Back at the beginning of my second trimester, I had a bit of a scare. I experienced some cramping and a bit of spotting, which I had never had during any pregnancy. Needless to say, I was a little worried and called my doctor immediately.
After an ultrasound, and a check up with my doctor, everything turn out fine, but she did suggest something that I wasn’t super thrilled about:
“You might want to switch to walking.”
I was crushed. Now, don’t get me wrong, intellectually, I totally understand: it’s not just about my health anymore, the safety of my baby is far more important than my ego, and its such a short period of time to give up running that in the great scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter.
But I was crushed. I came home sobbing to my husband, even though I understood everything I just mentioned above. But, let’s be honest, pregnancy doesn’t really lend itself to rational thought – those hormones, amiright?
I couldn’t imagine spending the next 5 or so months not running, but the health of my baby was priority number one. So, like any modern woman, I took the question to social media: What workouts can I do to keep up my strength and stamina during pregnancy?
The answers were similar and very helpful.
Often I think women shy away from weight training because they are afraid of “getting big.” I used to believe this for so long until I did plenty of research and reading on this. As women we lack the testosterone necessary to “bulk up.” (This is especially true during pregnancy and breastfeeding as our increased hormones make it very difficult to build muscle.)
Weight training leans you out, aids in burning fat, and improves overall body composition. When pregnant, it serves and even more important job in my opinion: preparing you for labor.
Labor is an unbelievably physical event. You need to approach it like a marathon, Iron Man, or another demanding endurance event, because that’s what it is! By strengthening the muscles you will use during labor and delivery, (e.g. glutes, thighs, core, back) you are preparing your body for a very hard job. Weight training can also improve recovery time and help you bounce back faster after baby.
I’m not swimming as often as I’d like, but it is a fantastic option for pregnancy. Aside from being low-impact, it’s a full body workout that can strengthen the muscles of your entire body.
One additional benefit that can help prepare you for labor is the practice of breathing. Rhythmic breathing is a practice often used during labor as a means of working with contractions. When swimming, you are forced to focus on a very rhythmic pattern of breathing, and getting into this practice will be helpful during labor whether or not you decide to opt for pain medication.
One of the things I love about Pilates is the focus on core strength. So often, women are scared to work and strengthen their cores because they are afraid of ab separation or diastasis recti.
DR is actually very common in pregnant women, but did you know that not strengthening your core can actually make it worse? Just be sure if you decide to try Pilates to find a class or video geared toward pregnancy.
Yoga is a great, gentle, low impact workout that can strengthen those labor muscles again and help with rhythmic breathing. (Labor Prep!)
In addition, yoga can help ease the aches and pains commonly associated with pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. Yoga also incorporates plenty of lower body movements like squats which prepare you for labor.
The good news is after several weeks of no issues, I got permission from my doctor to begin running again. I took it slow and included plenty of walking breaks, but it felt good to just run a little again.
Even with about 8 weeks left, I still try and keep my activity up. I’m back to mostly walking, with a couple of running breaks thrown in, and I’ve continued weight training 2-3 times per week. As I get bigger, I might switch to more yoga and Pilates to keep my core strong and help ease any aches and pains.
What are your favorite pregnancy workouts? Did you notice a difference in how you felt? I’d love to hear from you!