Since my last post outlining my experience of the first 20 weeks of pregnancy I’ve had tons of questions about how pregnancy has effected my exercise routine. So here it is, my approach to exercise during pregnancy.
When I unexpectedly found out I was pregnant, I was scared and nervous about all the changes that lie ahead, BUT I adapted. I realized that despite all odds this little egg managed to burrow into my uterine lining while I was training for, and ran, a half marathon. This knowledge reassured me that this little baby was going to be strong and resilient, and by continuing with my exercise routine I would be keeping it safe and healthy. I openly discuss my fitness routine with my family doctor and Obstetrician, both were supportive and encouraging explaining that exercise will not only make labour and recovery easier on me, but for baby too! I want to preface by saying that I worked out 5-6 days a week for 60-90 minutes a day, in addition to teaching a minimum of 2 indoor cycling classes a week before becoming pregnant. I wouldn’t recommended starting a new exercise routine once you’re pregnant, and of course be sure to run everything by your OB first.
I’ve taken a workshop on pregnancy and weight training, so between my personal training knowledge and this specialized training I was confidently able to continue with my workouts while consulting with my Doctor.
Exercise during the first trimester was relatively the same as before I became pregnant. The biggest changes being to the intensity and duration of my cardio. I continued with my 5-6 days a week for 60-90 minutes a day, plus teaching, keeping my heart rate below 75% of maximum (138-156 beats per min.). I also changed my weight program to a less intense workout, below is a sample. During this time I was conscious to listen to my body, if I needed more rest then I skipped a workout.
During the second trimester I’ve brought it down to 4-5 days a week for 60 minutes a day, and continue to teach twice a week. Keeping my heart rate below 70% of max. (138-156 beats per min.) changing my weight program to accommodate my changing center of gravity. I eliminated long runs after 20 weeks, at 23 weeks I eliminated running entirely; not because I couldn’t run, but because the constant feeling of needing to pee interfered with the enjoyment. I replaced running with the stepmill, elliptical, and incline walking alternating as needed. As I said I have continued to teach indoor cycling, modifying posture to eliminate as much forward flexion as possible, while keeping my intensity in a safe range.
During pregnancy, there is an increase in joint laxity brought on by an increased secretion of the hormone relaxin. This makes joints less stable, heightening the possibility of strain and tear of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. With this knowledge I have continued to change up my weight routine focusing on high repetitions and lower weights, paying special attention to form. I have also incorporated several pregnancy specific exercises that many of the books I have been reading have suggested.
modifications I have made to Exercise During Pregnancy :
- removed or modified exercises in the supine position (lying on back) as this position can obstruct venous return from the uterus by compressing the vena cava.
- Exercises that require forward flexion at hips and/or waist. With my added weight this can place increased stress on my lumbar spine, and can also result in dizziness and/or heartburn.
- Stopped weight bearing exercises requiring me to lift weights over my belly, eliminating any chance of potentially dropping the weights.
- Focusing my attention on regulating my breathing for all lifting. To avoid unnecessary increases to my heart rate and blood pressure, which could decrease blood flow, and potentially be dangerous to the fetus
- Eliminated overhead lifting exercises after 23 weeks. With my postural changes this type of movement can put excessive stress on my lower back, and overhead movements tend to exacerbate lumbar stresses.
As I have said before, every woman’s pregnancy experience is different, I know I didn’t cover everything and might have missed something that you were hoping I would share. Please ask questions and offer alternative suggestions. If you are interested in more information on this topic I suggest checking out the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website.