Being a perinatal certified coach, I thought I knew everything I needed to give the best advice to my pregnant clients. After all, I had learnt about it in books, attended training and got certified by industry leaders, why would it matter that I have not been pregnant myself?
Even if this is true in most cases – your physiotherapist does not need to tear their ACL to know how to rehabilitate yours, being pregnant is such a unique experience, I feel like no amount of theory can comprehend it fully and especially how it affects your fitness routine. Being on this journey myself, I thought I would share the 5 things I wish I knew about working out while pregnant. Enjoy!
1.LEARN TO ADAPT
I was sick during the first 4,5 months of my pregnancy and felt like I would never be able to exercise again. Morning sickness which lasted all day long barely left me with enough energy to work. Being an active person, I felt that a little part of me was dying on the couch. I wanted to be an example for all my clients, but how could I ask them to keep active if I could not even do it myself?
Good news, your energy levels will vary. Some days you feel on top of the world and the next so sluggish you just want to namastay in bed. Remember, nothing lasts forever, so adjust your activity levels daily if need be. My plan is to have 3 kind of workouts: a workout for the good days, a lower intensity option as plan B and a bare minimum for the bad days. Prepare some options, do what feels right on that day and don’t beat yourself up if that only means walking from your couch to the fridge. Better days will come!
2. THERE ARE (ALMOST) NO FORBIDDEN EXERCISES
Everyone you meet will feel the irrepressible need to share what NOT to do. Going online to find more info? You will probably feel lost as most articles will tell you different things. “Do not lift weights”, “Don’t run”, “Don’t do abs”. Unless you hear this statement from a professional who knows you and your fitness level, forget about it!
Guess what, there is no definite rule on what to do and what not to do during pregnancy, because we all have different levels, different pregnancies and different bodies! The important bit is to be active. Period. Movement is paramount for a healthy pregnancy, a natural delivery and a faster recovery after birth. But how active exactly? A rule of thumb is to keep doing what you were doing before pregnancy while adapting the intensity to suit your needs. If needed, switch to lower intensity or low impact for added safety. Give yourself more time to recover. Make sure you exercise with certified, experienced trainers who will help you adapt your workouts accordingly and always listen to your body. If your fav workout does not feel right anymore, drop it! Pregnancy is not the time to set a new personal best, it is all about keeping active throughout and enjoying yourself while you’re at it!
3. YOU CAN START EXERCISING DURING YOUR PREGNANCY
No matter what, every day is a great day to start exercising. Whether you are 30 years old, 60 and even pregnant! You will find a lot of books telling you not to but with the rapid changes your body will go through, it would be a mistake to sit still and hope for the best. Be considerate, do not go from zero to hero, but a 10min walk, a swim or some stretching would definitely do you some good if you have been cleared by your Doctor to exercise. Giving birth and taking care of a newborn is a very physical experience and you will never regret being active during your pregnancy. Start slow, listen to your body, get yourself a certified personal trainer if that helps to reassure you and feel safer, just get started!
4. YOU CAN EXERCISE WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS
I always thought exercising with a certain goal was the best way to keep active. I loved challenging myself to new highs and I thought this would be somehow the same while pregnant, but I was 100% wrong. Working out only to feel good or getting some me time is surprisingly freeing! For once it is not about losing weight, reaching a certain goal or trying to look a certain way. Working out during and after pregnancy is so much more. It is taking care of yourself and your baby in the best way possible. Understanding what your ever-changing body is capable of and create the mental resilience you will need during delivery and post-partum.
Take this time to find something you love doing and now more than ever use exercise as your special time.
5. STOP / START EXERCISING AGAIN WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE IT
One question I hear a lot. Can I exercise all the way through my pregnancy? How long should I wait before I can exercise again after birth? Obstetricians Guidelines will tell you to stop exercising around 38 weeks (if all is well) and start again 6 weeks after birth (once you have met your gynaecologist again and depending on your delivery), but I would say these timelines are just an approximative guide. My rule is: ask your Doctor + listen to your body and your mind. Your body will let you know when to stop, just learn to listen for cues. Some of my clients came for class on the day of their delivery and said they absolutely loved it while others felt the need to stop 6 weeks before their EDD. Both these ladies delivered healthy babies. With everything that’s happening after birth, moving again can seem challenging for so many different reasons, so just be kind to yourself, don’t set the bar too high and take it step by step!
All in all, the one thing you need to remember about pre and post-natal fitness is that YOU create the rules. Tune in and be realistic about how you feel. Being rested, hydrated and well fed is more than enough. Incorporating some movement helps with your physical and mental well-being, but if it feels way too much like punishment today, take a breather and see how you feel tomorrow!