Continuing a Vigorous Workout Through Pregnancy

Alexandra Powell Allred's picture


Dear Fitness Expert,
Hi, there. My husband I are hoping to conceive and I have some questions about my current workout and continuing it through pregnancy. I am 5' 1.5", 100 pounds, very active and have very good nutrition (local organic meats, huge vegetable garden, etc)

Here is my current workout:
M, F: Nordic Track - 30-50 minutes at varied intensities or cycling on a rail trail @ 15 mph for an hour. A 30-40 minutes pilates video, Ana Caban, Hilary Burnett or Stott -- Intermediate; Tai Chi 10-15 minutes; some jumping/plyometric type exercises - 10 minutes.

W: 30 minute-1.5 hour walk, lots of stretching.T, R: 40-50 minutes - lift weights (pulleys and dumb-bells, sometimes plate machines) a good mix of functional (lunges with 30 pounds, woodchops and lawn-mower pulls, etc) and stuff like bicep curls, deltoid raises, etc. Swim laps 20-30 minutes. Stretch.

Weekend: Ski, Nordic Ski, road biking, Hike, Garden, kayak, depending on the weather.I'd like to continue, with the assumption that if we get pregnant, sometimes I might be too tired.

What are your recommendations? I'd also like some recommendations for pilates for pregnancy videos that don't assume that the viewer has no fitness!

Thank you for your assistance!


Hi,You are in great shape and are committed to a solid workout routine. That's excellent. I can't even begin to tell you all the studies that support what you are doing based solely on how greatly this will effect your baby, i.e. lower body fat, higher intelligence, greater communication skills.... Wonderful!

But first, let's put your mind at ease.The good news is, your workouts -- while intense -- are low impact. Excellent! Because you are already conditioned to a strong workout routine, you need not worry.

I must tell you that you need to get your physician's permission. Because I do not know your medical history/background, medications you may be taking, prior injuries...I must insist that you get permission from your personal doctor. Be sure to show him or her your workout routine. Having said this (and assuming that you are given a good health report), there is nothing here to indicate you need to stop. Let's break it all apart.

The Nordic track. Great workout, low impact, high intensity. Again, you are conditioned for this so I don't have to worry about you trying something new or straining muscles. But you must watch your inner core temperature. (More on that in a moment). Because you are doing sprint work, your inner core temp will spike.

The biggest mistake new moms or moms to be say is, "Well, yes, but won't I know when I'm too hot?" No. You cannot judge how hot you are by the amount you sweat.

The only red flag I see is the plyometrics and jumping rope. Again, you are conditioned. But the impact may be a little too much. Personally, I did high impact/plyo workout the first trimester and, as long as I watched my inner core temp -- was fine. But do you really need to continue jumping rope? This is a personal choice but I would probably move away from that. As you grow through the pregnancy, you will need to stop the jumping.

The tai Chi and Pilates are also wonderful, wonderful exercises to help relief stress, elongated muscles, build/help flexibility and static strength. But they can be very stressful and generate high inner core temperatures. Because you are conditioned, this should not be a problem as long as you watch the inner core temp and stay hydrated. However, during the latter half of your second trimester, these stretches may become a little too intense as your joints begin to loosen. As an athlete, you will know when to scale back. By your second trimester, really listen to your body. If you do not enjoy the stretches as you once did, skip it. It's okay!!! You will continue your Nordic track work and walking (which you can add light hand weights to) for a strong cardio workout.

The weight lifting looks great! Keep it up! But I would ask that you invest the money to see a trainer at least once a month -- just to be sure that you maintain a good form while your body changes. Many athletes do not realize how much they adjust/change/shift while lifting weights when they are pregnant. Because you are adjusting to the ever expanding tummy, you do not realize how much you've changed your stance. So, have a professional trainer spot you, check you while you workout. It's a safety precaution to make sure you lift safely throughout the pregnancy. Otherwise, looking good.

Swimming is fabulous and highly recommended. The road bike ... I don't like. I know it's fun and offers more resistance but the chances of you being chased by a dog, run off the road, hitting gravel -- all things that cannot be controlled are a possibility that could cause harm to YOUR BABY. Therefore, I typically ask my clients to forgo the outside cycling and stick to stationary. You can create your own sprint interval training program on the bike (again, watching the inner core temp).

So, what is inner core temperature?
Your baby is one degree Celsius higher than your own temperature. And, your baby cannot sweat. Therefore, when you heat up, so does baby. We ask that you do not exceed 101 degree F. You cannot judge your inner core temp by how flushed your cheeks are or by how much you sweat or by how hot you feel. Do not rely on this! Instead, here goes, it's icky... but it's accurate ... get a rectal thermometer. Yes, I know, I know. You can buy one at any pharmacy. About 15-20 minutes into the Nordic, sprint interval training or cycling, dash off to the bathroom and check your inner core temperature. This is the absolute best way to be sure that your baby is okay. Every 20 minutes, check yourself!

The second thing you should do is be sure you're hydrated. The one thing I hear pregnant clients say is, "Ugh! All I do is go to the bathroom." For this reason, many do not drink as much water as they should. I don't care if it seems like you are going to the bathroom 17 times a day. Continue drinking (lightly) fluids while you work out. Replenish your body so that it will help your temp stay cooler. Dehydration is also a cause for morning sickness. The more hydrated you are the less likely you are to get headaches, feel nauseous, eat poorly.

If you are able/willing to see a trainer at least once a month, this person will also help assess your training schedule as your body grows. Finally, I want to say that because you are so motivated and committed, it really is okay if at some point you say, "You know, I'm really pooped." and fall off the training schedule. Once an athlete, always an athlete. You will return to training and you will get your body back. So, no frets -- just enjoy this time.

Good luck.
-- Alex