**This is an ongoing series where women email perintatal fitness expert Kathleen Donahoe their questions about pre and postnatal exercise. Have a question about working out during your pregnancy or as a new mom? Email your questions to Kathleen@ohbabyfitness.com**
QUESTION: “Before I got pregnant, I was in a pretty active rhythm, incorporating a combination of strength training, warm yoga fusion, and Pilates classes into each week. I was able to maintain most of that routine for the first trimester, but I’m starting to hit some walls recently. I get fatigued more easily, recovery takes longer, and a lot of different kinds of movement are becoming uncomfortable or even impossible for me to perform. So I have two questions: (a) at this point, and going forward, what are the types of movement that are NOT safe for me and the baby? And (b), what are some effective exercises to replace the things that are no longer safe? I would love to continue with a combination of strength/endurance training and stretching/flexibility work, but as elements of my regular workouts become unworkable, I’m not sure what to replace them with!” – Miriel, 21 weeks pregnant
Congratulations! On both the baby (yay for babies) and for the great foundation of exercise you built before you were pregnant. There are new studies coming out all the time that being active before you get pregnant is so helpful for both your body and your baby as they grow. You are in a great place.
You’re also in place I see often in active women—you had a regular exercise routine that now just….doesn’t feel good. It’s especially hard as I bet exercise is not just a physical outlet but a mental release as well. If you are anything like I was, pregnancy is a mental minefield, and any tool to help navigate that, like exercise, is so great. Let’s dive in.
Here’s the thing- ACOG says that any exercise you were doing before you were pregnant, you can keep doing. It’s so easy to think, “Is this safe? Is this okay?” Basically, if you were doing it before, you can keep doing it. And yes- I include running, Pilates, biking, weight lifting in this list. You know what isn’t safe?? Things that don’t FEEL good. This is kind of a squishy answer, but it’s the truth, and people who were active before pregnancy are the best at judging this. It sounds like you are running into some of this—parts of your pre-pregnancy routine no longer feel comfortable, which is a sign it’s time to replace them with some new things.
The answer to your second question is more specific, and I think a better way to think about exercise during pregnancy (and if I’m honest, all the time)— don’t think about what you can’t/should do, think about what feels good and what is most helpful. Here’s a secret: exercise is one of the only things that can help with the symptoms (aka aches and pains) of pregnancy. Lower back pain, round ligament pain, sleeplessness, constipation, swelling…while people will say “cherish every moment!” I say, get moving! It’ll help those things. A ton.
So here’s what will help:
Transverse abdominal work. The act of engaging your transverse abs is one of the most helpful things you can do both for your pregnancy and for the postpartum period. Watch this video to see how and why it works. Pilates and Barre3 are both great at training his important muscle.
Get in the pool. The pool is a pregnant woman’s best friend (except for the getting in and out of a bathing suit, which is a pregnant woman’s greatest enemy, but I promise it’s worth it.) Take a water aerobics class, swim some laps, or just get in a pool and jog the length of it ten times—that alone will feel amazing. Pool work is a great replacement for that class or workout that no longer feels good.
Work out every day, with a variety of exercises. ACOG recommends pregnant women workout for 30 minutes on most, if not ALL days of the week. I think this is a serious point—how many non-pregnant people do you know who workout every day? When I was pregnant, I included exercise on my to-do list every day. I thought it was that important and that helpful. But you don’t need to be rigid about it. I think it’s useful to have a few different options that you know feel good (yoga, walking, Pilates, a DVD, our Pregnancy Weekly Workout App) and pick what feels good that day. The list will change as your go through your pregnancy- you might start swimming more, or find that walking is no longer comfortable. As long as you are moving, you are doing great.
Like I said, I think you are in a great place- you’ve got a great foundation of exercise, and you are sensitive to what feels good (and what doesn’t). Trust those feelings, and then get curious and see what does feel great— you’ll know when you’ve found it as you’ll end a workout and discover you feel better than you did when you started. Hold on to those types of workouts, and do them often. Good luck!!