Staying fit and healthy during pregnancy is something that most, if not all moms worry about at some point. I am no exception. Before I was put on bed rest and spent the rest of the pregnancy in bed, I had been trying to do light exercises in the first trimester.
That said, I have not had a consistent fitness routine in a while so I am the worst person to be talking to you about fitness. However, for your sake, beautiful fit pregnant mama, I found someone who speaks the fitness language fluently.
Sarah Reck is not only a mom of 4; she is a physician( yes, a practicing Anesthesiologist), a blogger, and a fitness junkie. I honestly could not find anyone better suited to write about this subject. As someone who has stayed fit and strong throughout her pregnancies she is definitely an inspiration.
I’m really thankful that she agreed to share her fitness story and share some really good tips on fitness during pregnancy and the considerations you should make.
This video from Modern Mom can give you some exercise ideas, but make sure you read through Sarah’s tips below before you try them.
Maintaining a Fitness Routine During Pregnancy
By Sarah Reck,MD
One day, when I was about 36 weeks along with my 4th pregnancy, I was running on the treadmill during my workout at Orange Theory Fitness (OTF). In the middle of a push interval, the trainer suddenly called out, “Brad, get moving! The 8 months pregnant lady on your right is running faster than you are!”
Needless to say, everyone turned to stare at Brad and he picked up his paltry pace because nobody wants to lose a footrace to a pregnant lady, especially one who is about ready to pop.
I continued to attend my OTF sessions twice a week for the remainder of my pregnancy, modifying some of the floor work when my protruding belly got in the way and trading rowing for the elliptical due to not being able to reach forward far enough on the rowing machine without discomfort. My last workout at OTF was 2 days before I went into labor, and I was back at it 6 weeks after delivery.
Many people ask me how I was able to maintain my commitment to my 6 day a week fitness routine throughout all of my pregnancies. For me, there was never any question that I would exercise while pregnant because, having been a collegiate cross-country and track runner, fitness is such an engrained part of my life that I wouldn’t know what to do without it.
Related: My favorite pregnancy items
But one thing I learned quickly during my first pregnancy was that I was going to have to alter my fitness goals from my pre-pregnancy state.
Prior to pregnancy, I exercised for a multitude of reasons – to keep weight off, to maintain health, to try and become a faster runner, and of course for the mental health benefits. Given my competitive background, there was definitely a component of bigger, faster, stronger to my workouts.
But the minute I got pregnant, I knew those goals were going to have to change. With my first pregnancy, I tried really hard to maintain my usual hard-hitting workouts only to be often struck down by exhaustion or nausea. I quickly learned that I need to listen to my body and adjust my expectations to respect the fact that my body was being used to create a human being and that exercise was now about staying healthy, both mentally and physically, and not about making major gains in my fitness level.
My exercise routine during each pregnancy was different; with my first and second children, it involved a great deal of cardio – running until about 20 weeks pregnant and then moving to session on the elliptical when running became too uncomfortable. Before my third pregnancy, I had gotten very into body pump classes at the local YMCA and continued to do those throughout my pregnancy, in addition to my sessions on the elliptical. My fourth, and last pregnancy, I did OTF twice a week throughout and sessions on the elliptical on days I wasn’t at OTF.
My pregnancy fitness routine isn’t right for everyone, but it was right for me. Many people questioned my commitment to OTF during my last pregnancy, saying that the workouts were too hard and I shouldn’t be working out at such a high level. But I had been taking the classes for a year prior to getting pregnant and was very used to exercising at that intensity level. I also had a totally normal pregnancy and told the trainers early on that I was pregnant so they could work with me to modify any exercises to make them safe for my changing body.
So, if you are someone who is pregnant or looking to get pregnant and wondering about maintaining a fitness routine during pregnancy, here are a few things to consider.
1. Listen To Your Body And Let It Guide You.
Your body undergoes so many changes during pregnancy, not just the expanding abdomen. Your center of balance shifts, your joints and ligaments loosen due to the increased levels of progesterone, and your cardiovascular system undergoes numerous changes to accommodate an expanding blood volume and maintain oxygen levels to the baby. If you are feeling sore, tight, or extremely short of breath then change what you are doing or dial it back.
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2. Modify, Modify, Modify.
As I mentioned earlier, I was able to continue my OTF workouts, but there were definitely a lot of modifications to moves as I got further along. You need to respect your growing abdomen and not put undue strain on those already over-worked muscles. Modify any core moves or anything that feels uncomfortable. Kegals instead of full sit-ups, elliptical instead of rowing or biking, and dialing back on weights as needed. If you are unsure of a move or how to modify it but get the same benefit, check with a trainer at your gym, or if you exercise at home, simply err on the side of caution and don’t do it.
3. Check And Recheck Your Goals.
Pregnancy is not the time to use exercise as a means to weight loss or decide to PR your 5K time. Everyone will have their own goals, but I’d suggest focusing on using exercise as stress relief, to maintain cardiovascular fitness, and generally stay healthy.
Even Olympic-level athletes have to dial back their athletic goals during pregnancy. I will never forget watching a 34 weeks pregnant Alysia Montano run the 800 meters at the 2014 USA Track and Field Championships. The 5 time national champion in the event took to the track (with the blessing of her OB) and a simple goal of “not getting lapped”. She went on to run the race in 2:32, nowhere near her personal best of 1:57. She knew going into the race that simply crossing the finish line was a victory. (ESPN)
4. Pregnancy Isn’t The Time To Try Something New.
A good general rule of thumb to follow for exercise is that if you weren’t doing something BEFORE you got pregnant, right now probably isn’t the time to try it. In other words, if you weren’t doing Crossfit before, wait until after pregnancy to try out that new box on the corner.
5. Check With Your Doctor.
If you are unsure if you should continue your fitness routine during pregnancy, check with your doctor. Every person and every pregnancy is different. I had 4 extremely uncomplicated pregnancies, which certainly contributed to my ability to exercise throughout. This all would have been very different if I had a high-risk pregnancy for any reason. Your doctor went to school for many years to keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy. Keep them informed of what is going on and trust their opinion of the situation.
My youngest child is almost three now and it’s hard to believe that day at OTF happened so long ago. I no longer attend classes there because the times don’t work well with my crazy work hours and I am currently training for a marathon which requires a different workout schedule. But I will always fondly remember feeling like a total wonder woman, doing burpees alongside the guys, belly and all, under the watchful eye of the trainers who helped keep my form in check so that I remained uninjured and on pace to workout until the very end.
About The Author
I am a physician, a mother of 4, blogger and fitness junkie!! I am an Anesthesiologist in Milwaukee, WI where I work full time practicing the full scope of Anesthesia practice. I am also a mother of 4 beautiful boys, ages 2, 4, 7, 9. I love to workout and call it my happy place. I love talking about fitness and helping other mothers figure out how they can fit fitness into their lives.
Juggling work and motherhood is no small feat (especially with my crazy hours), and a few years ago, I found myself feeling burned out and exhausted , despite it appearing from the outside that I “had it all.” After a lot of introspection, I recognized that my perfectionist expectations for myself were keeping me from living joyfully. With a lot of work and through trial and error, I learned to systematically organize my life, ask for help, and let go of the little things so that I am now able to enjoy the life I worked so hard to build.
I started my blog with the goal of helping other stressed-out moms find their fantastic, so that they can also life joyfully. I do this by teaching them how to create time by building efficiency and organization into their lives and learn to let go of the little things.
- Undergraduate: Valparaiso University – BS Biologist, Chemistry, History (2000)
- Graduate: Georgetown University, MS Physiology, and Biophysics (2001)
- Medical School: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (2006)
- Internship: Indiana University General Surgery Internship (2007)
- Residency: Northwestern University, Anesthesiology (2010)
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