Hi Hayley,
I recently found out I am pregnant (yay).  I like to exercise including running and weight lifting.  I know my workouts need to change but I’m not sure exactly how.  I was hoping you could share some exercises that were safe for me and my baby.

Congratulations on your pregnancy!  You are right  that your workouts do need to change but for the most part you can continue to do what you have been doing up to a certain point.  In the first trimester of your pregnancy there are not a lot of things that you cannot do as you are so early into your pregnancy; just make sure that you follow the heart rate and exercise guidelines found here on the PARmed-X for Pregnancy.  Also, make sure you are cleared by your doctor before beginning a workout program. 

The first trimester is a great time to do as much core as you possibly can where you are required to be on your back as once you have passed 14 weeks, exercising on your back becomes very difficult (due to the weight of the uterus on the inferior vena cava) and it is not recommended that women in their second trimester do any exercise where they are required to lay down. 

As you progress through your pregnancy you may run into complications that will limit what you can do in your workouts and I usually recommend women do not run past 6 months.  Although it is still safe to do so (within the recommended heart rates) the weight of the baby on the pelvic floor as it bounces up and down can cause long standing problems such as bladder incontinence and a prolapsed uterus.  After you have reached 6 months you should stick to lower impact cardio, including cycling, hiking, power walking and swimming.  You may also start to experience ligament pain in your pelvis so make sure you limit the exercises where you are required to stand on one foot; step ups and walking lunges are also two of the exercises you want to stay away from. Stick to squats and stationary lunges instead and try doing them while being supported by a stability ball behind your back.

Some women also experience diastasis recti, which is when your rectus abdominis (your “6 pack” muscle) separates down the middle.  If you notice your abdominals bulging when they are engaged, or if you have more than a 2 finger width separation of the abdominal muscle, avoid any exercise that engages the rectus abdominals, avoid twisting and make sure when you get up from a seated position you support yourself.  Do not panic if you have this separation, it is very common and can be rehabilitated once the baby is delivered but there is nothing that can be done to fix it while you are pregnant or prevent it from happening.

You also want to focus on exercises that will address your posture, balance and the flexibility of the muscles that will become tight throughout your pregnancy as well as afterwards.  Focus on stretching the muscles through the front of your body (your chest and shoulders especially) as well as your hip flexors and adductors.  A lot of women find prenatal yoga very helpful for the latter part of their pregnancy. Also, having regular visits with a massage therapist or chiropractor that specializes in pre and postnatal care can help you stay strong and pain free.

And I cannot stress enough the importance of kegal exercises as they will save you from so many problems through your pregnancy as well as afterwards.  Do them in the shower, while you are driving, while you are cooking dinner and while you watch TV.  Whenever it crosses your mind DO YOUR KEGALS! I cannot tell you how many women do not do their kegals and spend months rehabilitating their pelvic floors after they have had their baby.

Continue doing what you are doing but as you start to progress in your pregnancy pay attention to what is happening and address the issues as they appear. Make sure you drink lots of water before, during and after your workouts, keep cool by exercising in a well ventilated room, near a window or next to a fan and dress in layers.  Invest in a heart rate monitor if you do not already have one and most importantly listen to your body.  Some days you will feel as though you can conquer the world and on others you will find it challenging to simply walk around the block so do what you can when you can.

Attached - pregnant Reese Witherspoon shooting Devil’s Knot in Atlanta.