The following is a guest post from Lamaze International professional team member, Amanda O'Kane, who is pregnant with her second baby.
I’ve been enthusiastic about fitness for more than 10 years and have continued my interest in exercising while I’m now in the third trimester of my second pregnancy. I realized how many benefits I gained by staying active during my first pregnancy and chose to continue the habit.
Advantages to Exercising During Pregnancy
There are so many benefits to exercising while you’re pregnant -- Fit Pregnancy gives you 33 reasons if you need motivation to start or maintain a routine. Working out keeps me mentally charged and usually helps me maintain a better mood for the rest of the day. I’ve listed a few of the reasons below why I choose to exercise.
- Endorphins—nothing beats that positive feeling after a workout!
- Mental well-being—I feel stronger while I’m working out no matter how I’m feeling with common pregnancy symptoms (including nausea during the first trimester).
- Better sleep—we all know that between morning sickness and needing to use the restroom more often, quality sleep is always appreciated!
- Physical benefits—these are secondary for me, but staying active has reduced common pregnancy symptoms and contributed to maintaining a healthy weight gain both pregnancies.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) gives you even more reasons to maintain a workout routine during pregnancy.
Setting a Routine
In order to continue my fitness plan during pregnancy, I have to maintain an exercise routine which has now become a habit. I love when I complete a workout in the morning (usually before 6:00 a.m.) while my toddler is still asleep. I feel better all day, and know that is the optimal time for me so excuses don’t creep in as new commitments arise later. I also tend to eat healthier throughout the day if I’ve started with a workout.
My toddler’s nap time on the weekends is also an ideal time for me to squeeze in 30 minutes of exercise with a workout at home. Most importantly, find a time and schedule that works for you. Everyone has different commitments and preferences, so planning in advance can really help you succeed.
Types of Exercises by Trimester
Always talk with your doctor or midwife to find a workout routine that works best for you since every pregnancy is different.
- Walking – I use public transportation for my commute and walk to the train and then to the office about three days a week, which totals around two miles daily. Walking is a great place to start if you haven’t been exercising and a good addition if you have already established a fitness routine.
- Swimming – Making a splash in the pool can provide one of the safest exercises while you’re expecting since it is low impact and the water supports your joints and ligaments. Feeling buoyant in the water despite pregnancy weight gain is a bonus!
- Yoga – I found a local prenatal yoga class I loved during my first pregnancy and have continued with the same instructor this pregnancy. There are lots of prenatal yoga videos online too if a class doesn’t fit your schedule.
- Kegels –These are one of the first exercises you can do post-delivery, and are important to perform throughout pregnancy. You can read more about the importance of Kegels, and why you should do them every day.
ACOG shares that “If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts with your health care professional’s approval,” during the first trimester. I chose to continue running long distances of 10+ miles during the first trimesters of both pregnancies. Spinning, strength training, swimming, barre and Pilates are all good options if they’re already part of your lifestyle.
Listen to your body, and take a break when you need to do so. There are so many physical and hormonal changes during this time, and I found that when I exercised, I felt the most like my old self. Do not be too hard on yourself and keep realistic expectations. Also remember to stay hydrated before, during and after exercising, as your blood volume is increasing progressively.
Second and Third Trimesters
This is the time when I’ve always found myself stepping back a bit. Having increased energy is a huge bonus during the second trimester, but it’s also when I really start to notice changes in my body. It is common to feel more tired during the third trimester. I like to focus on low-impact exercises during this stage of pregnancy, and especially focus on yoga, as strengthening muscles for birth is a top priority.
I love to do workouts that are aimed at pregnancy or participate in prenatal classes in the second and third trimesters, and you can still continue many of the same exercises you’ve already been doing. Start making modifications as needed during the second trimester. You can continue doing planks for ab work, but avoid sit-ups or other exercises where you need to be flat on your back. You’ll probably need to keep taking breaks more often for water too.
- Gym – The gym was my go-to place for exercise during my first pregnancy. Many classes are still safe as long as you modify when needed, including spinning, strength training and water aerobics. I also love to hop on a cardio machine, such as the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike.
- At home – I have mostly exercised at home this pregnancy. I’ve listed below some of my favorite videos (many of which are geared at prenatal fitness):
- BodyFit by Amy – These are the best free videos I’ve found for prenatal exercise. There are more than 10 routines to choose from. They are led by an instructor who is expecting and cover every muscle group.
- Tone It Up – I also love this free YouTube channel, which includes dozens of workouts that target different parts of the body. They are not prenatal-specific, so just be sure to follow any modifications you’ve made for other exercises.
- Beachbody On Demand – I have a paid subscription to Beachbody, which now offers a pre- and post-natal program that includes a total body routine for each trimester of pregnancy, and a yoga video for each stage.
- Tracy Anderson's Pregnancy Project – I still own this DVD set from my first pregnancy, and find these to be the most challenging prenatal workouts of the bunch. There is a new routine every month of pregnancy too, which keeps me from becoming bored.
Finding Time for Workouts if You Have Children
If you already have a child (or more than one), you know that finding time to exercise can be even more of a challenge. For a couple of years, I used a gym that offered childcare. This can be a great option if it works with your schedule and budget. Here are some other ways I’ve found to squeeze in staying active since I had my first baby:
- Park Workout – Once my little one was older, I made a habit of strapping my toddler in the jogging stroller and heading to a local playground and would perform sets of planks, squats, triceps dips, lunges or push-ups off a park bench.
- Hike – We head out on a local running trail often for a long urban walk or go to a nearby national park for a nature hike.
- Jogging Stroller – Bring your kiddo(s) along for a run or power walk
Setting Yourself Up for Success Post Delivery
Maintaining a workout routine beforehand can help set you up for success post baby. Once you’re cleared by your doctor to return to exercise, you are one step ahead regarding postnatal fitness since you’ve already established the habit! I hope some of these tips help you find time for fitness in your busy schedule, and wish you the best on your prenatal exercise journey.
Amanda O’Kane welcomed a charming son in 2014 and is expecting her second baby this fall. She is passionate about working full time in marketing communications, loves being an avid runner when she has the chance, likes traveling with her family and enjoys acting as an amateur chef for her household most weeknights. She lives in Arlington, VA, with her family.