Training Through Your Trimesters

Discovering I was pregnant for the first time came the realisation that my life was about to be flipped upside down.

Apart from the obvious, I soon realised that with pregnancy a whole lot of new little changes needed to be made. One, in particular, was my training.

As a trainer myself I thought that this would be a piece of cake but I soon realised that I needed to learn a lot more.

There was so much conflicting information out there, that I found myself very confused.

I turned to peers and colleagues for advice and they seemed to be just as confused as I was on the topic.

While we now know that moderate exercise in a LOW-RISK pregnancy is not only safe but beneficial for mum and bub – there are a lot of guidelines and restrictions that follow. This can often lead to many women to be overly cautious during pregnancy — sometimes to the point of avoiding exercise altogether.

I hope that these four pieces of advice help you to make informed decisions about your training during pregnancy.

Some of the most misleading and confusing advice I was given at the beginning of my pregnancy was:

“Just keep doing what you’re doing”

I heard this from friends, family and even a GP. Although they were just trying to be supportive, it is clear that they had very little idea about the training I was doing pre-pregnancy and the implications this could have on my recovery postnatal.

During pregnancy, your body goes through several physiological and musculoskeletal changes that will require you to modify your training in some shape of form. Postural changes, increased joint and ligament laxity, higher heart rate and not to mention the added weight throwing you off balance; will mean that some movements are no longer appropriate or necessary in your training program.

The good news... it’s only 9 months. It’s worth taking the necessary precautions now so you can continue training and staying active for the rest of your life.

Over the past few years, I have been a BIG advocate of listening to your body… but in recent times I feel like I would like to amend that a little.

I’ve recently realised, particularly during pregnancy that it is no longer just about LISTENING to your body but UNDERSTANDING it. Taking it from just merely responding to what your body wants to be able to give your body what it needs.

There will be days where you feel great (I promise that second trimester is much more forgiving) and feel like you can really ‘push the boundaries’. The question you should be asking yourself is no longer ‘CAN you still do this?’ but whether you NEED to. If in doubt over a particular exercise choice or load, I suggest always looking for an alternative.

Here are some general considerations to think about when training during your pregnancy:

Joint Laxity: A Spike in relaxin hormones and progesterone affects joints, blood vessels and ligaments. When joint laxity is increased, joint stability is decreased meaning high impact exercise can pose a greater risk of injury.

Modify exercises where form could be compromised, heavy loads, sudden direction change/rotation and increased ranges of motion.

Increased pressure on the pelvic floor: Along with the spike of relaxin, the increased load due to the growing belly can place excess stress on the pelvic floor muscle. It is recommended to reduce the amount of impact when exercising and modifying movements such as running and jumping.

Pelvic Instability: increased laxity around the pelvis can increase the risk of pelvic pain and Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction. Be wary with split or wide-legged stances.

Abdominal separation: Throughout pregnancy, the abdominals become stretched and weakened to make room for the growing baby.

Whilst a varying degree of abdominal separation seems to be unavoidable it is advised to modify exercises that excessively load this area –specifically, any exercise that causes a doming appearance, excessive flexion and extension through the spine, breath holds/ intraabdominal pressure and heavy loads.

Cardiovascular/ Respiratory: Increased blood volume, cardiac output and resting heart rate mean the body is working harder at rest and may fatigue quickly when exercising.

Rest when you need to and avoid ‘max efforts’.

Your body’s core temperature is slightly higher when you're pregnant.

Keeping hydrated, wearing light loose clothing and minimising activity during the hottest parts of the day are effective strategies to prevent overheating

Pregnancy is no time to be a “hero” or “badass” with your training.

Pre-pregnancy my training was centred around PROGRESSING my performance goals and challenging what my body could do.

However, the biggest focus of my training during pregnancy is MAINTENANCE; working on light, strict work and accessories to build a strong base and reduce recovery time postnatally. I like to think of it as a 9-month long ‘de-load’.

If training is a big part of your identity (like it is for myself) this can be a difficult shift to make but I assure you that being adaptable and learning to surrender your ego will only benefit you in the long run.

You are not in this alone. Even as a Qualified Personal Trainer I have sought advice and guidance from several professionals to help make informed decisions about my training during pregnancy. Apart from my doctor and midwife, I have had regular appointments with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist and a Pilates Instructor who specialises in Pre and Post Natal Training.

If the thought of modifying your workouts overwhelms you, then there are plenty of options you can choose from for support with training during your pregnancy; A Women’s Health Physiotherapist can assess for pelvic floor dysfunction and abdominal separation, An Exercise Physiologist can prescribe exercise and the modifications necessary for your training, A Pilates Instructor can assist with deep core conditioning and pelvic floor function.

If you wish to continue training with a coach or personal trainer make sure they have the adequate qualifications to help guide you through your pregnancy.

Remember conditions are always changing during pregnancy. Just because you were cleared to train during the start of your pregnancy doesn’t mean you will be cleared for the whole nine months. Make sure you are aware of your current condition and legitimacy to train. Always confirm with your health professional (Obstetrician, Gynaecologist or GP) that it is ok to keep exercising every time you visit.

Written by Trainer Tanya Poppett - (@tanyapoppett)

Dara HayesComment