Preggy fit: keeping fit during pregnancy & beyond

The idea of growing a human being for nine months can seem like a workout in itself. All the changes women go through to adjust to pregnancy can make it difficult to stick to your regular gym routine. However, exercising during pregnancy provides a lot of benefits for both mom and baby. Improved mood, circulation and muscle tone are just a few of the many benefits of exercise.

As soon as you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your doctor, jump into your maternity sweats and keep you and your bump active and moving during pregnancy.

A guide to help you through each trimester

1. Find your feet

A lot of women deal with morning sickness during their first trimester of pregnancy, which makes it difficult to do intensive cardio due to lost electrolytes and general malaise. Contrary to how you may be feeling at the time, a good 30 minutes of cardio can help to relieve nausea. Running, swimming or indoor cycling will get your heart rate going.

Because the first trimester is still a very early stage of pregnancy, restricted movement and balance aren’t a major problem but it’s still a good idea to avoid any exercise that puts you at risk of falling. Your joints and ligaments are vulnerable right now so be sure to listen to your body.

2. Keep it moving, mommy!

As your baby grows bigger, your body needs more support and balance is now something that doesn’t come as naturally as it did. The great news is that your energy levels have suddenly increased and for the most part, you no longer have morning sickness.

This is a great time to reconnect with the outside world and share this exciting experience with other pregnant moms. Yoga and Pilates are good ways to help improve balance, stability and muscle tone, although you would need to avoid anything that requires you to lie flat on your belly or inverted poses. You can continue to run or jog for as much as your body can carry you.

3. The last stretch

As tempting as it is, this isn’t exactly a time to lose weight or put yourself under any pressure to avert any normal pregnancy weight gain. At this point, you’re probably ready to get to the end of your pregnancy term and meet your bundle of joy. This wait is paired with more sleepless nights, muscle or joint discomfort and the classic pregnancy waddle.

Your exercise routine should now rather focus on stretches that will help open out your pelvic muscles in preparation for the delivery of your baby. These stretch sessions will also combat lower back pain, which is a common pregnancy complaint that most women experience in their third trimester. The pool is still a relaxing, safe way to get a good cardio workout.

Post-baby fitness

Unfortunately, Hollywood has imposed rather unrealistic standards on new moms to “snap back” to their pre-pregnancy bodies. Your baby is finally here and life has completely changed. Your approach to exercise will also need to change according to the different postpartum phases you’re in. Regardless of whether you had a natural or C-section birth, the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles will need some serious rehabilitation because, let’s face it, growing a little human being isn’t an easy process.

Start slow

After getting clearance from your doctor, easing into some light exercise will help you not only work on your body but improve your mood to help keep postpartum depression at bay, as well as give you some time to yourself after being immersed in the sleepless nights that come with having a newborn.

Your joints and ligaments may still be affected by pregnancy hormones so you will need to take it easy to avoid injury. Yoga, walking and swimming can be very effective forms of exercise during this time.

“Mommy and me” time

Because your schedule will mostly be determined by your baby, once you do get back to a regular exercise routine, find ways of incorporating your baby to avoid feeling as though the time dedicated to exercise impacts on your motherhood and vice versa. Take your baby on walks or set baby aside next to you when you’re working out indoors during strength and stretch sessions. This is also a great way to bond with your baby.

Comfort is key

Breastfeeding is often a neglected factor when considering the postpartum fitness journey. In the early days of breastfeeding, some women can experience a great deal of discomfort due to engorged breasts and cracked nipples. The pain can sometimes be coupled with a mild fever and at this point, the last thing you need is to force yourself into a rigorous workout routine that could create even more discomfort to the breast area. Avoid doing exercises that cause friction against the breasts and you can also express some breast milk to avoid embarrassing leaks at the gym.

Change is good

The most important thing to remember with pregnancy or postpartum fitness is to listen to your body. Pain is often a signal to take it easy, seek medical care or just readjust to find comfort. Soon enough, you will be back to your pre-baby routine but remember to take your time, be patient with yourself and enjoy your pregnancy, and then your baby!

Luyanda is a 30-year-old mother of two with a solid background in the publishing industry. Luyanda turned her passion for health and fitness into a business where she helps women who want to achieve balance in their lives but also identify with the struggles of being a single mom. Luyanda offers fitness services to corporate clients, events and functions and hosts a weekly self-help podcast with her mom (In my Opinion with Jean and Luyanda) and is also the host of an online TV show called the Health and Fitness Show.