Did you just find out that you are pregnant? Congratulations! If you are worried about how pregnancy might impact your physical activity and workouts, don’t be! Although your body will undergo many extraordinary anatomical and physical changes, specifically to your respiratory and cardiovascular systems, this does not mean you need to stop moving your body and working out. Actually, working out is one of the best things you can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Here are just a few benefits of working out while pregnant:
• Avoid excess fat accumulation
• Faster postnatal recovery
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Maintain cardio, strength, endurance, flexibility
• Decrease muscle aches like back pain & general discomfort
• Increase posture & body mechanics
• Promote breath awareness & relaxation
• Prevention of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, hypertension
• Stress reduction, increase confidence and self-image
Staying active during pregnancy can also lead to an easier pregnancy and labor. Sounds great, right! So, let’s get started with a few changes you will want to consider making during the First Trimester.
1. Give yourself permission to add in additional rest, decrease the intensity and overall duration of the exercise.
A. The first trimester is less about modifying specific exercises and more about listening to how your body feels. This trimester can be very challenging with nausea and exhaustion. Often times, making it feel impossible to get a workout in. Honor your energy levels and how your body feels that day.
2. Discontinue the use of a weight belt and holding your breath.
A. Holding your breath and using a weight belt changes how blood flows to and from your heart and uterus. Adding a belt to your lifts and holding your breath also increases your intra-abdominal pressure which in turn increases the forces and stress put on your core muscles and pelvic floor muscles.
3. Eliminate max effort lifts and exercises that have a high risk of falling.
A. Focus on changing your approach to exercise to accommodate your changing body and needs. Remember that exercise during this chapter is not just about the benefits right now, it’s about you and your baby’s future health and well-being too. If you are used to hitting the workout with a 10/10 intensity, think about reducing that intensity to 7/10 or less.
4. Focus on your posture.
A. Neutral alignment throughout the spine is critical for proper diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic floor muscle contraction. Having good posture and a neutral alignment will ensure success with your core and pelvic floor muscle function during exercise. Squeezing your butt cheeks together is one tick I like to use to help prevent the arching of the lumbar spine.
5. Add in hip stability exercises.
A. Glute (buttock muscles) exercises are key to fighting off achy hips and low back pain during pregnancy. They can also set you up for a better postpartum recovery.
Two of my favorites are:
1. Hip bridges with thera-band.
2. Air squats with thera-band.
Quick Tips: How to breathe during exercise while pregnant:
Option 1: Inhale during the eccentric portion of the movement and exhale during the concentric portion.
• Example 1: While lowering yourself in a squat (eccentric) inhale while standing up from the bottom of a squat (concentric), exhale as you draw the PFM up and in.
• Example 2: While lowering your chest to the ground in a push up (eccentric) inhale, while pushing your chest off the ground (concentric) exhale/contract PFM.
Option 2: Inhale in-between reps and exhale during the movement.
• Example: For a squat, you would inhale at the start of each rep and exhale/contract the PFM while lowering and rising from a squat.