7 tips on how to exercise safely in pregnancy

Exercise in pregnancy is hugely beneficial to both mum and baby. FACT.  There is still some confusion about the rules and regulations as a result of misinformation often peddled by fitness professionals who too often err on the side of caution or just don’t know (recently a client in her first trimester told me she was turned away from her regular pilates class!), but research shows us that done safely and with expert guidance, pregnant women will see huge benefits from staying active.

Of course there are caveats though! Your body is undergoing HUGE changes, and yours and the baby’s safety is paramount, so we need to follow some key guidelines. In fact this was brought into sharper focus for me recently when I became pregnant for the first time. I’ve written lots about it, trained extensively in it, and run countless sessions with pregnant clients, but when I felt the bonkers array of fatigue, nausea and / or crazy hunger and the exhaustion that comes with pregnancy first hand, I fully appreciated the need to look after these fabulous bodies of ours!  

So here’s my run down on what us mums-to-be need to do to ensure we can stay exercising safely.

  1. This has gone right to the top of the list. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! I never would have thought 10 minutes of gentle squats and bodyweight exercises could wear me out so much, but yep, my first trimester saw to that!  Those first few weeks were a reminder that my workout plan needed to be re-thought to accommodate the exhaustion I felt. So I stuck to short, gentle, or not at all, if that’s how I felt. Now in my second trimester I feel better and am challenging myself slightly more, but ONLY as far as I feel able on the day. Some exercises which were easy one week might be uncomfortable next. So, stop and ask your instructor for an alternative, slow down the pace or stop.
  2. Linked to the above, go in with the right perspective. Exercise during pregnancy is about keeping you fit and strong for your own wellbeing, for birth, and for baby. It isn’t about fitness ‘gains’ and it obviously isn’t about weight loss! Think of it as about gently boosting strength and endurance. I found adapting to my new body’s new limits a mental struggle initially, but kept refocusing on that growing baby to get things back in perspective!
  3. If you’re used to exercise it’s normally safe to carry on with what you’re doing while you feel able (see point 1.). So, providing she feels fine, I might largely do the same programme with a client in her first trimester as what we’d be doing if she wasn’t pregnant, and I’ve worked with clients who’ve continued to jog well into their second trimester. It’s up to YOU based on how you feel.  But overall, drop back a gear and aim for mid-range intensity (e.g. a 5 -6 effort level you can talk at, rather than a heart pumping 8 – 9). Slow the pace or intensity of your run, lower your free weights to just a few kilos and step away from contact sports.
  4. It’s really important to eat a snack 1 – 2 hours before exercising, and afterwards, to keep blood sugar regulated.  And your body temperature is higher in pregnancy, so do wear loose layers which you can add and remove easily. I really noticed the need to refuel very quickly after even the most gentle of workouts, so have a banana, some nuts or yoghurt to hand (or whatever you can stomach!).
  5. Stay hydrated. Drink water steadily throughout the day if you can, and keep an eye on the colour of your urine. Pale yellowish is ideal. If you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated. Always have water with you when exercising. I tended to be dehydrated as lots of water made me feel sick, so I switched to fizzy water or very diluted fruit juice.
  6. Focus on the ‘functional’. Whether you work with someone with pre/post natal qualifications (ideal) or not, focus on exercises which push, pull, bend, squat and rotate. Why? Well, that’s what you’ll be doing as you push the pram, lift from the cot, nappy change and load and unload car seats! So squats, lunges, press ups, and rows are ideal.
  7. Start training your core and pelvic floor NOW.  While ‘kegel’ exercises are popular (‘stopping a wee’), thinking is moving on. We’re fans of Burrell Education’s ‘purposeful breathing’; working your pelvic floor AND core simultaneously. Drop us an email/tweet to find out more.

 At Fresh Start we can devise fitness plans for each stage of pregnancy. Find out more at www.freshstartpersonaltraining.co.uk