Today, I’m sharing some of my top tips for staying fit and working out safely during pregnancy so that you can look and feel your best before and after baby arrives! A free sample first trimester workout can also be downloaded for inspiration!
If you’ve been following along with my last few posts, you probably know that we had our baby, a little over three months ago. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone already!
Although I enjoyed knowing that I had a baby growing inside of me, I must say that I don’t miss being pregnant AT ALL.
The nausea, food aversions, constant bathroom breaks, feeling like I was carrying around a ton of bricks, and did I mention the exhaustion?!
Oh my goodness. I was SO tired. ALL. THE. TIME. Everyday I felt like I had been hit by a truck.
Seriously. Pregnancy is no joke.
Despite all of these obstacles, one thing I promised myself before getting pregnant is that I would workout throughout my entire pregnancy. I was determined to stay as healthy, fit and active as possible while still adhering to the healthy weight guidelines.
Was it easy?
Half the time, I had to drag myself to the gym. But now, looking back, it was honestly the best decision I made throughout my pregnancy and it’s something I recommend all the time to other expecting women.
In all honesty though, at first, I wasn’t quite sure WHAT I should do during my workouts.
Should I just keep doing what I had been doing? Should I just stick to cardio and forget about doing weights? How long should my workouts be?
SO many questions!
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am a HUGE advocate of strength training and had been lifting weights for about 12 years prior to getting pregnant. I really didn’t want to give it up for 9 months, but I found that there was limited information available about what exercises were actually safe to perform during pregnancy.
My main goals were to maintain as much lean muscle as possible and stay strong to minimize the aches and pains that often come along with pregnancy.
I also hoped to have a faster and easier labour (which ACTUALLY DID happen – you can read about my labour and delivery story here) and get back into shape as quickly as possible post pregnancy. I’m sure most women share these same hopes and dreams.
When I asked my doctor and midwife about my workout routine, they both said without hesitation to stick to what I had been doing before pregnancy, so that’s exactly what I did.
Based on my experience, here are some of my top recommendations for staying fit before and during pregnancy!
1. Have a Plan
I always recommend having a plan in place for anything you set out to do in life, and it’s especially true for your workout and fitness goals! One of my favourite sayings is, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
And it’s so true.
When it comes to working out, it’s a good idea to have a plan established of what days and times you’re going to exercise, and what you’re actually going to do during your workout, otherwise it probably won’t end up happening.
Plus, if you have a plan, you won’t be doddling around which means you can get your workout done quicker. And I’m all about efficiency!
To give you an idea of my workout routine, during the first trimester, I mostly stuck to working out four days per week and worked different muscle groups each day. During each workout, I did about eight different exercises, with 3 sets of 10 repetitions during each workout. You’ll also notice, if you download my strength training workout (you can find it at the end of the post), that I did a lot of super setting.
Basically this means doing one exercise right after the other without taking a break in between. And then once you have completed the two back to back exercises, you generally take a rest for about 1-2 minutes before doing another set of those same exercises until you’ve completed all the specified sets.
So for example, if you did 10 reps of lat pulldowns, after you’re done those repetitions, you would immediately go into doing 10 reps of bicep curls. Once you’ve completed those reps, you would take a break for about 1-2 minutes before starting again with the lat pulldowns.
The reason why I love super setting is that it allows you to get through your workout faster, maintains a steady burn and also keeps the heart rate up!
During the first trimester, I also did some moderate cardio about 3-4 times per week for about 20 minutes, sometimes at the gym and sometimes on my treadmill at home if I couldn’t make out to the gym.
2. Listen to your Body
When I got my doctor’s approval to continue on with my workouts, I was pumped, but I was still nervous that I’d overdo it and somehow harm the baby. It just felt like one big guessing game!
So each workout I really just listened to my body and would encourage you to do the same. If anything ever feels off while exercising, slow down a bit.
If you feel any weird pains or became dizzy or short of breath, stop for a few minutes or lower the intensity of what you’re doing.
For the most part, however, I was pleasantly surprised that during the first trimester, I was able to do much of what I had done before becoming pregnant, with the exception of lightening up the weights a bit.
At the end of the day, you know your body best!
3. Start exercising BEFORE pregnancy
This is definitely my number one tip.
Oftentimes it’s recommended that you don’t start a new exercise program when pregnant, so why not start BEFORE you get pregnant? That will give your body an opportunity to adapt to exercising before the baby starts growing and all of the crazy pregnancy symptoms kick in.
Additionally, you’ll have a chance to practice the exercises before your body changes and it starts getting tougher to move around.
Plus, by getting a head start, you’ll develop a foundation of lean muscle which will rev up your metabolism and make it easier to lose the baby weight postpartum.
Sounds like a good deal to me!
4. Start off slow
If you’re new to strength training, I wouldn’t recommend diving right in and picking up the heaviest weight you can find.
As much as you might be eager to get started, this is definitely a big no-no and can set you back in the long run. Not only can it cause injury, but you might also feel really sore after the workout is over, which can discourage you from continuing on with your new workout routine.
Your best bet?
Pick up a weight that you can easily lift for the specified amount of repetitions, and then as your strength increases, gradually increase the weight to a point where it becomes challenging by the end of the set.
A more progressive approach will definitely be more beneficial for you in the long run.
5. Use proper form
If you’re not used to strength training, I would advise that you visit a site like bodybuilding.com to review how to execute any exercises that you’re unfamiliar with through their exercise finder or meet with a trainer who can provide you with some tips on how to do the exercises using proper form.
Using improper form can result in injury which can set you back in your fitness journey, so you’re better off learning how to do the exercises right in the first place!
Take it from me, I learned the hard way.
6. Always warm up
It’s also important to remember to never start a workout routine without warming up first.
Usually I like to do about 5-10 minutes of cardio on the treadmill or elliptical at the beginning of my workout just to get the muscles warm to prevent injury.
This is super important!
7. Switch up your workout routine
Finally, in order to continue seeing results, you’ll want to make sure that you’re frequently switching up your exercise routine. I generally recommend switching it up every 4-6 weeks.
Throughout my pregnancy, I did this by either performing higher reps and lowering the weight I was using or subbing in different exercises for various muscle groups.
For instance, if you’ve been doing bicep curls for weeks, then maybe try adding concentration curls or hammer curls instead. It works the muscle from a different angle so your muscles are constantly being confused.
Frequently switching up your exercise routine is the best way to experience long term results! And that’s the goal, right?
Although I strongly recommend that you try to stay as active as possible during pregnancy, before embarking on any exercise routine, I would advise that you speak to your doctor first to see what’s appropriate for you.
Although I got approval to continue lifting weights, it may not be appropriate for everyone, especially if you’re not used to exercising.
As previously mentioned, my advice would be to try to get in the best shape possible before pregnancy, so that you can continue on with your routine during pregnancy.
Believe me, it will be so much easier in that postpartum phase if you take care of yourself (you can check out some of my tips for minimizing excess pregnancy weight gain here) and stay active before and during pregnancy.
Now for the juicy part! You can Download My First Trimester Strength Training Workout here!
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