One of the most common questions I get asked as a recently postpartum mom of two boys is how I managed to workout almost everyday of both pregnancies - I even got in a leg day four hours before my newest love was born this year!
Before I even begin to give you my take on the experience, please read this disclaimer and then read it again:
I am not a medical professional. Please do not start or continue your fitness routine until you have spoken with your doctor, especially if you are expecting. Every pregnancy is different and this blog should be taken in consideration of my own unique experiences.
Let me tell you my story:
Like many women, when I fell pregnant with my first son, I had some concerns about what would happen to my body during and after. There is nothing wrong or selfish about this so get that out of your head right now. It is ok to preemptively mourn the loss of the old you when you don’t know what to expect or how things are going to turn out afterward. Pregnancy - especially first pregnancies- are full of unknowns and it’s completely natural to feel a little
It took me a few months, but eventually, I learned to be ok with whatever was next and whoever I was going to be after this experience. If that meant loose skin and stretch marks or whatever else - I was going to embrace it.
I continued to work out with the same intensity as I had been before but not with the intention of “not
gaining too much weight” but rather with the knowledge that while I really couldn’t foresee what labor and delivery were going to have in store for me, I could at least try to prepare myself for that most epic workout of all time. Plus,
working out daily gave me a sense of normalcy at a time where everything in my life was changing quickly.
Only three years ago, there wasn’t much information on pregnancy and the female athlete available. I found that my doctors, while well intentioned, gave me the standard precautions but it wasn’t until I pressed further about my physical activity, that I felt heard. This speaks to a larger problem about women and healthcare, but that’s another blog for another time. We are not all the same and our treatment should be as unique as we are - unfortunately that is not always the case…but I digress.
I spent hours taking the few available online courses designed for personal trainers with pregnant clients in an effort to help me understand my own body better. I read study after study (that is not as impressive as it sounds as there like four studies at the time) on pregnancy in female athletes. The only visible specimen of possibility at that time was Serena Williams, and I researched the crap out of her pregnancy and postpartum. (Author’s Note: I am aware that I am not even remotely in the same universe let alone league as Serena Williams.) I did not want to be defeated, I wanted to be strong and I was appalled at the lack of information or guidance even from doctors in this area. It seems that most of the world has forgotten that expectant mothers are still wholly themselves as unique individuals with dreams and goals outside of their children.
I do believe that is changing and I am thanking social media for that. Since that experience, more athlete-mothers have come out strong - Allyson Felix, decorated Olympic track star - fasted female in the world - for one. Your average every day women who are bravely sharing their experiences and documenting their own journeys toward motherhood and beyond.
Interestingly enough, very recently new studies have come out (I am not going to post them here, but if you are interested, shoot me a message and I can try to dig them up for you, but you can probably do a google search) suggesting that there is such a thing as being too fit when pregnant, but that only really comes into play for the actual birth. It seems muscular women may have a more
difficult time dilating and have a slightly higher chance of c-section over mothers who are not muscular. Now this, I actually buy into because while I had textbook quality pregnancies, both of my deliveries ended in c-section due to difficulty dilating to 10cm. In hindsight, I may have taken my foot off the gas pedal a little with this new information, but very unlikely.
Do not let the last paragraph undermine your idea of the benefits of working out moderately while pregnant. The benefits far outweigh any possibility that you might be too tight for a natural delivery! Besides two extraordinarily healthy pregnancies, the MVP benefit for me was the postpartum recovery.
TWO cesarean sections and I was back to walking on my treadmill and running soon after about two weeks after delivery. I was even cleared both times to resume activity sooner than 6 weeks. I highly credit my dedication in the gym to the quick recovery after two major surgeries. I knew this after my first pregnancy, so my workouts with baby two were always done with this in mind.
So, you want to continue working out while pregnant - here are some tips from me. Again, speak to your doctor before starting or continuing any type of physical activity, especially if you are pregnant. I am not a doctor and these tips are based solely on my experience.
1. SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR
Have I made this point clear yet? Seriously, do not
do anything until you have talked to your doctor. Explain your current level of fitness activity and how you would like to proceed with working out while pregnant. Your doctor is the only one who can offer you the proper guidance unique
to your own situation.
2. KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON
If things are going well and your doctor has given you the okay, continue to utilize your workouts as normal. If you are new to working out, keep it simple. The overall goal here is health and wellness,. The big rule here is to always listen to your body: If something doesn’t feel right, stop immediately.
3. LIGHTEN THE LOAD
Inevitably there will come a day when you just don’t feel as strong as you did the day before. Hello! You are growing a person and that takes A LOT of energy! Don’t be afraid to scale back the weights as needed. Now is not the time to start pushing for PRs. You will back to it soon enough after baby is born .
I cannot sing the praises of walking while pregnant enough! For me, even as a competitive runner, I gave up running pretty early in both pregnancies because I didn’t like the way it felt. That’s not to say you won’t love running while pregnant - if that’s you, by all means, have at it! There even came a time late in both pregnancies where I felt too jiggly and uncomfortable on the elliptical. Walking; however, was always an enjoyably option. Try and incline or a faster pace to make it more challenging.
5. AVOID CERTAIN AB WORKOUTS
Okay, this one might seem a bit obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: Forget Abs! Avoid crunches or twists (in yoga, too!) after 8 weeks, as it can be dangerous for both you and baby. Instead, focus on plank variations and deep-core movements. Providing a strong pelvic floor can help prevent or heal any ab separation experienced during pregnancy. Overdoing it with counterintuitive exercises can absolutely exacerbate any problems with your abs/core and make them worse. I did post a video on my YouTube with some great options for second trimester core work.
Hi! I'm Nugget. I am wife to my awesome husband, Fran, and mama to our toddler son, Remington. We also have another baby on the way (due very soon!) and our pup, Fiona. I am body positive fitness instructor, teacher, and health/wellness advocate. I believe in the potential of EVERY body to be happy and healthy.