Dear Fitness Expert,
Hello, I just found out I'm pregnant (not my first) and am not sure about a fitness routine. After my last pregnancy, I worked out six days a week very strenuously for about a year, but have fallen out of my routine the past few months.
How much can I do now that I'm pregnant? I've also gained some weight back, and really want to keep my weight gain during pregnancy under check.
Muscle memory is a great thing and no doubt, you will be surprised how quickly your body will respond to working out again. However, you must check first with your doctor before working out.
Many women assume that because a first pregnancy was healthy and they could workout, that they are safe to do the same during the second and third. Most likely, your physician will give you a big thumbs up for exercise but ask first. After you've discussed your current health and health of the pregnancy, talk to him or her about exercise.
If you had, for example, been going to the gym five times a week, attending three cardio classes and lifting weights on alternate days, you would be safe to continue this work out regime. Because your body would be acclimated to the muscle strain/stress of lifting weights and the cardio, you could simply continue with a few tweaks (permission of doctor needed) along the way.
If you had never worked out, we would start you with walking (holding hand weights) and work out with weights WITH a professional trainer. It would be imperative that you begin training with someone who can monitor your responses to weights and cardio routines. Because there is no history, we would need to know how your body reacted to said workouts. Even if you are limited in funds, it is always worth it to pay for one to three workouts with a professional.
So, we come to you. You have worked out and know that you can handle a pretty strenuous routine. This is a great sign. If you 1) are given permission to workout and 2) start slowly (recommended that you have at least two training sessions with a professional just to get you started), you should have no problems returning to light runs, walking, treadmill, Stairmaster and/or aerobic classes with circuit weight training.
Red Flag! I am, however, always concerned to hear women talk about weight issues when they become pregnant. It is expected that you will gain weight and you need to celebrate this point in your life. This doesn't mean you should eat non-stop and gain 100 pounds, but know that genetics play a huge part in each pregnancy. Do NOT look around at other pregnant, compare yourself to the 'pregnant' models (who are often not pregnant) or listen to other people talk about the ideal weight. This is an issue between you and your doctor.
Using myself as an example -- I gained 60 pounds with my first pregnancy and didn't really workout. I was scared about what I could do and decided nothing was better than something.
Baby #2 -- I was in training for the US Women's Bobsled Team and, working with the renowned Dr. Clapp. I was working with a professional trainer 6 days a week, 4 to 5 hours a day. I was squatting over 300 pounds, running sprint intervals at national levels, running stadium steps and pushing 400 pound sleds. I won the nationals and had a very healthy baby girl. My labor was fast, easy. My recovery was so fast, I was back in the gym three weeks later -- not recommended unless under medical supervision -- and guess what. I gained 65 pounds.
But because of muscle memory and my dedication to working out, it came off SLOWLY while I was nursing. But the most important thing was my health and that of my little girl.
With baby #3 -- I was training for my black belt and teaching kickbox classes. I actually taught a hard class with tons of lunges and squats two days before I gave birth and...guess what. I gained 63 pounds.
While pregnant, your overall health and that of your babies is all that matters. Afterward, you can worry about that weight. Think of this as your Olympic event -- the baby making process is one step. Losing the weight is another.
You sound like you have a great attitude and are ready/willing to put in the work once the baby is born. Be sure to talk to your doctor and interview a few personal trainers who have worked with pregnant clients before. Good luck, have fun and don't look at the scale!
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!