A common question I get from many of the Mamas I work with is: "How long can I continue working out hard while I'm pregnant?"
And I don't blame them.
On the one hand you have the camp that tells you to, "only walk and do yoga," as soon as you find out that you're pregnant, while the other camp talks about, "women in the olden days who worked in the fields until the day their babies were born."
So who is correct? How intensely can you work out in the last trimester of pregnancy?
Before we dive into that answer, let me first mention that not only is every woman's pregnancy experience different, but women may have different experiences throughout each trimester as well.
For example, in your first trimester of pregnancy, you might workout less frequently or less intensely based on how you are feeling (fatigue, nausea, etc.)
In your second trimester, it's likely that you'll be able to maintain a more consistent exercise schedule and that your workouts will feel more like they did pre-pregnancy (except for the feeling of your growing baby, of course!).
Your third trimester may be a combination of the first and second trimesters. You may start to feel a bit more fatigued, your body could be a bit more achy as you move along, and you’ll likely need more recovery time between workouts.
That said, below are 6 ways that you can adjust your workouts to keep them effective and efficient as you move towards the end of your pregnancy, specifically in the last 6+ weeks (from approximately 32-34 weeks onward).
You are probably already quite keen on this now in your pregnancy. The best thing you can do is be mindful of how your body feels during and after exercise sessions.
If you are feeling great, experiencing normal muscle post-workout soreness, and you feel more energized after workouts that you did before - great! Keep it up, and just watch for any signs that it’s time to back off. (Pictured: Amanda Graydon strengthening her back with Face Pulls at 37 weeks pregnant)
If you are feeling tired for hours post-workout and like you just want to sleep the day away, or if you are getting pelvic and lower back pain during and after workouts, it’s time to adjust.
Pay attention to the length of your workouts: are you working steadily for more than 45 to 60 minutes? You may want to reduce the time, or add some additional recovery exercises into the workout.
Also, pay attention to the exercises in your workout: are you putting a lot of stress on the pelvis and core? This could be in the form of Pushups, Deadlifts, Running, or even Weighted Lateral Lunges. You could feel far better by choosing different variations of these exercises like an incline push-up and kettlebell deadlift.
We want you to feel better post-workout, never worse.
If you have a toddler(s) running around at home, this might be a tad tricky! But, if you can squeeze in a bit more rest time after workouts, take it. In other words, you might not want to follow up a workout by hours of running errands or housework where you’re spending a lot more time on your feet!
Other health professionals often say, “an hour of exercise, an hour of rest." This rest time can be pure rest where you’re napping or lying on the couch (side-lying at this stage to help baby into better position!). Or, you could take a walk to the park with your other kids where they can play and you can sit for a few minutes.
Strength training is still very much your friend at this point (isn’t it always?) That being said, with baby getting big you might be feel less support from the core and more downward pressure of the baby onto your pelvic floor.
It’s great to keep weight training, but I’d recommend reducing the weight slightly, especially in lower body exercises that are unilateral, meaning you are using one leg at a time or have one leg in front of the other (e.g. Split Squats, Lunges, Step-ups).
If you’ve been working between 8 to 10 reps mostly, you could bump your reps up to the 10-15 range to still feel challenged with a more moderate weight. You can still challenge yourself, even in core training exercises, it might just look and feel a bit different.
As you may be feeling a bit more tired or uncomfortable, this could be a good time to reduce the higher intensity interval training (HIIT) you’re doing. For more information on interval training, read Safe and Effective Conditioning Workouts In Pregnancy.
You can: reduce the time or number of circuits, do your intervals fewer times per week, or just cut it out completely if your energy are higher without it.
If you’re enjoying the metabolic conditioning and still feel good during and after, you can absolutely keep doing it.
Another option is to play around with your workout schedule and see if you feel best doing your conditioning immediately following your strength training workout so you can have extra rest days, or if you feel best doing it on separate days so you are moving your body more often throughout the week.
Either option is fine, just notice how your body is responding and recovering.
Long walks may start to irritate the pelvis and leave you achy immediately after, or the next day.
If you usually take a daily walk lasting 30 to 45 minutes or longer, and are starting to feel discomfort throughout or after, try cutting it down to a couple of 15- to 20-minute walks, one in the morning and another at lunch time or after work. This can also be good preventative measure for reducing excess stress and downward pressure on the pelvic organs.
If you are able to fit it in, walking is such a great way to get additional movement without wearing you out, plus, you get lots of good action happening through the pelvic joints, which can be great for you and baby.
I love to give my ladies a daily circuit or start to include “birth prep exercises" into their dynamic warmups for their strength training workouts. These exercises can fit into your workout warm-ups, into rest breaks, or into a daily circuit you do at home.
This circuit includes exercises that are designed for reducing aches and pains for mama, but also for getting baby into good pelvic alignment as we’re starting to think more about labour and birth at this time.
Exercises such as wide child’s pose, seated pelvic circles, bodyweight squats, cat cow (depending on if there’s a diastasis recti), etc.
Baby’s position in your body can really affect the process of labor and delivery, and I would encourage you to check out the site Spinning Babies, to learn about how to get baby into a more optimal birthing position.
85% of women will have a baby at some point in their life. If you work with women, you work with pre- and postnatal women.
Whether your clients are currently pregnant or have already had their baby, they’ll have questions about everything — how to exercise safely in each trimester, which foods they should and shouldn’t eat, how to exercise the right way post-pregnancy.
And they’ll look to you for the answers.
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