Having a fit pregnancy has little to do with maintaining your figure and more to do with strengthening the key muscles used during birth. Labour can be likened to an endurance event, so you really want to be in tip-top condition. Pregnancy isn’t a time in your life where you’re going to be gaining fitness but rather maintaining what you already have.
If you exercised before getting pregnant, keep it up but remember you now have a little growing baby on board and your body is preparing for some pretty major changes.
First trimester: 1-12 weeks
Do what you can do, no more. If you wake up feeling dreadful, you need to cut it back. The goal is to move rather than powering through your normal routine; you might just want to go for a slow walk and do some gentle stretching. On days where you’re feeling a little low, take a break. You can always start back up tomorrow.
Stay cool – overheating is incredibly dangerous for your baby. It’s best to avoid exercising in warm temperatures and stay out of the sauna or hot tub.
Do pelvic floor exercises. Focusing on strengthening the pelvic floor can help during vaginal delivery and also prevent urinary incontinence during and after birth. The best way to discover the movement is to activate the muscles used to stop the flow of urine.
Second Trimester: 13 – 26 weeks
You should be feeling good now. Often the early sickness symptoms of pregnancy have settled down, so you might want to try between 2-3 30 minute sessions of exercise a week. You should still be fine to continue with most activities; however avoid sports where you could take a hard fall and contact sports like boxing. If bike riding is a critical part of your exercise routine, choose a stationary bike from here on out. After week 20 twisting and lying on your back should be avoided as it reduces blood flow to the baby
Third Trimester: 27 weeks – birth
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for pregnant women. It requires little more than a pair of shoes and a pavement. If walking isn’t enough of a cardiovascular challenge, try slow jogging instead. Pregnancy isn’t the time to start a running routine, but if you’ve kept it up through to week 27, there’s no need to stop unless you have certain health issues or discomfort.
Swimming is an excellent total body exercise, the water takes the pressure off tired legs and backs and helps prevent overheating, however, keep in mind that exertion, even in cool water, produces sweat. If you swim for long periods, hydrate as you would while doing other workouts on land.
Low impact exercises, such as yoga, Pilates, barre, and other fitness hybrids are great for women in their third trimester. These workouts target all the major muscle groups, which can help you feel fit and strong for birth. Try taking classes specifically designed for pregnant women. The poses are modified so they are safe and more comfortable as baby (and mum) grow in those final weeks.
Heavy weights can prove dangerous in the third trimester, especially if you aren’t used to lifting. Try body weight workouts like squats, modified planks and wall push-ups to maintain strength. Avoid crunches and ab work that have you flat on your back. Try side-lying work that helps stabilise your glutes, outer hip, inner thigh and hamstrings.
As you’ll soon be carrying your baby, the third trimester is a good time to focus on arm work with light weights. Try basic bicep curls, lateral raises, and tricep work with a pair of 2-3kg weights. Breath work and meditation are also great tools in the final stages of pregnancy.
Article by Claire Finlay, founder and owner of Transition Zone
NB: Please always consult your doctor or health practitioner before starting any new exercise regime.