As I see it, being active and fit should be a lifestyle, or perhaps a journey. The activity we did as a kid is probably not the same activity we’re engaging in as adults. And the activity you engaged in a year ago might not suit your needs today. Having a “fitness as a journey” mindset is important all the time, but even more so when that journey involves pregnancy.
As a fitness professional, my own journey through fitness while pregnant has been all over the place. My pregnancy started with a strict ‘no exercise for two weeks’ rule followed by my own hesitancy to jump back in. Then I realized that getting back to my normal routine was not going to be ‘normal’ or easy. Then I finally figured out the best way for me to stay active, for my body to feel good, and for my baby to be healthy. Which felt different all the time.
So, while everyone’s fitness needs will be different during pregnancy, a lot can be the same as well. First things first, make sure your doctor has cleared you for exercise and that you are not considered a high risk pregnancy. Once you’ve been given the green light, take it trimester by trimester.
By now your belly is out in full force and it’s only going to get bigger from here! Continue to follow the recommendations from the first and second trimesters but be aware of new changes. The first being the widening of your pelvis. While it happens gradually, it can cause a lot of pelvic pain or discomfort. Avoid exercises that exacerbate any discomfort.
Your hormones are also working double time to prepare for labor, producing a hormone called relaxin. You may find yourself to be more flexible, especially in the joints and ligaments, but don’t stretch those limits just because you can.
As you near the final weeks of pregnancy, remember slowing down is fine. Listen to your body and rest when needed. Rumor has it there won’t be a lot of that after the baby comes!
If I had to choose one exercise to do through pregnancy, walking would be my recommendation. If you’re feeling up to more, I recommend strength training, rowing (until its uncomfortable on the belly), cycling (until it’s uncomfortable on the pelvis), and yoga. Remember that your body is changing so your movement should too.
The bottom line is, listen to your body and do what feels good.
The physical limitations of pregnancy haven’t set in yet so in most cases, it’s safe to continue your activity as normal. However, some women can experience morning sickness (that can last all day!) or extreme fatigue. If this is you, just getting movement into your day is key.
Wherever you fall on this spectrum, monitor your heart rate, stay hydrated, and make sure to take recovery days.
By the second trimester your baby bump is likely coming in nicely. Your energy is hopefully back making second trimester feel like the sweet spot of pregnancy (I can attest to this!). But the changes from the 3rd month to the 6th will be a lot, so small adjustments in your activity might be needed along the way.
The first adjustment to consider is exercising while lying on your back. Short periods on your back are fine (think 3 minutes or less), but keep in mind that lying on your back decreases blood flow to the baby, puts unwanted pressure on your spine and other organs, and can increasingly be harder to get up from.
Second, be mindful of the abdominal exercises that you perform. Exercises like double leg lowers, crunches, and sit-ups can put a lot of stress on the abs and could cause a diastasis rectus, or abdominal separation. Some ab exercises, like planks, side planks, or other isometric holds can still be performed as long as they feel ok. In addition, keeping the muscles that surround and support the abdominals strong is your best defense from abdominal separation and overall discomfort.
Alison Galvan is the owner and CEO of EnergyX Fitness in San Antonio.
Staying happy and healthy while pregnant
Alison before and during pregnancy.
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