Hi Ladies! I’m so excited to have the chance to pop over to Natalie’s blog and share a few tips on having a healthy pregnancy. First a little introduction: I met Natalie several years ago at a Bible study. I was immediately drawn to her because of how genuine and approachable she is. Plus, she has adorable style and always looks so put together, which is something I am constantly working on. We recently reconnected to chat about her blogging adventures and discuss our shared passion to redefine beauty to be about more than the outer appearance.
I was so excited to learn that Natalie was expecting! I am mom to this 19 month old pumpkin named Sienna and motherhood has been one of the greatest blessings and adventures of my life.
Through my own pregnancy, recovery, and journey to find my best post-baby body, I learned a lot about the benefits of exercise for moms to be. I have made it my mission to help women live a healthy lifestyles not only for themselves, but so that they can give their children the incredible gift of healthy example to follow. That’s how my company Tailored Fitness was born. We provide customizable online workouts videos (like building an iTunes playlist), virtual group classes, and personal trainer support that allow you to get a great workout with the convenience of exercising at home (which works really well for busy moms).
When I found out that Natalie was pregnant, I reached out and offered to give her some tips on staying active while she was expecting. I knew she enjoyed running and that exercising while pregnant could help her feel “normal” despite the changes happening in her body. We thought all you other moms-to-be could also benefit, so without further ado, here’s your guide to a fit pregnancy!
Pregnancy is an exciting and crazy season of life. It’s a time when you are hyper-aware of everything going on in your body. From the nausea of morning sickness in your first trimester, to the little kicks and punches in your third trimester, your body is undergoing amazing alterations to support a new life. It’s also a time when women want to be extra healthy to give their little one the best possible start. But it can be really confusing with all the conflicting advice out there about whether you should exercise and what kind of exercise is safe.
As a self-proclaimed research geek, I did a ton of reading before I got pregnant and even got a certification in pre and postnatal fitness. What I discovered is that there are some amazing benefits to a fit pregnancy, such as less aches and pains, a shorter labor, and bouncing back more quickly after the baby is born. The awesome thing is that the baby also benefits from the exercise! A recent study even suggests that babies can have a stronger heart if their moms are active while pregnant. That being said, there are definitely some things you need to know to exercise safely during your pregnancy and some particular exercises that are extra beneficial for the mom to be. Let’s start by looking at the best prenatal strength exercises.
PRENATAL STRENGTH EXERCISES
Why: You can (and should) work your core while pregnant. Most women are under the impression that you can’t work your core because your abs are getting stretched out as your belly grows. While it’s true that your 6 pack abs (rectus abdominus) won’t function the same when you are pregnant, your inner core muscle (transverse abdminus) becomes extra important to maintain proper posture and avoid back pain. The transverse abdominus muscle wraps around your core and acts like a corset. Moves like this one help you activate it and strength the core so that you can prevent lower back pain by having strong abs to support the weight of your growing belly.
How: Start on your hands and knees, making sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Lift one arm and the opposite leg up until they are parallel with the rest of your body. Hold for the count of 3 thinking about reaching your fingers and toes in opposite directions. Keep your core tight and envision giving your baby a hug by tightening your abs. Return to the start and repeat with the other leg and arm. Keep alternating for a total of 5 on each side (10 total reps). If you have trouble with balance, extend the leg, but leave your toe on the ground.
Why: It’s no secret that your hips change a lot during pregnancy. Your body has a hormone called relaxin which loosens your ligaments (a good thing during labor and delivery), but it can cause joint pain during pregnancy, especially in the hips. Doing strength exercises like this one that focus on the hips will help you avoid the pain and stay strong.
How: Stand on a resistance band with both feet hip distance apart (soft bend in your knees) and one handle in each hand at your hips. Step and tap from side to side keeping space between your feet at all times. Repeat for 20 repetitions. To make it harder, cross the band forming an X in front of your body, this will give you more resistance.
Reverse Fly with Tricep Press
Why: Another postural change during pregnancy and motherhood is that our shoulders tend to roll forward because of the increased weight of our chest and from holding a newborn in cradle hold. Because of this, the chest muscles tend to get tight and the back muscles get weak. To get our posture back (which is a great way to instantly appear more confident) we need to focus on strengthening the muscles in our back with moves like this one. This exercise also works the tricep work since this tends to be an area where women hold weight and none of us wants a wiggly wave.
How: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Loop your hands through the handles of the band and grab onto the band itself with arms extended in front of you about shoulder width apart. Engaging your back muscles pull the band apart until your hands are out to the side in a T shape (Reverse Fly). Feel the squeeze right between your shoulder blades. Then bend the elbows to 90 degrees (keeping the upper arm still) and slowly straighten back out (Tricep press). Then with arms straight slowly bring arms back in front of your body to the starting position. Repeat for 15 total reps.
Why: As your belly grows during pregnancy, your back side does as well. I like to think it’s the good Lord’s way of making sure we don’t fall over. Whatever the reason, focusing on the glutes during pregnancy is important. As the belly grows, the top of your pelvis tilts forward, causing an arch in your lower back. This causes the muscles on the front of your legs (quads) to get tight and the muscles on the back of your legs (hamstrings and glutes) to get weak. Strengthening the back of your legs will help combat this and get those legs strong for labor and delivery.
How: Lay down on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground a foot or so from your glutes. Push your heels unto the ground and lift your hips up until they are in line with your torso. Squeeze the glutes and engage the abs. Hold for a count of 3 and slowly return to the start. Repeat for a total of 20 repetitions.
Important Note: Once you are 4 months along you want to avoid exercises where you lay on your back for extended periods of time (like crunches). There is a large vein that runs along your spine and the weight of your belly can compress it restricting blood flow. This is why they tell you not to sleep flat on your back. However, exercises like the one above are fine because you are not flat on your back for a long period of time.
Side Plank with Clam Shell Legs
Why: We will finish with an exercise that targets your core and hips. Which as you read above are both important for staying strong and preventing aches and pains. I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of strength training while pregnant. Give it a try and I guarantee you’ll thank me both during pregnancy and afterwards as you recover.
How: Get into a side plank with your elbow under your shoulder and your knees together and bent with feet together behind you. Lift from the bottom hip and hold so your body is in a straight line. Think about using the transverse abdominus (corset muscle) to give your baby a hug. Holding this position and keeping your feet together, open and lift the top knee like a calm shell opens. Return to the start and repeat for 15 repetitions, then change sides.
CARDIO DURING PREGNANCY
It is definitely important to find a way to get your heart rate up during pregnancy. The old rules about keeping your heart rate under a certain number have been revoked and the new way to decide how hard you should work has to do with rate of perceived exertion—your max effort should be about 6-7. It is definitely still ok to run as long as you are comfortable. I ran until about 32 weeks with my daughter, but just listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it! You may find that lower impact cardio exercises feel better during pregnancy, like swimming or walking. I know cardio can get boring after a while, so try adding some intervals to your workout like this sample one.
PULL IT ALL TOGETHER
So now that you know the best strength exercises and what cardio is good for pregnancy, what should your exercise routine look like? Shoot for 4 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Here’s a sample schedule:
Monday – Cardio
Tuesday – Strength
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Cardio
Friday – Strength
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest
You workouts will look a little different as your pregnancy progresses, but it is really important to stay active through the whole pregnancy, even at the end when it feels hard. To experience the amazing benefits I described in the beginning (like shorter labor and easier recovery) you need to stick with it the whole time. We have lots of prenatal workouts on Tailored Fitness like this video which includes cardio, strength, and a prenatal yoga section.
AFTER BABY ARRIVES
Once your baby arrives. Give yourself at least 6-8 weeks to recover (until your doctor gives you clearance). Then start back with a stroller walking workout like this one that I put together for Fit Pregnancy Magazine or try our postnatal exercise videos you can do with your baby like this one for your core.
I hope you found these tips helpful for enjoying healthy pregnancy. Thank you Natalie for being the most adorable pregnant model ever! If you are looking for any more advice about exercising, whatever stage of life you are in, I’d love to help! Shoot me an email or sign up for a free trial of Tailored Fitness. You can also find me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter and at my blog. Here’s to a healthier you!
Photos courtesy of Kirenia Photography for Thoughts By Natalie and Tailored Fitness.