Today’s blog post is one that I have been thinking about for a while now. My workout changed immediately once I got pregnant (for a few reasons I will share below) and has continued to evolve throughout. It’s a subject that’s been on my mind every day and I’ve been doing a lot of research on the topic.
I will share what I have done personally and what’s working for me along with my tips for pregnant moms, but that’s just it. They’re only tips. What you will be able to do will vary so greatly based on your pregnancy and what you were doing before pregnancy.
Please do read this post, I hope you find inspiration and ideas from it but, please please please, talk to your doctor first. Talk to him or her about what they think you should be doing based on your health and current abilities. I’ve talked to my doctor, but yours might have different opinions on specific exercises. Please talk to you doctor.
P.S. I included photos of some awesome blogger ladies throughout who also either blog about prenatal nutrition/fitness or are sharing their personal pregnancy fitness journeys! Be sure to check them out. Their links will all be in the captions!
Let’s start with my personal experience.
A little about me. I was training powerlifting for the past year. I ran on occasion and did cardio at the gym regularly. I had also started crossfit classes in the spring and I got pregnant in June. I still have a while to go in my weight loss journey to be where I want to be.
First trimester: As I said, I had been doing some crossfit classes at that time. That being said, I was far from an expert and my first trimester was a tough one. Unlike my first pregnancy, this one brought lots of nausea and feeling generally terrible (you know, moms, it can be a fun trimester). I wasn’t really thinking and did one crossfit class during this time. The last class I had taken felt like it was finally getting a little easier, so I thought I should keep doing it if I could. I quickly realized it did not feel safe. My first trimester aligned with the hottest weeks of the year. The dizziness I felt in that one class was not okay and I immediately knew I had to cut that out. That’s the key I will emphasize over and over here. If you pay attention to your body, you should be able to tell what feels right and what doesn’t.
I still did powerlifting movements, but reduced the weight. No PR’s or one rep maxes.
Second Trimester: I felt GREAT! This is usually the easy trimester, am I right? Your nausea starts to go away and your bump isn’t yet impeding on everything you do in life like standing up, walking, lying down, sitting…everything. I was able to take advantage of feeling good and made it to the gym, but for that reason I also had to remind myself to be more aware that I still had limitations.
In regards to lifting, I still squatted and benched, but had to reduce the weight quite a bit. Towards the end of my second trimester, I started feeling more comfortable squatting on the Smith Machine.
The next two things that had to go were deadlifts and leg press. I remember the exact rep when leg press stopped feeling right. I felt too much pressure in my abdomen as I pushed up. I stood up and told my husband I wasn’t going to do it anymore. It just didn’t feel right. That’s how you know. Deadlift was also something I felt the need to cut out, but more on that later 🙂
Third Trimester: I’ve only just gotten to my third trimester, but here is how it’s going so far…
I’ve significantly reduced the weights even more. My bump appeared pretty rapidly. If there was any question from other gym-goers if this girl trying to lift weights is pregnant, there isn’t now. My size is definitely impeding on physical activity now. You also need to keep something called “relaxin” in mind. It relaxes your joints, muscles and ligaments, especially around the pelvic area, to help with pregnancy and delivery. That being said, it affects your balance, ability to lift such heavy things and if you bend down (in a squat for example) you might find you have less spring to get back up.
I keep my balance in mind with everything I do in the gym now. I cut out anything where I fear there is a risk of falling. I’m now solely squatting on a Smith Machine (although pro lifters might be able to do differently) because it provides me with balance and stability that makes me feel more comfortable. I have changed some moves that I might do standing up to sitting for more stability and balance, but also because it takes some of the strain off of my core/abdomen.
I’ve become more careful with cardio too. I still try to do it (as I have throughout) so that it never gets to the point where I can’t do it at all. That being said, I keep balance in mind. I’m more cautious about the stair stepper and I run less than I used to. Some days running can make me feel crampy, and not in a normal way your body feels after running pre-pregnancy. I prefer to walk outside, walk on the treadmill at an incline and do the elliptical.
That’s my personal experience, but I also have some general tips for you on some common topics. But first, if you haven’t gotten the hint, ask your doctor. I’m no professional just a mom who loves to workout.
My Tips For You:
- Crossfit: This is what I was most weary about. I won’t say that all should cut it out, but many should. I am sure that some people who have been doing crossfit for a long time and are highly skilled at it might be able to continue it (with a doctor’s go ahead), but you need to be hyper-aware of hydration and dizziness and that’s hard during crossfit. Many doctors will also recommend that you keep your heart rate lower during pregnancy and crossfit is one workout that certainly raises your heart rate. As your pregnancy progresses I personally think it poses too much danger of falling or hurting yourself or the baby even for expert cross fitters. What do you think?
- Running: If you’re a runner, keep running. Most doctors will say you can and should. It’s good for the baby and for you. It’s probably also good for you mentally, which will be NECESSARY with all those crazy hormones. That being said, be careful! Stop running (or run less/slower) if it doesn’t feel good. If you’re a runner you might hate me for this, but one thing about running is that later in pregnancy, as you get larger all that weight repetitively pounding can be rough on your pelvic floor. When or if you stop running is a very personal thing. The runners I know personally have cut down on mileage and pace, but not stopped completely.
- HIIT Cardio: When in doubt, stick with steady state. Even the most in shape person needs to keep their heart rate in mind during pregnancy. As with crossfit, HIIT is known for increasing your heart rate rapidly. One reason many of us use it! Talk to your doctor about the highest your heart rate should be at each stage of pregnancy and use a watch to monitor it if you’d like. You also need to be more careful about balance and falls if you do HIIT.
- Exercises on Your Back: This is controversial, but I’m going to go ahead and say…you can do it. MY doctor doesn’t have concerns about me laying on my back. Yours might, it’s a common idea (or at least it was) that you shouldn’t lay on your back late in pregnancy. It seems to be more and more common practice now that lying on your back, at least for a couple minutes is perfectly fine. My research has shown that if you feel okay on your back, it’s okay. Later in pregnancy this might change, listen to your doctor.
- Ab Workouts: While I just said laying on your back is okay (in my opinion), I am more weary about ab workouts. You don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on your diastasis. Crunching and sit ups do this, but you’d be surprised how many other workouts require your core. If you’ve been pregnant, you have probably felt one of those sharp pains in your abs from doing something as silly as moving in a way your body didn’t like. If you feel this pain from any exercise, it should likely be discontinued.
- Powerlifting: The general consensus is that you should not be hitting any PR’s or doing any 1 rep maxes. The general consensus is also that you can potentially continue doing bench, squat and deadlift throughout all of your pregnancy depending on your health, your doctor’s recommendations and your skill level pre-pregnancy.
- Bench: As I said, my research (and doctor) shows it’s fine to lay on your back. If you’ve been benching for years, you will probably feel comfortable doing it throughout. I benched through my second trimester! Now in my third, the process of laying down or sitting up can sometimes feel uncomfortable and I am starting to feel a bit unbalanced on a narrow bench. The actual exercise and being on my back still feels comfortable, no pain or pressure in places that don’t feel right.
- Deadlift: This is the one out of all three that I recommend to be most careful with because you have to engage your core and lower back so much. Early on in my pregnancy, I feared for my balance and felt pressure in my abdomen that didn’t feel right. Switch to a lighter, EZ curl bar or cut it out completely. If you’re an experienced powerlifter, you may be able to continue deadlifts for longer.
- Squats: Once again, this is one movement where you need to think about the relaxin that has softened your joints and muscles. You don’t want to fall once you bend down into a squat position. Move to a Smith Machine for balance and to just feel more secure mentally. The actual squatting movement is generally known to be okay for pregnant women who were squatting pre-pregnancy. You might not be able to bend as low as you once could. That’s okay. As I’ve said a few times already, experienced powerlifters (or lifters in general) will be able to continue regular squats for longer than others, lowering the weight as needed. Spotters are a must have.
- Weight Limits: Don’t listen to stupid standard weight limits. “Pregnant women should only lift __ pounds,” oh shut up. As with running, there is no one size fits all. A powerlifter who deadlifts over 300 lbs. shouldn’t be compared to marathoner. Talk to your doctor (have I said that enough yet?) about weight limits, but most likely if you’re an experienced lifter you will be smart enough and know your body well enough to intuitively know how much you can safely do. It will need to be reduced.
- Other cardio: There’s other low impact cardio that will likely be great for almost anyone. Yoga (especially classes geared towards pregnant women), swimming, water aerobics, dance aerobic classes, walking, and elliptical are great options. When taking a class, don’t be nervous to tell your instructor you’re pregnant! You might feel like a wimp making your cardio less intense, but trust me, anything is better than nothing. You will be thankful later when moving becomes much more difficult towards the very end and after labor during recovery.
What workouts did you do during pregnancy? Did your workout change a lot or were you able to maintain your routine?
If you have any concerns or have been having a hard time with fitness during pregnancy, comment below! It’s never easy. I’d love to chat about it!
And one last time, this is my personal experience, research and doctor’s opinions. All we can do as moms is the best we can to our knowledge at that time!