A Guide to the Do’s & Don’ts of Exercising When Pregnant by Pre & Post Natal Trainer Lily Gredley
I know many people are confused about what they can and can’t do when it comes to exercising whilst pregnant so I have written a rough guide of the ‘do’s and don’t’s’ which I’m hoping will give you a little more confidence about exercising safely.
Please do take this as a rough guide as every person is different and their bodies respond differently to certain things so something that may feel right for you may not for the next person.
I don’t want you to see the below as a set of strict rules. Rather, hopefully, a helpful guide to refer to if you’re unsure what you can still do safely. You can most certainly still have an awesome workout!
Working out whilst pregnant…
- Listen to your body.
If you feel okay doing something, chances are you’re fine to carry on. If something doesn’t feel right, stop.
- Start off slow. Often women feel pretty horrid in their first trimester so might not want to train but if you do want to, go ahead and work your way up slowly. If you regularly workout already then carry on doing what you’re doing for the first trimester, you may just want to scale down the intensity a bit.
- Yes you can start working out if you never have before. It’s good for you. As I said above, just start off slow, you don’t need to be doing anything crazy we just want to make your body stronger.
- When you get to your second trimester you may have developed a bump, (everyone develops at such different times so it could be fairly pronounced by now or you may not be able to see much at all, all completely normal) so I would maybe start doing a few things differently ie…
- Avoid planks on the floor if your abs feel like they make a sort of triangular shape (doming) or you can’t keep them flat and they start bulging out. This is usually a sign it’s too much for them and it can weaken the midline in between the “six pack” muscles (yes we all have those muscles even if you can’t see them). You can put your hands on a bench or something elevated instead.
- Avoid direct ab work like crunches/sit ups/ double leg raises for the same reason as above
- Make sure you really use your breathing. I cannot stress this enough as this is the HUGEST help when it comes to engaging your abs and pelvic floor in the right way and keeping that core working effectively.
The easiest way to describe it is to breathe out when you’re doing the hardest part of the exercise, which is usually going against gravity. Think breathe out when pushing up out of a squat or press up or pulling yourself up from a TRX row.
- When it comes to cardio use the “talk test”. You can still do cardio but you may want to make it less intense as a lack of oxygen can distress the baby. Don’t panic, this just means when exercising, if you can still talk you’re fine to carry on but if you’re gasping for breath so much that you can’t even speak it’s probably too much, scale it back.
- I would recommend leaving out high impact workouts now like jumping (running can still be okay if you’re a regular runner and your pelvic floor feels totally fine i.e. no heaviness, dragging feeling or leaking)
- Around about the five month mark (again this can vary) I would avoid lying flat on your back for too long. This is for your own health as the baby can press on your vena cava stopping blood flowing back to your heart but again don’t panic as you will feel any warning signs first like feeling dizzy, sick or getting pins and needles. So if you want to do exercises that require you to lie down just lie on a bench and elevate it a little or put a cushion under your upper back.
- If you get any sharp pains around your pubic bone (pelvic girdle pain) then just avoid the exercise that’s causing the pain. Often single leg exercises can make the pain worse (things like lunges or step ups but sometimes even walking can hurt) so I would avoid them and just stick to things like squats and deadlifts. If it feels fine then it is fine.
- Remember to drink plenty of water and allow yourself regular or longer breaks between sets. Don’t let yourself over heat too much. You will naturally sweat more than usual though, which is fine, this is your body’s way of keeping your temperature down.
I would always recommend seeing a Pelvic Health Physio or qualified pre and post natal trainer if you are worried or unsure about anything or just want advice.