The Reality of Exercising when Pregnant - my experience
I had no expectation about what training in pregnancy would be like. I’d read the research and guidelines and it was clear exercise should continue at the same frequency (slightly less intensity) unless told otherwise by a medical professional. No concerns from the midwives early on so I was good to go!
I didn’t feel great for about 5 weeks in the first trimester. I wasn’t being sick but was nauseous and kept going off food. I was getting super tired and every morning felt like a huge struggle to get up. Whilst this was all good reason not to exercise, if I did manage to drag myself to the gym I would often feel a bit better for it. I didn’t push the intensity but generally kept up the same weight and structure of a workout as normal. Sample session:
Step ups with weight
Side plank with rotation
10 thrusters, 250m row x5
By week 14 my first trimester symptoms had definitely settled, no major bump though it felt like such a belly! Continued to exercise 3x per week but as the intensity started to drop it felt frustrating as I was training regularly but getting weaker. I dropped the intensity to keep my heart rate manageable and at times I needed to pause catch my breath. I was still able to run a bit but it generally felt uncomfortable on my pelvis so stuck to rowing/cross trainer for cardio instead. I had noticed my abs start to 'dome' as per the picture below which I knew was not a good sign, so I checked in with one of my lovely women's health physio's at work and sure enough I had started to develop a diastasis.
This is where your abdominal wall starts to separate, it's very common in pregnancy and normally rights itself when the baby is born in about 8 weeks. Unfortunately it does mean it's best to avoid press ups/ab work to stop making it any worse.
Lateral bear crawls
walking lunges with dumbbells
There's definitely a bump now! Some fatigue started to set in as well as just feeling cumbersome and awkward. I have still tried to maintain exercise 2-3x per week which generally includes arm strengthening, leg work and swimming for cardio. The swimming has been great as it's lovely not to feel so heavy! The arm work has continued to be at a good level, leg work I've decreased the load as my body weight has gone up so I don't need to add lots of additional weight!
Body weight squats
TRX pistol squats
So that's been my fitness journey throughout pregnancy. I'm pleased I've managed to keep up some semblance of a training programme as per the health recommendations. I've read encouraging things that being fitter puts you in a better place for labour so I'm hoping the work pays off for this final stage!
There haven't been too many strange looks in the gym but you still get the odd comment of 'are you sure you should still be exercising?'. There still seems to be a misconception that exercise is risky during pregnancy. There is clear evidence to say there is no reason unless the midwife/doc says otherwise not to exercise (please see my previous article). Whilst exercise isn't always top of the agenda when you feel tired/heavy/sick, it is important to do something even if it's just a walk, to remain active and healthy. Pregnancy remains one of the biggest risk factors for obesity so whilst it is absolutely ok to take it easier, it is not an excuse to stop exercising. Whether or not it gives you an easier labour....I'll keep you posted!