Gone are the days of wrapping pregnant women in cotton wool, we are now actively encouraged to exercise. Before finding out I was pregnant, I qualified as a pre and post-natal exercise specialist so I knew all about the advice for mums to be. So as someone whose life revolves around fitness I always expected to be the epitome of health during my pregnancy. But the reality of growing a life means what you want to do, and what your body will allow you to do may be so different.
Staying active is important in pregnancy, and there are a lot of benefits. Women who exercise throughout pregnancy are likely to gain less weight, have shorter and possibly even less painful labours. It can also ease some of the not so pleasant pregnancy symptoms. Gastrointestinal discomfort, swelling, leg cramps and circulation problems for example. Pregnancy however is not the time to worry about weight loss, or improving fitness levels. But maintaining fitness levels can really help prepare our bodies for labour and will assist with post-natal recovery. So if you already exercise it is definitely worth keeping it up, and if not now may be the time to take up some light exercise.
The general advice is that you can carry on as normal for the first trimester. But for me and a lot of other women the first trimester is tough. Tiredness and sickness can take a serious hold, and for me this was the reality. Generally if I wasn’t working I was sleeping. And any attempt I did make to stick to my usual training regime left me completely wiped out for the day. I wanted to keep active, and stay as healthy as possible so I had to find alternatives.
For a couple of weeks one of the only forms of exercise I could manage was walking. So I tried to fit extra steps in where I could. Taking the long route home from work, and getting out at the weekend when I could. And if you don’t normally exercise but would like to in pregnancy, walking is great. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. Just half an hour of walking each day can be enough. On days where I felt a little better, I managed to do some short full body weight lifting sessions. These can be a great alternative if you usually weight train but can’t manage your usual regime.
One of the biggest changes for me during pregnancy has been to listening to my body. If I feel too tired to do any exercise I don’t. In the past I may have worked through this tiredness but that is just not worth it in pregnancy. Your body is already working super hard to grow a mini human, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t exercise as much as usual.