High Impact Exercise During Pregnancy

Alexandra Powell Allred's picture

QUESTION

Dear Alexandra,

I've read previous postings regarding high impact exercise during pregnancy and wanted to ask if you could explain specifically why it is recommended to stop high impact exercise during the second trimester.

I am currently in my sixth month and find myself continuing my pre-pregnancy workout routine which includes twice weekly spinning followed by weights and once a week a very high impact kickboxing class (including plyometrics and cardio while holding light weights). I'm also still doing abdominals and crunches every morning (but no more than 15 minutes). People at the gym have been telling me to "take it easy" but I find that my body is able to continue as usual (stopping occasionally to rest if I feel the need).

I know that core body temperature is not something we can sense and should be measured by (rectal) thermometer. Are there other issues I need to consider? So far, I've been taking the approach that if something is wrong, awkward, or too difficult, my body will let me know. Is this something I can rely on?

Thanks a lot!

ANSWER

I will tell you that I've had the privilege to talking to/interviewing many professional and Olympic athletes from almost every sport while they were pregnant. Of those who had trained super hard -- fearing that they would otherwise lose their edge -- were very candid. They went too far. Mind you, this is what they said in sharing stories about pushing too hard while pregnant.

There are a couple of stories in which there were actual scares over the health of the fetus because mom-to-be was pushing too hard. When I read your schedule about doing crunches, my first thought was .... "why?" This is always tricky ... I applaud the fact that you are working out. We know that you should have a faster and easier delivery and recovery as a result. But, this is working out within reason.

By the end of the second trimester, your joints are loosening in preparation of childbirth. Ligaments stretch very easy and with more intense, high impact workouts, ACL's, ligaments, tendons are at risk of inuring. Olympic coaches and professional trainers, therefore, INSIST that their athletes back off at this point.

Going into the third trimester, there are a number of elite athletes who pushed too far and were suddenly dealing with complications, preemies, a lot of medical issues that unfairly left them in tears and wondering "what if."

For this reason, I always tell my clients ... why go there? For the elite athletes who took it easy and looked at their pregnancy with more respect -- get some exercise but focus on great sleep and proper nutrition -- they came back stronger and faster than ever. There is a tremendous Wall of Fame for Olympic Moms who came back to win gold. But if you were doing this because you are worried about weight gain or not getting your figure back, you can't and must not do this to yourself.

Finally, let me just tell you that you are indeed right about the inner core temperature. I can tell that you've been doing your research. Clearly, you are an athlete. You may not train for a national team or draw a paycheck for your activities but you certainly sound like elite status.

This is where things get tricky. Because you crave intense workouts, because you are in such great shape, because you are so acclimated to the activities, you've forgotten that you are also acting as host to a baby. There is a very strong hormonal effect for athletes like you when pregnant -- you get kind of crazy.

I know...been there, did that, got the t-shirt. I had to be reigned in at five months pregnant. I had one of the foremost experts in the world look right at me and ask, "What are you trying to prove?" I know these are strong words but you scare me a little because I recognize you. You are me OR what I once was.

At this point in your pregnancy, you need to scale back, watch what/how you eat, stay hydrated and think more about just being active than building muscle or breaking serious sweat. Good luck, my friend!

I cannot wait to talk to you after the baby is born and you're ready to get back into serious punishing workouts again.
Alex