I recently “met” fitness expert, nutritionist and local blogger, Amanda Perry on Twitter and asked her to share some of her best staying fit while pregnant tips. She’s about to have her first baby and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her and to have her provide first-hand advice! Here’s Amanda’s guest blog post:
I am currently 40 weeks pregnant and I have been working out 5-6 days per week throughout my entire pregnancy. Additionally, I have been taking walks during the day to make sure that I am not sitting for too long at one time. I one hundred percent believe staying active has helped me to avoid many of the common pregnancy symptoms, aches and pains experienced by most women.
First thing’s first. The best advice I can give you is to get fit before you get pregnant! I have seen many women avoid exercise like the plague before trying to conceive because they know they are going to gain weight anyway. Although this thought process is understandable, I assure you, working out during your pregnancy will be much easier if you are already fit. Not to mention, you will be less likely to give up when you are feeling exhausted in your first trimester if you’re already in a great routine.
If you are currently pregnant, but haven’t been working out, there is still good news! Even if you were not exercising before you got pregnant, you don’t have to stay sedentary during your pregnancy. Instead, start slow and increase duration and intensity over time. You may want to work with a professional, such as an experienced personal trainer, who can give you some exercises that will be good for you.
As someone who was fit before getting pregnant I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep working out as often as I wanted. However, after much research I found studies showing that pregnant athletes’ bodies were not only conditioned to handle the physical changes that occur from more strenuous workouts — such as increased heart rates, higher body temperatures, stress on muscles and ligaments, and reduced levels of oxygen and glucose — but that they had easier, healthier pregnancies when they continued these activities.
Women who continued regular weight-bearing exercise above 50% of their prepregnancy levels tended to have fewer physical discomforts, gained about 8 pounds less than those who stopped exercising, and did not sustain more injuries or complications such as membrane ruptures. They also had easier, shorter and less complicated labors with less medical intervention, like pain relief, pitocin and episiotomies, and recovered faster.
Source: Web MD (http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/staying-fit-pregnant?page=3)
I can now say from my own experience the statements above are absolutely true. I have not gotten sick once during my pregnancy, I have had minimal back pain, little to no swelling and I have gained the recommended amount of weight. With the birth of my baby just days away I’m certainly hoping the portion about fit women having shorter, easier labors is true as well!
During the first trimester of pregnancy, it might be difficult to even think about working out. If you have no energy and haven’t been able to keep food down it’s unlikely you’ll be able to (or want to) complete a hard workout, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise at all. Try to plan your workouts for the time of day you feel best. Schedule the workout in your calendar and do what you can to stick to a plan. That said, if you are feeling terrible one day, be flexible and skip your workout without beating yourself up. Your body may be telling you that you need extra rest. Try to get back on schedule the next day. I worked out most days during my first trimester, but shortened my workouts and often rested more than normal between sets.
The second trimester is generally the easiest for most women. This is the time to take advantage of your renewed energy and get some good workouts in. I gradually increased the length of my workouts during this time and was able to lift some heavier weights again. I completed decent interval workouts on the Arc Trainer and even on the treadmill/running outside during the beginning of my second trimester. Although I had a lot more energy, I started to find that certain exercises were not making me comfortable. I couldn’t run by the end of this trimester because it hurt my bladder and caused pelvic pain. I stuck to the Arc Trainer, stationary bike and kettlebell swings and snatches for my conditioning.
By the third trimester, you will obviously be getting bigger. During this time I was experiencing a lot of pelvic pain and pressure after I did any split stance exercises such as lunges or step ups. Once I eliminated these particular moves I felt much better. I was able to work my lower body with squats, kettlebell deadlifts and other exercises. It’s very important to listen to your body during this time. Use common sense and if something doesn’t feel right, it’s time to remove that exercise from your program for awhile. Again, it might be worth working with a professional if you’re experiencing anything strange or have any questions at all.
Need some reasons WHY you should exercise?
- You’ll be much more positive/happy during and after pregnancy
- Reduced chance of illness
- Helps you sleep better
- Easier Delivery due to increased fitness level
- Lower risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Less water retention
- Larger placenta and more nutrients for your baby
- Decreased likelihood of varicose veins
- Less likely to require a caesarian delivery
- More control over weight gain and faster return to pre-pregnancy weight
- Leaner children up to 5 years after delivery
There are a few things that you need to be extra aware of as you are exercising during your pregnancy.
- Loose Joints – During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is present in 10 times its normal concentration in your body. Relaxin’s job is to relax the joints in the pelvis so the baby has room to pass through the birth canal. Unfortunately, relaxin loosens all ligaments and joints, making you more susceptible to tendon and ligament injuries. Always include a proper warm up and cool down to aid in avoiding injury.
- Balance – The extra weight in the front of your body shifts your center of gravity and places stress on joints and muscles, especially those in the pelvis and lower back. You may be less stable and more likely to lose your balance and fall, especially in later pregnancy. Use extra caution if you are doing exercises where you have to balance on one leg.
- Heart Rate – The extra weight you are carrying around makes your heart work harder than before. Pay attention to your exercise intensity and keep in mind that you will not be able to exercise as intensely as you could before. However, this also doesn’t mean that you can’t raise your heart rate enough to complete a good workout.
- Hydration – Hydration is essential for preventing preterm labor. When you’re short on fluids, your body makes a hormone that simulates contractions. Staying hydrated also helps prevent headaches, kidney stones, dizziness, constipation and hemorrhoids. You know you’re well hydrated when your urine is light yellow to clear. Drink water before, during and after exercise and make sure you drink more on the days where you work out.
- Temperature – Elevated body temperatures for an extended period of time can cause harm to your baby. Be careful not to overheat by avoiding exercise in extremely hot or humid conditions.
Remember to listen to your body during pregnancy. It generally will do a great job of telling you when to slow down and when it’s time to decrease intensity and/or duration or eliminate certain exercises. This is not the time to push through pain or try to lose weight. Also, make sure that you are eating enough (nutritious) calories to fuel your body and help your little one grow big and strong. Your number one priority right now has to be creating a great environment for your baby!
Note: I am a certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified. However, please check with your doctor before beginning any workout program, especially during pregnancy. The tips above are meant for women who are having a pregnancy free of complications and have no other medical issues. Stop exercising immediately if you experience symptoms such as chest pains, vaginal bleeding, lower abdominal cramping or up.