Review of Suzanne Bowen's Long and Lean Prenatal Workout

Suzanne Bowen's Long and Lean Prenatal Workout is one gorgeous pilates-based workout. Actually, to tell you the truth, it doesn't feel like a prenatal workout at all. Suzanne herself is not visibly pregnant in the video, and there's almost no "baby" talk. She does tell you to take rests and get water more frequently than you'd hear in a normal pilates workout (rather than the "keep going, you can do this!" typical of exercise mavens). And those of us who have watched lots of prenatal workout intros can tell that the workout does not involve any exercises dangerous for pregnant women -- not much bouncing, and nothing done on the back. But given all that, this is the first prenatal workout I've done during which I repeatedly forgot I was pregnant -- and at seven months, that's a feat.

The workout is divided into three main sections:
Standing - 20 minutes
Mat - 20 minutes
Stretching - 10 minutes

There is also a 10-minute postnatal abs section taught by Leah Sarago that I haven't, for obvious reasons, looked at or tried yet.

What's the scoop? The standing segment was ballet-inspired but eminently doable. There are light squats and lunges, but all done so precisely that even my usually-weak knees didn't protest for a moment. (And have been fine all day afterwards.) Most of the leg series are accompanied by arm movements that will really warm you up. This section felt really beautiful, and gave me a feeling of lightness I haven't had in a while.

The mat work segment was, frankly, challenging. I don't have an enormous amount of upper-body strength anyway, and found I simply had to take breaks here and there. And there was an oblique exercise that I could have done easily before pregnancy, but at seven months was just not going to happen anymore! But, to my surprise, the abdominal exercises were much easier to accomplish without strain than in other prenatal videos.

Also excellent was the stretching segment. While it helped to be warm for this, I would recommend it as a stand-alone program to anyone who is pregnant or has back pain. The leg, hip, and back stretches were extremely effective and satisfying, even though Suzanne warns you not to push yourself too hard or too far. I could feel my prenatal sciatica slipping into nothingness...

The workout closes with the invitation to relax while sitting on or your side, while music plays for a while. I wound up not finding this music all that relaxing, but when I turned off the video I realised I was surprisingly refreshed given the practice. The Long and Lean Prenatal Workout is a program I expect I'll be using even when pregnancy is only a memory!

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