Everyone wants to have a fit pregnancy. You look great, feel great and bounce back to your pre-pregnancy body quickly. But how do we achieve a fit pregnancy when pregnancy is also full of nausea, exhaustion and pregnancy cravings? How do we fight the urge to binge on ice cream and Netflix? I have some tips to help you be fit during pregnancy.
Tip #1: Set Realistic Fitness Goals
Your exercise goals for a fit pregnancy depend drastically on your previous activity level. For example, if you are an avid runner and become pregnant your exercise goal should be to maintain your current level of activity for as long as possible and begin to incorporate prenatal yoga and pilates as your belly grows and your energy levels falls.
On the other hand, if you haven’t been to the gym in a while and are looking to start exercising you should select more modest goals. For example, aim to go to the gym 2-3 times per week and incorporate brisk walking for 20 minutes the other days of the week.
Personally, I was running 5 miles 3 days per week and practicing Pilates and Barre 3 days per week before I got pregnant. My goal for a fit pregnancy was to continue running 3 days per week (even if I couldn’t go as far) and alternate that with Pilates, prenatal yoga and Barre. As my pregnancy progressed I began shortening my runs and adding the elliptical as well as switching from regular Pilates to prenatal Pilates.
Tip #2: Get Fun Exercise Equipment
I got an apple watch to help me keep track of my activity. Even if I don’t make it to the gym I can still try to be active throughout the day to reach my activity goals. If you aren’t interested in an apple watch, a good alternative is a Fitbit.
In order to stay motivated to exercise I also got myself fun maternity work-out clothes.These helped me stay focused on achieving a fit pregnancy.
Personally, I love the Ingrid & Isabel leggings. I love that they have the crossover in the back and the full belly panel. You can find them here.
Tip #3: You Aren’t as Fragile As You Think
People often think pregnant women need to avoid doing anything strenuous. That is why the cashier at Trader Joe’s pointed me towards the elevator instead of the stairs. However, most regular exercise is not only safe in pregnancy, but it is recommended. Women who exercise regularly during pregnancy actually have lower rates of gestational diabetes, c-sections, pre-eclampsia and shorter postpartum recovery time.
For some reason people think running is off the table in pregnancy. In fact, I know a woman who trained and then ran a full marathon while pregnant after being ok’ed by her doctor. When I tell people I continue to run during my pregnancy people often tell me to power walk or switch to the elliptical, but running is completely safe during pregnancy.
In addition to running, most other exercise is perfectly safe in pregnancy with only a few exceptions, which I will go into later. Pilates is safe, Barre is safe. The only thing I had to modify in my Pilates and Barre classes was lying on my stomach. I do recommend always letting your instructor know you are pregnant so he or she can help you with modifications.
Tip #4: Start Prenatal Yoga & Prenatal Pilates
I was a little skeptical at first since I had never really done yoga. Seemed to me like a lot of stretching and not much exercise. However, I really came to love prenatal yoga.
In our busy lives we often have to juggle the responsibilities of employee, wife, mother and more. But during prenatal exercise classes you get to focus on being pregnant. I fell in love with my prenatal yoga class when the instructor told me to put one hand on my heart and one hand on my baby. It was the first time anyone had ever addressed my baby.
Prenatal yoga also has other advantages. It helps to strengthen your core, align your pelvis, increase your flexibility and decrease your stress. All of these advantages work together to help maintain your body throughout pregnancy and prepare your body for labor. Prenatal Pilates does this plus incorporates strength training.
Prenatal exercise classes also help you engage with the birth community in your neighborhood. You can learn about birth and meet other expecting moms!
Tip #5: When things Hurt, Rest
At around 18 weeks I started noticing pelvic pressure when I would run. I took this as a sign to stop. This doesn’t mean I stopped running all together. But when I started to feel the pressure I would slow to a walking pace until the sensation went away and then I would begin to run again.
That being said, you should experience muscle fatigue during exercise. This can help you prepare for the fatigue of labor and can help you learn coping techniques that you can then implement in labor. For example, when you are holding a plank, you can focus on your breathing, or recite mantras to help you cope with the fatigue. Then in labor you can repeat these coping mechanisms during contractions to help you cope with labor.
Tip #6: Hydration is Key
Hydration is crucial in pregnancy. Dehydration can induce premature contractions. It can also cause you to have low amniotic volume, called oligohydramnios. Whenever you are exercising you should carry a water bottle with you and use it often. Even if you are just going for a walk, it is a good idea to hydrate before you go or carry water with you.
Tip #7: Ignore “Pregnancy Cravings”
Off the bat I decided not to believe in food cravings. To be honest, I don’t know if pregnancy cravings are real or not, but by not believing in them, I couldn’t use cravings as an excuse. Do I want ice cream? Of course! But I always want ice cream. Did I look longingly at pickles in the super market? Yes, but pickles are still high in sodium, even in pregnancy.
Tip #8: Avoid Hot Yoga and Contact Sports
Hot yoga, also called Bikram yoga, is dangerous during pregnancy. When your temperature rises during pregnancy it can cause birth defects. This is the same reason you should avoid hot tubs and saunas during pregnancy.
You should also avoid contact sports. This may seem obvious. In contact sports it is possible that your stomach could get hit. Abdominal trauma can cause your placenta to detach from your uterus. This can cause heavy bleeding and endanger the safety of you and your baby.
Tip #9: Avoid Lying on Your Back for Long Periods
This is slightly controversial and everywhere has different recommendations. The idea is that when your uterus grows and you lay flat on your back, the weight of the uterus could compress your inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava is a very large vein that returns blood to your heart. Compressing this vein could impact blood flow.
ACOG recommends women “avoid long periods of lying flat on their backs”. What is a long period? There is research that points to an increase in the rate of stillbirths in women who sleep on their back. However, sleeping on your back and engaging in a minute-long exercise on your back are very different. It is ok to briefly lie on your back. If you begin to experience shortness of breath, pain or feel light headed when on your back, change positions.
Be sure to checkout my article What are the Best Prenatal Vitamins?