Working out and being pregnant was a whole new world for me.
I can’t tell you how many times I googled which work outs were safe to do and which ones were a big NO-NO. I became so paranoid that I even started to google which yoga poses were safe to do even though I teach yoga and have taken many pre-natal yoga training classes. I knew the answer, but I started to second guess and doubt myself. Since everyone is completely different during their each individual pregnancies it can be so hard to understand exactly what will be the best for you as well as trying to not compare yourself to other pregnant women no matter what stage they are in, in their pregnancy.
Before I start, it is obvious that you always need to check in with your doctor and have a conversation with them about what type of exercises will be safe for you! Most will always say that you can continue on with what you were doing before you became pregnant - modifying when needed- of course. Sounds easy enough, but you always have to take into consideration morning sickness, a changing body you aren’t used to, becoming out of breath faster, being dehydrated, laying on your back/stomach, abdominal work, feeling dizzy, and so much more! It is a lot to think about on top of the fear if what you are doing is safe or not safe for the growing baby. To be honest, when I first learned I was pregnant I was concerned about what I would continue on with and how I would feel. I totally thought that I would be the pregnant girl in class continuing on with my hot yoga practice, doing inversions, lifting the same weights, running and so forth. Fast forward to now, 14 weeks later, my perspective has changed completely. I wish that the way I think now about my workouts was how I always thought; modify when you need to, take rest days more often (more isn’t always better), drop the comparison, don’t push yourself when you are completely burnt out. My goals are way different and I like that. It is very freeing.
Pre-pregnancy I practiced hot yoga and I did Barry’s Bootcamp. I occasionally did spin (1x a month if that- not a huge fan!) and in the summers I would swim. This combination was perfect for me, a mix between cardio, lifting, and yoga. I probably exercised anywhere from 4-5x a week.
It felt that the day that I found out that I was pregnant was when I immediately started to feel every single symptom. Bloating, extreme exhaustion, growing painful boobs, feeling dizzy and sick, major headaches, and just an overall sense of feeling “blah.” This was around week 4 and it was exactly when I stopped “working out.” I didn’t go to a Barry’s class for the first 7 weeks of my pregnancy because I was SO scared. I attempted yoga 1x a week and started to hate it! I was very uncomfortable in my body and the new changes it was experiencing were a hard adjustment. I was constantly bloated and quite frankly not one pair of my workout pants or bras fit - at all…Not complaining one bit, but everything was very new to me, I felt alone, and I was very nervous about doing any harm to the baby since it was very early on in my pregnancy. I can’t say that I lacked motivation to keep up with my exercises- one, I know mentally that it ALWAYS makes me feel good and I knew/understand how healthy exercise is for not only your baby but for the birth but it was simply hard to exercise when all of my symptoms appeared.
I will say that this has also been my own personal experience in the first trimester of my pregnancy only. More to come later on as I get further along! We are all different and even during pregnancy we all adjust, modify, and workout completely unique. I don’t want to make this seem that I am telling you want to do or give out “must follow advice.”
When I did have the motivation and energy to exercise, I often found myself going to the gym and simply walked on the treadmill (I normally would walk outside, but winter!!), or do the stair-master. I typically walked for 45 minutes at a small incline at a moderate pass - enough to break a little sweat but slow enough to hold a conversation. If I did the stair-master I would do it for about 20 minutes because that is all I seemed to be able to handle. I did not lift weights because I was scared I didn’t know what I was doing, even though I did it pre-pregnancy a few times a week. I gave myself a break and allowed my body to take it easy. I felt that it was so crucial, the first couple of weeks and I didn’t find it necessary to push myself, stress out my body, and over do it. I am growing a baby after all! I did notice that when I was able to move for even 30 minutes, I did feel better - physically and mentally.
I also certainly did not attempt any new type of workouts or workout classes. Continuing on with my pregnancy, I will not be doing that either. My main reason for this is, I know (now at 14 weeks) exactly (somewhat!!) what I need to do to modify and feel confident enough in my workouts I did before I was pregnant that I do not feel it is necessary to throw anything new to my body without feeling knowledgeable in the movements!
In this blog post I just wanted to share my personal experience and hope that you find comfort in what you are doing or even not doing during the first trimester! Like I said before, I barely “worked out” for the first 7 weeks or so - yes felt guilty but knew that the second trimester would bring more energy and I would start to feel like my old self again. Patience is your best friend. I also wanted to share things that I became more aware or what what I did to modify and feel more comfortable when I did return to my yoga practice as well as Barry’s which hopefully you can apply to yours!
First and foremost, I always ate and drank plenty of water before working out. Pre-Pregnancy I typically worked out on an empty stomach and never drank water during class because it just made me feel sick. Now, it is the opposite and I also just don’t feel right working out, pregnant, with nothing in my stomach for fuel. It may be something simple as toast with nut butter, an energy bar, or whatever I could tolerate at the time. This same rule applies now as I head into my second trimester. Water is a huge thing for me as well. Every time I went to my OBGYN she said I was very dehydrated. I thought I was drinking enough water, but it turns out I needed to almost double / triple my intake. I also sip on water during class to prevent any dizziness, headaches, feeling sick, and simply for hydration.
Do not be afraid to modify! This should be easy to follow but it can be hard to start to realize that you can’t do the things you once were able to do at your full potential and be in a room full of people that are doing everything while you are huffing and puffing in the back or taking it easy - especially when you don’t really look pregnant at all. Luckily, many of my friends are fitness instructors and I stuck to their classes because I could confide in them that I was pregnant - it was even better if they had kids of their own or they were pregnant themselves. That helped me tremendously with modifications and gave me more confidence. Even if that option isn’t available just telling an instructor that you are pregnant will make you feel better plus they will check on you and offer modifications that you might not even be aware of. Instead of being front row and center, I stuck to the back, near the door, or near a fan! There, I felt comfortable enough to do my own thing essentially. In yoga, when I started to get back into my routine there were plenty of ways that I modified:
no deep twist (def. no closed twists), open mouth breathing to release any heat, NO hot yoga (for me, I attempted it once at 11 weeks and I had to leave within 20 minutes and the whole rest of the day I was extremely sick and had painful cramps in my abdomen), no abdominal work (unless I was holding a plank, side plank), blocks and straps became my best friend, I was also careful about forward folds and didn’t (still don’t) go to my edge, if I am laying on my back - blocks under my legs to support my low back, NO inversions, and no jump banks into low push up. This may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t! Also, if you have ever looked around the room in a yoga class there are so many people modifying and just worrying about themselves that no one is even looking at you! Major thing; telling the instructor I was pregnant incase she offered assists + adjustments. As I continue on to my second trimester and third trimester I will eventually have to modify even more. Around 8 weeks is when I started to pick up my yoga practice again and I feel amazing if I try to average 2-3x a week. 1 hour classes, no heat.
How I modified in Barry’s. No more sprints and I started to lift much lighter weights, no direct ab workouts (simply avoided those days), push ups on my knees, no burpees, squat jumps, balance work became tricky so I tended to drop the weights, no twisting once again….This was also advised by my doctor. Now, if you take a class like this, it might be completely different for you! This is what I feel comfortable with for many reasons: I get out breath much faster, my boobs hurt when I run (almost miss my small chest!!), and I am not looking to break any personal records while I run or lift the most pounds. I simply just want to be there, to move, and to stay healthy. I also do not want to put any added strain on my body when lifting weights and I have found that even the lighter ones (10’s / 12’s) are becoming challenging for me when I used to lift 25s-30s easily. I typically go 2-3x a week still, but I am starting to realize that 3x is just way too much for me. I have dropped back to 2x and continue to scale it back each week.
Typically a rule for me that I follow is, if I can have and hold a normal conversation while I am working out, then I am fine. Jogging or even walking at Barry’s or the gym right now is perfect.
Swimming! This has been the best exercise for me! I swam my entire life/in college so it is second nature to me. My body feels completely weightless in the water and feels great when I swim for about 30 minutes! I try and do this a few times a month, but know that I will pick this back up once the summer comes as it is a bit more convenient for me then.
Things that I am more aware of:
Laying on my back and stomach for too long or at all. I found that laying on my stomach for the first 5 weeks or so was “fine” but mentally I didn’t feel right. Reason being, I was afraid of cutting off circulation both when laying on my back and stomach. In yoga I never lay on my stomach anymore but in my other workout classes, I find that laying on my back is FINE for right now. I have heard that it does get harder in the second trimester- harder to get up as your belly grows and once again, cutting off major blood circulation. For this, I just go with what feels right. Laying on my stomach doesn’t feel good so I’ve stopped. Laying on my back now, at 14 weeks is fine! I will change and modify as I continue.
This is a big one! For me at least. Pre-pregnancy I have always been a very flexible person. Almost to the point where I would injure myself from over stretching into certain yoga poses. Not good. When you are pregnant there is this hormone called relaxin that will make you feel more flexible. It allows the fetus and uterus to grow by loosing up your hips and gives you a larger range of motion. I am aware of my flexibility before and never once go to that level, in any workout class - especially yoga.
Which leads me to this: Something that I had learned in yoga training. Diastasis Recti. Watch out for straining and pain in your abs, which could lead to hard to recover from ab separation. An important one! This is mainly one of the reasons as to why I stay away from direct abdominal work.
Proper fuel after working out. Water + snacks or right into a main meal. I make this a priority now and always carry around fruit, nut butter packets, or protein bars for this reason. I find that I am hungrier more often these days and need something after a workout. On the days that I do exercise I try to increase my water intake for the day.
Not overdoing it and not pushing myself. Some days I feel great and other days I can barely get out of bed. Some workout classes or yoga classes I feel like myself and others my back, neck or whole body aches and feels off. I have learned to take it slower on certain days when I need to and finally getting used to not worrying about what others are thinking in my classes. There isn’t a magic number that I stick to each week for working out but my goal is always 3x a week and if I can fit in any extra when I am feeling good- then I will chose more yoga - something light. If I am sick or tired - there is no such thing as pushing myself anymore. I have found that working out in the morning is better for me because in the afternoon I am very tired and have little energy.
Mainting a regular exercise routine has 100% made me feel more confident in the changes that are/were happening to my body. Once I became around 8 weeks is when I started to feel OK with getting back into a routine. It can be hard to follow the advice of “listen to your body” when you have no idea what the heck is going on with it! For me, that meant, if I was unsure about anything - I just didn’t do it or I modified completely. Each day is new and each workout is different than the one before. It is simply a learning process as you go and sticking to the exercises that make you feel good and the baby be healthy, not more tired, sick, or in any type of pain. Trying to move a little bit each day or a few times a week did give my energy, made me feel a little less sick, and helped with my headaches and it continued to help me make better food choices that I know both my body and my baby needs and will continue to need.
Even though I will update you later on about this, I will say that now being 14 weeks pregnant I do have my energy back to work out -I feel less bloated now (less “heavy” / sluggish- if that makes sense), more comfortable with modifications, more energy, and more excited about working out. However, even at 14 weeks I am continue to modify again in different ways and I am more easily winded! New changes happen all the time, but I can promise you that if you are newly pregnant it does get easier and to just stuck with what you are doing now - resting, moving 1-2x a week or more and soon enough you will feel better.