Congrats on your pregnancy!
Or maybe you’re a trainer looking for tips on how to keep your pregnant clients healthy and happy. Either way, keep reading!
Have you ever heard of a “Unicorn Pregnancy”? It’s a term going around for a woman who’s lucky enough to escape the dreaded pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea, varicose veins, stretch marks, massive weight gain, and extreme fatigue. Sounds mystical, right?
I’m Jessica Gouthro, a certified personal trainer and nutrition expert, and I also happen to be 7 months pregnant! I’ve been certified in training moms-to-be for a number of years now, and I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll become one.
I’m happy to report that I am indeed experiencing a wonderful Unicorn Pregnancy, and I don’t believe that luck has everything to do with it. I’m pretty darn sure that my dedication to healthy eating and daily movement has played a big role in helping me stay comfortably pregnant.
There are SO many exercises that are wonderful for both moms and babies, and I encourage you (or your clients) to stay active throughout the full term—but of course, in a safe and smart way. There are certainly some types and modalities of exercise that you should avoid, but we’ll get to that at the end of this article.
Many women are afraid of doing ANY exercise during pregnancy, and some are even told not to by their doctors, friends, or families. Of course, you should listen to your doctor’s advice, but if you were already working out prior to getting pregnant, then it’s generally safe (and actually very beneficial) for you to continue exercising throughout your full term.
If you weren’t exercising before you got pregnant, you can still use some of these “do” exercises. Just make sure to take them very easy, and allow plenty of rests between sets.
The benefits of exercising while pregnant include:
- Easier Delivery — You’ll be stronger, more flexible, and better equipped to get the baby out.
- Lower Risk of Developing Gestational Diabetes — Exercise helps manage blood sugar.
- Combating Excessive Weight Gain — Exercise increases your daily calorie burn, which helps you fight some of those cravings—so you won’t pack on the pounds.
- Lower Risk of Varicose Veins or Swelling in the Limbs — Movement helps increase blood circulation.
- Better Moods! Less cranky prego-pants moments and more self-confidence.
- Stress Relief — Exercise releases endorphins, those happy hormones that help you relax.
If that’s not enough to convince you to get moving, I don’t know what is! Let’s get started with the list of exercises you SHOULD BE DOING:
Do: Wide Squats
Step into a wide stance with your toes slightly pointing outward. Sit back and down, as if you’re sitting in a chair—until your thighs become parallel with the floor.
Make sure you don’t lift your heels off the ground. Pause for a moment at the bottom, then slowly return to standing.
Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Do: Bird Dogs
Get into an all-fours position. Keeping your core muscles steady, simultaneously reach your right hand out in front of you, then kick your left leg back behind you.
Once you reach the top position (one arm and one leg extended), flex your shoulder and arm muscles, as well as your butt and leg muscles. Keep your core as stable as possible throughout the entire movement. Slowly lower back to all fours, then repeat on the other side.
Complete 3 sets of about 10 reps per side—alternating for 20 total reps.
Do: Cat Cows
Stay on all fours, but keep all four limbs down. Flex your core muscles, then round your spine into an angry cat pose. Tuck your chin and curl your tailbone under as much as you can, then take a deep exhale.
Lift your chin up, look to the ceiling, and flex your back muscles to lower your belly down into a cow position. Lift your chin, tilt your butt up as much as you can, and take a deep inhale. Exhale each time you return to cat pose, and inhale with each cow pose.
Repeat this combo for 3 sets of at least 20 reps per set. It’s a great way to work on your breathing, which will be very important during delivery!
Do: Single Leg Reach
In a standing position, lift one foot barely off the ground. With your hands out in front of you, begin tilting forward from the hips, keeping your spine and head in a neutral position. Keep tilting until your fingertips are in line with the level of your knees.
If you have especially tight hamstrings, you may not be able to make it all the way down without bending one knee. If that’s the case, go ahead and bend the knee of the standing leg, rather than rounding the back. Once you feel a stretch in the standing leg, slowly, controllably rise up. Then repeat on the other side.
Complete 3 sets of 10 reps per side, alternating for 20 reps total.
Do: Side Lunges
I love side lunges—for both stretching and toning the inner and outer thighs! Start in a standing position with your feet together. Take a really big step out to the right, then bend your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the ground.
Make sure your right heel does not lift off the ground. If it does, then you need to shift your weight back more by sticking out your butt. Make sure to keep your left leg completely straight and allow that stretch to happen. With a big push off the right leg, return to standing and switch sides.
Repeat for 3 sets of 8 reps per side—alternating for 16 reps per set.
Now that you know all the exercises that are great for you, let’s discuss some that are NOT!
Here are my top 5 “Don’t Do’s” (and why you should avoid them):
Don’t Do: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workouts
You’ve probably heard that HIIT is best for fat loss. Well Mama, I’ve got news for you… You actually need that body fat right now! Let’s keep your baby warm, cozy, and healthy by making sure you have at least enough body fat to be in the “normal” range (20-25%).
Also, high-intensity, high-impact exercises are not a good idea when your freshly implanted egg is trying to attach to your uterus. Imagine clinging to a rock wall in an earthquake! Instead, opt for low-impact circuit training—at a slower pace and without timing your rest periods.
Don’t Do: Sprinting in Any Form
By definition, sprinting means going “as fast as you can.” So whether you’re on a spin bike, doing laps in a pool, or running a 100-meter dash, now is NOT the time to be breaking records.
Opt for slower speeds during pregnancy. Remember, even though you may not be showing yet, you still have a baby in there!
Don’t Do: Heavy Lifts
The goal during pregnancy is to provide a safe space for your baby to grow and thrive, not to be the strongest woman alive. So save your strength goals for post-delivery. I promise that your body will not be “ruined” during 9 months off from heavy lifting.
Don’t Do: Belly-Down Positions
This one is pretty obvious. Let that baby have some breathing room, girl! Exercises like prone hamstring curls or T-Bar Rows are just not good for you right now. There are plenty of better substitutes and ways of working the same muscle groups without lying on your tummy.
Don’t Do: A Completely Sedentary Lifestyle
Even if your doc says to “take it easy,” you can at least go for daily walks and do some gentle stretching. Sitting all day is bad for anyone, but it’s especially hard on the body when your blood volume is this high.
I recommend going for a long walk around your neighborhood or local park—at least once every day. If you don’t have time for a long walk, then try fitting in three short walks per day. Some exercise is always better than none.
That’s it, Mama. I hope you will put some of these “Do” exercises to use, and give yourself the best chance of achieving a Unicorn Pregnancy.
(Your Next Workout: 8 Yoga Hip Stretches That Feel Amazing)