Caveat: I’m going to refrain from giving any specific medical advice in this article because I’m not a trained professional in this area, but I’ve had a few people asking about my fitness routine I’ve been doing so I thought it would be helpful to write about my experience of exercising when pregnant. Please don’t read this and then go run a marathon without talking to your doctor first. That’s extremely important. Definitely seek advice from a medical professional.
Also another caveat, there are so many women out there who experience horrendous pregnancies and their concerns like keeping their breakfast down, dealing with intense fatigue or juggling a precarious pregnancy are far more important than worrying about fitness. Having the option to be exercising when pregnant is an enormous privilege and one I’ve been very grateful to have.
All that said, if you’re having (or are about to have!) a bog standard pregnancy like me and you fancy keeping your fitness levels high, here are a few things I did that really helped out.
1. If at all possible, be as fit as you can be before you fall pregnant
Literally days before I fell pregnant I finished a 3-month long fitness challenge at my local F45 so I was in really good shape when I conceived. This meant I was able to just continue what I was already doing and maintain a base level of good fitness. I was extraordinarily lucky and experienced no morning sickness or fatigue so for the duration of my pregnancy I went to five classes at F45 per week right up until week 34. The only reason why I stopped at week 34 is that F45 is kind of expensive and I got to the point where I was doing a lot of jogging on the spot because I could no longer do the prescribed exercises so it just felt like a waste of money. If it’s in your control (and honestly, fertility usually isn’t in most cases) be in a good routine before you start trying to conceive. It was an enormous help to me.
2. Ask advice and keep on asking
I asked my regular doctor if I could continue doing F45 and she was really weird about it because she didn’t really understand what it was. So I asked every midwife I saw at the hospital and every doctor and they said it was totally fine as long as I made some adjustments. I definitely understand my first doctor was just being cautious but I knew it seemed weird that I wasn’t allowed to do just regular strength and training so I’m pleased I kept on asking and every other doctor actually encouraged me to do it. The whole topic is extremely confusing and also very vague. I kept getting told things like ‘Keep your heart rate low!’ and I was like ‘What is low?’ and no one could tell me. I kept on asking and asking eventually got some answers. I was VERY pushy about it because I need to exercise for my mental health and I wanted to work as hard I could without harming my baby or myself and all the info was so vague. I read in an article that you shouldn’t do squats and then I asked a doctor and the doctor was like ‘What? Squats are fine!’ so as you can see it was a very odd circle of conflicting information. Some of the best advice I received was ‘If it doesn’t feel right, stop.’
3. Get personalised advice
I’ve had a very low-risk pregnancy which meant I was fine to work out as I had been previously, I just needed to adjust some of the movements. I found it all very confusing to begin with so I just kept on asking questions. A lot of the resources and professionals in this area will tell you what you can’t do but they won’t explain why. I always asked exactly why I couldn’t do a certain activity and if the answer was ‘You might cut off your baby’s blood supply.’ I knew I definitely shouldn’t do that exercise. If the response was ‘You might hurt your back.’ I knew I could do that exercise carefully and listen to my body to avoid injury but was also comforted that I wouldn’t be hurting my baby. I also got advice from people who knew what was going with my pregnancy, who knew that my placenta was in a safe place, who knew that my baby was thriving and knew that I had a high level of fitness before I fell pregnant which are all important factors when it comes to exercising when pregnant. The main thing – take advice from medical professionals who have seen your scans and know what kind of a pregnancy you’re having and what exercise you can fit in around that. I didn’t just assume I’d be okay to do F45, I asked and made sure it was okay for me. Always ask before you continue with exercise and be super specific about what you’re doing.
4. Do it if you can
A lot of people have been shocked that I’ve continued to go to F45 (which is essentially gym workouts) while pregnant. There seems to be this weird misconception that you shouldn’t be exercising when pregnant and it’s total bollocks. Unless you’ve been told not to exercise for a specific reason, get on it. The main advice I got from everyone was maintenance is key. Like don’t be starting an 8-week boot camp (or F45 for that matter, if you’ve never done it before), just keep doing what you’ve always done. Walking is excellent and I’ve heard yoga is great too (although if you’ve been reading Smags for a while you’ll know yoga really isn’t my thing but it comes highly recommended from lots of other people). You can also do pregnancy pilates and there are some great online pregnancy workout videos. Again, check with your doctor to make sure it’s okay to do these things.
5. Try something new
It was my goal to try to make it to week 34 before giving up F45 and I ended up making it to week 35 so I’m totally stoked. I’ve just switched to swimming and aqua aerobics and it was a really good idea. I’ll be beating down the doors of F45 once I’m able to exercise again after giving birth but water exercise is heaven right now. I was struggling to move fast enough in F45 to get my heart rate up but I have no trouble when I’m swimming laps because my whole body is weightless. It’s miraculous. I used to swim a lot as a teenager and when I was at uni but I stopped because I found it chilled me out too much and messed with my productivity. While I’m pregnant though? There’s no such thing as too chilled or relaxed. I’ve started every day this week with either a session of laps or a water workout and my body feels great.