I used to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to hit up Barry’s Bootcamp, a hot power yoga class (with weights) or train for a half marathon before work. Then I got pregnant and yeahhhh...not so much. My workouts really changed.
For the first trimester I had crippling fatigue and couldn’t fathom any cardio besides walking. And in general I had no desire to run, jump or do anything high-impact (although many other moms-to-be keep pounding the pavement right up until their due dates). And I encountered many “joys” of pregnancy that affected my workouts, like heartburn/acid reflux, swollen legs and feet, shortness of breath due to squished lungs, loss of balance and generally feeling big, heavy and uncomfortable. Sexy!!
That being said, I made it a priority to work out 3-5 times a week for all 40 weeks (I’m currently at 39 weeks, 4 days). This helped me keep my energy up, manage my weight gain (even while eating anything I wanted … and I do mean anything), avoid any back pain and most importantly, stay healthy and sane through an emotional roller coaster of a year.
Every person is different and every pregnancy is different, and what was right for me is not necessarily what’s right for everyone else. There are a few general rules when it comes to prenatal fitness - avoid any extremely heated workouts, sports where you are in danger of falling or getting hit in the stomach (i.e. horseback riding, softball) and forgo many core exercises since your abs are, as one instructor told me, “busy doing other things.” But for the most part, we are all on our own journeys. These fitness tips and classes are just what worked for me.
My Top 7 Pregnancy Fitness Tips
Check in with your doctor
Your OBGYN is the best person to advise you on what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Check in with her or him before starting (or continuing) any workouts, and ask about modifications, too, especially for anything core-focused or that has you laying on your back.
Listen to your body
Sounds corny but it’s true. Feeling tired? Skip a workout and nap instead, or choose a mellow yoga class or a walk. Need a break? Take one. A move doesn’t feel good? Stop doing it immediately. Only you know your body, so trust it and do what’s right for you and your baby. Which brings me to…
Leave your ego at the door
Newsflash: when you’re pregnant, you probably won’t be the fastest, strongest, most advanced person in class. You won’t be able to do everything you used to do. Which kinda sucks. But hey, that’s the way it is, and that’s okay. So just accept that you can do the very best you can for where you are in your pregnancy...and that it’s more than enough.
Talk to your instructor
Tell every instructor that you’re pregnant before class starts. They’ll be able to advise you about any moves that you should avoid (even if they seem like they’d be fine!), and are usually happy to help you modify throughout class.
Fuel up and hydrate
Eat a snack or small meal 1-2 hours before and after a workout to keep your blood sugar steady and make sure you’re not running on empty. Also, hydration is SUPER important while pregnant or breastfeeding, so make sure to drink water before, during and after your workouts.
Focus on your pelvic floor
Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, which support the bowel, bladder and uterus. Keeping them strong will help you bounce back after birth and can benefit everything from your sex life to your underwear (as in, you won’t pee your pants as much xo). A few moves to try: Kegels, squats, bridges and bird dogs.
Think of workouts as training
Giving birth and being a mom take major strength and stamina, so it helped me to look at pregnancy as 9 months of physical training. I’m hoping that cardio sessions will help me power through labor and delivery, and that strength workouts will make it easier to lift car seats, strollers, diaper boxes...oh, and the baby.
My Top 4 Pregnancy Workout Classes
Spin class is a great low-impact cardio workout that needs minimal modifications during pregnancy! I did SoulCycle or another spin class about 1-2 times per week during my 2nd and 3rd trimester and it was a great way to safely get my heart rate up and really sweat, plus tone my legs and arms, in 45 minutes.
Modifications: raise up the handlebar to make room for your belly, “run” instead of sprint, sit down or take breaks when needed, forgo the choreography if needed
Core40 has been one of my absolute favorite workouts for years and I never want to give it up. Plus, I’ve heard from MULTIPLE sources that women who continue with Lagree up until the end of pregnancy have quick and easy births - maybe due to all the squatting and lower-body strengthening? Whatever, I’ll take it! Plus it’s low-impact and only 40 minutes.
Modifications: use the pole for balance, replace center core and oblique sections with additional arm or leg exercises in 2nd and 3rd trimesters, avoid Ramped classes in 3rd trimester when your balance can be off
This is a fantastic strength-building workout that worked for me throughout pregnancy. There are so many moves to tone your arms, shoulders, back, butt and legs, and the cardio bursts are typically easy to modify (i.e. swap jumping jacks for step-out jacks, burpees for squat kicks, etc.).
Modifications: replace ab and oblique exercises with additional arm or leg exercises in 2nd and 3rd trimester, choose low-impact cardio options, modify any moves that require suspending your foot (or feet) in the strap that might affect your balance
Walking or hiking
The ultimate pregnancy workout. You can do it anytime, anywhere, even if you didn’t have an established workout regimen pre-pregnancy. It’s also a good default when you get too big or uncomfortable for other workouts. To amp it up, pick up the pace and add hills or stairs.
P.S. Wondering where prenatal yoga fits into all of this? Well...it doesn’t, for me anyway. I tried one very popular, highly recommended class and ended up leaving halfway in. Personally I just felt it was wayyy too slow-paced, too touchy-feely (we had to go around the room and each talk about our pregnancy and how our bodies were feeling :-| ) and too long (90 minutes). I ultimately felt like I got a better workout walking to the class than actually taking it. But others love prenatal and swear by it! So if that’s you, go on with your bad self.