With my first pregnancy I felt great! I felt healthier than normal. I never got very sick in the beginning and I tried to keep my workouts the same as they had been before I got pregnant. That was mostly an ego thing. I wanted to “prove” that pregnant women could be fit and could continue to be active. The truth is I kept doing exercises long after they still felt comfortable as the result of my pride and determination to not make any adjustments. All the forced ab work I did resulted in diastasis rectii, a separation in the abdominal muscles. While not painful, and relatively small, it does make my abs look wider and has weakened my core slightly.
This time around I tried to be smarter about exercise. Rather than trying to do everything I was doing before I listened to my body and did what felt right. Here is a summary the changes I made. Keep in mind this is not a guide, just what worked for me. Check with your doctor before changing your exercise routine.
Toward the beginning of this pregnancy I was a lot sicker and a lot more tired than I was with my first. I think this is partly because, while taking care of a preschooler, I was not able to rest and nap as I was able to with my first. Still, I made it to the gym almost every day. I was able to keep up with my regular routine until about 7 weeks preggo when the morning sickness really started to take effect.
My routine before getting pregnant had been primarily focused on strength training- lifting heavy weights 5 days a week with yoga or pilates 1-2 times a week and 10-20 minutes of cardio 5 days a week.
However, when I started feeling nauseous, lifting heavy weights made me feel even worse. It was like the effort of lifting heavier put pressure on my core, which put pressure on my stomach, which was already queasy. As a result, I started lifting lighter weights: 50-75% of what I had been lifting before. I also started walking a lot more. If I got to the gym and didn’t really feel like working out I would just walk at an incline 2.5-3 miles per hour. There were a few times I got to the gym started working out, threw up and left. Yoga was completely out as the heat and down dogs made my nausea worse.
Overall the first trimester was pretty rough, but I did manage to stay comfortably active.
It wasn’t until 17 weeks when I really started to feel better, my energy level returned slightly and I stopped feeling nauseous. It still wasn’t feeling great to lift heavy weights, though, and I felt like I had lost strength from my time off during morning sickness. I found that a circuit style workout lifting about 75% of the weight I had been lifting prior to pregnancy and mixing in some body weight squats, and lunges felt great. I still kept a moderately heavy leg day if I was feeling up to it and started taking yoga and pilates again (modifying to make room for baby and to avoid crunches or direct ab work to protect my diastasis).
I also increased my cardio. On days when I didn’t have much energy or just didn’t want to be gawked at in the gym, I walked at an incline on the tredmill or did VERY slow stairs. I started to get sciatica and SI (scare-iliac) joint pain at around 20 weeks and started seeing a chiropractor at around 25 weeks. Within about 3 weeks working with the chiropractor, my sciatica was gone, but my SI joint pain has lingered.
Oddly the third trimester has meant a burst of stamina and strength for me. I am back to doing some heavier lifts and lifting as much as I had been before pregnancy. Although the sciatica is gone, the SI joint pain remains so sometimes things like going deep in a regular squat flare it up. I have also started water aerobics every once in a while just for fun and to feel weightless (which fellow mamas know, as you gain weight feels amazing). It is surprisingly more intense that I thought it would be. I am still squeezing in a yoga or pilates class when I can. Some of the moves are getting really challenging with my big belly in the way. I wish I could do prenatal yoga, but I can’t find a class that fits my schedule. I have also started to focus more on my breathing, thanks to a course I took on Prenatal Corrective Exercise (more on that later). My workout routine is like this:
Monday: Upper body circuit training
Tuesday: Aqua aerobics or Yoga
Wednesday: Leg circuit
Thursday: Walking on the treadmill
Friday: Leg or Upper body circuit (sometimes Pilates too)/ Treadmill Walking
Saturday: Yoga Sculpt (with weights) or Circuit training.
In my third trimester I have started to wear a support belt for my SI joint pain and for a little varicose vein that popped up (ugh). It has helped a lot. I still have low energy days and days where I want to work out but just don’t want to feel like “that weird fit pregnant girl” that everyone stares at. On those days I get started on the treadmill and usually end up feeling more like working out after my quick warm-up.
As I mentioned, I also got my certification in Pre-natal Corrective Exercise. I cannot wait to share with you more about this program because I absolutely loved it! I learned so much not just to help me, but even to help my clients who are not pregnant. Look for a review in an upcoming post!
Did you work out during your pregnancy? How did your workouts change?