I’m not going to sugarcoat it – my pregnancy fitness routine isn’t what I expected it to be. Before pregnancy, knowing that exercise was healthy during pregnancy – it helps reduce swelling, reduces your chances of gestational diabetes, improves sleep, increases energy and lots more – I thought I would do everything I had done before. That turned out not to be the case. Although early on, I was disappointed that my pregnancy fitness plans were derailed, now – at 30 weeks pregnant – I’m at peace with it.
Before I tell you about what I’ve been doing, I want to reiterate that every pregnancy is different. Some women will be able to keep up with what they’ve done in the past, others won’t. Either is perfectly fine and healthy. In fact, that’s one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during my pregnancy – to let go and accept what will be.
Before pregnancy, I was consistent with 6-day-a-week workouts that included running (including sprint intervals), strength training with (heavy) weights and barre. Then IVF happened and i had to back off for a week or two here and there. Enter my first trimester and I had to back off entirely. All the stopping and starting was difficult on me both mentally and physically, but I was hopeful I would get back to exercising even if it wasn’t in the ways I had before.
At the end of my first trimester, my doctor cleared me to exercise again and said I could do everything I had done previously. At that time, my energy wasn’t high and because this was my first pregnancy and one that started out troubled, I was uneasy about resuming my workouts at the intensity I had been. I started back slowly and decided against any jumping, heavy lifting or fast sprinting. It took awhile to settle into a rhythm, but eventually I found what worked for me.
- One // Walking. This is mostly a consequence of living in NYC. As long as I’m feeling up to it, I walk as much as possible when I have to go somewhere. Walking is one of the best – and most recommended – ways to exercise during pregnancy.
- Two // Jog-Walk Intervals. I traded my treadmill sprints for jog-walk intervals. The interval part is usually no longer then 15 minutes followed by 20 minutes or so of walking or the elliptical.
- Three // Strength Training. At first I started out doing the same workouts I did before, just using lighter weights, however, as my pregnancy has progressed, I found that my body craves shorter, more efficient workouts. The personal trainer who provided the original workouts to me also gave me several pre-natal workouts to use which use free weights and resistance bands. These are pregnancy-safe and much shorter in duration. In fact, it’s good practice to keep exercise during pregnancy 30 to 40 minutes in duration as exercise directs blood flow away from your baby and to your muscles. In pregnancy, less is definitely more.
- Four // The Bar Method. Since I’m a Bar Method instructor, I’m definitely a fan of barre workouts and especially for pregnancy. What makes The Bar Method special is that we have specific pregnancy modifications that are designed by a physical therapist and an OB/GYN so that pregnant women can feel both empowered and safe working out for the duration of their pregnancy. Since 20 weeks, I’ve been modifying my barre workouts accordingly.
To call this a pregnancy fitness “routine” isn’t exactly accurate. My activity varies depending on how I feel and my teaching schedule so no two weeks are always the same. Key for me has been to listen to my body and adjust accordingly. These days, I take more rest days limiting my workouts to 5 days a week maximum. Now isn’t the time to lose weight or get toned. My “why” for staying active is to be strong and have a healthy pregnancy for me and my baby. My intuition has also been important for helping me navigate what works for me. If something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it knowing will still be there after my baby is born!
Other pregnancy-safe activities to consider include swimming and pre-natal yoga.
These are a few standard tips and guidelines I use:
- Listen to your body // If you feel dizzy or short of breath, stop.
- Use your intuition // Only you know what’s best for you and your baby. Something may be “safe for pregnancy,” but if it doesn’t feel right for you, skip it or modify it.
- Go easy on yourself // It’s unrealistic to expect your body to perform at its pre-pregnancy abilities – don’t push your body or feel bad – your body is doing something much more important – growing a life!
- Take rest days // Seriously, take more than you used to and rest when you need to.
- Stay hydrated // Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Increased hormones and blood flow elevate body temperature causing you to sweat even more during pregnancy.
- Check with your doctor // This goes without saying but always check with your doctor to get cleared to exercise and before doing anything you’re not sure about.