Pregnancy and Exercise: 15 Tips for Your Fittest Pregnancy

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You deserve to have the fittest pregnancy possible. Your baby deserves it too. I don’t mean go out and run a marathon at 8 months or anything crazy. I mean treat your body like the temple it is by taking amazing care of yourself. In past posts, I have spoken at length about the benefits of fitness and exercise during pregnancy. Additionally, it goes without saying that what you put in your mouth will also really impact your pregnancy. So put down the bon bons and take some notes on exactly how you can make your pregnancy fit-perfect (yes, real word.)

1. Move. 6 days a week.
Schedule time to move. This can be to varying degrees. Because you may feel very different from day to day in pregnancy, I recommend planning 2 days of walking or yoga (or gentle movement), 2 days of cardio intervals and 2 days of strength training. While 6 days may seem like a lot to schedule each week, chances are life (or nausea or overwhelming fatigue or headaches) will get in the way at least once during the week. By scheduling 6 activities, you’re likely to get in 5.

2. Get bendy.
Do yoga. This is excellent for all the reasons yoga is awesome – stretching, relaxing, etc. But during pregnancy it is especially helpful in releasing areas of tension that are new and different (back, hips, etc) and preparing your body for birth through hip opening and stretching.

3. Keep cardio short with interval training.
Just like when you are not pregnant, I recommend interval training for cardio rather than long steady state cardio. It takes a fraction of the time (20-30) minutes and gives you better results. During pregnancy your intervals should not be higher than 7-8 RPEs (Rating of Perceived Exertion). Between intervals recover to 4-5 RPE’s. If RPEs are new to you, read Myth #3 in this article.

4. Let yourself work hard.
But don’t kill yourself. It is ok to workout at a moderate level. If you’re feeling good, push to that level of 7-8 RPEs. As long as you are in a well ventilated area and well hydrated, moderate exercise is just fine and will give you great benefits.

5. Lift.
Maintaining muscle mass during pregnancy is one of the best ways to ensure fast weight loss after pregnancy. The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you burn at rest. During pregnancy your body is meant to hold on to fat. Having strong muscles below that “baby fat” will help you shed it quickly postpartum. If were not strength training before pregnancy it is fine to start now, just be sure you have proper form and start with light weights and work your way up. Strength training will also help you with your postural and core muscles which can really take a beating during pregnancy.

6. Find energy in fitness.
There may be (many) days where you cannot find the energy to prepare a meal for yourself, let alone workout. On those days, make a deal with yourself that you will move for 5-10 minutes, just to see if it helps energize you. Most times it will and you will be able to get in a full workout that will give you energy for the next few hours or all day. If you get started and still feel wiped out after 5-10 minutes, give yourself permission to stop and be ok with that.

7. Embrace the 15 minute rule.
On days where you don’t have the energy or the stamina, be okay with a short workout. You can use it in the way I mentioned in Tip #6 or you can use this to get you fired up to push yourself. Pick three exercises (squats, push ups, lunges) and do 10 of each as many times as possible in 15 minutes. This totally counts as your workout for the day and will give you a great metabolic boost. Don’t get trapped into thinking you always need a big chunk of time to get in a workout. (Secret: you can do this for 10 minutes if you don’t have 15 – still counts. You’re welcome!)

8. Keep a visible workout checklist.
This may sound elementary, but it WORKS. Keep a workout calendar/schedule/checklist somewhere where you will see it often. Check off workouts as you do them. Even walks. This will motivate you to get them done and serve as a great sense of accomplishment when you get to cross them off.

9. Use protein as your secret weapon.
Protein is the saving grace for many moms I work with. It helps stave off hunger, which keeps morning/all day sickness at bay. It gives energy when blood sugar levels are out of whack and causing fatigue. It helps regulate blood sugar to control cravings. I promise you will eat less junk and gain less weight if you keep your protein in check.

10. Use water as your back up secret weapon.
Keeping your water intake up is important for basic prenatal health, but also helps in regulating hunger and energy. Like protein, water helps you feel full and satisfied. Even mild dehydration can slow down your metabolism by as much as 3%. It will also make you feel much more sluggish. And of course, dehydration can be very dangerous. Be sure to drink *at least* half your body weight in ounces everyday (ex: 150 pound Mama = 75 ounces of water a day.)

11. Limit sugar.
I know that sounds cruel and unusual, but it really is what is best for you and your baby. You don’t need the extra calories in that toxic form (yes, I said toxic, and I’m not lying.) Neither does your baby. There is more and more research coming out about babies in utero exposure to sugar and it’s not good. Sugar is an addictive substance and over exposing your baby to it in utero can increase his/her chances of addiction and his/ her chances of childhood obesity.

12. Step away from the artificial sweeteners.
These are more scary and toxic than sugar itself. Additionally, they make you crave sugar and sweets, doing more damage than the actual sugar your are substituting for.

13. Find joy in fruit.
I know, not as fun as a Snickers, but so much better for you. Always pair fruit with a bit of protein so it will keep you fuller longer and not throw you into the insulin loop (making you crave more sugar). Think apple+nut butter, bleuberries+almonds, pineapple+plain Greek yogurt. Grilling or baking fruit in the oven with a little sprinkled cinnamon is a great treat when you’re craving treats. Try this with apples, pears, peaches.

14. Rest.
Get your ZZZZs. I know this may be easier said than done, especially if you have other little ones in the house. But the more you can get good sleep, the better off you’ll be. If you’re struggling in this department, look at your nighttime routines that may be delaying your bedtime and/or interrupting your sleep (too full, too hungry, late night screen time?) You may be lucky enough to suffer from insomnia during pregnancy, which is quite common. Arm yourself with relaxation techniques so you can still be restful during this time (a light snack, reading, a bath?)

15. Pamper.
Yourself – not that practice babydoll you have for your husband. Rather than rewarding yourself with food treats, find other ways of pampering yourself that feel indulgent: naps, baths, mani/pedis, trashy magazines, movies, shopping, girls night, date night. Make sure you do these things often. You deserve it. Happy mamas have happier, more content babies. It’s true.

As you work your way through these months be mindful of BALANCE. Do not think about depriving yourself. Don’t think of exercise and pregnancy as a chore. Think in terms of *giving* yourself the best health possible – so you may have a healthy child AND a quick recovery (aka lose baby weight fast!) Prenatal exercise and fitness can compliment your pregnancy in all the best ways if you make it a positive addition your prenatal health.

Here’s what balance looks like at my house:

Why yes, a tablespoon of sipping chocolate in my coffee every now & then does perfectly compliment my fruits/veggies and protein!



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