Exercising for Two: How Do You Stay Active?Emily Malone
Now that I’m in my 20th week and my morning sickness has (mostly) passed, I have been itching to re-establish some sort of fitness routine. As an avid marathon runner, it has been difficult for me to feel so inactive and sluggish through the earlier weeks of pregnancy.
It makes me sad that so many moms-to-be use pregnancy as an excuse to hit the couch for nine months, when being fit and active has shown to be overwhelmingly beneficial for both moms and babies. Experienced moms have shared that staying strong and healthy through their pregnancies has helped lead them to more successful natural births and easier deliveries. I don’t know about you, but as a scared first-timer I’ll do just about anything that may help my chances of having an easier delivery!
I am lucky to live in an easily walkable area with great running trails and lots of sidewalks. While I know that I could probably get in most of my cardio outside (hello summer!), I also feel really strongly about the importance of strength training and weight lifting. So I did a bit of research, called around to a few local gyms, and joined one last week!
I’ve done a lot of exercising throughout my journey to being healthier, but it all feels different and new now that I’m pregnant. My body is different, and so I have to treat it differently. Here are a few of the ways I am staying active and adapting my workout routine for pregnancy…
All of the research I have done has told me that it is generally safe to continue to maintain the level of fitness you were used to prior to pregnancy. With that in mind, I have tried to continue to stay active and healthy, while now making sure to pay extra attention to my energy levels and heart rate during my workouts.
My goal is to lift weights and do strength training 3x per week. I’m trying to mainly focus on staying toned and building muscle, so I’m doing a rotation that works a few different muscle sets. I should note that I am doing most of my weight lifting on the guided machines now, rather than using free weights. When not pregnant, I prefer to use the free weights for a better range of motion and increased difficulty. But the guided machines are still a great workout, and are generally regarded as safer during pregnancy, so I am happy to oblige.
In addition to the weekly weight lifting, I’m also trying to make sure I get some sort of cardio in every day. I have a very HILLY 2-mile walking loop that I climb with my dogs each day, and also try to hit the elliptical or stair climber for 30-45 minutes when I am at the gym. In my book, walking definitely counts as exercise!
Adapting for Pregnancy
Even though the workout schedule I’ve shared probably sounds pretty similar to what many people normally do, I’m also quickly learning there are a lot of adaptations I need to make now that I’m exercising for two.
In the past I have never been very good about hydrating, but now more than ever it is essential for me to make sure I’m getting enough water. It doesn’t really take much reminding either my body literally craves water all day long! Taking plenty of water breaks and carrying a bottle with me is now a regular part of my fitness routine.
I have also written plenty before about how passionately I feel about lifting heavy weights, not the 5lb weights that are so frustratingly often recommended for women. For some reason being pregnant is commonly associated with the understanding that there should be “no heavy lifting.” While I am by no means doing anything dangerous, I’m also not going to give up my strength training completely for nine (ten!) months.
I have bumped all of my weight sets down a bit so that they are still quite challenging, but don’t give me the “if I do one more of these I might die” feeling that I used to get when lifting at full capacity. It feels good to continue to challenge my muscles, but know that I’m making safe adaptations that should benefit both me and the baby.
Cardio is really where I have noticed the biggest difference from my pre-pregnancy days. My stamina is basically non-existent and I find myself out of breath much more easily now. I have to make sure to take plenty of breaks and not be tempted to push myself like I used to!
It’s funny how many preconceived ideas I had about what type of “pregnant athlete” I would be before getting pregnant. If pregnancy has taught me anything, it is that you can never really plan for how you will feel, or how things will go. Some days I feel amazing and get in my full scheduled workout. Other days I am lucky to have the dogs drag me around the block a few times.
I hope I can continue to feel good and stay active for the next 20 weeks!
Are you doing maintaining a fitness routine during pregnancy? What types of adaptations and changes have you noticed with a baby on board?