Smutty Fitness: Exercising and pregnant

February 8, 2012 19:53:03 Posted at February 8, 2012 19:53:03
Hayley Posted by Hayley

I have received a lot of emails from readers who have just found out that they are pregnant and are wondering about working out and being pregnant. According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), if you are healthy and experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy you can continue to stay active without risks to yourself or your unborn baby. There are a lot of guidelines while exercising when pregnant, all of which which can be found here.

During your first trimester you may probably feel terrible.  You are constantly nauseated, you are tired, you are grumpy and the last thing that you want to do is workout, right?  Here is my advice: you need to take advantage of the times you do feel good.  The first trimester is a very important time to exercise, as soon you will no longer be able to lie down on your back.  You want to spend the first trimester working on strengthening your posture, your pelvic floor, your core and your glutes.  These are all areas of your body that you will need to get as strong as possible to help with the changes in your body.  If you were active before you were pregnant, then continue doing what you have been doing, just make sure that you are watching your heart rate.  Heart rate guidelines can be found here.  

Do not panic if you notice your heart rate getting too high; just be aware of not allowing it to get too high too often.  If you are new to exercise and want to start to help ensure you have a healthy pregnancy then make sure you start slow.  CSEP recommends starting with 3 days per week and progressing to four.  Aim for 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity four times per week.

Your second trimester is when it is best to progress.  The morning sickness has hopefully passed, your energy levels are up and you feel like you can conquer the world. During this time it is really important that you watch your heart rate because you are feeling so good you may push yourself a bit harder than you should.  As I said earlier, do not panic as you will not harm your baby if your heart rate rises a bit higher than it should.   Just know it will wipe you of any energy you might need for later.  Also, in the second trimester, you want to stay away from lying down.  What this does is allows the weight of the baby to cut off blood flow in your femoral vein (the vein that brings blood back from your lower body to your heart) and can make you feel very dizzy.  

Your third trimester can be tough to workout in, especially near the end.   However, I have trained some women right up to the day before they deliver.  In the third trimester you really can only do what your body will allow you to. Try and stick to 4 days a week of 30 minutes of cardio while continuing to strengthen your posture muscles, glutes, pelvic floor, core and stretch your inner thighs.  Tight inner thighs can make labour a lot longer than it needs to be.  I always recommend women add in a prenatal yoga class one night a week.  It is a great opportunity to stretch and strengthen your body but it also will introduce you to other women in your neighbourhood who are also pregnant.  If you can’t get to a yoga studio, then try ordering a DVD to do at home.

Here are some of my favourite exercises to do with women while they are pregnant.


Swimming is my favourite.  There is no impact and you are building your strength and your cardiovascular system at the same time.  You can simply swim laps on your own or look for a water aerobics class at your local community center pool.

Running is ok, only if you have run before becoming pregnant.  Also, if you are running while you are pregnant I always recommend that my clients do not run past 7 months as the weight of the baby becomes too much and you can damage your pelvic floor.  

Cycling is a great way to keep the impact low but also keep your legs strong.  You can try a spin class. Look for one that is no longer than 45 minutes.  If you cannot find one then try and sneak out early and spend the last 15 minutes stretching, or ride a stationary bike on your own.

Do deep squats.  I cannot tell you enough how important it is to have strong glutes while you are pregnant.  You know the pregnancy walk? I call it the waddle, walking with your butt tucked under and your feet turned out like a duck; this is due to weak glutes.  As your pregnancy starts to show even more, use a stability ball as a spacer between you and a wall.  This will allow you to continue to get low without falling over.

Any exercise that will strengthen your back is beneficial.  You will find as you move along through your pregnancy you are going to want to hunch forward, so having a strong back will make sure you maintain your posture.

If you have pelvic pain try to stay away from any exercise where you don’t have two feet on the floor (walking lunges, step ups, kicks).  This will cause shearing in your Sacroiliac joint (where your hips meet your tailbone) and make your pelvic pain worse.  


Doing abdominal work is important but more so for your transverse abdominals (these are the deep abdominal muscles, what we are referring to when we say core).  Stay away from too many sit ups and instead opt for planking and mat core exercises.  If you can, Pilates is a great way to keep your core strong if you do not have access to a trainer.  Again, order a DVD online that you can do at home that is specific to prenatal fitness.

Pelvic Floor
This muscle is very important to keep strong while you are pregnant for many reasons.  We call this muscle your “pee” muscle.  My favourite exercise for the pelvic floor is called the elevator.  Imagine your pelvic floor is an elevator and it has 5 floors.  Begin by tightening it up to the first floor, hold for one breath, then proceed to the second, third and fourth (do not go as high as the fifth) then work your way back down.  Do this as many times in a day as you can, whenever you remember.

Being pregnant is not a time to lose weight, train for a race or try and improve your fitness. You want to exercise to keep you and your growing baby healthy.  You want to limit the amount of excess weight that you gain and the more active you stay while you are pregnant the easier it will be to bounce back after you have your baby.  Every woman should follow the minimum guidelines of 30 minutes of cardio 3 to 4 times per week and 3 days a week of strength, yoga or Pilates. Make sure you dress in layers so that you can stay cool, and most importantly drink lots of water.

Attached - Hilary Duff on Monday.

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