Dear Fitness Expert,
I just found out that I am one month pregnant. I am on a very tight budget so it is difficult for me to go to the gym. I attend classes full time and I work full time.
I would like to know what is the safest way for me to get a workout that won't be harmful to my baby. I am also overweight and am concerned about my weight gain during my pregnancy. Please help me.
The good news is there are always things you can do where you don't have to go to a gym. The benefits of a gym, however, are that professional trainers are there to help you with form (this is very important as your body changes due to the pregnancy) and the temperature is regulated. As we move into the summer months -- dependent upon where you live -- the heat can actually become dangerous if you are not properly hydrated.
Let's take one thing at a time:
Your weight. While it is most ideal for you to be in a safe weight range while pregnant, this is something you must talk to your doctor about. I don't know how tall you are/what you weigh or your medical history. Your OB/GYN can and should discuss weight gain with you and most OB/GYN's can set up their patients with a nutritionist. Ask about this option.
This said, let me make one thing clear. Just because you are pregnant, does not mean you should (or will) gain a lot of weight. Lean to average to slightly overweight women can gain a lot of weight. Genetics plays a factor here. But I have worked with many women who were overweight but watched what they ate and how they worked out and they gained ten pounds or less. In my book, Entering the Mother Zone (which you should be able to get through pregnancy.org) there is a really great story about two women who trained together and after their babies were born, actually found that they LOST weight. Yes, it is possible. They did not diet or restrict calories. But they changed their eating habits. No fast food (very high in sodium/grease/loaded calories). No soda pop.
Because you are pregnant right now, I suggest getting a notebook and begin a food journal. For one week, write down everything you eat and WHEN you eat. This is also key. Many women find that the time of day in which they decide to eat plays a factor in weight.
Write these things down. If your OB/GYN does have a nutritionist, this food journal will be great! Very helpful. If not, we can still use that information.
*You mentioned that you go to school full time. Does the school have a nursing/nutrition program. I would wager that a professor would be more than happy to use your food journal as a learning tool for students. I know, I know ... you're thinking, "WHY IN THE WORLD would I want students to see my journal?" Ah, but its free and with the input of a professor/professional, you would be getting top notch information and guidance. Check it out. Many clients have been amazed to learn how helpful their own college can be in terms of fitness and wellness.
As for working out, again, you must first speak to your OB/GYN. Because I don't know your history or conditioning, I cannot tell you to leap onto a treadmill and run! But ... what I can tell you is you can begin a walking program (with light weights) that will help tone arms (this is important during labor and delivery! Trust me) and cardio. The cardio is important because it offers you stamina (again, something you will need in labor) but also help burn calories.
For everyday women who want to lose weight, the math is simple. We simply teach women that if you want to lose weight you must burn more than you consume. This is where calories counting and regular exercise come into play.
But for pregnant women, we NEVER want you to think about weight loss or diet. Instead, you should simply want to come out even. If you sit around with the attitude that you are "eating for two," you WILL gain a lot of weight. If you have the idea that everything you put into your mouth has nutritional value for you and baby but that you are also dedicated to the idea of walking every evening ... you will be strong and healthier.
We have set up information on theses subjects so the newbies (that's you!) can understand the importance of not getting too hot but also HOW to walk. It sounds silly to say but for women who have not been particularly active, beginning a walking program can be daunting.
Take note of how far you walk, how much you were pumping your arms, how winded you felt. Mark this down. Your goal is that you should be able to increase your distances by .5 mile each week.
*Be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
Now, if you are already doing this or want something more challenging, please write me back and we'll give you more. The most important thing is while we want you to work out -- there are all kinds of studies that support the idea that women who worked out during pregnancy had faster and easier deliveries, were happier during the pregnancy and recovered more quickly after giving birth -- we do NOT want you to do too much too quickly.
Call your doctor.
Make a food journal and keep a walking journal.
Keep us posted.
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!