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! :)


marriedtothefarm said...

Great post! I'm 23 weeks along and am looking forward to easing back in to my running schedule soon. I was up to about 7 miles at a time last summer but I had to stop due to Michigan winter. My OB is very supportive of my choice to start again as long as I take my time. Also, he wants me to use a belly support band while I run. I've been looking at the reviews on those and many women claim that they made a big difference in how active they could be later in pregnancy. :)

Katherine - Real Food Runner said...

whoo-hoo! fit mama :) great job!

giveaway on my blog :)


Elizabeth said...

I'm 32 weeks with baby #2, and working out has definitely been my sanity saver both times around. I feel lazy this time because it's been harder to have this exercise "me" time with a 17 month tot in tow, but I've enjoyed zumba and hip hop classes this pregnancy, and do some moderate treadmill walking on the days I don't make it to class. You're right- finding something you ENJOY is key! And did you know that there was a study that said babies whose mamas worked out while pregnant came out with stronger IQ's than those whose mamas are more sedentary? Maybe just a silly study, but it keeps me motivated to stay active!
Happy to have stumbled upon your blog! Take care!:)

Ulrika said...

Hehe, I don't think your belly looks big at all in that picture from last pregnancy. It's all relative. ;) Could be like mine 2nd time around I think - at maybe 25+ weeks. :)

The only exercise I have done during my pregnancies is going for walks daily up until about halftime, when my pelvic pain has become too bad and I've had to stop walking anywhere more than absolutely necessary. I have also done some prenatal yoga, mostly restorative. I have a colostomy and also have a diastasis recti that didn't go away between my pregnancies and it's still there at 2-3 fingers wide (which makes me still look about 20 weeks pregnant *sigh*), so that has also limited exercise.

As someone with a persistent diastasis, I would really recommend that you don't do crunches at all during pregnancy and that you stop doing planks too when your belly gets heavier. You have a good record and are probably not at a very high risk of getting a persistent diastasis but better safe than sorry. The author of one of the fitness blogs I read has a diastasis after having twins and she is so fit. She has run a marathon and done "Vasaloppet" (90 km cross country skiing) after having her twins and with the diastasis but she's looking into having surgery sowing the muscles together along the linea alba because she feels limited and she looks very pregnant (with an extremely low fat and fit body) now almost 2 years after the twins were born. So anyway, it can happen even to very fit people. So just be safe! There are a lot of safe ways to strengthen the transverse abs which are the most important for core stability and for pushing the baby out. There is a book by Julie Tupler on the topic for example.

Be safe and praise God that you have such a good, strong physique. With my health issues (paralysis nerve damage et.c.) I am very jealous of you!!! I know, it's ugly, but I am honest about it. ;)

Ulrika said...

Good motivating factor, but at the same time it can feel heavy for those of us who can't exercise a lot during pregnancy. (The IQ study I mean.) However I think the most important thing is to stay on your feet as much as you can, pregnant or not. I know there's a study on that, showing that exercise for say an hour a day can't compensate for being completely still (like in front of a computer at a desk) for 8 hours straight, and that the key is to get up and move a bit or stand up for a while every 30 minutes or so. Don't know how that would compare with exercise in terms of baby's IQ but at least it's something that is manageable for most pregnant women too. :)

Adrienne Reina said...

Wow...your just awesome!! I started back on a regular workout routine and start really watching my food intake, what I eat. Just being more aware of what, how, and when I eat. I love to workout outside, running, or doing HIIT workouts at home. I have been to classes before, I took a Zumba class for a month. And that was alot of fun. I would love to go to your class, too bad I live so far. Las Vegas area. I wish I would have exercised while prego. If, the Lord wills, I have another blessing I will definitley do things differently.

Your so encouraging, thank you for all you do girl!

Dianna said...

my name is Dianna and I am 26 weeks along now with our first. I stumbled upon your blog on the internet searching for just this type of information! It is hard to find examples of real life women who are still working out consistently other than all the articles on "cross fit moms" which are interesting but I have been dying for other peoples stories too! I am still doing "heavy lifting" (olympic squats, deadlifting, etc) plyos, spin class, running, etc and feel so much better for it! I am sad to say my abs have started to separate a little even having a strong set of core muscles to begin with. that has been a little sad but planks have now become my best friend!
I wish people weren't so quick to be so skeptical about exercising during pregnancy. most everyone I talk to, in my birth class, and my friends etc are so nervous that I am still doing all of these things! So thankful for a laid back Dr. who supports me in staying as active as I was before getting pregnant!
Keep posting updates! I love them!

Susan Sene said...

Um. Your belly is NOT big in that picture. Thats what I look like now at about 20 weeks.

I love running but with feeling so sick I cant ever keep up with it during pregnancy. But I do try to walk as much as possible!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Your belly is so small for being full-term in that picture. That was my belly when I was 5 months along with each of my babies! I gained 70 lbs with my first baby and then about 50 lbs with babies 2, 3, and 4. I envy those women who only gain 15 - 20 lbs when pregnant. :-) Now granted I am blessed that I lose all the baby weight within 2 - 3 months of delivering (go breastfeeding!), but still, I cannot see myself not gaining a ton of weight while pregnant. Because of my experiences with pregnancy, I correlate pregnancy with a ton of temporary weight gain.

Kristin Forsyth said...

Uhm, yeah. That's how big I look at about 20 weeks, and I only gained 14 pounds with baby #5, lol. Diastasis recti is NO fun ;)

Elizabeth said...

Like I said- probably a silly study:) But one that made me feel more positive as a mama when my baby was sick and we couldn't breastfeed past six months, and fellow mothers made me feel the heavy weight of insecurity over that.
Another good idea is to use one of those big balls instead of a desk chair at your work place to get some healthy bouncing action going throughout the day. Nothing like activity to make the aches from pregnancy more endurable.:)

Mandy said...

Oh no :( I'm so sorry! And wow, only 14 lbs. with baby #5? That's incredible! :D

Mandy said...

Aww, I'm so sorry you've been sick!! Yay for walking though! Do you feel better when you walk or do your symptoms change at all?

Mandy said...

Awww, I guess LV would be a little far to come for a class! :) Don't feel bad about not exercising- I think it's very normal! :) and good job on getting back to it! yay! do you do bootcamp outside or workout by yourself? And how do you handle all the heat? I know I can't stand to be outside running from May- September here! lol! :D

Kelli H. said...

I am so ready to get back to my normal fitness routine! I stopped towards the end of my last pregnancy and started easing back in at about 6 weeks postpartum... then I got pregnant again a few months later and this morning sickness has me benched! Is it just me or are those early symptoms intensified with each pregnancy?? Baby #4 is putting momma in her place. Anyway, I am supposed to take my personal trainer exam next month so I am hoping I get feeling better before then!

Stephanie Johnson said...

I loved exercising while pregnant. I taught boot camp until I reached my third trimester and continued boot camp and yoga until I was put on bedrest at 33 weeks. I started run/walk intervals three weeks after giving birth to my son. Four months later, I'm now up to running 15-20 miles per week... long runs of 5-6 miles. I push my son in the jogging stroller on short runs, but I do my long runs alone... that's my special "Keep Mama sane time"

Kate Ferguson said...

Fun! I mainly walked and did some weights when pregnant and it made me feel so good!

Melissa said...

You look amazing! Wondering how many bathroom breaks I would need during body step and body combat if I was pregnant! :) Great tips!

Mandy said...

I've heard that they help too! I'm thinking I might invest in the Belly Bra. :D So excited for you to get back into running!! :D let me know how it goes!

Mandy said...

That study makes me happy too! It can't hurt if you're able to do it, for sure! Only 8 more weeks to go! yay Elizabeth! :D congrats girlie!! Way to go staying active! :D

Mandy said...

oh that makes me so excited! I know I have lots of people worrying about me, but I do believe it makes me and the baby healthier. I've done it both ways- not exercising and eating everything I wanted, and I ended up with very high blood pressure and on bed rest with an induction. I think working out and eating right makes such a difference! Congrats on being past the 6 month mark! wohoo!!

Mandy said...

wow! you are blessed indeed! yay for bfing! wohoo! It sounds to me like your body obviously works very well and needs the weight and then loses it right away! good job mama! :D and everyone's body is so different isn't it? I can gain only 22 lbs and still have 10 to lose 3 months later. :D I love that God made us all unique and yet it works so well! :D

Mandy said...

I think they are intensified because we are more tired from all the over kiddos! :P That's what I decided anyway for me! :D I didn't get nearly as much sleep with #4 and #5 as I did with the first three. :) Way to go on keeping your fitness routine up! I know it's been such a good thing for me! And I hope you feel better soon! :D

Mandy said...

wow! you go girlie with the 3rd trimester bootcamp and long runs now! that's awesome!!

Anonymous said...

Great post.

I'm 16 weeks along with baby #2. I try to run/walk several times a week for 30 minutes-can't do much more without a lot of bathroom breaks.

I was way more fit with my first baby (ran a half marathon at 18 weeks pregnant), but this one, I'm feeling really old (I'm 39!) and have less energy/sleep with a preschooler at home.

I'm going to stay active throughout the whole pregnancy and hope to be exercising again a couple of weeks after the baby is born.

Good luck to all the pregnant Mamas!

Elizabeth said...

I've been so caught up in reading your recent "dreams" blog post that I didn't see your reply until now, but thank you! Congrats to you, too.
So interesting with your dreams post because I am currently finishing up an intensive study on Joseph in Genesis, and shattered dreams. Your blog came my way at the perfect time! It has to be a God thing.:) So relatable to what I've been studying about broken dreams that I had to share with our group leader. Thank you for your insight!

Anonymous said...

What do you think about using PiYo while pregnant? I'm 10 weeks along with #2 and haven't used PiYo before. I've been very active, avid runner, etc prior to both pregnancies. I ran and did dvds while pregnant with #1, but stuck to lower mileage and prenatal dvds which I didn't find to be too challenging. Do you think PiYo is safe to start now? Or should I wait til post baby?

Leslitabonita said...

I am 35 weeks and have taught Body Combat 4x/week throughout. To be honest I didn't take too many low options. Last week my doctor said no more teaching. I can still work out but she wants me to be able to stop if I need to & that is hard to do if you are the teacher. I took a BC class yesterday & did low options. I am looking for other classes to try also. I just don't feel good unless I'm working out consistently!

Leslitabonita said...

I am 35 weeks & have taught Body Combat at least 4x/week throughout. Last week my doctor said no more teaching. I can still work out but she wants me to be able to stop if I need to, & you can't do that if you are the teacher. After my last class I had strong Braxton hicks contractions and she said I was overdoing it. To be honest I didn't always take lower options, but I felt good at the time. I took BC yesterday as a participant and used all low options and I felt good. I'm looking for other classes to do until birth! It's my first so I'm nervous!:)