So you’re pregnant? Firstly congratulations! What an exciting yet daunting phase of your life! I hope you have been feeling well so far.
No doubt if you’ve been active leading up to your pregnancy you may be feeling a little lost and confused about how to continue moving both safely and effectively. What you see your favourite #insta Mum doing vs what the internet says vs what a GP would recommend - confusing huh? Well you have come to the right place! Here are 4 things that all expecting Mamas NEED to know about exercising in their first trimester (and apply to the entirety of pregnancy).
Core Body Temperature - Don’t overheat – This is a BIG one ladies! The first trimester carries the highest risk of miscarriage with it. One risk factor for miscarriage is your core body temperature and its affects on your growing babes organ development. If you normally exercise at very high intensity levels (i.e. aerobics classes, CrossFit, HIIT style training) or live in a warmer climate this may be more of a consideration for you. During this time it is important to ensure you remain adequately hydrated, train in an air-conditioned environment, increase your rest periods and dial down your intensity (which leads me to my next point!)
Exercise intensity – When pregnant you CAN still train with intensity however it will differ to your pre-pregnancy levels. You will find yourself out of breath and fatiguing a lot quicker than you normally would. I recommend using a combination of heart rate (HR) and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to monitor the intensity of your sessions. Pregnancy is NOT the time to be setting personal bests.The intensity of your sessions should range from mild-moderate, working at an RPE between 4-7 where you can hold a conversation whilst exercising. Use the scale below to help gauge your workouts and ensure you don’t hit above a 7 too often or for extended periods of time. It may jump up from time to time, but you don’t want to be reaching 8+. When training, use a combination of the RPE scale – think to yourself: ‘what is my number?’. When it comes to heart rate monitoring this factor really depends on your pre-pregnancy fitness levels. Generally speaking if you use a heart rate monitor you want to keep your heart rate under 150bpm. If you’ve been very active and have a good level of fitness pre pregnancy your max heart rate may be more like 160bpm. A general safe range to exercise at is between 120-160bpm. Monitoring your intensity is so important, particularly in these first few months. Why? - Refer back to point #1.
Are you keeping it a secret? Many women wait from anywhere between 8-16 weeks before announcing their exciting news. If you are wanting to keep your news on the down low yet want to (and should) continue attending your regular group fitness session, CrossFit class, PT or gym, you may not be disclosing this exciting bit of information to your coach/trainer/instructor. I would encourage you to do so if you are comfortable to, but even if you do, so many Trainers, Coaches and Fitness Instructors are not adequately trained to safely modify workouts to suit the pre natal population. This is why it is so important for YOU to be equipped with some info and suitable options up your sleeve. In the first trimester I always recommend clients: Reduce the load (weight), Adjust the intensity and Increase their rest (basically apply points 1 & 2 above – for more detail on each check out my Exercise During Pregnancy eGuide).
Hormonal changes - As your body adapts to pregnancy your hormones start adjusting accordingly. The hormone relaxin is at its highest in the first trimester and has significant implications on exercise selection because of its effects on joint stability; it softens ligaments and fibrous tissues meaning more consideration must be given to exercise types due to the increased levels of this hormone. Progesterone & oestrogen are other hormones at play during pregnancy and can affect a range of things, including lead to constipation, all of which covered in more detail in my Exercise and Nutrition eGuides.
AND lastly my KEY piece of advice for every expecting Mama… my number ones is the ultimate piece of advice you can get when it comes to exercise during pregnancy and that is: You are better off walking away from a workout thinking ‘I could’ve done more’, as opposed to thinking ‘I may have overdone it’. Embrace this time in your life when you have a fantastic excuse (*reason*) to take it a little easier, yet still continue moving.
Exercise during pregnancy is so beneficial to both you & your developing babe both physically and psychologically. Including an improved mental state, maintenance of fitness, strength & health, prevention of potential pregnancy related problems: such as uncontrolled hypertension, gestational diabetes, maintenance of healthy body weight, reduce excess weight gain, assist in labour preparation, promote post natal recovery & so much more!
If you want to know more about exercise during pregnancy my Exercise During Pregnancy eGuide is your ultimate pre-natal exercise bible! It covers EVERYTHING you need to know about keeping active during pregnancy, over 95 pages, including:
30 pregnancy safe workouts that you can complete at home or the gym
Exercise intensity, type, duration and frequency & what to avoid
Over 60 pregnancy appropriate exercises with a comprehensive exercise glossary complete with images, coaching cues, considerations and suitable modifications
Exercises sessions ranging from three different levels to suit your pregnancy progression
Easy reference tables for suitable modifications to to help empower women to train safely
Considerations, physiological changes for each trimester & contraindications to exercise
The all important pelvic floor & abdominal health
and SO SO much more!