Know what you should and should not do when exercising while pregnant so you don’t make the same mistakes I did!
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I’m about to save some of you years of pain and frustration in today’s post. Because I’m about to fill you in on a big regret I have from my first pregnancy.
If you are currently pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and want to continue (or start) an exercise regimen, listen to me — please do not make the same mistakes I made. Let me tell you why:
Let me start, however, by saying that exercising while pregnant is extremely beneficial, and you should absolutely do it if it’s safe for you to do so.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISING WHILE PREGNANT
- Good for baby’s health
- Improves heart health (yours and the baby’s)
- Reduces the risk of excessive weight gain
- Reduces back pain
- Improves muscle strength
- Boosts mood & energy levels
- Alleviates nausea and fatigue
- Enhances sleep
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers risk of gestational diabetes
- Strengthens body for delivery
Women who exercise during pregnancy also often (sorry, no guarantees!) have shorter and easier deliveries and bounce back faster after delivery.
And who doesn’t want that??
But I made some mistakes during my first pregnancy that I believe contributed to some issues that I am continuing to deal with today. And now that I’m in the middle of my third pregnancy, I’m doing things differently this time around.
Let me take you back five years to my first pregnancy…
WHAT I DID WRONG… AND THE CONSEQUENCES
Prior to getting pregnant, I worked out regularly, and most of my workouts included moderate-high intensity aerobic training, some strength training, and a little bit of stretching. My favorite workouts were kickboxing workouts, such as Chalene Johnson’s TurboFire.
When I got pregnant, I was determined to stay fit and avoid gaining a lot of weight. And I thought the only way to do that was to continue my pre-pregnancy level of exercise.
I was also a little bit stubborn about being able to do all the things I could do before I got pregnant. I did not want to be “that girl” that used pregnancy as an excuse to slack off. (I eventually had to get over that during my second pregnancy.)
I continued to do my regular workouts as long as possible, attempting, even, to do them as well as I had before. The only modification I made was avoiding lying flat on my back. That, I knew, was a no-no. But I didn’t know there were other moves I should be avoiding. And I paid for them.
Now, I’m not a doctor, so take everything I’m about to say with a grain of salt. But knowing what I know now about things you should avoid and knowing what I know about my physical issues, I think my conclusions are pretty logical.
Both issues are fairly common during pregnancy, and they could have happened anyway (especially with my 9 1/2 pound second baby!). But I’m pretty sure I, at the very least, made them worse — the ligament damage from trying to kick too hard and too high, and the diastasis recti from twisting and the wrong kind of ab exercises.
And now I’m paying for my stubbornness and ignorance.
Because I don’t want that to happen to you, I’ve compiled this list of dos and don’ts for exercising while pregnant.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it is not official medical advice, so always talk to your doctor first! But I’ve done a fair amount of research on this topic now, and these are the biggies.
DOS AND DON’TS OF EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY
- Talk to your doctor first!
- Stay active
Aim for 20-30 minutes of moderate activity every day.
- Ease into it if you’ve never followed an exercise routine before
- Focus on strengthening your body
Don’t worry about getting fit or losing weight. There’s plenty of time for that after the baby is born.
- Choose low-impact workouts
- Drink lots of water
- Monitor your heart rate
Doctors and fitness experts now recommend using the “talk test” — can you still carry on a conversation while exercising? — rather than using a heart rate monitor, as target heart rates may vary between women.
- Listen to your body
Slow down when needed, stop when something hurts, and definitely know the signs of pre-term labor!
- Have realistic expectations
You will probably find that you get winded more easily. Give yourself some grace — it’s a normal part of pregnancy!
- Spend extra time on warm up and cool down
This is always important when working out, but you may want to spend extra time warming up and cooling down during pregnancy, as your ligaments become much more relaxed and, therefore, susceptible to damage.
- Strengthen your core (the right way)
You’ll need these muscles to support your growing belly and spine and for all the lifting you’ll do after the baby is born. A strong core will also come in handy during labor and delivery!
- Know what to modify
Many exercises are safe during pregnancy, but there are a few things you’ll want to avoid. I’ve listed some below.
- Find prenatal workouts
I now prefer to find prenatal workouts. That way I know that what I’m doing is safe and specifically tailored for pregnancy.
- Take up new forms of exercise
Now is not the time to suddenly start cross-fit or run your first marathon.
- Exceed pre-pregnancy fitness levels
- Participate in activities where you may fall down or fall over
- Push too hard
Again, you’re not trying to get fit or lose weight (unless your doctor says you need to).
- Be stubborn!
This was one of my biggest mistakes. I didn’t want pregnancy to slow me down, and I stubbornly insisted that I could do everything I was able to do before.
Here are a few of the moves you should avoid during pregnancy:
- Anything requiring lying flat on your back
- Twisting from your core — This was mistake #1 for me, and probably a major cause of my diastasis recti.
- Planks, push-ups, and other moves where the full weight of your belly is born by your separated ab muscles — This is especially true if you already know you have a diastasis recti from a previous pregnancy
- Many traditional ab exercises — Find a pregnancy-friendly core workout, instead. (see below for some ideas)
Exercise during pregnancy is wonderful — both for you and the baby — and you should absolutely do it if you can. Just know that there are some things you need to remember and a few things you should avoid. Because trust me, you don’t want to pay for it later.
And don’t think I’m going to let you leave without sharing my favorite pregnancy workouts! Here are my top 5 picks for at-home prenatal exercise, many of which you can do without spending a dime!
MY FAVORITE PREGNANCY WORKOUTS
- BodyFit by Amy — My favorite!!
- Jessica Smith
- Popsugar Fitness
- Suzanne Bowen’s Prenatal Barre Workout
- Hilaria Baldwin Prenatal Yoga DVD
LIST OF SOURCES
- My Epic List of Tips for a Fabulous Pregnancy
- How I Delivered Two Babies Without An Epidural
- An Epic List of Breastfeeding Tips & Resources
- 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Baby