It is the time many women wait for all their lives. The time when they are going to produce a life of their own. Some people will spend years trying to become pregnant, hoping and praying, but when it finally happens, have no idea what to do with their workouts. Some women view pregnancy as a time when they can relax and eat to their hearts content using it as an excuse for getting out of shape. These people forget however that they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions after the baby is born.
How many times have we heard one women say to another, "It's a amazing how fast she managed to loose her baby weight... I had my baby 3 years ago and I still can't seem to loose the last bit of mine."
Instead of giving yourself the green light to the 9 month long buffet that many women embark on, vow to keep up with your exercise regime as much as possible, nourish your body with proper foods so that both you and your baby will be healthier after you give birth, and use exercise as a chance to reconnect and prepare yourself for the changes in your life that are to come.
During your pregnancy, your fitness goals will change to more of a maintenance state rather than an improve performance state. You can still complete both aerobic and strength training, however various modifications and restrictions will be in place.
With regards to aerobic exercise, the newly pregnant women should choose an exercise that she enjoys and that is not too strenuous on the body. Make sure the exercise will not risk your balance because any sort of fall could cause trauma to the growing baby.
You also need to choose a moderate form of exercise as a drastic increase in core body temperature is thought to be harmful to the fetus by increasing the risk of congenital anomalies and shifting the blood to skeletal muscles rather than the baby.
Good examples of cardiovascular exercise to include are walking, either on a flat surface or on a slight incline (for those who are already in advanced cardiovascular shape—Note: during pregnancy you should not try to increase the intensity of your workouts at all), swimming, or stationary biking.
If you begin to feel breathless at all during your workout you should stop immediately until it has passed and then if you feel well enough continue, but do so at a reduced intensity.
Here is a reference chart for target heart rate ranges during pregnancy:
|Maternal Age||Heart Rate Target (beats/min)||Heart Rate Target Zone (beats/min)|
|Less than 20||140-155||23-26|
|40 or greater||125-140||20-23|
Strength training is also important to continue into pregnancy. By continuing with your routine you will help keep your muscles strong, which will make everyday activities easier (since you will now be carrying additional weight due to your baby), and will also help keep your bones strong throughout and after your pregnancy.
Women who perform strength exercises for their pelvic muscles also decrease the risk of urinary incontinence which can occur during and after pregnancy.
Choose Type Of Exercise Carefully
The choice of strength training exercises to include is important to consider. No exercises should be done where the woman is laying on her stomach (such as lying hamstring curls, back raises, etc) as this will put extreme stress on the baby.
Also, after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is advised that you don't do any exercises on your back either, as the added weight of the baby can interfere with blood circulation.
You also want to refrain from using very heavy weights as these will place a great deal of stress on the body and the recovery systems which should not be compromised as this may affect the health of your baby.
Seated Exercises Are Good Choices:
- Seated rows
- Seated bicep curls
- Overhead tricep extensions
- Leg extensions
- Seated hamstring curls
- Lat pull-downs
- Seated chest press
As with aerobic training, pregnancy is not the time to decide you want to sprout new muscles, it's a time to maintain and preserve your current strength.
Therefore, take care to use sensible weights, reps and rest periods as to keep your workouts stimulating but also comfortable at the same time.
Another great option for pregnant women is yoga. Obviously you don't want to be twisting into odd pretzel shapes during this time, but simple yoga moves that focus on proper breathing and body control will give you the benefit of stress relief, enhanced flexibility and a general sense of calm and collectiveness.
These days, many gyms offer prenatal yoga classes that are specifically designed with pregnant women in mind.
An additional consideration with regards to exercise during pregnancy is that some women may find that they wish to refrain from exercising during the first trimester until the nausea and fatigue have passed.
This is perfectly fine, just be sure you resume exercising during the second trimester at a lower intensity and gradually work your way up to where you feel comfortable (don't forget about safety).
After Baby Arrives
Finally, once the baby is born and healthy, it is important to ensure you are fully recovered from the process of childbirth before restarting exercise once again. When you are feeling good enough to work out, start off slowly, as you did when you first became pregnant and gradually work your way back up to the intensity levels you were at prior to your pregnancy.
Realize that you will not be able to regain your prior fitness level overnight, so if you were running 5 miles a day before don't go out and try those same 5 mile runs right away, or you'll just end up home, sore and unable to take care of your newborn baby.
Have patience with yourself and enjoy your workouts with the journey back into fitness. Take care of your nutrition and remember you can't loose all your baby weight right away, but with good planning and assuming you stayed relatively fit and gained the minimal recommended amount of weight, you'll be back to your shape in no time!
Also remember that you now have a baby in your life, which is going to be very time consuming and demanding, may not wait patiently while you finish your workouts. You may have to reduce your workout frequency and duration because you will be spending much more time looking after your child. This is perfectly understandable so just tell yourself that once you get a chance you will once again commit to your old exercise regime.
While it is important to be aware of the risk associated with exercises during pregnancy and how to avoid them, also consider the risks of not exercising.
These include loss of muscle mass, loss of cardiovascular fitness level, increased chance of weight gain, the development of sleeping problems and lower back pain, varicose veins, and increased psychological stress levels.
By keeping your body in shape, you will also help keep your mind in shape and will better prepare yourself for the journey you are about to take with your new baby.