Pregnancy & Exercise
23 November 2022
In this blog, I will share a mixture of my personal & and professional experience, advice and knowledge regarding training or exercise during pregnancy.
Before I start I'd like to add that I am a qualified and insured pre and post-natal trainer, I have personally also been training with weights as well as running for some 10 - 12 years. Therefore I feel in a great position to train and share my story.
As I write this blog I am 32 weeks pregnant with my first baby boy. Still running WBG full time, training, and currently trying to rally a new working cocker spaniel, I am very much still on the go and a long way from the sitting down and resting stage of pregnancy. For me personally, being self-employed this is something I knew I'd need to continue doing right up until birth if possible.
Now onto training in pregnancy.
Research suggests that there is no known harm to the unborn fetus if the mother partakes in moderate exercise during her pregnancy. Paying particular attention to the fact that this research notion relates directly to those pregnant people who were already partaking in the activity, or exercise prior to pregnancy, not taking up a new activity or exercise since becoming pregnant.
For me personally, I experienced sickness right from week 5 to week 28. This did mean that some days I physically wouldn't or didn't feel able to train, exactly like I would if I was physically sick prior to pregnancy, you typically wouldn't go for a hard gym session if you were sick, so during pregnancy I followed that rule. After all, it is about being sensible. If I've dehydrated myself and the baby due to mass vomiting, it wouldn't be sensible to then further add to this potentially by training, nor would my training typically be my best.
Plenty of pregnant people are able to train throughout pregnancy, the most important part is to be really in tune with yourself, how the exercise is making you feel, what impact is it having on your body, and is it safe.
If you can sensibly be mindful of all of the above, then it its very likely you can continue training during your pregnancy, for me to the current date I manage to train the entire way through, adapting where needed. For example, instead of doing workout splits in the first trimester when energy levels were super low, I switched to full body workouts, to avoid missing out on training key muscle groups if I wasn't up to training. However, during the second trimester, I was able to go back to an upper and lower body training split, and now well into the third trimester at week 30 I have just switched again back to a full body training style, reducing the pressure of getting training in and listening even more closely to how I am feeling each day.
Fortunately, throughout I have been able so far to continue to run, however, since week 20 this has been significantly reduced from running 10km or more to just 5 km and with no focus on time or pace, purely on being out and enjoying it.
A key point throughout training is doing what feels right for you. During pregnancy thus far I have felt a lot of criticism for training, I released a video of me deadlifting 110kg just this week, it is a real 50/50 split, some people are like wow look at what your body is doing, this is insane and others are all ready to tell you to stop, despite being the ones who don't train, haven't experienced pregnancy, or have no qualifications or reason to be offering unuseful advice.
Another key point is that despite being pregnant you need to fuel your training, no different to how you would prior to pregnancy if you are training you do not want to skip the nutrition. Understandably, the rules often go out the window, especially if you are super sick like I was, but try your hardest to eat as balanced as you can where possible.
Above all, seek advice from a professional if you are not sure. Consider if the activity you are doing has any risk, and if that risk is manageable or unnecessary. Be realistic, a low-risk pregnancy doesn't have to mean wrapping yourself in cotton wall and being unable to carry a shopping bag yourself by week 12, unless that's something you really cannot manage or struggle with genuinely. Pregnant people are resilient, yes we may need to moderate, and yes we might need more rest (I have certainly become a nap queen on some days), but I have mostly been able to carry on doing me.
Finally, throughout focus on training that is functional, training that's enjoyable, and training that will benefit you both during pregnancy and afterwards. This means incorporating pelvic floor work, core connection, breath work, stretching, functional exercises such as squats, farmers carries, fast walking or some form of exercise that will help to keep your heart healthy too.
The way I viewed my journey is the more I give now (within reason), in theory, the easier labour, birth and recovery will be. Of course, there are so many unknowns, so many factors that you the theories and science cannot account for, but the reality is after birth we suddenly have a tiny human that needs looking after, our bodies need to be the strongest they can be and the most prepared. Resistance training for women is particularly important, it helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, regulate our mood, and hormones, relieve tension or cramps from our cycles, increase muscle tone, and strength and reduce risk of injury amongst many others. Considering all of this, if you were training pre-pregnancy, and you have a low risk pregnancy, why reduce all of those benefits that exercise can bring if you don't need too.
If in doubt seek support, and listen to your body.