I remember it very clearly. I was standing in Cara’s bathroom with both hands on the countertop, staring in shock and disbelief at those two pink lines. I hadn’t been feeling any pregnancy symptoms and I was only 1 day late, but Cara encouraged me to take a test. And there it was. I was pregnant.
After my blank stare of shock and doing the happy dance with Cara, we both did 100 kettlebell swings. I know, we’re weirdos. But, working out is how we bonded in the first place and we already had planned on doing this workout together, so….we did it!
But, being pregnant at the same time, we both knew that our workouts were eventually going to have to change. And, I’ll admit, it was fun knowing that we both had to modify what we were doing in order to accommodate our changing bodies.
One of the questions that we get on a regular basis from our mama clients is, “If I wasn’t working out before pregnancy, is now a good time to start?” Our answer, under most circumstances, is a resounding, “YES!” Anytime is a good time to start moving and getting stronger. But, how do you go about it? And, if you already are an avid exerciser, how will pregnancy change your exercise routine?
1. Get medical clearance. Every pregnancy and every woman is different. There may be some special circumstances in which physical activity during pregnancy needs to be restricted or avoided, so be sure to ask your doctor and/or pelvic floor physical therapist to see if any of these considerations apply to you. (Use this locator tool to find a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area.)
2. Be diligent with core and pelvic floor work. During pregnancy, our core and pelvic floor muscles are put through the ultimate test! As your baby grows and your belly expands, a couple of things are going to happen. The connective tissue that runs down the center of your abdomen, the linea alba, will spread and thin, causing those muscles to become lax and your core to become less supported, a condition commonly known as diastasis recti (DR). In addition to DR, the weight of the baby and your uterus will put a lot of downward pressure on your pelvic floor, which will really tax those muscles.
It’s never too early in your pregnancy to start considering the health of your core and pelvic floor. Putting in the time to do core and pelvic floor exercises can help prevent issues like incontinence, low back, hip and/or knee pain and pelvic organ prolapse. They can also help you heal and recover from issues like these and diastasis recti more quickly and efficiently after pregnancy.
We spend time on core and pelvic floor exercises with our online and in-person clients during every workout. They’re an important part of your training program and should be incorporated into every session. (If you’re not sure where to start, you can see a sample warm-up here.)
3. Include exercises that help you have as comfortable of a pregnancy as possible. Throughout your pregnancy, your posture is going to change. As your belly pulls you forward your ribcage will flare up and your pelvis will anteriorly tilt. To prepare for the load, we must do a lot of work to strengthen the backside of the body. In our programs you will see a lot of glute bridges, deadlifts, squats, pulling exercises and core work. You’ll also see variations of body positions with these exercises change over the course of your pregnancy to accommodate your changing body.
4. Don’t push through pain! You’ve probably heard over and over and over again to, “Listen to your body.” While that can be pretty subjective advice, pregnancy seems to be a time that women can more easily learn to tune in to what their body needs. The thing about exercising during pregnancy is that something that feels totally doable one day may be totally not the next…..and that’s completely fine! When this happens we help our clients modify their exercises to be done in a way that feels safe and makes them feel good.
Strength training during pregnancy should feel good and not cause any pain, the exercises should make your core and pelvic floor feel supported and it should make you feel challenged, but not like you got hit by a truck. In other words, if it doesn’t feel right or good, don’t do it!
5. Hire a coach. Yes, Cara and I are personal trainers who specialize in pre and postnatal training, so this may seem like a shameless plug, but honestly, it is something that I truly believe in. Something that you’ll hear me say a lot is that I think every good coach has a coach. When I was about 8 weeks pregnant with my son Jack, I hired a trainer who specializes in pre and postnatal training. I did exercises that were appropriate for each stage of each trimester and I’m happy that I did! Because, as far as all those things that you hear are “normal,” i.e. peeing your pants when you laugh, cough, sneeze, etc. go, I haven’t experienced. Not during pregnancy or after. I also have been able to return to heavy lifting and am making progress past what I was able to accomplish pre-pregnancy. It’s made a world of difference for me in feeling confident on the inside and out. In fact, I’m still with my coach at nearly 16 months postpartum.
If you type in “how to exercise during pregnancy” into your Google search bar, you are going to find A LOT of information. Some of it is good information, some of it is okay and some of it is just flat out harmful to women physically and emotionally. Cara and I were put on this earth to help empower women to have successful and healthy pregnancies, postpartum recoveries and support during the biggest change you will ever face: becoming a mother.
To help you get started, we want to give you a free copy of our exercise guide “The Best Core Exercises for All 4 Trimesters” (the 4th trimester refers to after baby). This guide takes into consideration all of the things mentioned above and will help you navigate this transitional time in your life. You can sign up to receive your free guide here.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!