FAQs » Exercise Questions
I'm currently trying to get pregnant for the first time and am interested in understanding what kind of exercise I can do in the first trimester, before I tell anyone I'm pregnant. I currently have a personal trainer once a week doing weights and cardio but I don't want to tell him I'm pregnant (when/if it happens) until I'm 12 weeks. I'm pretty fit having been training for a year but because of this he pushes me (as personal trainers should!) to try heavier weights and repeat till I can do no more. What would you recommend? Stopping personal training sessions when I know I'm pregnant ? Or something else? Jenny
Firstly it’s brilliant that you are pre-planning your fitness in readiness for pregnancy. This will be a big help in those early months.
Naturally the fitter and healthier you are pre-conception provides the best possible environment for the baby to develop, and for your body to cope with being pregnant.
In early pregnancy (the first 12 weeks) there is no real need to modify your training greatly. It is pretty safe to continue training at the level and intensity that you have been experienced at in the last year. However there are some guidelines to follow, such as stopping any activity which may be deemed risky (such as high adrenaline sports, sky diving etc) and also were there may be risk of abdominal trauma (such as hockey) and not starting any exercise training that is totally new to you.
The main reason many women reduce training in early pregnancy is because of physical symptoms!! It is perfectly normal to feel exhausted, nauseous, emotional and truly out of sorts in the first 12 weeks, as that is when hormones are flooding your body and making massive changes to many of your body systems. Normally this settles after the first 3 months, however for some women it continues all pregnancy.
It is also fine if you wish to carry on with your PT in the first 12 weeks without informing him of your pregnancy, although it may be beneficial to inform him in view of the physical side affects you may be experiencing. If you trainer is a member of REP’S (Register of Exercise Professionals); and most are, he will be bound by a code of conduct that ensures client confidentiality.
My advice would be to be careful about heavy weight training. A hormone called Relaxin affects the stability of your joints, even in early pregnancy. Therefore I would advise that you follow an endurance weight training range. By that I would suggest that you are comfortably able to lift a weight 10-15 times, and comfortably do this for 3 sets. At the end of these reps and sets you should feel tired but not exhausted. If you cannot do this comfortably then you should reduce the weight until you can.
If you are considering continuing with PT during your pregnancy I would advise that the trainer in question held a recognised Ante/ Post Natal exercise qualification. Once again the REP’s website has a list of all trainers who hold this qualification.
I am 20 weeks pregnant and I'm struggling with how my my body is changing. I don't like to look in the mirror and feel blobby and low. I've read that exercise can help and if this is so, why and what should I be doing? Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank you for your email and honesty. I can assure you that not all women like the natural body changes that occur in pregnancy and exercise can greatly help you to have a more positive body image in pregnancy.
Execise during pregnancy is not only important physicalically to maintain a strong, fit and healthy body for you and baby.
But also psychologically by helping you view your changing body in a positive and healthy way.
Fitness also brings a sense of acheivement, connection with a more positive body image and a sense of taking control but in a healthy way.
Exercise boosts serotonin levesl; which are the bodies ‘happy hormones' and help naturally boost your mood and feel happier!!
So by exercising you will naturally be charging your body with extra serotonin and be more likely to feel better about your pregnant
body and life in general.
Exercise also encourages our body to release natural pain like hormones called Endorphins (taken from the name morphine)
which act as natural pain releif.
Therefore by exercising you are more likely to cope with the aches and niggly pains that pregnancy can bring.
Your also more likely then to be active and cope with the birth easier.
The best 2 exercises are cardiovascular and postural strength exercises.
CV exercise keeps weight gain to a healthy level and therefore promotes a better body image.
Walking outside in the sunshine/ fresh air is one of the easiest, most accessible and cost effective exercise you can do.
You can buy an inexpensive pedometer and track your step count to make it more fun! Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day.
Walking outside also boosts melatonin levels which are also associated with lifting your mood.
Postural strength exercises include exercises which are going to work your back and core muscles and help your body adapt
to the strains of pregnancy.
Your body will look and feel stronger and more balanced.
And you will feel more confident about how you carry yourself and move in pregnancy.
On the ‘duvet' days when you feel low and ‘blobby' and just can't motivate yourself to exercise; rather than berate yourself
simply be your own best friend and be kind to yourself.
Do some gentle stretching exercises followed by a body treat such as a bubble bath or manicure. BUT commit to doing something more active the next day! Don't slip into a cycle of not exercising.
Even though you may not feel like it, after exercising you will feel happier, have more energy and feel a sense of acievement and pride.
There is absolutely no doubt that exerice has a massive positive influence on a womenns journey through pregnancy both physically and emotionally.
In my opinion exercise is a womens essential tool to having a positive, fit and happy pregnancy.
So invest in yourself and follow the exercise advice within BloomingFit.
I would like some advice regarding exercise and early pregnancy. I am just over 5 weeks pregnant but have had a miscarriage in the past. I have recently joined a gym and was keen to do a selection of cardio classes - I am happy to stop these, but would like to know if it would be ok to swim and do some gentle free weights and perhaps pilates?
Many thanks Nicola
Firstly congratulations and thank you for your email to BloomingFit. Early pregnancy can be an anxious time and you are right to seek specialist advice regarding exercise given your history.
There are guidelines that are meant to guide us fitness professional set by RCOG (Royal college of Obstetrician & Gynaecologist)
Within these guidelines it is advised that if a woman has had a previous miscarriage then no ‘active exercise' should be undertaken until after 12 weeks of her current pregnancy.
The most ‘critical' time for miscarriage is up to 12 weeks and the guideline is to help minimize any risk, although I must point out that there has been no researched link between exercise and miscarriage.
Therefore my advice would be as follows:
- Firstly check with your midwife/ GP that you are fit and well with no complications
- Keep to gentle and non impact activity such as walking, swimming, stationery cycling but keep the intensity very low. Always listen to you body and stop if there are any complications (such as pain or any bleeding and see your midwife immediately)
- I would advise that you do not do weights until after 12 weeks and also no cardio classes. The problem with Classes is that you tend to get ‘swept up' with the group and be more likely to push the intensity and work harder than normal.
- If you have done pilates recently before pregnancy, I see no reason to stop. However if you have not done any pilates then please wait until after 12 weeks and make sure you inform your class instructor how many weeks pregnant and any complications. Although Pilates can seem ‘gentle' some of the moves are quite taxing on the core muscles if you haven't done them before.
I know this may seem a bit strict/ restrictive however try to remember it is only 6 weeks to follow these guidelines, and if there are no complication then you can increase your exercises.
After 12 weeks please feel free to email me again and I can help you plan a more active gym programme
Hi all, this is my first pregnany and I am currently 13 weeks+3 days.
I wasnt especially active before getting pregnant (walked 30 mins to and from work every week day and the odd exercise bike session and stair stepper session) and just wondered how much is safe now? I was not overweight before getting pregnant (about 140 lb at 5 foot 3) but would like to make sure I am as fit as possible before the birth, without doing myself any damage. I will only realistically be able to walk, exercise bike or stair stepper in terms of cardio?
Thanks Kirsty x
Hopefully as you enter your second trimester you will leave behind the nausea and tiredness, and have more energy!
It is never too late to start an exercise program, even if you have not been particularly active before. By staying active throughout your pregnancy will not only make it a more positive one, it will make it so much easier to get back into shape as a new mum.
Power walking is a fantastic exercise. Why not invest in a pedometer and aim to reach the reccomended 10,000.00 steps a day.
A bike session is great for this stage, as some women find the saddle uncomfortable as they get bigger. So power up those legs whilst you can.
By using the 'How Hard Scale'in Info 4 All section, it will ensure that you are training at an intensity specifically safe for you and your baby.By applying the 'How Hard' questions, you can be reassured that you are exercising effectively, yet safetly.
At this stage you should aim for 3-4 exercise sessions a week of 20-40 mins duration.Please see the 2nd Trimester CV page for more info.
Also try to follow the exercises in your 2nd Trimester Program.
These are specifically designed to tone your muscles,improve posture, burn fat and realease tension.
Fitness encompasses the many elements of cardio, strength, tone and flexibility to build a balanced and healthy body which functions to it's optimum level.
By following the BloomingFit program, you can enjoy all of these elements!
Hi, I am 7 weeks and have always done classes at the gym, particularly Body Pump. Is anyone familiar with the exercises in Body Pump and if any of the moves should be avoided at any stage?
Thank you for your email question.
Body Pump classes can be a fantastic way to build muscle tone and introduce free weights in a class situation.
However there are several key points which I would like to advise you to consider now you are pregnant.
- The hormone relaxin literally 'relaxes' all ligaments in your body. Ligaments are strap like attaching bones to bones.Therefore all your bone joints are affected and less strong and stable.
- Keeping good muscle tone helps support the joints and therefore is a good thing.
- However by lifing heavy weights may put even more pressure on your already unstable joints.
- Also your joints are more lax in their movement and it is therefore easier to over extend them and cause injury.
- In Body Pump many of the lower body exercises are done with a free weight bar. These are quite skilled exercises requiring balance and perfect posture to protect your back and knees. As your 'bump' grows your centre of gravity moves forward and affects both your posture and centre of balance. Add to this some weights and this exercise becomes fraught with possible joint/ muscle injury.
- The Body Pump class is also highly choregraphed so you have to complete the exercise movement and repetitions to the beat of the music. This does not leave a margin for your own specific pace now that you are pregnant or for individual instruction.
However, as you are already experienced in Body Pump and early on in your pregnancy there is no need to stop just yet.
However I would advise you to adhere to the following advise:
- Ensure your instructor knows you are preganant.
- Reduce all weights to upper body max 3-4kg/ lower body max 6-8kg.
- Once you reach approx 20 weeks avoid lying on your back to lift weights due to the possible restriction of blood flow to the placenta.
- Also at this time you will find your bump forces your posture forward, streches your abs and puts strain on your back. Using free barbell weight exercises is not reccomended.
- Look to alternative exercises to continue to maintain muscle tone yet be much safer and kinder to your body.
I hope this helps and please refer to all the exercises within the BloomingFit program for more information.
I joined your website yesterday (at 15 weeks pregnant) and have a question about running. Before I got pregnant (and before 3 months of lying on the sofa feeling nauseous and lethargic getting less fit and putting on weight!) I used to run regularly - anything from 4-5 miles a couple of times a week work permitting (maybe 6-7 miles at the weekend), to longer distances if training for my yearly half marathon in Bristol. I had also started to do a couple of short distance triathlons and therefore was used to long cycle rides and swimming.
I have to say I now feel very unsure of doing anything apart from a short jog/walk, and some very easy yoga as I become more breathless than I did before with a markedly higher heart rate (about 10-20 bpm more than before) although otherwise feel fine and generally quite chuffed at putting my running shoes on again!. I have tried using my heart rate monitor to guide me but have read on the website that it is not the same as when not pregnant.
My question therefore is whether there is a limit to keep my heart rate under so that I'm not affecting placental blood flow etc. I am 34 years old (35 next week...) and my resting HR at the moment is about 80-90 bpm whereas it used to be about 60. Or should I be guided by how breathless I am, as described on your website. I have noticed that I don't feel particularly uncomfortable at about 170bpm or over, just puffed as you would expect, but have been slowing down to walk just in case.
I'd very much like to get back into a regular exercise routine now that the first trimester is over but anyone I've asked so far just gives very bland unstructured advice which is a little frustrating and also dull!
Firstly welcome to Bloomingfit and congratulations on your pregnancy.
Thank you for your email question.
You have raised some fantastic issues which I will be delighted to answer and for more info go to running in pregnancy.
In pregnancy your CV system does indeed change. Your HR increases, your blood volume increases by 30-50%,your left ventricle enlarges and your blood vessel walls become more elastic. Also the amount of blood pumped out by heart increases and the point at which you breathe out C02 changes.
All these adaptations are to ensure maximum oxygen into your system to support the growth of your baby.
Therefore the use of a HR monitor is almost useless!
The most appropriate method is to use a combination of a talk test and a scale of perceived exertion. Basically on a scale of 1 - 10 (1=easy) (10=total exhaustion) you should aim for level 6-7.
The body is SO incredible that when you exercise in pregnancy, the body's priority is to protect your baby. Therefore in exercise blood is diverted as a priority to the reproductive organs and placenta as opposed to the working muscles (the opposite of exercising when not pregnant).
Therefore you would have to exercise at an extreme intensity (level 9-10) for a fairly prolonged period in order to affect blood flow to the placenta.
The best advice is to listen to your body.
As you are an experienced runner, there is no reason to stop now you are pregnant.
If you are able to run and feel comfortable at a level 6-7 then continue.
If you feel you are exceeding this level of intensity, simple add some walking intervals within your run.
As your bump grows, the extra weight, pressure and the effect of the hormone relaxin on your less stable pelvis may make running less comfortable by which time you may need to look for alternative CV. There is a section on the website all about running and tips on form and posture whilst running.
Unlike a 'normal' exercise program which aims to increase the intensity, duration and frequency; in pregnancy you should aim to do the reverse.
It is fantastic that you are committed to exercise during your pregnancy, however simply listen to your body on a daily basis. Use a combination of running, power walking, swimming and strength exercise to help reduce over straining one particular set of muscles and joint.
Also take time out to relax and meditate. Hardly a CV exercise, but a very worthwhile one to find a sense of balance.
I hope this answers your questions.
Please contact me at anytime if I can be of any further help.
Be in positive blooming health & happiness!
Can I lie on my stomach to exercise without harming my baby?
Some exercises, particularly back strengthening exercises are performed lying flat on your tummy.
In the early stages of pregnancy it is perfectly safe to lie on your stomach as the uterus is nestled within the pelvic area behind your hip bones.
However, as your bump grows, the uterus rises into the abdominal area and puts pressure on your bladder.
At this point it generally becomes quite uncomfortable to lie flat on your tummy, and your body will signal for you to move away from this position. Listen to your body.
Therefore adopt the alternative position of kneeling on all fours to perform exercises.
I am an experienced runner, well, I was up until a couple of weeks ago! I'm now 6 months pregnant nearly and not that big bump-wise. The last couple of times I attempted to jog, I got pains (not really bad, more like twinges) right down in my lower body. It felt like ligaments straining, and I wondered if you knew of any type of support belt that was available?
As your bump grows the ligament around your abdominal and pelvic area stretch and can cause discomfort. In some cases a support belt can be of benefit.
If you visit www.bloomingmarvellous.com (a wonderful company, but no relation to us) and visit their pregnancy lingerie section,they have 2 support belt products which may be of benefit to you.
However, as you have already identified, if the ligament pains continue then my advice would be to swap to power walking/ X trainer/ static cycling/ swimming.
Always seek the advice of your midwife/ G.P for any problematic pain.
Could you advice me at what stage one should no longer attend regular pilates classes, & rather attend those specifically for pregnancy.Thank you Kate
The answer has several variables. From approx 20 weeks, lying on your back for prolonged periods to perform exercises is not recommended. This is because of the pressure of the growing weight of your uterus constricting major blood vessels along your spine.
Therefore, your pilates teacher would have to be able to give you safe, alternative positions instead. This would depend on their experience, knowledge and class size.
If the pilates teacher is not experienced in pilates for pregnancy, I would advise that from 20 weeks onwards you seek a class specifically for pregnancy. These classes tend to be a smaller group, where there is more personal supervision.
Pilates can be particularly beneficial for back strengthening & posture during pregnancy, but attention to correct form is essential to prevent strain or injury.
I was wondering whether you could answer my query.
I am currently 8 weeks pregnant and have stopped going to the gym for the last month. I used to do SPIN classes each week. Are these classes safe or should I be doing less? Thanks Simone
I would like to know a little bit more about your exercise and obstetric history to be able to offer you more specific however here is my best advice.
If you stopped going to the gym last month due to medical complications then obviously I do advise you to have medical clearance before starting exercise again. However if it was simply because you felt the ‘normal' early symptoms such as tired, nausea etc then as long as you feel fine now you can continue to exercise. I do advises you to read the ‘care & Caution' on the exercise pages
Spin is an excellent cardio and non impact class and great for pregnancy.
However you must be aware of the intensity and of not exceeding recommended levels and push yourself too hard.
If you think of a scale of 1 to 10 (1= easy/ 10= at the point of exhaustion) the recommended level for pregnancy is between level 6 to 7
There is more detailed info on the website in the ‘exercise intensity' pages.
Often in Spin the instructor encourages you to ‘go for the burn and pump it up' so make sure you don't get carried away in the ‘frenzy' of enthusiasm.
Every 5 mins check your level and adjust how hard you are working in the Class.
Lower the gears or the spin speed according to HOW YOU FEEL & WORK WITHIN LEVEL 6-7 AND NOT WHAT THE INSTRUCTOR ADVISES FOR THE REST OF THE NON PREGNANCT CLASS
and always tell the instructor of any class you are pregnant before starting exercise.
Check your posture as this alters as pregnancy progresses. Make sure you don't slouch over the bars and keep your chest lifted.
Listen to your body and if you feel well, have no complication then Spin is an excellent cardio exercise for as long as you feel comfortable.
As you progress into your late second to third trimester you may wish to drop the sessions to a max of one a week.