Originally published on RxGirl on Monday, 27 January 2014
Female competitors don’t have to give up lifting weights while pregnant, but it is very important to make modifications so that the growing fetus and the mother are both protected from injury. Make sure to inform your doctor of your desire to continue weight training while pregnant, and be prepared to put your exercise regimen on hold if conditions such as pre-eclampsia or cervical insufficiency exist.
Though you may be accustomed to training like a warrior, you need to drop your intensity while pregnant and remember that the focus is on maintaining current muscle tone rather than on gaining muscle. It is even more important to listen to your body’s cues, and stop exercising if any pain emerges during the routine. Whatever you do, do NOT be stubborn and engage in heavy lifting or contact sports which could harm you and your baby!
Usually even the most athletic and conditioned women will tire very quickly while exercising during pregnancy, requiring an additional hour nap for every 30 to 45 minutes spent working out. Balance will also become an issue, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, so free squats, lunges, bosu work, and plyometrics should be replaced with exercises which are more stable.
When performing cardio, it is probably best to switch to an elliptical machine which will confer more stability than a treadmill and will be more comfortable to use. Slow your pace down so that you avoid ballistic movements, and increase rest intervals to about 2 minutes per set. You will also need to drop the amount of weight lifted. Lastly, keep your heart rate below 140 beats per minute.
It is important to remember that during the later stages of pregnancy, a hormone called Relaxin will relax ligaments in an effort to prepare your body for delivery, which means that joint stability will be compromised. At this point it is best to switch to machines for all your resistance training so that you have maximum support during your lift. Another important thing to remember is to avoid lying on your back for any exercises, as this position can make you feel dizzy as well as compromise blood flow to the fetus. If you are concerned about retaining some tone in your abdominal muscles, you can perform a cat stretch which is done on all fours, in which you pull in your abdominal muscles and curve your back towards the ceiling.
The good news is that women who are fit before pregnancy typically enjoy easier pregnancies and shorter labor. They are also able to bounce back into pre-baby shape more quickly (gotta love muscle memory!). There are countless competitors and fitness celebrities (Gina Aliotti is one awesome mommy who comes to mind) who have remained fit during their pregnancies and bounced back to their pre-pregnancy bodies. So, as long as you practice consistency while turning down the intensity enough to ensure a safe environment for you and your baby, you should be able to enjoy the same benefits.