I’ve worked in the fitness industry for over 12 years and have trained numerous moms-to-be to stay fit and active during their pregnancies. I’ve always applied textbook applications to help women with their prenatal fitness. However, going through the process myself has provided some interesting insight.
So far, I’ve enjoyed lifting weights, running, hiking, snowshoeing, walking, yoga and biking during my pregnancy. I’ve consistently exercised 4 to 6 days every week. As the weeks have progressed, I’ve made some modifications with my exercise selection and the intensity I workout at.
First and foremost, exercise is fine to do when you are pregnant if your physician gives you the green light. If your physician says no, then take their advice and get their guidance on what you can or cannot do.
Each trimester of your pregnancy warrants different physical, mental and emotional changes. Your exercise routine will need to change as your body changes and the baby grows. The best advice is to listen to your body and let those messages dictate the exercises you choose. I did this with running. I’d been a long-time runner before getting pregnant. The longer I am pregnant, the less running feels good. I now do a combination of running and walking simply because it feels right for my body.
During the first trimester, it may be a time that you can’t keep food down or feel sensitive to certain types of food. If you spent your entire morning puking your brains out, it’s probably a good idea to not workout that day. If you experienced some nausea, then see how the rest of the day goes. If you can keep some food and liquids down, a workout may be fine.
Fatigue is a common first trimester symptom. I felt extremely exhausted during those first few weeks and working out was the last thing on my mind. I’d make myself start exercising for a few minutes and would notice that I started to feel better. I also got that boost of energy that I was craving all day.
In the first trimester, I continued with the same exercises I was doing prior to pregnancy. By the end of the first trimester, I took out the exercises where I was lying on my stomach.
At this point it was great to welcome back my old friend “energy”. But now I was noticing more physical changes in my body. As my body began to form a baby bump, my balance seemed to diminish. No, I have not been drinking during my pregnancy. I just noticed that I was having a more difficult time doing single leg movements and feeling somewhat clumsy.
I incorporated suspension training and balance exercises to meet the needs of feeling unbalanced. Both of these types of training methods provided a challenge that caused me to engage muscles all over my body to help adapt to the changes in my core.
By the end of the second trimester and the accumulation of extra pregnancy pounds, exercises like push ups were modified from toes to knees. I also backed off on jumping rope and my running mileage decreased.
The third trimester is about making it to the finish line. Backaches, lack of sleep and overall body discomfort accompanies this phase of pregnancy. During the third trimester, exercise should be about feeling good and maintaining some type of movement. It’s not the time for setting any new exercise goals.
Movement is going to be an aid to help you feel better, alleviate pain, and gain energy. It will be a distraction at this point to get your mind off of any discomfort you might be feeling.
During this phase of pregnancy the quadruped, or on all fours, will strengthen your core muscles while providing relief to your lower back. Listen to your body. If movement feels good, then keep it up. If an exercise feels uncomfortable then back off.
Overall Exercise Bonuses
No matter what trimester you are in, you’ll reap the benefits of exercise. Keep these extra bonuses in mind and use them as motivation to exercise during your pregnancy.
I’d love to say that I basked in the bliss of pregnancy every day, but I would be lying to you. There were days that I was tired, moody, anxious and overall not feeling “peachy”. With all the changes going on, it’s normal to feel a bit off-kilter some days. Exercise probably saved a few lives by helping restoring some sanity on those rough days. Those exercise endorphins were just what the doctor ordered to bump up my mood and provide some emotional release.
The body changes to grow a little human are amazing, but it’s also foreign. I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize myself. I’m not used to feeling aches, pains and discomfort. When I exercise, it’s a chance for me to get grounded back in my body. I remember that it’s still me and that I’m just going through a phase of changes. I regain that appreciation I have for my health, strength and stamina.
Prenatal preparations for the new baby add to the overall busyness of work, family and other commitments. If we struggled to have “me time” before pregnancy it becomes harder now, and it will most definitely become more difficult after your baby is born. Carving out the time to exercise is just a reminder that having time for you is important. Be sure to establish a routine of self-time so you can revisit it once baby comes.
Exercising during pregnancy deviates from the focus of how many calories are being burned. Workouts during pregnancy will be about keeping your body moving to be strong, healthy and mobile. As a fitness professional, this is what exercise means to me. It’s a lifetime habit that is essential to our wellbeing despite our age, size or gender. Use the opportunity of exercising while pregnant to embrace this. Make exercise a lifelong habit and pass