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How should I modify my workouts while pregnant?

According to a personal trainer.

pregnant workouts

Note: The first step is always speaking with your medical professional and obtaining clearance to exercise before beginning or continuing a workout plan while pregnant!

As a personal trainer, pilates instructor and pre/post-natal exercise specialist, I always assumed I would have an extremely active pregnancy. That all came to screeching halt when I was put on pelvic rest at six weeks until further notice.

My days went from walking several miles with my dog and teaching at least one pilates class to sitting on a stability ball while I instructed others, and sitting on the couch while my husband took over dog duties.

Luckily, I was cleared to exercise again at 12 weeks but at this point, my body and energy levels had changed enough that I knew I needed to follow some new rules when it came to working out.

With the knowledge base I had built over the years but a fairly good sense of my own conditioning, it wasn't too challenging to figure out the best daily activity for myself, but I knew a lot of other women could benefit from hearing the newest research on exercising while pregnant.


Can I do cardiovascular exercise while pregnant?

Most trainers and physicians will recommend that you do not spend significant time above 140 bpm when performing cardiovascular exercise, like running or biking. One way to keep track is to wear a heart rate monitor, or a device like a FitBit, and if you find your heart rate jumping up too high you can slow down or take a break until it lowers.

The talk test is another easy way to ensure that you're not restricting too much oxygen to your baby during exercise. The trick is you should be able to easily carry a conversation while continuing your workout. If that's not the case, it's time to slow down and take a break.

One of the most common questions I get is from runners who ask me, "How long can I keep running while pregnant?" For me, running after 12 weeks felt a little "off" so I switched to a lower impact elliptical. However, I have known many pregnant women continue running into their third trimester.

How to modify: Make sure you are monitoring heart rate, following the talk test and paying attention to your body. If something doesn't feel right, that's your cue to change it up.

In your final trimester, relaxing increases in your body, your ligaments and joints will be looser. High impact exercise like running increases your risk for joint injury and pain so I highly recommend switching to a lower impact alternative like walking, swimming or elliptical training.

Can I do strength training while pregnant?

Prior to becoming pregnant, I did a lot of mat pilates each week. However, by the time I was cleared to exercise at 12 weeks, it's recommended you spend minimal time on your back so you don't restrict blood flow to your baby by compressing the Vagus nerve. I did, however, continue to do my side body, seated, and exercises on my hands and knees throughout my second trimester into my third.

When it comes to lifting weights, you want to follow the same heart rate guidelines and follow the talk test, just like your cardio. I usually recommend women lower the intensity and amount of weight they are lifting in their second and third trimesters to avoid any additional strain on your abdomen, lower back and joints.

The change in gestational weight gain, posture and balance affect your body's ability to lift at the same intensity as you did before so you need to be aware of your new limitations and check in with yourself more often. It's also a good idea to avoid exercises where you are holding weights above your abdomen, present a fall risk or have you spending time on your back.

How to modify: Add prenatal yoga or pilates to keep your flexibility, core muscles and strength engaged. Some of my favorite moves and poses for yoga and Pilates during pregnancy targeting your entire body are sumo squats, bird dogs, side leg raises, side plank and arm circles.

What else to be aware of when exercising while pregnant

While pregnant and in the postpartum time frame, The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that if at any point you have worsening symptoms or you experience anything on the list below you should stop exercising and reach out to your medical professional.

  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Shortness of breath before starting an exercise
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina

The ACOG also has a full list of exercise FAQ's and what to avoid.

Will exercising during pregnancy help me during delivery and postpartum?

Absolutely! Recent studies have shown exercising during pregnancy has been shown to lower the risk of gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain and Caesarian section.

But it also helps women maintain strength and stability during their pregnancy that lasts long after they give birth. If you take nine months off from exercising, you will see a decrease in your cardiovascular health and your muscles mass.

By continuing to stay active during pregnancy for as long as it feels comfortable, you will maintain a level of endurance and strength to help you recover and heal your body quicker postpartum. But above all, have fun mama. You've got this.

Looking to outfit your workout, mama? We've got the gear you need in the Motherly Shop!

Anook ruby tank

Anook ruby tank

Designed to expand and retract from first trimester to the third trimester to many years postpartum, the tank's sewn-in bra pads stay put and offer added coverage while the antimicrobial liner wicks sweat and leaked breast milk.

$62

Anook austin shorts

Anook austin shorts

Made from 4 way stretch material to allow greater movement and designed to accommodate the changing female body, these amazing shorts are able to expand and retract from first trimester to the third trimester to many years postpartum.

$58

Anook hayes tall joggers

Anook hayes tall joggers

Great for literally whatever life or kids throw at you. Designed to accommodate the changing female body with the ability to expand and retract from first to third trimester and beyond into postpartum these cozy joggers are perfect for working out, lounging at home, or anything in between.

$98

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

Letterboard

From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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