Dear Fitness Expert,
Hi. My husband and I will be starting to try to get pregnant in the next 6 months or so and I would like to get myself into shape before I become pregnant. I'm a fairly active person. I walk everyday for an hour or more (we have a dog), but I'm joining a gym to try and get myself into better shape. I turned 30 this past fall and I'm starting to feel some changes, I could also stand to lose about 8-10 pounds.
I want to improve my general health, but I also want to know if there is anything I should focus on considering I plan to get pregnant soon. What can I do now to help my body go through the pregnancy changes when they come? Thanks!
You are already on the right track. So many of my clients come to the gym after they discover they are pregnant and appear to be worried about how their body is going to change. Good for you for being one step ahead.
Now, let's get to it... yup, you are going to change during your pregnancy. The worst mistakes you can make is to delude yourself into thinking you can "control" that change. Genetics have that privilege. Some women seem to have a little ball hidden under their shirts while others balloon. All you can do is make sure you are healthy, strong, happy and accepting of what is happening.
Some would say, "Wait? You mean, it doesn't matter what I do?" No. But it is important that you not say, "I'm not going to gain more than 20 pounds during my pregnancy." You will only make yourself miserable and possibly rob yourself of proper nutrition.
First, we want you to talk to your physician to make sure you are given the thumbs up to continue working out. Ask about nutrition. Many OB/GYN's work with nutritionists. It is important that you take your prenatal vitamins, get the required calcium, protein and folic acid needed for you and baby. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you are eating for two. Your baby takes what he or she needs from you. You need to be eating for you -- keep your muscles strong and nourished.
That leads us to your fitness question. And, yes, how well you rest and eat has direct impact on your fitness routine and fitness level. How do you train to keep you body in shape during pregnancy? Continue your training regimen but be sure you are working main muscle groups. Alternate days, working upper body one day, lower body the next day while you continue a cardio workout. Upper body strength is very important because 10 months from now when you are being asked to push, you need to have the upper body strength to grip the railing of the bed and push. You need to have stamina and endurance. Many women have c-sections simply because they have nothing left to give.
As your pregnancy moves along, you should continue working upper and lower body, combined with cardio but you can and will need to modify as your body changes. I implore you to work with a personal trainer at least once a month, every month just to have someone check your body position and work load. If you can afford a personal trainer for all workouts, that is best.
The two most neglected muscles during pregnancy? Lower back and abs. Yes, you can work those muscles. My clients who worked faithfully throughout the pregnancy, even days before giving birth had faster, easier deliveries and returned to their workouts and pre-baby body shape more quickly than those who worked out only once a week. While genetics may have its own idea how big or swollen you get, you can better determine how the pregnancy will feel and how quickly you will recover by how you eat and workout.
Please keep us posted! Good luck.
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!