Let’s start out with…pregnancy is not a disability. Being pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t do anything or that you are limited in what you can do, in any way. Yes, later in pregnancy you aren’t going to be able to lay on your back or your stomach…but it isn’t a disability! So this means you can also workout while pregnant. I know there are horror stories out there about working out while pregnant and being afraid to hurt the baby, so these are my top tips for working out while pregnant!
Exercising is not going to increase your risk of miscarriage or premature delivery if you are already a health individual. The first thing you need to do is make sure you talk to your healthcare provider. If you were already a healthy individual before pregnancy, then chances are exercising during pregnancy is going to be better than not!
*DISCLAIMER: I am not pregnant, nor have I ever been pregnant. These tips are coming from research on the internet from reputable sources. BUT it is important to remember that all pregnancy journeys are different, no two are alike. So do what is going to work best for you.*
Tips for working out while pregnant
Check your energy:
This is the first place to start when working out, especially when growing a small human. If you are already lacking energy then make sure your workout is going to energize you, and not totally drain you. That means a high intensity cardio workout probably isn’t going to be the best idea. I would opt for something like a walk or some slow weight lifting. You have to remember that you need energy and fuel for two bodies, so draining yourself is only going to make matters worse. So check in, see what you feel like and go from there. The purpose of exercise during pregnancy is to give you more energy and make you feel good, not strive for any kind of goal!
Feel it out:
Let’s reiterate…every pregnancy is going to be different and everyone starts their journey in a different place. So make sure you are checking in with yourself regularly to see what your body is telling you. Let’s start by breaking down the different exercise “topics” and how you should carry them out during pregnancy:
Let’s start with the idea that the general guideline of “don’t lift anything more than 15-20lbs” is a bit outdated. If you have never worked out before, this might be viable information to follow. But if you are someone who worked out prior to pregnancy to get into great shape before carrying a child, it likely won’t apply to you. The few things to think about when picking a weight for strength training exercises during pregnancy are:
• Can you keep engagement through your core and pelvic floor well enough to lift a heavy load. Can you maintain good alignment throughout the entire exercise? If you answered no – decrease the weight.
• Do you have to hold your breath during ANY portion of the exercise. If you answered yes – decrease the weight.
• Do you see any coning, doming, or bulging along the midline of your belly, or is your growing belly is getting in the way? If you answered yes – decrease the weight
It is important to remember that we are not chasing strength gains during pregnancy, we just want to ensure we support it as it changes (aka you add more weight to your frame in the form of boobs, a belly and just extra weight in general). Strength training is going to help you carry that weight a little easier!
You can absolutely keep running/walking and whatever else during pregnancy, but I would do so with caution. It is INCREDIBLY important to make the health of your core and pelvic floor your top priority during pregnancy. This is because these muscles are what are holding in your organs, and with adding pressure and expansion, they have to work even harder. Think of these muscles like a trampoline. They have to expand and recoil in response to pressure changes in the body to prevent you from leaking urine, feces, gas or even your organs…yikes! So with that…
Excess running in the end of your pregnancy can be a bad idea. This is because the foot strike and “pounding” of the body can actually cause weakness in the core and pelvic floor. Remember, these muscles are already being stretched, so by adding in the jarring, you are adding more pressure to the already stretched muscles..causing more damage.
I would stick to other forms of cardio like walking, cycling, swimming, rowing etc.
Work on Posture:
During pregnancy, your body obviously starts to change. Besides seeing your belly and boobs grow, there are some underlying changes. Things like stretching core muscles, weakened glute muscles, rounded shoulders, tight hip flexors etc. All of these things are also natural with pregnancy, they just aren’t talked about! So, make sure you add exercises in to counteract these. You have to remember that over the course of 9 months your body is going to add 30-50lbs to your frame, more if you are having twins. So it is important to work with the body so you can strengthen the muscles necessary to take pressure of these areas.
Add in exercises like:
• Pulling movements (rows, pull-ups, pull-downs etc)
• Knee dominant movements (squats, step ups, lunges). You will want to decrease range of motion as pregnancy goes on for comfort and safety. You will also want to reduce the size of your box, as well as stop any exercises that cause pubic pain.
• Hip dominant movements (glute bridges, deadlifts) Again, lighten the load as you progress through pregnancy. You may also just want to use bodyweight or bands for safety and comfort in the ladder part of your pregnancy.
Prioritize your core:
So you probably know, or have guessed, your core muscles are going to be stretched beyond belief during pregnancy. Like, ripped apart to make room for the baby (not to scare you). This means it is incredibly important to prioritize core and pelvic floor work both during and after pregnancy to ensure your body goes back to “normal”. Core strength is going to help protect your hips, back, and pelvis as your belly grows – and the stronger these muscles are, the less pain you might have both during and after delivery. You want to avoid anything that is going to cause bulging, coning, football shape down your midline. This is going to also mean you have to learn how to properly engage your core, and control the intra-abdominal pressure to make sure there is not more damage being down while you are “doing abs”. Here is an incredible detailed program you can look into if you are interested in a healthy core and pelvic floor both before, during and after pregnancy!
Avoid Certain Exercises:
Along with things you should do, there are obviously things you should avoid! First and foremost, avoid exercises that are going to put pressure on the diastasis. Diastasis recti is going to occur no matter what to make room for a growing baby, but you want to avoid anything that is going to progress that. So whenever you are doing exercises, make sure there is no coning, bulging or popping up of the center of your belly!
Other exercises to avoid:
• Twisting, crunching, sit-ups, jack-knifes, hanging leg raises etc.
• Front loaded exercises like lunges, planks, squats etc. If you want to do pushups and planks, do them from an incline!
• Exercises that cause leaking
• Exercises that cause pain or discomfort
• High impact work if it causes pain or leaking. You should not be jumping, running, bounding if you are leaking – because IT’S NOT NORMAL no matter how many times people say it is because they had babies. This is 100% due to not healing the pelvic floor.
Remember that pregnancy is incredible individualized! What one person can do, another might not be able to…and that is okay. YOU ARE GROWING A HUMAN AFTER ALL! Just make sure that the number one priority you have is fueling your body for both you and baby, and that you are supporting yourself in every way that you can. This just makes for an even better reason to workout at home 😉