Training when pregnant, 12 things worth considering...

Posted on 14 February 2016

Training during pregnancy holds many different challenges. Everyone will tell you differing opinions, their do’s and don’ts. Even medical practitioners will give you conflicting information, so it really comes down to you!

Every BODY is different, and every pregnancy is different. So go with what feels right for you at the time.  You will need to change how you move as your pregnancy progresses so bear that in mind too. If it feels wrong for you, it probably is.

Here are my thoughts based on 10 years of women’s health nursing, training through my two previous pregnancies (currently in my third), and 18 months of CrossFit coaching.

Firstly, being pregnant doesn’t mean you have an illness or an injury, so if you have been training/keeping fit in the lead up to becoming pregnant then you are free to continue doing so when pregnant. Whilst you are not unwell or injured, there are a number of factors you need to consider carefully when training with a bub on board.

Obviously this is not the time to take up a new sport, or to try to lose weight before the baby comes, nor is it a time to chase new PB’s. It is a time to keep moving and keep yourself well physically, mentally and emotionally. If you do this, your little bump will be a happy little one too!

Points to consider and some of the changes I’ve made to training during this pregnancy:

  • NO HIGH IMPACT: I’ve cut out anything high impact since day one of pregnancy. For me, it’s simply too much pressure on the pelvic floor. Even though the foetus is a TINY collection of cells in the beginning, your body is producing relaxin (what a wonderful hormone that is), and this makes the muscles more relaxed from the get go. This is super important in the delivery setting where something really big, comes out of somewhere really small!  Many women continue with high impact movements when pregnant, and that is fine. It’s a matter of personal preference and experience.
  • RELAXIN: Having relaxin running through your system also puts you at great risk of injury during pregnancy, as your muscles are softer.  Your ligaments and joints are under a greater strain as well, especially when you add in high impact movements. So go gently, take more rest days, stretch, eat and sleep!
  • PELVIC FLOOR MAINTENANCE: As women we are genetically predisposed to pelvic floor issues as we have a deficit (i.e break) in the muscle in that area, so it’s best to take care of it as much as possible! Women who have not had children are also at risk, and the pelvic floor is a muscle like any other, SO, if you don’t use it: you lose it. Do your pelvic floor exercises ladies. Properly.
  • DON’T GO TOO HEAVY: Avoiding any heavy lifting (i.e squats, deadlifts, overhead movements). By heavy, I am referring to loads close to the 1 rep max for that movement. This is relative and varies greatly from person to person. I still perform these movements, just back off the weights judging on how I am feeling on the day. This is not a time to strain yourself or keep up with your peers!
  • RANGE OF MOTION: I’ve backed off ‘ass to grass’ squats, and the bottom range of deadlifts. Again for the pressure and strain it places on the pelvic floor. I feel squatting to just below parallel or to right on parallel to be a good way to move. I can keep my core switched on, without the feeling of ‘bearing down’ and for now, the tummy still fits! You can still get a great workout from lighter weights and higher reps.
  • DANCE HOW YOU FEEL: Base workouts on how you feel on the day. Some days  (early on) I was so lethargic that getting off the couch was a struggle, let alone parenting 2 kids or getting myself to the gym! SO, if you need to rest and sleep then do so! Yes, it’s a time to keep moving but it’s also a time to be kind to yourself and not force yourself into the gym 5/6 days per week if you don’t feel like it.
  • BREATHLESSNESS: I’ve found myself really breathless during training since day one! Even a couple of warm up reps would leave me puffed. The increase in blood and fluid volumes can exacerbate this and I have low haemoglobin and low iron, which also contribute. I am currently trying to boost my iron and HB in the hope of breathing a bit easier under exertion! So bear these factors in mind – fluid shifts and iron/HB levels
  • PLENTY OF BREAKS: Break when you need to: I make sure I take frequent breaks when training these days. It’s not a time to work at a ‘max effort’ or sprint pace for long periods – short bursts may be ok if you feel up to it. But BREATHE, take breaks, get a drink, rest between sets. Keep your workouts at a ‘conversational pace.’
  • HEART RATE AND BODY TEMP: Heart rate and body temperature are also things to consider, however they are not the be all and end all. Sure QLD summer gets sizzling hot so don’t do anything silly like train in the midday heat without water, but short, sweaty workouts are not dangerous! I’m sure my heart rate would have climbed higher than the ‘recommended rate’ at times, but only for short periods, and this is something my body is very accustomed to, so I don’t deem it as unsafe now. Again, this is all relative.
  • EAT AND DRINK: Make sure you eat and drink before and after workouts! Blood sugars can do crazy things during pregnancy, so have something in the tumm (good mix of carbs, fats and protein) before you sweat! Post training food/fluids, goes without saying! Eat and drink – you are making some serious body parts in there!
  • ENJOY IT: This is a special and beautiful time. Relax and enjoy it. Be patient, as you will be back to training as per your normal before you know it. Little bubs in tummies are generally pretty robust things – so keep yourself injury free and train smart – look after yourself NOW, so you can get back into it with full gusto when you’re ready!
  • LISTEN TO PROFESSIONALS: Be guided firstly by yourself and how you feel! Consider closely the opinions of your medical practitioners (midwives, physios, GP’s, nurses, OB’s).

Happy training mamas!


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