I had a chance to work with the whole program.

After all the introductions (easily skippable), the main program consists of:

Warm Up
Full Body Movements
Standing Exercises
Deep Stretches

No times are given for these segments either on the box or on the menu, which I would have liked so I could time my workout. However, the entire workout is about an hour long.

Annette Fletcher does some classic floor pilates, but well supported
The moves are basically pilates with a bit of yoga thrown in. The only props are two yoga blankets that Annette folds in various positions to support the poses. Nothing is particularly taxing -- only in a few of the lying leg exercises are you likely to feel any kind of burn, and warrior poses are held long enough to strengthen but not to the point of exhaustion. The program is great for stretching your entire body while also working on some strength, but moderately enough that you don't really notice. (I could tell that my endurance had improved by the second use of the video however!)

What I really liked:

- Annette is clear and not annoyingly peppy.
- A number of the positions combine stretching with gentle movement, which really helped me to relax.
- Time is spent on the neck and shoulders -- you wouldn't think these get particularly tense during pregnancy, but they do.
- Some unusual positions or combinations of positions.
- Generally good cueing. For example, there is one adjustment she has you do during a forward lunge that is simply perfect for getting the right stretch.
- An exercise for working on Kegel muscles that is about as clear as such exercises get, considering that it can't really be viewed on a DVD!

What I didn't like:

- I know it's more pilates than yoga, but I missed having a relaxation segment at the end. Then again, it was easy to just turn the computer off and do my own.
- There are a few moments where Annette gives safety cues for knees ("if your knees are uncomfortable, do this") while the exercise is underway. These guidelines should be introduced right at the start.

Overall, I think the video offers a complete, accessible workout program that tones and stretches without causing discomfort at any point. It's not broken down by trimester, but Annette offers gradations of difficulty for many of the exercises. I've already done it twice in one week, and can see myself returning to it throughout pregnancy and afterward.

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