During pregnancy, a woman’s body changes a lot. From conception on (and even during the TTC period) the respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, and musculoskeletal systems start preparing for baby. For a pregnant mama-to-be, all of these changes will dramatically impact how she feels and what she feels comfortable doing.
I remember experiencing a wave of emotions when we first found out we were expecting. There was also fatigue, shortness of breath, sore breasts, and all sorts of odd cravings. Some days I had the energy to tackle a tough workout, and other days, I laid on the couch eating cereal and milk with my dog nearby 🙂
The Pregnant Athlete
As an athlete I knew that staying active throughout my pregnancy would better prepare me for labor and recovery, but I didn’t fully understand how to scale my current routine for pregnancy. I got a lot of social media inspiration from some badass pregnant mamas on Instagram, but were their movements and workouts safe for my body?
Comparison is a tricky thing, especially when social media is thrown into the mix. It can be difficult to make adjustments to our routines, especially when a friend is doing it. One of the biggest things I learned during this period was to focus on my body, journey, and setting myself up for long-term success. Pregnancy is a small period of time. Postpartum is forever. Small adjustments can make a BIG difference for common pre & postpartum systems such as diastasis recti (reminder: the majority of women will experience diastasis during pregnancy), pelvic pain, incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and any additional orthopedic discomfort or injury.
There are exercises that may be deemed “safer” over another. But, it’s important to look at our entire fitness approach and strategy. It’s ok to do your own thing in a group setting sometimes, take it slow, or even walk away (gasp). During pregnancy the focus is on function and preparing the body for the biggest marathon of all – labor.
Modifications by Trimester
This trimester is less about modifying individual exercises and more about building the foundation for core/pelvic floor health and giving yourself permission to take a break. Every mama will feel different here, so always remember, you do you. Ask the question, “can I vs. should I?” on how you feel.
Considerations: Forgetfulness (mom brain is a real thing), changes in appetite, mood swings (hormonal changes), nausea/morning sickness, shortness of breath, softer ligaments in pelvis, history of symptoms/prior pregnancy, and mindset shifts.
Training Goals: Focus on posture and alignment, strength foundation, develop solid aerobic foundation, promote healthy levels of weight gain.
- Limit efforts of max lifts/efforts (intra-abdominal pressure)
- Eliminate competitions with high risk of falling
- Reduce reps/workout time and build in extra rest time as needed
Every pregnancy is different, but many women finally get a break from the exhaustion and fatigue of the First Trimester. As the belly starts to grow we’ll start implementing strategies to protect the core and pelvic floor.
Considerations: The second trimester may be a time when previously comfortable activities may start to feel off, like running. This is an important time to focus on mindset, training goals, and identity. Other considerations include round ligament pain, increase in breast size, leg cramps, pelvic and low back pain, weight gain, blood sugar/gestational diabetes, and edema (swelling of feet).
Training Goals: Reduce back and pelvic pain, alignment and posture, continue to work on strengthening and relaxation of pelvic floor muscles, maintain general strength.
- Reduce/modify/eliminate high impact (box jumps, running, jump role)
- Reduce/modify/eliminate lifts with a barbell if belly impedes path
- Modify sit ups and ab-focused movements
- Modify supine position for specific exercises (lying on back)
- Switch to an inclined position for belly down exercises (push-ups, planks)
- Set up stance may need to be adjusted wider with growing belly (sumo deadlifts, squats)
The third trimester is a time of rapid growth. I remember my belly size changed dramatically week to week! This is a time to train for enjoyment, and value rest and recover just as much as training. Respect your symptoms, and focus on preparing for labor and delivery.
Considerations: During the third trimester a mom-to-be may experience low back pain, fatigue, pelvic pain, edema, carpal tunnel, dizziness in supine position, pelvic floor dysfunction, and diastasis recti, among others.
Training Goals: Maintain a comfortable level of activity, reduce discomfort with body changes, incorporate birth-preparation exercises, minimize “doming” or bulging of the core, and minimize downward pressure on pelvic floor.
- Reduce/eliminate overhead movements
- Shorten range of motion
- Reduce frequency of training, volume/loads, and intensity (varies by mama)
Remember that at this stage of pregnancy you have nothing to prove to yourself or anyone else. Stay safe and do what feels good. The pelvic floor is already stressed at this stage, so we want to incorporate a breathing strategy, load, and intensity level that protects and preserves the pelvic floor.
As always, feel good mama. Stay tuned for more prenatal & postpartum workouts on the blog coming soon!