One of the questions I get asked the most is if I’m still weightlifting/training and almost sarcastically, “is it safe to do that still”?
Surprisingly, the myth that being pregnant means that you are no longer able to lift anything or work up a sweat is still being perpetuated. While there are certain instances where your doctor may tell you not to exercise, for most women exercise is more than welcome during pregnancy. If you were active before becoming pregnant, you may be able to continue to do most of the activities you were doing before. You may also be able to start exercising once you find out that you are expecting, as long as you do not undertake anything too strenuous and slowly ease your way into an exercise regimen.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends avoiding these types of exercise while pregnant:
- Contact sports (to avoid hitting that baby bump!)
- Activities that may result in falling – skiing, off road cycling, horseback riding, gymnastics.. this also includes exercises like box step ups with weights later in pregnancy when your center of balance may cause you to stumble
- Hot yoga or hot Pilates – these may cause you to overheat
- Lying flat on your back during your second trimester – once your uterus becomes a little larger, it can press on a large vein that returns blood to your heart, which can cause a drop in your blood pressure
- Exercises that cause you to feel dizzy or faint, calf pain or swelling, cramping or contractions of the uterus, headache, or chest pain
I have been consistently weight training for 5 years, therefore my OB recommended that I continue to train as normal during the first trimester. My only limitations were maintaining the weight lifted instead of trying to increase anything, and drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Once I entered the 2nd trimester (14 weeks), she recommended that I no longer lay flat on my back – so no more flat bench press or chest flies. I also wasn’t able to lay on my stomach, for obvious reasons. That meant no more seal rows, or lying on an incline bench face down to do rear deltoid exercises. Abdominal exercises like crunches and sit ups are removed from your training program as soon as your belly starts to protrude or “show”. This is actually to help prevent diastasis recti or separation of the abdominal muscles. While many women still develop this condition because of their growing bellies, it can become worse if you try to do exercises that cause a “coning” shape of the abdomen. Instead, you can do exercises like planks, kegels, and elbow to knee bird dogs.
I am currently training around 90 minutes per session, five times a week. I have been able to maintain a schedule very similar to my normal program, with legs twice a week, chest & triceps, back & biceps, and shoulder days, with around 12 – 15 minutes of cardio a few days a week. My goal has been to maintain as much lean mass as possible while gaining a healthy amount of weight for our future athlete.