I consider myself a pretty healthy human. This year, I was probably my fittest ever. That lasted until early April, when I found out I was pregnant. Almost immediately, running and working out took a backseat to constant nausea and exhaustion. I made it to two yoga classes and did two runs my entire first trimester.
While my body was adjusting — quite frankly, still is — to building a tiny being, I kept thinking about all the things I should be doing. Along with my second trimester came more energy and less feeling like I was hungover. Every. Damn. Day. So I booked into a prenatal yoga series at my local studio, started walking for about 30 to 45 minutes at least four to five times per week. On one walk, I saw a pregnant woman running down the street and seethed with jealousy. I always thought I would be like her. But, as my husband reminded me, every pregnancy is different and I was doing my best. (He’s so awesome!)
In order to not lose myself to all the changes happening in my body for the home stretch, I looked to my friend Dee Osbourne, a Pilates instructor who specializes in pre- and post-natal workouts, as well as injury rehabilitation, to help explain what I should be focusing with my workouts.
The First Trimester
Since I wasn’t able to work out during this part of my pregnancy, I didn’t think you should miss out. Osbourne tells me that in the first few months of pregnancy, “You’re going to be short of breath, right off the bat.” And working out will help with maintaining your current level of fitness, “because you’re going to lose energy, momentum and strength.” So, now is not the time to introduce new workouts to your day-to-day. “In your last trimester, you’re going to lose the most calories and energy,” she continues. “So you’re going to want to prepare for that, essentially like you’re training for a triathlon. Because you are.”
Focus: Core strength, while you can.
Exercises: Instead of sit-ups and crunches, try breathing exercises that work your core, find your pelvic floor, and your abdominal muscles, specifically the transversus and obliques. “Eventually you don’t have a sense of them,” says Osbourne. “And it takes a lot for them to come back.” Think: Planks, side planks and bicycle kicks on your back.
Mom’s advice: Remember to go easy, Osbourne tells me. You don’t want your temperature to go too high. And if you’re in any pain, stop. In early pregnancy there can be weird sharp pains, especially as the abdominals stretch thanks to a growing uterus, so don’t over do it. If everything feels fine after a few days, you can attempt to work on your core again.
The Second Trimester
This is when I got back into fitness during my pregnancy. I learned that while a regular cardio routine is important to keep the heart and lungs in tip-top shape, now is also the time to make sure that hips, glutes and back are strong.
Focus: Hips, glutes, lower-back muscles and shoulders. Soon a burgeoning belly will start pulling the centre of gravity forward, pregnancy can be hard on this area, which naturally starts to hunch forward. Osbourne tells me to maintain strength in these muscles as they will be the ones holding up your torso while your abs are persona non grata.
Exercises: In addition to squats that help strengthen glutes and hips, try rows. It’s an exercise that pulls your shoulders together. Also, Osbourne says, “it’s really important to do opening chest exercises, or lengthening those chest muscles. Until you are no longer able to lie on your back. [Then] you can do an inclined chest press.” Try wall pushups and arm rotations.
Mom’s advice: I started using a rich stretch mark cream on my tummy and breasts during my second trimester to, hopefully, preempt any stretch marks. Added bonus, I also applied to my hips to help fade stretch marks from my teen years. I’m loving Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Cream For Stretch Marks and Clarins Stretch Mark Minimizer.