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5 tips for exercising in pregnancy

Considerations whether you wish to continue with your training program in pregnancy or are returning to exercise

There sometimes seems to be confusion around exercising in pregnancy. What’s “too much” and what’s “too hard?” Does it need to be just the gentle stuff, such as swimming and walking from now on?

If you’re already used to exercising pre-pregnancy (gym, running, cycling) and wish to continue training –  or perhaps are wishing build a stronger, fitter body to support you through pregnancy, labour and ultimately motherhood – then you’ll love the FIT Movement’s Pregnancy Exercise Class in Exeter.

Throughout my pregnancy I went to the gym a couple of times a week, ran during the earlier months, and walked my dog daily. I really wanted to make sure that I could support my increasing bump and be fit. Not only did I want to feel not just physically strong but, thanks to my training, also feel mentally strong for labour and beyond. That’s what my training gave me.

Subject to certain contraindications where exercise is not advised, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to exercise in pregnancy too.

So below are my 5 top tips for exercising in pregnancy:

1. Now’s not the time to think about training for your first half marathon…. but equally there is often a tendency to be overly cautious when exercising in pregnancy and just switch to “gentle” exercise

This is where a qualified antenatal instructor can help. (BTW: your antenatal instructor should always pre-screen you before starting a pregnancy exercise program. There are some instances where exercise is not advised).

If you haven’t exercised for a while… um, maybe since school PE… now’s not the time to start HIIT training in one last dash to get fit for the big day. If you weren’t doing much exercise prior to becoming pregnant, aim to exercise at a low to moderate intensity for shorter periods of time.

However, if you are used to exercising regularly, you should be able to continue exercising at a similar moderate to high intensity for as long as you feel able. You can always ask for modifications to your workout so that you can continue training throughout. [Note: there’s a difference between high intensity and high impact – they’re not the same].

Although it’s a subjective test, one way to check if you’re working at a moderate to high intensity, is by using a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest).

You should be looking at somewhere between a 4-6 for moderate activity (i.e. you feel that you could go on for hours, but conversation is a little more more difficult) to higher intensity between a 7-8 (i.e. you can only maintain for short periods of time and you can only say a few words or sentences).

Bear in mind, though, that I’m not asking you to go “eyeballs out” at any point.

This is why, if you join me in class, we work off times for each exercise, rather than numbers of reps. This allows you to work at a pace that’s right for you. I also keep the class small so that I can keep a good watch on everyone. And it’s interesting to hear how clients say that they feel energised after class, but also get a great night’s sleep too – even in their 3rd trimester.

2. Cardio queen or HIIT addict??

I get ya! I love long runs and a good, sweaty workout too. But, with the physiological changes happening to your body as you blossom, you’ll want to watch that.

If you’re a seasoned HIIT pro or cardio queen, you may wish to continue as long as you feel able. However, keep a look out for any pain, leaks or feeling of “heaviness” in the pelvic floor. That’ll be your cue to switch from higher to lower impact.

It’s kinder to your pelvic floor for starters, and as your body prepares for pregnancy and joint laxity increases to deliver baby, you’ll do your hips, knees and ankles a favour as well.

Come to class and I’ll make sure you feel like you’ve worked – but at a rate that’s appropriate to you and where you are in your pregnancy.

3. Build your strength

Yoga and aquanatal classes can be great for relaxation, mobility, core and toning…but your body is growing a baby!

You need to develop and maintain strength that supports your growing bump and boobs, helps with posture, keeps you strong for labour and assists you in developing that strength and fitness so you’re “match fit” once baby arrives.

Movements should be functional, in that they mimic your everyday life of bending, sitting, reaching and picking up. I might just know a class that does all these things for you 😉

4. Be sure to include breath, core and pelvic floor work in what you do

In class we’re not all about the squats and lunges (but I’ll let you know why glutes are soooo important in another post!).

We also spend time considering the breath, core and pelvic floor. All three are intrinsically connected.

If you use good technique to coordinate the exhalation of your breath with the “effort” part during a particular exercise, you’ll also work your core and pelvic floor at the same time – so you really do get a total body workout!

Having a supple, responsive core and pelvic floor (i.e. not one that’s been “squeezed and released” to death) is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a woman – not just for labour prep, or postnatal rehab. It’s why I always coach breathing technique in my ante/postnatal classes. Once learnt, this will last you a lifetime.

If you want to know why I teach “exhale on exertion”, take a look at a go live video I recorded on The FIT Movement’s Facebook page here.

5. Finally (*puts on sensible hat*) – warming up and cooling down, plus resting during workouts

Make sure that prior to each workout you spend the time warming up thoroughly before you start. Select a dynamic warm-up that takes you through a series of range of motion exercises to prepare you for your workout ahead. Similarly, spend longer than you otherwise would to cool down.

If you’re training with me, we’ll include some rather lovely and “oh so needed” stretches and releases you can practise at home when you need them. You’ll also find pelvis mobility work in there too to help with labour prep.

If you need to take a longer rest break or pop to the loo…. No one will bat an eyelid. Promise. This is one of those few times in an exercise class where NO ONE WILL SAY ANYTHING if you need to sit down for a bit during the session.

6. Bonus: Snack and hydrate!

I had to sneak this one in as I couldn’t just keep to five.

Make sure that you have a healthy snack before exercise if it’s been a few hours since you’ve had your meal. Or if you’ve eaten, keep one on hand if you feel you need to eat something during class.

Hydration is also key. Take small, regular sips throughout your training and also after exercise – chances are that you’ll be perspiring more than usual during pregnancy exercise so you’ll want to replace those lost fluids.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, make sure that you check back on the FIT blog soon to read about specific exercise considerations and adaptations in the second and third trimester.