You’ve just started a new eating plan, or better yet, a new training plan, and you find out that you are expecting. The first thing you might think is: I don’t want to gain weight, or how am I going to lose all that baby fat?
To exercise or not to exercise
You are now probably considering cancelling your gym membership because you are pregnant and can’t carry on with your training plans. Well, I’m here to tell you to think again! Exercising during your pregnancy is actually beneficial for you and baby. Gone are the days where we were told not to exercise because we were expecting. Medical professionals are now advising women to continue to exercise in their pregnancy as it’s said to help with labour, post-natal recovery and has many other benefits.
“But how will I do this?” you ask. “How do I stay in shape or keep active in my pregnancy? And how do I make sure that I am doing it all correctly and not harming myself or baby in the process?”
Exercising during your pregnancy is actually beneficial for you and baby. First, I believe one must make a conscious decision to have a healthy pregnancy, and once you’ve done that, you can start implementing actions and goals to get you there. You can start off as simply as making a pregnancy vision board, or jot it down in your journal.
After you have done all the mental processing, you can start with the physical. Given the rapid bodily changes you’ll go through, you need to be careful and mindful of the exercises that you do so that you don’t hurt yourself or prematurely induce labour. Remember, the point is to stay active and healthy and not to lose weight, because that will not be good for you and baby.
There are some guidelines you must follow when you are pregnant and want to exercise – whether you’re already exercising or not.
The Golden Rule
The golden rule to responsible training throughout your pregnancy is to start training when you are not pregnant. Make exercise a lifestyle and part of your day-to-day routine. Exercising before you conceive makes it easier for your body to adjust to the changes when they happen. Furthermore, if you have exercise as a routine, you will be more determined and disciplined to continue working out. Scheduling your exercise session will ensure that you stay on course.
Doctor knows best
Whether or not you were exercising already, a non-negotiable is going to your doctor to get clearance for exercise. Your doctor needs to do all the checks and ensure that you are fit as a fiddle to start or continue with training. Get a copy of this clearance letter so that you can present it at the gym or to your trainer if they ask. Once this is done, you can look at your options.
Get a professional
I would highly recommend getting a personal trainer to assist you at least three times a week. Having a qualified professional will help to remove the guesswork from your programme and set your mind at ease that you’re doing appropriate exercise. Ensure that your chosen personal trainer has the right qualifications, experience and at best, pre- and post-natal certification. Another alternative is to search for local mom- to-be classes in your community. These are great for overall support during your pregnancy.
The Solo Workout Plan
If you choose to start training on your own, then I would suggest doing this:
Research: Find out what type of exercises are good and safe for you and baby. The internet is filled with good training advice. Schedule your workouts. Train at least three to four times a week, making sure you include cardiovascular and strength training on specific days.
Start easy and gradually; go for a 30-40 minute walk, not jog, unless you were a runner before. If you are new to all this, then keep it to light brisk walk where you can still maintain a conversation.
For comfort, especially as you progress in your pregnancy, I would also recommend the recumbent bike for cycling and not an upright bike. This is a bike where you can rest your back, and your legs are extended in front of you.
Aim for 40-60 minutes of moderate intensity workouts. Don’t over-exert yourself. The aim isn’t to tire yourself out. Include resistance training with extra weights such as dumbbells or machine-assisted exercises. I would highly suggest you use machines that you know how to operate. Try not to start anything new unless you are with your trainer.
Where possible, attend Pilates classes weekly. These will help in teaching you how to engage your pelvic floor correctly. This must form an essential part of your training regimen.
You can also take part in swimming, be it attending a swimming classs at the gym or adding 30 minutes of light swimming into your routine. This is a great low impact exercise and will benefit you immensely. Remember to pick the right swimwear for your changing body.
What to avoid:
- Avoid high intensity group classes at the gym as they are not personalised and you might do exercises incorrectly as the instructor is paying attention to the other 15 people in the class. It might also cause you to overheat, which isn’t good for you or baby.
- Once you enter into your second trimester, avoid exercises that need you to be in a plank position or include lying down on your back and doing sit-ups and crunches. We want to avoid these because they increase or exacerbate diastasis recti, which is a midline separation in your abdominal muscles.
- Avoid contact sports.
- Avoid heavy lifting, more so if you have not done it before.
- Avoid any activity or exercise that causes pain and/or major discomfort.