“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!” -Elle Woods
For me, there is not much better than an exercise endorphin “high”. Ok, maybe a good glass of wine is up there as well, but exercise is definitely one of my many loves. It has always been a big part of my life. I started playing sports at a young age and continued all the way through college. My first job in high school was at a gym where I taught step and water aerobics. My job all through college was at our school’s rec center. My bachelor’s degree is even in Applied Exercise Physiology (that’s a really fancy way of saying Kinesiology). Needless to say, I have acquired a decent amount of knowledge on the subject through the years. This does not make me an expert in any way, but does give me some insight to offer.
I successfully worked out and continued to run through my two pregnancies until the day before both my children were born. I truly believe that it helped me have faster deliveries and easier recoveries (physically at least). Exercise kept my morning sickness at bay and it helped combat the chronic fatigue of pregnancy. It also made me feel a little better about my constant indulging in dessert 😉
Before you begin any exercise regimen while pregnant ALWAYS talk with your OB/GYN first!! The health of yourself and your baby are the most important!! Also, do NOT start something new or more challenging while you are pregnant! This is not the time to try zumba if you already have two left feet or get into CrossFit if you’ve never lifted a weight in your life.
That all being said, if you are having a healthy, low risk pregnancy and your doctor has given you the green light to exercise then you should absolutely try to make it apart of your daily routine. Some days will be easier than others. Some trimesters will be easier than others. The most important thing you can do when you exercise while pregnant is to listen to your body! If you’re breathing too hard, slow it down. It you’re getting too hot, cool it off. If you just can not muster the energy to hit play on that DVD, go for a walk, or even take a day off if you need too. If it hurts or causes discomfort or contractions, definitely stop!
Some of the easiest exercises to do while pregnant that require no special equipment include walking, running, swimming, and yoga. If you were an avid exerciser before you got pregnant you can always just stick to your usual routine as well. With my first child I was actually training for a half marathon when I got pregnant and had a regular weight lifting routine. Since that was what my body was used to I continued with that same routine my entire pregnancy. Modifications to your usual routine should be considered as your pregnancy progresses though. You shouldn’t lay flat on your back for prolonged periods after your first trimester and you generally don’t want to do heavy weight lifting like olympic style lifting. After your first trimester you might also consider giving up cycling or other activities that require balance as your center of gravity will shift and you increase your chances of falling.
Many cities offer a variety of pregnancy fitness classes ranging from yoga to barre to weight training. A pregnancy specific group exercise class can be a great way to meet other mommy friends, get the encouragement you need, and keep you accountable.
If you can’t make a group fitness class fit into you schedule or there isn’t much available in your area there are some great pregnancy DVDs out there that fit a wide range of levels. When I got pregnant with my second child I decided to try some prenatal DVDs to try to work on my pelvic floor more and because I was having some serious hip issues. I personally looked for a DVD that had modifications for each trimester and/or progression from one trimester to the next. I also liked when the instructor was pregnant while filming the video because I think it made me feel a little more “connected” to the workout.
Here are some of my personal recommendations…
Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga & Short Forms
There are A LOT of pregnancy yoga videos out there! I personally like this particular DVD because it offers 15, 30, 45, and 75 minute “practices”. It was a great way to either get a good long yoga session in or just a quick stretch if that was all I had time for. There is a modifier for each trimester and each video is different. There are also bonus videos on partner yoga and birthing positions if you’re interested.
There are also A LOT of pregnancy aerobic/weight based videos out there! Here are three levels that I personally recommend:
Beginner: Tracy Anderson: The Pregnancy Project
Tracy is probably one of the most well-known pregnancy and postpartum fitness experts. One of my favorite features of this set is that it has 9 different discs, one for each month. Can you tell that I don’t like to get bored in my workout routine yet? This series is very focused on toning, stretching, and breathing as it adjusts each month to the specific needs and challenges of that trimester. This series could be beneficial for someone who is looking to stay lean and toned but doesn’t necessarily want something super challenging. Each workout is around 40-45 minutes long and does require light weights, a towel or mat, and a chair. Tracy also has a postpartum DVD series that targets the abs, hips and thighs.
Intermediate: Lindsey Brin’s The Complete Pregnancy Project
This 4 disc series includes three pregnancy cardio, toning, and yoga videos as well as a postnatal boot camp. Lindsey’s workouts are 25-30 minutes long, offers a different routine for each trimester, and uses light and heavy weights. If you have ever taken a traditional step aerobics class then the moves will be familiar to you. They are simple to follow and she builds a progression of exercises and specific workouts for each trimester.
Advanced: Body by Trimester by Joy Southworth
I personally really liked this set as it was more challenging than any other pregnancy DVD that I have tried. It offers 9 different, 30 minute workouts, 3 for each trimester. The program is interval based and utilizes weights and a stability ball and each video ends with pelvic floor exercises. She also includes bonus videos on diastasis recti and how to check for it, and how to modify exercises when you have it. I personally used this set when i was pregnant with my second child and feel like it really helped my abs and pelvic floor both during and after pregnancy. She also has a postpartum DVD series that I was able to start doing about 1 week postpartum. These workouts are simple and efficient workouts to get the blood flowing again after baby, they don’t take up too much time, and don’t interfere with your body’s need to heal.
Working out while you’re pregnant is a great way to avoid too much weight gain, decrease those nagging pregnancy symptoms, prepare your body for the ultimate workout of childbirth, and it helps you get back to that pre pregnancy level faster! I have always told my friends that you don’t have to do everything, but it’s always good to do something!