Maintaining a fit pregnancy doesn't have to be as hard as we've made it out to be. If you're pregnant and reading this, then you already know you need to be somewhat active while pregnant. Whether you're currently a super fit mama-to-be, or have been sedentary and know that you need to start exercising, fitness during pregnancy is a great tool to help you feel better, manage emotions, reduce stress, and maintain your strength as your growing body changes. However, as you progress throughout your pregnancy, it can often be discouraging or overwhelming to stay active. Read on for 7 mindset shifts that will help you navigate an active pregnancy.
I'm transitioning into my third trimester as I write this post. My husband and I are over-the-moon-excited to welcome our first child. There are all kinds of fun things to prepare, pick out, and look forward to. Expecting a child comes with a lot of details to think about. A lot. Trying to balance life as you know it (work, running a household, errands, etc), prepare for a new baby, and still make time to eat healthy and stay active puts a squeeze on even the most disciplined woman's time. It can feel overwhelming. Plus, many expecting moms are chasing after a toddler or two! Add to that list how tired and sick pregnancy can make you feel, and it's so easy to see how exercise gets the boot first from the to-do list. However, maintaining a fit pregnancy doesn't have to be as hard as we think.
Maintaining a fit pregnancy doesn't have to be as hard as we think.
Our society has overcomplicated fitness in general, and especially so for pregnant women. Many of us are scared to exercise while pregnant because we've been told it's dangerous. Lots of people will raise their eyebrows and voice concerns about a woman staying active while pregnant, which further perpetuates this unfortunate belief. As long as you're having a healthy and normal pregnancy, exercise is a good thing.
As long as you're having a healthy and normal pregnancy, exercise is a good thing.
Of course, one major thing worth mentioning is that you do need to clear any and all exercise with your doctor first. Your doctor can help you navigate what you can and cannot do, and give you any specific guidelines that are unique to you and your situation. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different, so— yes— you do need to discuss this with your doctor. Use them as a valuable reference, and ask as many questions as you need to in order to get the information to understand clearly what is approved for you and what is not.
Lastly, you may find that you don't have to change much at all with your exercise routine, and yet... some things inevitably do change. :) Here are 7 mindset shifts that I've learned to embrace while pregnant that have helped me not feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
7 Healthy mindsets for a fit pregnancy
•It's not the time to start an intense new workout routine.
By now, you've heard tales of runners who ran daily up until the last week of their pregnancy. That's so inspiring, I know. But what you need to know is that those women were runners for years and years before conceiving. Their bodies were already acclimated to the physical stress and challenge of running. Therefore, their doctors deemed it appropriate for them to continue.
If, however, you're not already a runner, it's not the time to start while you're pregnant. The pregnant body is already undergoing so many stresses and changes, so it's not wise to add to that. This applies to most forms of exercise: weightlifting, cardio classes, some forms of yoga, or anything that would be too intense for your body.
This is one (of many) reasons why it's ideal to be in a habit of exercising before conceiving, but if you've been sedentary, take heart. Talk with your doctor about walking, or some other forms of gentle exercise. If you've been super active prior to conceiving, the good news is that you may not have to change as much as you think. And if nothing else, knowing this definitely clears up a lot of decision making for what kind of exercise to do: just stick to what you know and what you're used to.
•You're not a delicate flower. You're an athlete.
Lots of people would have you sit around, put your feet up and eat everything in sight, but that's probably not the healthiest path. (Unless your doctor has told you to do that, of course!) For active people, sticking with what you know (see bullet point above), and knowing the proper modifications should give you freedom to keep on enjoying your physical activity. Pregnant women are strong! Think of what the body is doing and accomplishing! A pregnant body is preparing for— perhaps— the biggest athletic event of her life: growing a baby, and going through labor and delivery. Feel empowered from that! You're an athlete, not a delicate little flower.
Maybe you're the woman I described above who is working full time, chasing a toddler, keeping up a house, and now expecting a new baby. Sheesh, that's a lot. Give yourself a break and stop pressuring yourself to have monumental workouts. Instead, just move often.
My personal philosophy on exercise is to try and move a little every day. This takes the pressure off of me to have intense, monumental workouts, and instead frees me up to do what I'll enjoy on any given day. I can do what I feel like doing whether it's a walk, run, bike ride, yoga, weightlifting, or anything else that appeals to me. Just staying active adds up big time. (I've blogged about this several times... for more on this read My Exercise Manifesto and Move Every Day: The 30 Day Challenge That Changed My Life.)
Now, when you're working, chasing a toddler, cleaning a house, and expecting a baby, it may be ridiculous to think you can workout every day. And it may be. Especially if you're in your first trimester and sick, or in your third trimester and large and tired. So just do what you can when you can. But squeezing in a 10 minute walk isn't as hard as you'd think, and you'll feel loads better from doing it. So... do what you can, and do it often.
Just do what you can, and do it often.
I was pretty sick up until 15 weeks of my pregnancy, and just the thought of doing yoga made me even more queasy— and I'm a yoga teacher. The thought of all the ups and downs of yoga... ugh. I knew I couldn't do it. So, instead, I got in a daily habit of going on a brisk walk. I had to adapt to stay active. This was discouraging to me at first but I reminded myself that it was just temporary, and that I'd get back to my yoga practice when I could. In the meantime, walking more often than I usually did helped me exercise and stay active, and I always felt better for doing it.
•Just forget about making gains. Focus on maintaining.
Along the same lines of learning to adapt to stay active, is this one: forget about making gains while pregnant. Just maintain.
I'm also a personal trainer and love weightlifting. Before I was pregnant, I was hip thrusting almost 3x my body weight. However, hip thrusts were the first thing to go when I found out I was pregnant, because with a hip thrust, you load the movement (usually) with a barbell across the hips. I didn't need to be a doctor to know I shouldn't be loading 300lbs across my lower abdomen.
There's not a great way to load that movement while pregnant. I've switched up the barbell hip thrust for bodyweight hip thrusts, single leg versions, adding resistance bands, and different types of muscle contractions, but it's nowhere near the same load as what the barbell gave me.
I know that I won't make muscle gains while using these adaptations, but that's ok. I'm just doing my best to maintain as much as I can in the meantime. The hip thrusts will be there for me in a few months. Knowing that "gaining" is out for most things and "maintaining" is the short-term goal helps me from feeling discouraged. And discouragement does happen, so this is one I have to remind myself of every now and then.
Knowing that "gaining" is out for most things and "maintaining" is the short-term goal helps me from feeling discouraged.
•Embrace your changing body
All of that (above) being said about maintaining, even if you're working hard to maintain muscle mass, you'll most likely lose some muscle tone while pregnant. This is simply because when pregnant, at some point you'll have to dial things back due to either the body shape changing, or your stamina changing. With muscles, if you're not able to achieve progressive overload (challenging and increasing the load for the muscles), then you won't gain muscle mass and will probably lose some. So between not achieving progressive overload, not being able to perform intense workouts, and needing more rest/recovery intervals, yeah... get used to the idea that you'll likely lose a little tone. Which is yet another reason to keep up an active fitness routine to minimize loss and to stay as strong as possible for this athletic event in your life. But be encouraged, because...
•Know that your body will bounce back.
The human body is an amazing thing. The ability of a woman's body to grow and give birth to a baby, then recover is astonishing. Your body will bounce back.
Now, certain things may never be the exact same as they were with your pre-baby body, but many, many things will bounce back. If nothing else is an incentive for you to keep up your exercise schedule during pregnancy, I hope that one will get your attention. The more you're able to stay in shape while pregnant, the faster your recovery will be. Maintain your muscle tone now as best as you can, and your body will bounce back faster.
The more you're able to stay in shape while pregnant, the faster your recovery will be. Maintain your muscle tone now as best as you can, and your body will bounce back faster.
•Making time for YOU and your little one.
And if all else fails, remember that exercise is good for your mental and emotional health. With so much going on in your life, and so much changing in your body, having a consistent exercise routine will do wonders for your stress level, body image, help manage all of the emotions that are par for the course when pregnant, and improve energy and a positive outlook. Do it for yourself. Do it for your baby. Carve out a little time to take the best care of you that you can. If it's hard to put exercise on the books during a busy week, just remember: you are nourishing your body to take care of you and your little one.
If it's hard to put exercise on the books during a busy week, just remember: you are nourishing your body to take care of you and your little one.
These 7 perspective shifts have helped me greatly during my pregnancy. They've helped me enjoy the process more, embrace my changing body with excitement and joy, give me encouragement that I'm doing good and healthy things for myself and my little one, and assure me that staying physically strong has many benefits and reasons to put in the effort.
With all that goes on during a pregnancy, whatever you do, try not to lose sight of how amazing the whole process is. Your little one will be here before you know it and it will all be worth it.
Love + Light.
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Hi, I'm Blake. I love adventure, cooking, costume parties, wine, yoga, and reading...in that order. Follow my blog for yoga stuff, fitness tips, & healthy recipes...
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