Friday, March 15, 2013

5 tips for exercising while you're pregnant


This is probably not a big surprise coming from me, but I am such a huge believer in exercising throughout pregnancy. :D

I think exercising while you're pregnant not only keeps you in shape, it makes you feel better during 9 months of crazy body and hormone changes too. I know it did for me!

I didn't exercise with my first three, and with #4, regular exercising made a huge difference in my energy levels, weight gain, labor, and my recovery.

I was able to work out for my entire last pregnancy with some modifications- I didn't jump as high, or crunch as far or push as much weight as my non-pregnant self, but I still did group fitness classes up until two days before she was born. And oh my goodness, I had this huge mound of a belly. I'm sure I was a pretty funny sight at our gym! :P

If you don't believe me about the belly, here I am taking a BODYPUMP class 3 days before I had Ava:


{I can't believe I just posted that. I remember seeing it the day it was taken and nearly crying... I felt enormous. LOL!}

I was able to get back to the gym about 10 days after I had Avalie, and I did my first instructor group fitness certification 17 days after she was born {it was a one-time thing at our gym, or I wouldn't have! lol}. My abs were a little weak by that point, but they were still there after all those classes! :) I had to do lots of roll-ups and crunches in my PiYo certification class. I remember being so nervous- I had never verbally coached anyone to do anything before! :)

I'm hoping and planning to keep up the same level of exercise and intensity this time around- I think exercise is a pregnancy sanity saver! Here's what worked for me when it comes to exercising in pregnancy.

{remember, I'm not a fitness expert or a doctor, just a girl who likes to exercise when she's pregnant! These tips are just my opinion... please consult your doctor or midwife before you begin your exercise program. :)}

1. Start out slowly.
Whether you're pregnant or not, if you're just starting a routine or changing up your workout, give your body time to adjust to the changes. I tell my weight-lifting classes to expect to be sore for a few weeks when you just start taking classes. The key is to start out slowly so that you can build muscle and endurance over time. Fitness is always built, not bought. It won't come overnight. 

Each time I've exercised during pregnancy, I already had a strong routine in place before I became pregnant, so I kept up with my routine until I felt the need to modify with the extra weight out front. :) 

If you're new to exercising, start out at the lowest level you can and build from there based on how you are feeling. The idea is that you want to gradually increase your intensity over time, based on how your body responds.

2. Listen to your own body.
Whether you're starting a workout program in your first trimester, or trying to keep up with it in the late third one, I think the most important part of exercising while you're pregnant {or even when you're not pregnant} is to listen to your own body. If a weight feels too heavy when you try to pick it up, it probably is. If you're too tired to do it, you should rest and not keep going.

If you feel a twinge, or a muscle feels a bit strange, don't push it. Most of my injuries in the past have come from me pushing through an off feeling so that I could finish, and the result benched me for longer than I wished, just because I didn't listen to my body and stop when I should have.

And if you're in your first trimester and feeling nauseous, give yourself grace not to workout for a while if you feel terrible! :) It's okay! It really is. You can catch up on exercising when you feel better later. :)

Here's what's funny about morning sickness for me: I found that even though I had a lot of nausea in the beginning, it actually went away when I exercised and the adrenaline kicked in, and I felt so much better for the next hour or so after it was done! Crazy endorphins. :)

3. Use modifications as needed.
This will really come naturally, but if you ever have a question about a particular exercise, feel free to ask a trainer or a manager working at your gym how to modify it while you're pregnant. They want you to be safe as much as you want to be safe! :)

I've started modifying my bench position in my weightlifting class when I'm lying on my back by declining one end of my box. It's a little earlier for me to start modifying than last time, but as a participant the last time, I didn't have to yell or push a lot of weight on my bar like I do now. :)

Push-ups, abs, and core work are the biggest places I usually have to modify as I grow bigger. It's already harder for me now to do pushups, planks, and leg extensions, but if I feel like it's too much, I have no problem dropping to a lower level or stopping.  I also have to run much more slowly and less as I get bigger in the front. :)

Either way, my personal philosophy is to do as much of the exercise as I can safely do by modifying instead of just watching. I want to keep as much strength as I possibly can while I'm pregnant so I will be able to come back closer to my pre-pregnancy state after the baby comes. :)

4. Try to stay consistent.
This is where you have to listen to #1first- if you aren't feeling right, don't push it, and give yourself grace to stop if you are sick or tired. But if you can workout without sickness, try to do it as consistently as you can.

It will look differently for everyone- if you're starting out, it might be 2-3 times per week of easy walking for you, or if you've been going a while, 3 days of strength training or classes, or 5 days of cardio- whatever you love to do, try to stay with it on a regular basis to get the biggest benefit from it. :) When you stop going completely for a long time, it makes it even harder to come back and start all over again, you know?

Your body likes endorphins- it's like taking a happy pill! So doing exercise often will really lift your mood and make you feel better! Think of exercise as good medicine for your body!

5. Find the exercise you enjoy doing the most.
If you have to exercise, you might as well enjoy it! :) Finding something to do that you love will help you stick with it through 9 months and even longer. I started taking BODYPUMP and BODYSTEP classes when I was 13 weeks pregnant with Ava, and I've been doing it and even started teaching it since! :D

Looking forward to your exercise session makes it so much easier to keep doing it. I loved doing Turbokick and yoga when I was pregnant before, and I found myself going to classes even on days I was tired, just because they were fun!

Right now, I'm still loving teaching BODYCOMBAT and BODYPUMP classes at 20 weeks. I hope I can do it until the very end by using modifications like staying lower to the ground, decreasing kicking levels, and lowering my weights.

Here I am teaching combat a few weeks ago- I was 13 weeks with #5:


Ahh, it's so much fun!! :D I wish you guys could all come to class with me. We would have a blast! It's crazy awesome! :D

So tell me... what's your favorite exercise program right now? Do you like to go to the gym or workout at home?

Did you exercise while you were pregnant? Did it make a difference in how you felt?
My labor was so much easier with Ava- I plie squatted through a few hours of contractions and it was amazing! I never ever laid on the bed in labor- the bed was my enemy! :)
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