Let me preface this post with a disclaimer:
** I am not a doctor. First and foremost, please speak to YOUR doctor if you plan on starting to workout during your pregnancy. These are my own experiences, thoughts, and opinions. **
There! With that out of the way, I want to share with you my own experiences of working out during pregnancy. I worked out the entire 9 months that I was pregnant with my son…even up to the day before! (I wanted him out, so I tried everything!) Working out kept me sane. If I couldn’t work out and just MOVE during my pregnancy, I would have gone crazy.
On top of just keeping my sanity, exercising during my pregnancy helped keep me strong, kept my aches and pains at bay, and helped me to recover faster after labor and delivery. There are so many positives to working out while you’re expecting, but check below for my list of do’s and don’t’s of working out during pregnancy.
- Listen to your body. I cannot stress that enough. If you feel lightheaded, stop what you’re doing. It’s hugely important to listen to what you’re body is doing whether you’re pregnant or not. During pregnancy, your heart rate and oxygen levels increase naturally. Exercising obviously increases those no matter if you’re pregnant or not, so being extra careful to not go too crazy during your workout is key. Rule of thumb is to keep a comfortable conversation while you workout. That way you don’t risk raising your blood pressure and heart rate too high, or risk getting out of breath. Your baby needs blood and oxygen to grow and be healthy, so just listen to your body and stay comfortable during your workout.
- Stay hydrated. I always had a HUGE bottle of water with me at all times when I worked out during my pregnancy. Drink often. It’ll keep you cool and prevent dehydration.
- Do your research. Figure out what things you can and cannot do in each trimester. For example, once you hit your 2nd trimester, you should limit time on your back during your workouts or avoid it completely.
- Wear workout clothes that are not restricting. Make sure you can breathe comfortably and stay cool. Even though you could be pregnant in the winter months, your core temperature is much higher when you’re pregnant, so keeping yourself cool is important.
- Always warm up properly before any activity. Like any time you are working out, a proper warm up is essential to prevent injury. Making sure you keep yourself injury-free and healthy is very important for anyone, but especially for those that are pregnant.
- Set new PRs or lift too heavy. Now is not the time to go crazy. Working out during pregnancy is just to keep yourself moving. It’s not the time to go nutso on the weights and set new records. I lowered all my weights so they were at 50% of the prescribed weight in a workout or half of what I may normally use in a particular movement. I took many breaks too so I wouldn’t get dizzy and out of breath.
- Worry about your “abs.” You want a strong core, yes, but defined abs…heck no. Now is not the time for that. There are a ton of safe core strengthening exercises that you can do to help you. Believe me, I did these, even though they weren’t intense like I’m used to, they helped keep my lower back strong, maintain good posture, and keep my core tight which supported my growing belly.
- Compete in any high-risk activities, or anything involving contact. I grew up playing soccer, and I was HIGHLY competitive. I know I would not even think about playing that sport where injury risk is high while I’m pregnant. This goes for any sport where there is a risk of falling, contact, etc.
- Lie on your back for extended periods of time after your 1st trimester. Once you enter in your 2nd trimester, the general rule of thumb is to avoid any exercises that require you to be on your back from your 2nd trimester onward. This is because the weight of your uterus can restrict blood and oxygen flow to the baby and you. There are many alternatives to exercises that require you to lay on your back, and I hope to share them with you on this blog in the near future. Until then, look up alternative exercises for those that you need to be on your back for:
- Bench Press – try standing cable chest press or chest flies, or use a machine for chest press where you will be sitting
- Crunches (or any ab work that you need to be on your back for) – try Pallof Press using a cable machine or resistance band
All in all, use common sense. Ask yourself throughout your exercise session if you can breathe comfortably or if your comfortable in general. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is considered safe for pregnant women. Don’t risk injury. Now is a time to maintain a level fitness to keep your energy up and keep you pain free.