Working Out While Pregnant- What You Need To Know!
This is a guest post by Shelby from Fit As A Mama Bear. Shelby has been a blogging friend of mine for some time and I admire her knowledge and commitment to the fit mama life! I would highly suggest following her blog and keeping up with her latest posts through her Facebook page too! Plus, she posts a TON of great workout videos on her Instagram page too!
Upon basking in the glow of that positive pregnancy test, there’s a lot to consider: names, baby supplies, clothes and … working out? Yes! Staying active throughout your pregnancy comes with a hose of perks (some of the best benefits you can check out here) not in the very least preparing for the marathon that is labor! It’s extremely beneficial to stay fit while expecting but there are a lot of avenues to consider. And while there is already a lot on your mental to do list, exercise should definitely be added!
It used to be that when you were expecting you were told not to lift anything heavy and to rest a lot. Ever so slowly we’re seeing a shift in this mindset as more and more women are working out throughout their pregnancies (myself included!) and more active studies are being done on expecting mamas.
While your body definitely needs more rest during pregnancy than normal, challenging your muscles and implementing workouts can help immensely in your preparation for labor and recovery. In addition to that, working out while pregnant can also help alleviate a lot of uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms!
Have I convinced you yet? 😉
That being said, there’s a lot to consider while pregnant and more than a few guidelines (which you can check out below).
The biggest aspect to remember when it comes to pregnancy is that every pregnancy is different. Try not to compare yourself to other expecting mamas or even previous pregnancies! Take your workouts day by day and play them by ear. Some days it will be okay to push and some days it will feel better to scale back- all of this is normal.
Also remember the purpose of workouts during while pregnant. Your goal should never be weight loss or “toning” as these are impractical with a growing baby. Instead, keep the emphasis on staying healthy, mobile, preparing for labor and recovery and making pregnancy discomforts more manageable.
Whenever I’m asked a pregnancy related questions my go-to answer is always “it depends”. Because it does! Much of your fitness routine while pregnant will depend on aspects like:
- Previous fitness level
- Previous pregnancies
- The strength of your pelvic floor
- How you’re feeling that day
- How you slept the night before
- Your nutrient intake
- Your daily activities
- How the baby is growing and positioned
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to working out while pregnant! So, keeping that in mind, always clear it with your primary care provider before jumping into any kind of program. Also remember that these are guidelines. If every single pregnancy is different, you may (and probably will) have to adapt, vary and alter based on your current one.
And lastly, omit the mindset of “go hard or go home” … not matter how awesome you are! The goal during pregnancy is to stay fit, active and healthy. This means that there is no one specific way to go about working out! Find something you enjoy and rock it. Staying active doesn’t always mean a scheduled workout ?
And on that note… the tips! Scroll through the recommendations below to get started with working out while pregnant. Take it all with a grain of salt an adapt as necessary. If you’re looking for specific details on how to workout through each trimester you can read all about to stay fit in trimester one, two and three. In the meantime, rock the tips below to help get you started working out while expecting!
Tip #1 Focus On The Posterior Chain
In pregnancy, your center of gravity changes drastically. As your belly expands your low back begins to extend excessively. Your shoulders round forward under the weight of growing breasts and your hips becomes loose and less supportive thanks to their preparation of labor.
All these changes mean that your posture, and thus your muscles, are taking a beating. Training the posterior chain (the back of the body) helps counter act these changes (check out a few of my favorite back of body exercises here). Because posterior chain exercises help target the postural issues in pregnancy, this also helps alleviate a lot of discomfort from the changes also- specifically in the hips and low back.
Some amazing exercises to include are:
- Hip Thrusts (for as long as you can)
- Face Pulls
- Romanian Deadlifts
- High Rows
Tip #2 Be Smart In Your Exercise Selection
This is perhaps the trickiest of the tips! Most of the time you’ll hear a common “if you did it before you were pregnant you can continue doing it during the first bit of pregnancy”. This is true… and it’s not. If you were an avid runner prior to becoming pregnant, chances are you can continue running until it begins to feel uncomfortable.
Exercises like horse back riding, skiing, diving etc are normally a bit higher risk and thus should be avoided for fear of falling.
The trouble with exercise selection is that while it may feel good at the time, it may not help in the long run.
Personally, I avoid a lot of bouncing and jumping exercises (like squat jumps, burpees etc.) while pregnant. While they feel fine for me up until thirty ish weeks I know that they place even more stress on an already over worked pelvic floor. Since your pelvic floor Is immensely important, I find that the exercises are not worth it.
So instead of only considering how you feel at that moment, try to think of the long-term impact. Some of this has to do with which muscles are stressed but baby positioning and recovery also come into play.
Tip #3 Train Your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor muscles are the ones that essentially hold your organs in your body. Due to a growing baby, these muscles are put through an insane amount of stress during pregnancy and birth.
So, train them!
Having strong pelvic floor muscles will help support your body and relieve discomfort during pregnancy but it will also help them recover post-birth. While kegals can be great, it’s important to take a more well-rounded approach to these muscles. Target your glutes, learn to breath properly and train kegals both for endurance (contracting and holding for a longer time) as well as rapid fire (contract release).
Believe it or not, “leaking” isn’t normal (not even if you’ve had kids!) and is a sign of pelvic floor weakness. The best news is, this can be fixed!
The best piece of advice I could ever give any and all pregnant ladies is to check with a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can help assess and keep your muscles strong before, during and after pregnancy.
Tip #4 Train Your Glutes
I am a bit of a crazy person when it comes to strengthening the glutes (your bum muscles) because they
Can improve so much (read more about why you should train them here). But your glute muscles are even more important in pregnancy! Thanks to a growing and moving baby as well as the hormone relaxin, your hips become more and more loose as pregnancy progresses. While this is completely necessary it can also cause a lot of discomfort.
Strengthening the glutes can help alleviate some of this discomfort while at the same time help keep your pelvic floor strong. The important thing to consider when strengthening the glutes though is to train more than just hip extension. The three glutes have multiple functions and targeting them all will give you the best bang for your buck.
You can check out my favorite hip exercises for pregnancy here but a few of my go-to ones are:
- Glute Bridges
- Hip Thrust
- Banded Abductions
One thing to consider is that you need to truly contract the glutes instead of moving through the low back. This is a common problem when people are training glutes and it’s definitely one that needs to be fixed if you’re going to get the most of your training program!
Tip #5 Strengthen The Muscles You WILL Need
While it’s important stay strong during pregnancy you also want to prepare for what will happen post pregnancy! As mamas, we’re always carrying our babes, picking toys up and generally chasing little minions ?
The stronger you are, the easier daily tasks become (read why mamas need muscle here).
Instead of focusing on single muscle exercises (like a lateral raise), your time is better spent on exercise that not only work a lot of muscle groups but are also functional once you’re done being pregnant
Squats, rows, hinges, all of these movements are necessary exercises to help you function post pregnancy with a new little addition (read more about these exercises here).
Working out while pregnant has a lot of benefits but there is lots to consider! The most important thing is to take it day by day and to enjoy what you’re doing. As your pregnancy progresses you will no doubt have to scale down, but any activity can beneficial! Adapt your workouts as to what feels best and keeps both you and your babe healthy.