Prior to getting pregnant, I thought my activity level would take a drastic hit. I expected motivation would be harder than usual to find, and movement would be uncomfortable, especially in the third trimester. Now that I’m just about 3 weeks from my due date, I can say: my assumptions were wrong.
Pregnancy and Workout Motivation
I thought getting bigger would be what made things harder (which didn’t really happen for me until toward the end of the second trimester), but the hardest trimester for me to find motivation and movement was actually the first trimester. The increased blood volume meant I had to slow down from the start (cardio became hard), the fatigue made getting up for my morning workouts hard, and the morning sickness made it hard to ever get up and move. This was also mentally tough, as this is the trimester when no one knows you’re pregnant, and I work out in a group setting–I felt like I looked like a slacker!
I stuck with it more out of routine than anything, and I noticed I felt SO much better post-workout (as long as I was eating frequently enough). This was a lesson I learned very early on: while the motivation was lacking and it felt like an uphill battle to get moving, once I did get up and move, I felt much more like myself. Now, I’ve kept that mentality in mind throughout my pregnancy! But before we dive into what my training has looked like during pregnancy, let’s touch on how much your baseline level of activity pre-pregnancy matters.
Pre-Pregnancy Workouts and Training
Once you get pregnant, it is not generally recommended that you start a fitness program other than light walking. That’s why, if you’d like to have an active pregnancy, it’s important to establish a good baseline prior to pregnancy, so that you have something to maintain and eventually cut back from as your pregnancy progresses.
Prior to getting pregnant, my training looked like:
Monday: CrossFit, run 2 miles
Tuesday: CrossFit, accessory work
Wednesday: CrossFit, run 2 miles
Thursday: Mobility workout
Saturday: F45/HIIT + running
Sunday: walk 3 miles
The type and frequency of workouts that you do should be tailored to what you enjoy and can commit to, but if you’re looking for training specifics that will make pregnancy “easier”, I would recommend building a strong core and glutes leading up to your pregnancy. A strong core will help hold everything in a little tighter and keep you more comfortable as your pregnancy progresses. A strong posterior chain/glutes will help counterbalance your growing stomach, leading to less back pain and movement imbalances as your pregnancy progresses.
Third Trimester Workout Schedule
For the first trimester and into my second, I maintained the above workout schedule. Then due to COVID and pregnancy progression, I changed up my format. For my third trimester, my workout schedule has been as follows:
Monday: lower body strength (squat focused) + HIIT/metcon
Tuesday: upper body strength
Wednesday: lower body strength (deadlift focused) + HIIT/metcon
Thursday: light cardio + mobility work
Friday: long metcon/HIIT
Saturday: accessory strength (glute work with resistance bands) + run (~3 miles, sometimes walking is required)
Sunday: 3 mile walk with my husband.
I also make sure to walk daily (preferably outside), using 10,000 steps/day as a guideline (even though this is not based in science, I find it useful to follow).
I linked examples of each type of workout above, but if you’d prefer not to click out, see below for examples of each day:
Strength: 5×5 Bulgarian split squats (each leg)
30 kettlebell swings
30 kettlebell sumo deadlifts
30 dumbbell squats
30 dumbbell lunges
30 med ball slams
30 med ball cleans
5 x 150 ft farmers carry (45# db in each hand)
5 x 6 bent over row (25# db in each hand)
5 x 8 chest press (25# db in each hand)
5 x 6 bicep curl (20# db in each hand)
Strength: 5×5 single leg deadlifts each leg
Metcon: 3 rounds
30 med ball squat and toss (as close to wall balls as I can get from home)
30 single arm alt db snatch
.75 mile jog
20 cossack squats
20 runners lunge to hurdler stretch (dynamic)
.75 mile jog
50 alt db snatch
50 hang clean and jerk
50 single arm bent over row
50 single arm push press
Followed by speed ladder drills + bird dogs
Saturday: 5×10 single leg hip thrusts each leg, 5×5 sumo squats, 3 mile run
Sunday: 3 mile walk (bonus: make it a hike or pick a nearby park to explore!)
Exercise Movements I’m Avoiding During Pregnancy
Even though I’ve been active throughout my pregnancy, I have still been careful to stick with movements that feel good. While there are a lot of “pregnancy safe” exercise lists out there, what’s “safe” for you is truly individual and depends a lot on what you were doing prior to pregnancy. Any adjustments I’ve made are due to my own activity level, personal experience, and conversations with my Doctor. Here are the moves I removed during each trimester:
– muscle ups
– handstand pushups
note that these are two of my favorite movements, but I cut them out without trying them, I figured the risk wasn’t worth the reward (and they sounded terrible due to morning sickness!)
– ab movements that involved crunching my core (ex: toes to bar, sit-ups. I still kept up with dynamic planks, etc)
– heavy barbell work (started to lighten the weights I was using)
– burpees + pushups (cut these out when my stomach started to get in the way)
– jumping movements (box jumps, squat thrusts, etc)
– planks and plank variations (I am now only doing bird dogs as a “core-specific” movement as I notice coning with anything else!)
– running (reduced distance, did not cut out)
These were all the result of listening to my body and watching for abdominal coning. If a movement doesn’t feel right, I stop performing it. If I notice my abs peaking in the middle, I also stop. Every pregnancy is individual, and listening to your body is the most important thing you can do.
So, there you have it! Who else has found that activity during pregnancy helps you feel better than inactivity?
Disclaimer: I know these aren’t options for everyone, some pregnancies are higher risk, doctors prescribe bedrest, etc, but given my low risk factors and per conversations with my doctor, this has worked very well for me. That said, while I hold multiple training certifications and am an experienced fitness instructor, I do not know the intricacies of your pregnancy and you should consult your Doctor about activity levels!