I’ve been really feeling the effects of being heavily pregnant and about to pop these past couple of weeks. I feel heavy and uncomfortable all the time, and even finding a comfortable way to sit has become a struggle. My pelvis feels tender, my lower back is sore and I’m constantly feeling crampy or dealing with the hell that is trapped wind. I’ve sailed through this pregnancy, but it feels that as soon as I hit 37 weeks it all caught up with me.
Yesterday though I did something I’ve not done in over a week – I worked out. And I felt like a new woman afterwards! Admittedly by the time evening rolled around eight hours later I’d started to feel like an injured whale again, but I do think how good I felt after doing a bit of exercise is proof of how important it is to stay active even when you’re due to give birth any day.
Before I got pregnant, my exercise levels were a bit inconsistent. I the months before we got our positive test, I’d gone from three 5.30am weight training sessions a week to cancelling my gym membership and just going along to one Clubbercise class. I’m not sure now what the reason for the drop in my commitment was, but I wasn’t the fittest I’d ever been.
It wasn’t until I got to about halfway through this pregnancy that I made a real effort to make fitness my focus. I kept up the Clubbercise until 30 weeks, when I started to worry about impact levels and balance, and at around 18 weeks I dusted off the antenatal DVDs I bought in my last pregnancy. Last time around I only used them halfheartedly, but this time they have been the basis for my exercise levels. I’ve used a couple of online workouts too, so I thought I’d share what’s been working for me in case anyone else is wanting to exercise during pregnancy but doesn’t know where to start.
Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
Keep in mind that I’m not a fitness professional, and this is just my experience. The Royal College of Midwives advises that:
“The exercise pregnant women take should reflect their previous exercise regime. So for example it would not be appropriate for a woman who has done no exercise for many years to suddenly start running long distances in pregnancy. If women exercised regularly before pregnancy, they should be able to continue with no adverse effects.
“If women have not exercised routinely they should begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times per week, increasing gradually to daily 30-minute sessions and if they any questions we advise them to talk to their midwife or GP”
So that doesn’t mean if you were inactive before that you shouldn’t exercise now, but that you should build up gradually. Particularly if you’re a mum who isn’t used to exercise, pregnancy-specific programmes are the best option as the moves in them should safely take into account the changes going on in your body. But if someone is used to a certain type of exercise (like I was with weights and dancing, and other women are with running) then pregnancy is no reason to stop outright. It’s all about personal preference, health and ability, and keeping an open mind to the fact that what you can handle is likely to be different by the time you hit the 3rd trimester than what it was at 12 weeks.
Take the time to read up on your exercise of choice and about your body in pregnancy to make sure you’re always keeping yourself safe and doing the best for your body and baby.
Probably the best place for anyone to start is yoga. It’s a great way to activate your muscles, but also to quiet your mind and work on breathing and relaxation. If you’re lucky enough to have a class in your area I’d definitely recommend heading along.
Unfortunately budget, work and location meant I couldn’t get to classes, so the yoga I do is one of my DVDs. It’s by Desi Bartlett, but I don’t think it’s sold as a DVD any more. Amazon have it on their streaming service though, and she has released another one since. I like this one because it’s quite relaxing but it has a good lower-body focus. It also doesn’t get too hippie/spiritual, which works for me (a reason why I’m a fan of another yogi called Adriene), but includes enough explanation of the names behind the moves to make you feel connected. This is the workout I did yesterday, and I plan on trying to do it most days until this baby is ready to come join us.
I wont labour (*boomboom*) this point, because I already wrote a whole post on why I think swimming in pregnancy is awesome. But again, this is a great for everyone from beginners right up to the superfit. You can do it alone, but again if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where aquanatal is available then definitely head along. You’ll meet other mums and also have the support and guidance of an instructor which is always very handy to have.
Strength training in pregnancy
If you’re a little more advanced, or you’ve built up your fitness during the pregnancy so far, strength exercises are a great addition to your routine. Building muscle gives you the strength needed to carry around your ever-growing body and to support you to be active during labour. This is also the type of exercise which you’ll find no end of options for, either as DVDs or online videos.
And a confession? I’m a weights girl, so this is my thing.
The first workouts I started with this time around were some I found on Popsugar Fitness (which is a great site with lots of free videos, whether you’re pregnant or not). They’re short, so they were a good place to start as I’d been out of the habit for a while. I could then combine them for a longer workout. The two I used were a total body one and an arm one, but there are others available on the site.
I then moved on to some other DVDs in my stash. The first is Lean & Toned by Suzanne Bowen, which is a low-impact body weight programme. It focuses on high reps of mainly leg and arm movements, with some core work in the mat section. My only bugbears with it is that you need to figure out your own water breaks and keep your core and pelvic floor engaged (as you should be doing anyway!) without being reminded as she doesn’t really mention it. But it’s a good total-body workout with a chilled pace.
My other DVD is Erin O’Brien’s Prenatal Fitness Fix, which I love. I’ll start with the bad point – the music is godawful. Thankfully during the workout it isn’t as noticeable as the title/menu music, and if I can ignore it (and I have to leave shops if they’re using those cheap cover version CDs) anyone can. But Erin herself is motivational, explains a lot about how to exercise safely and is just really fun to workout with. The moves in this can be quite tough, but they are mixed with easier ones to create a workout which is challenging but achievable. It also comes with a postnatal workout, which I obviously haven’t used this time yet but I think I used it last time and enjoyed it just as much.
Once I felt my strength had built up again, I threw some of my true love into the mix – weights. I used this great free programme on BodyBuilding.Com called Lifting for Two by Nicole Moneer. Obviously, this is one for those who are used to working with weights and equipment. But the video, article and the moves themselves are brilliant and I think this is a great resource. We have a home gym with free weights and a pulley machine, so I was able to do all but the thigh moves, and the feeling of strength and confidence this workout gave me was worth it’s weight in gold.
And although not a workout, I can’t mention weight training without linking to one of my all-time favourite resources for women. Girls Gone Strong have a bunch of great articles on exercise in pregnancy, as well as articles on general pregnancy health and postnatal stuff too. I can’t sing the praises of this site enough, this is where my weight training interest was sparked back in 2015 and I love that the site doesn’t ignore pregnancy.
So what you waiting for?
A fit pregnancy is the best gift you can give yourself. Along with managing my weight gain, being active has made this my easiest pregnancy so far. I’ve avoided the SPD and back issues I had in my last pregnancy and the high blood pressure I experienced in my first, and there is a ton of research out there to support that exercise reduces those and other pregnancy complications as well as helping you to have a shorter and complication-free labour and birth. What isn’t there to love about that?
What exercise worked best for you in pregnancy? Let me know if you’ve tried any of the types of exercise I mention, or used any of the resources I’ve linked to.
The Amazon product links in this post are affiliated, but the opinions are my own. I genuinely bought these products and have used them myself.