Knowing how to train a pregnant woman at every stage of her pregnancy is like second nature to me. But I often forget that this stuff isn’t common knowledge to most pregnant women, so I thought I’d answer a few of your burning questions!
Most women have every intention of continuing with their regular exercise routines throughout pregnancy but in reality, for some women this can actually be really hard to do. Often you are so tired in the first few months that it’s a wonder you can even make it to the bathroom (which is a regular requirement, thanks to your new pea sized bladder), let alone get your butt out of bed to train.
And fluctuating body temperatures can make the thought of stepping into a hot yoga studio about as appetising as giving up chocolate.
The good news is, this is all completely normal. And depending on your level of activity prior to falling pregnant, you can definitely expect to slow down a bit over the next 9 months – phew!
So, what should you be doing? Get the most out of exercise during your pregnancy with my three tips for each of your three trimesters.
The official word
The American college of obstetrics and gynaecology (ACOG) exercise recommendations 2002 guidelines state: moderate intensity, low-impact, aerobic exercise at least three times per week (ACOG 2009). Newer guidelines propose increasing weekly physical-activity expenditure incorporating vigorous exercise and adding light strength training to the exercise routine of a healthy pregnant woman. Overall a combination of both aerobic and resistance based exercise is recommended in healthy pregnant women who experience no complications (Downs, Symons et al 2012).
My 2 cents
- Be kind to your body and do what feels good for you (if it has been approved by a professional).
- If you weren’t exercising before you fell pregnant, and have decided pregnancy is the kick you need to get fit – great! But don’t jump in to a cross fit class or start training for a marathon. Start very slowly and never overdo it.
- If you are a regular exerciser who wants to continue with exercise – amazing! But listen to what your body is telling you and make sure you are aware of the relevant modifications. Now is not the time to be aiming for any PB’s.
- In either case, make sure you have your doctor’s clearance and enlist the help of a professional in the form of a specialised PT who can show you modifications, at the least.
And here come those tips…
- Lower the impact a little from day 1. This isn’t for the baby but for you and your future bathroom habits. Trust me. It might feel fine now, and soon after pregnancy. But high impact exercise during pregnancy can cause all sorts of future issues, including incontinence later in life. An easy way to do this is simply to take the ‘jump’ element out of most exercises, for example swap jump squats for regular squats, jump lunges for reverse lunges and just ease off the pace or distance a little with your run work.
- Avoid super heavy weights, or anything that will cause significant outward abdominal stress.
- Avoid rapid position changes; this can impact your blood pressure and make you dizzy/breathless. You’ll also need to leave time for a longer warm up and cool down period than usual, again to look after your blood pressure.
BONUS POINT: It’s very important you don’t overheat in your first trimester, so if you feel your body temperature rising significantly, you get flushed or your heart rate rises significantly, slow down, take a break and sip on some cool water until your body temperature is back to normal.
- This is when position modification needs to come in. It’s best to work with a trainer here to make sure you are doing things right. If you don’t have access to a trainer, a few things to be aware of are not lying on your back for long periods of time and (perhaps this one’s obvious) not lying on your stomach at all. Steer clear of exercises that require you to raise a heavy weight over your head and be more aware of your posture as your belly grows – think about tucking your tailbone under and pulling your belly in and up as you move.
- Avoid all isometric exercises; this can increase the heart rate of your baby (true from trimester 1 but even more important now).
- Relaxin (the hormone that relaxes your muscles ready for growth and birth) is released from week 2 of your pregnancy onward, but in larger quantities from the second trimester. Because of this it’s really important to avoid over-stretching. Over-stretching at this time can cause joint instability and problems further down the track.
- At this stage you are preparing for the big arrival (exciting)! I work with my clients during the third trimester specifically to prepare for a smooth delivery. There are several positions you can practice as part of an exercise program to help get the body ready for birth. This needs to be done with a qualified professional and is possibly one of the best gifts you can give yourself as a mummy-to-be.
- This is also the time to start really winding down. You will start to feel a lot more tired as your pregnancy draws to a close, as your body will be reserving energy. Reduce the intensity of your exercise but definitely keep moving.
- Treat yourself. Several of the sessions I complete with my clients toward the end of their pregnancy are half exercise, half gentle massage. Your body will be sore from carrying around that extra weight and a light exercise session followed by specific prenatal massage is perfect for you right now. Just make sure the person massaging you is prenatal qualified, as there are some trigger spots that need to be avoided.
Why not just take a break from exercise altogether?
Finally, if you are wondering why you shouldn’t use your pregnancy as an excuse to stay on the couch for 9 months, check out the long list of benefits those who exercise during pregnancy are rewarded with:
- Higher cardiorespiratory fitness
- Less urinary incontinence
- Less back pain
- Better weight gain control
- More straight forward delivery
- Reduced depression risk
- Reduced risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
Want to find out more?
To find out more about pre and postnatal exercise, contact us to book a session.