Even before I was pregnant, I would often meet newly pregnant ladies, who were so upset that their yoga studio/ classes/ personal trainers don’t let them train anymore because of pregnancy. They wanted to push themselves all the way through pregnancy and not give up any of their freedom. And while I completely understand that you don’t want to sit around for the next 9 months twiddling your thumbs, the main caution for all studios and trainers is always yours and the baby’s wellbeing. Especially trainers who have never been pregnant themselves, may not understand the changes your body is going through. This is a sensitive and crucial phase in your life, and rather than pushing you to your limits, most trainers would just rather see you again in a year when you are trying to get back in shape.
This does not mean you have to give up exercising. In fact, there are actually many benefits to maintaining a healthy fitness routine throughout your pregnancy, such as less leg cramps and water retention, a healthier blood sugar level which decreases your chances of gestational diabetes, a shorter labor, an easier birth, and better recovery afterwards - well, that is what I am hoping for!
Here are my top tips to continue to safely exercise throughout your glowing phase:
1. Choose the right clothes
In your first trimester, you may become uncomfortably conscious of your midsection. While no one else will actually see what is happening to your belly, you may look in the mirror and feel like you are growing in front of your eyes - especially if your waist was small to begin with. Choose loser fitting tops that will help you not to feel too obsessed with this part of your body, especially if you are not telling anyone about your pregnancy just yet. Once you start to actually show, your body is going through many changes. Make sure you get extra supportive bras to help with the weight of ever growing breasts. Wear less than you think you need, since you are a little oven, and you want to make sure you don’t overheat during your workouts. Again, loser fitting tops may be the thing throughout your whole pregnancy!
2. Stay hydrated
Never has hydration been as important as during your pregnancy. You lose more water through sweat (again, thank your body for being a burning oven), plus your growing baby is using a lot of water to stay hydrated and active inside you. Take more water breaks during any workout than you usually would - even if you are just in a calm yoga class.
3. Have a snack ready at all times
I can not tell you how many times I was in the middle of my workout and suddenly started to think of all these foods I could kill for: kebabs (I am a vegetarian!!!), meringue (yes, what a weird thing to crave!) or a kale salad (seriously, I craved a kale salad during a particular tough walk on incline 12). Your body becomes ravenous from one second to the next, and you will suddenly feel so empty and nauseous. All you can do is interrupt your workout, pick yourself up from the gym floor, and run to the next door coffee shop. To avoid these extreme scenarios, bring a snack with you to your workouts. I would often carry an apple, an energy bar or homemade energy balls (like these: coconut ones, hemp seed ones) to the gym or classes I attended. Who cares if I go out and snack. Better than my blood sugar dropping so low that I faint on the floor!
4. Keep an eye on your heart rate
Even though I am not a huge fan of linking your entire body to measuring systems like heart rate monitors, they can be quite handy when you are absolutely not in tune with your body. While you are pregnant, you will feel out of breath so much quicker - especially towards the end of your pregnancy. Lugging around all that extra weight doesn’t help! However, it comes down to your body pumping 30-50% more blood through your heart to nourish the baby. In order to accommodate this massive increase, your heart needs to pump quicker even in a resting state, but especially when you are moving around. There is no one set heart rate every pregnant woman should stick to. If you wore a heart rate monitor before your pregnancy and knew how high you were going, you want to bring it down by 20%. If you don’t want to hook yourself up to a heart rate monitor, check how you are perceiving the intensity on a scale of 1-10. You want to be somewhere between a 6 and an 8. Avoid extremely vigorous exercise, which leaves you and baby without oxygen. While you don’t need to be able to have an entire conversation during your workout, you should be able to answer simple yes/no questions.
5. Stay cool
This comes back to the looser fitting clothes. You are a constant oven baking that baby, and the last thing you want is to faint because of heat exhaustion. If you are pregnant during the summer, perhaps think about joining a gym with AC (if you can handle the sweat smell without getting nauseous). When you go to fitness classes, make sure you can either stay by the door or somewhere close to the AC, so you have a breeze on you at all times. You can overheat much quicker when pregnant, and the first signs are dizziness, not being able to catch your breath, and itchy, hot skin.
6. Have programs to fall back on on bad days
When you go to bed, you may have all these plans of getting up early and hitting the gym for a good workout. And then you wake up and realize that it’s not a good day. They can hit you out of nowhere during pregnancy. In these cases, have fitness ideas in the back of your head to fall back on: taking a nice morning walk to clear your mind and lungs, perhaps cycling to work or doing some calming opening stretches to wake up your body. Before pregnancy you may have only run to stay in shape. When pregnant, try as many different kinds of fitness programs as possible: Pilates, yoga, cycling, running, walking, Tai Chi, swimming, weight lifting, and more. You may find something that feels really good for your growing pregnant body. And perhaps you find a new fitness passion you will continue after pregnancy.
7. Take it easy on yourself
Especially if you were very fit before getting pregnant, you will have times where you just feel disappointed with yourself, your performance, and your body. Take it easy on yourself. Your body is doing the hardest work it has ever done: growing a human being! This is not the time to chase new goals when it comes to your fitness. Instead, change your mindset to helping your pregnancy aches and pains with your workouts: strengthening your back, working on better posture, and getting your hips and pelvic floor ready to give birth. Really listen to your body and give it what it needs. Fitness during pregnancy can be rewarding, especially if labor is made easier and recovery is faster afterwards because of it!
Here is to a fit and healthy pregnancy!