Training While Pregnant

Crystal Champagne
I am presently working with two clients who are pregnant. I am sure they have heard me say that being pregnant is like training for a marathon because both require loads of muscular strength, mental stamina as well as unrelenting endurance to help cope with the constant evolving challenges your body and mind goes through. For a marathon you have specific training for certain periods leading up to the big day. The same can be said for pregnancy. However these certain periods are the trimesters and depending where you are at in the trimesters the training will vary to meet the different body’s stages of development. A program should help you stay strong, keep your cardio capacity in check and help avoid the common aches and pains that come with the added weight.

Training during pregnancy helps decrease the risk of excessive weight gain, it has been proven to help prepare for the stresses of labour and also helps with the recovery after birth by making it easier to bounce back to the pre-pregnancy weight.

How much weight gain?

Based on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (OCOG) for a singleton pregnancy “ a woman whose weight is normal before she becomes pregnant should gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Women who are underweight should gain 28-40 pounds. Women who are overweight should gain 15-25 pounds. Women who are obese should gain 15 pounds.

Pregnancy Target Heart Rate Ranges

Unfit, sedentary or overweight women ages 20 to 29 should aim for 129 to 144 beats per minute; those 30 to 39 should stay within 128 to 144. Active women ages 20 to 29 should aim for 132 to 152 BPM; those 30 to 39, 129 to 148 BPM. A range of 145 to 160 BPM is recommended for fit women ages 20 to 29, and 140 to 156 for ages 30 to 39. Remember to avoid overheating at any time so drinks lots of water during and post exercise.

Warm up - Before beginning your program you should always do a 5-10 minute circulatory warm up which increases your heart rate allowing more oxygen and blood to travel to the working areas. I recommend walking, biking, and rowing however I suggest staying away from the elliptical in the later stages of your pregnancy due to balance issues.

1st trimester 0-12 weeks

Fatigue and nausea are common during this time due to the hormone surge, therefore don’t beat yourself if you don’t make it to the gym. The days you are not feeling up to a work out focus on flexibility such as stretching which will help prepare the muscles, joints and tendons for the physical change of the spine and postural alignment over the next several weeks. One client uses yoga dvd’s at home on the days she does not feel like going to the gym.

2nd trimester 13-27 weeks

This trimester is also known as the “honey moon phase”, the fatigue and nausea is gone and you are feeling good.

Moderate-intensity cardio workouts, including walking indoor biking and swimming , are usually safe for the second trimester. Strength-training exercises can be safe if you are familiar with what you are doing or if you are working with a certified personal trainer who preferably has experience or knowledge with training pregnant women. If you are working by yourself it is better to stick with machines that help control your range of motion to prevent injury to your loosened joints because of hormones.

If you prefer group settings yoga and pilates are good workouts as long as they are modified to avoid mat work where you'll be flat on your back. Both classes will help improve flexibility and strengthen your core muscles. Water aerobics is also another option that is easy on your joints and helps get the heart rate up.

3rd trimester 28 weeks to delivery

At this point if you’re not at risk for delivering a preterm baby, exercise is still safe in the third trimester. But if you’re used to doing moderate exercise it is wise to discuss with your doctor whether you should continue your routine.

It is suggested to avoid lifting heavy weights as they can put too much stress on tendons and ligaments. Regardless of your fitness level it is good to scale it back a bit and listen to your body especially if it shows signs of stress.

Prenatal yoga classes or brisk walking are good options as well. Keeping up abdominal and back exercises is important to help with postural change and stability.

Pelvic tilt exercises are an excellent toner; slowly pull stomach muscles in and tuck your bottom under, hold for a second, then release. Don't allow your back to arch. Try 10 repetitions once or twice a day. To increase the level of difficulty - while keeping the pelvis tilted - bring the chin towards the chest, supporting the abdominal muscles.

Pelvic Floor Exercises-Kegels Pelvic floor exercises help the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. These muscles also surround the external openings of these pelvic organs. They hold a lot of weight during pregnancy. By doing a few Kegels a day you can minimize the two most common problems during pregnancy: bladder control and hemorrhoids. Try to 'Kegel' occasionally throughout the day.

Before starting, a few things to remember:

  1. It is always advisable to consult your doctor
  2. Avoid activities that require a high level of balance and quick directional changes
  3. Avoid high impact throughout the 40 weeks. The 1st trimester it is advisable to avoid high impact since such exercise puts pressure within the uterus which could lead to problems such as premature labor or bleeding. In the later trimesters, your body releases a hormone that causes ligaments of joints to become loose and soft that are meant to facilitate delivery but in this loosened state you are more susceptible to injury.
  4. Avoid overheating, particularly during the third to eighth week because the neural tube that protects the central nervous system is being developed
  5. Stay hydrated, before, during and after your exercise
  6. After the 14th week try to stay away from lying flat on your back for long periods of time, the weight on the uterus restricts blood flow to the growing baby

Stop immediately if you are exercising and experience any of the following symptoms.

  • faintness;
  • dizziness;
  • blurry vision:
  • nausea;
  • palpitations;
  • vaginal bleeding;
  • new contractions;
  • back, abdominal, or pelvic pain; or
  • unusual lack of fetal movement.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns at

A baby is something you carry inside you for nine months, in your arms for three years and in your heart till the day you die - Mary Mason

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Crystal Champagne - Personal Trainer
Crystal combines 10 years of competitive equestrian riding to her certifications as a personal and group trainer to inspire individuals in achieving their fitness objectives. As well, she enjoys working as a strength coach for elite athletic sports teams.

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