Can I Keep Working Out?

QUESTION

Dear Fitness Expert,
I am just 4 weeks pregnant. I currently walk/jog 10 km a week and also go to aqua-aerobics for 2 x 1 hour sessions per week. Can I continue with these safely throughout my pregnancy? When should I stop? Any other advice you can offer?

Many thanks in advance,
Sally

ANSWER

Hi Sally,
At four weeks into your pregnancy, you are right on track. As long as you've been doing this kind of exercise routine for some time and your body is acclimated to the exercise there is no shock to the system. What I worry about most is when a woman finds out she is pregnant and decides she must "get in shape," beginning a completely new regiment.

Through Pregnancy.org you can get a copy of my book, Entering the Mother Zone, which chronicles elite athletes in training while pregnant. There are many safety measures you can take but the three most important are: drink lots of water, listen to your body and use a rectal thermometer.

  1. Water -
    It sounds so simple and we are all conditioned to hearing/reading about the importance of water but the majority of Americans are clinically dehydrated. We are drinking everything we can get our hands (and lips) on except water. Water also helps prevent morning sickness -- something you will most likely be experiencing within the next couple of weeks -- which often makes women drink even less water and become more sedentary as working out doesn't sound nearly so appealing as curling up in the fetal position.
  2. Listen to your body --
    You are a bonafide jock. As you become bigger, your joints loosen, feet may swell and breasts are more tender. In response, many athletes become more determined than ever not to let a little thing like pregnancy 'get them down.' Remember that there might be days when baby is more demanding than others, taking what it needs from momma's body. You are left tired, exhausted and grumpy. There are NO flashing lights, eager fans and multi-million dollar contracts demanding you get out there and work out. If you are tired, listen to your body. Take a nap rather than workout or shorten the workout on that particular day.
  3. Rectal thermometer --
    Icky, ooh-ey. I know, I know. But it is the best way to make sure you do not overheat while working out. Your baby's temperature is one degree Celsius higher than your own but he/she has no sweating mechanism. If you overheat, so does your baby without the benefit of sweating. Making sure your inner core temperature does not exceed 101, you can know you are not "cooking" the baby. In the book, Entering the Mother Zone, there are several elite athlete stories about those who worked out too hard. Having a rectal thermometer offers peace of mind and a safety guide for you to follow when you train.

There is no reason, using common sense, water and your rectal thermometer, that you cannot continue this workout throughout your pregnancy. You will find as you move along (and grow) you will adjust your program to your new physique. As always, discuss your training program with your OB/GYN and use a training buddy. Good luck! Keep up the great work.

-- Alex

Alexandra Allred

Alexandra Allred is a former member of the US Women's Bobsled team, is an accomplished martial artist, and continues to teach kickboxing while juggling her career as a full-time writer and mother of three. She has interviewed hundreds of athletes, models, actresses, trainers, doctors, and health/fitness experts as she sought to find answers to her own questions about working out while pregnant, arranging breast-feeding around a training schedule, diet when pregnant and breastfeeding, and encouraging her whole family.

Alex is the author of ten books, including Atta Girl! A Celebration of Women in Sports and Entering the Mother Zone: Balancing Self, Health & Family. We're excited to have her on board!