There is a lot of contradicting information out there about when you exercise, what you should and shouldn’t do during each trimester, but what you need to remember is that there are different studies taking place at every given moment and that each and every pregnancy is different. I have had a number of mums to be stop their training at around the 4 month point due to exhaustion and I have had other mums work with me up until a week before they gave birth, each person will have a different reaction to exercise but it is important to keep yourself as active as possible and don’t just take 9 months off as the more active you are the easier the birth will be.
Even if you can’t follow a gym programme, you can still do your pelvic floor work, cardiovascular work like walking and swimming along with bodyweight exercises like squats and yoga or pilates. Try to keep yourself as strong as possible and to help you make some decisions we have taken some of the usual questions/myths out there and tried to explain them a little.
Disclaimer – As we have said each pregnancy is different and please consult with your GP before starting any exercise programme, if you feel comfortable doing the exercise continue but if anything doesn’t feel right then stop. Listen to your body it will let you know if you are doing something you shouldn’t.
Keep heart rate below 130 bpm – There is some truth in keeping your heart rate under control and you should work on a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). You should workout based on how you are feeling, you should be able to still maintain a conversation while you train, and if you are working too hard, needing breaks to catch your breath in-between sentences then look at slowing down. The heart rate could be above 140 and you can still hold a perfectly normal conversation so just focus on how you feel when exercising.
All high-intensity workouts should be left behind as if you elevate the heart rate too high then you will reduce the oxygen levels heading to the uterus which can lead to birth defects. It is also worth pointing out that you should be looking at keeping your hydration levels up throughout your exercise, obviously as you train you will be using water so try to keep a bottle of water with you when you exercise and drink regularly throughout the day.
Do not do any abdominal work – Although some abdominal work like crunches and sit-ups will go out of the window from 12-14 weeks of your programme to say you cannot do any is slightly farfetched. Focus on other core exercises where possible to help strengthen the abdominals. If you can strengthen your abs it will help with your labour and delivery, use exercises like side planks, toe taps, hip thrusts, arm and leg raises to keep the stomach and surrounding areas strong.
If I have not exercised before, now is not the time to start – Partially true, now is not the time to become a gym bunny but you can still start an exercise routine, like I said earlier, things like walking, swimming and pre-natal classes can help your body cope with the demands of pregnancy.
Running in pregnancy is unsafe – Kind of like the question before, if you weren’t a runner before your pregnancy now is not the time to start training for that marathon. If you already had long runs in your exercise programme you will be able to continue as long as you feel comfortable. For the first trimester you should be fine to continue as you were, providing you have had medical clearance then in the second trimester you may want to start to limit turns in your run and just find a route that you can go in a straight line as your centre of gravity will begin to change and turning may put extra pressure on the joints. In the 3rd trimester, it may well just be best going for fast walks rather than actual running and make sure you listen to your body. If you are too tired and don’t feel up to it, take the day off and rest, go out next time when you feel ready to.
Exercise will tire me out – This is the complete opposite, the stronger you become the more energy your will have. Your muscles won’t fatigue as quick, you will have a better oxygen consumption and you will give yourself that little endorphin raise. Try to keep active as much as you can.
I can only do prenatal classes – Although pre-natal classes are a fantastic tool and worth incorporating into your programme you can still do all the other bits providing you feel comfortable with the exercise. As long as there are no issues like spotting, lightheadedness, nausea or overheating then you should be ok to complete most tasks. Our pre-natal clients do a variation on most exercises but still work with some form of weight for the majority of their pregnancy. This study has looked at the benefits and has shown that both cardiovascular and resistance training has benefits for pregnant women.