A Complete Guide to Pregnancy Health and Fitness
Congratulations! You’ve got a bun in the oven! Once you get over the shock and awe of this incredible life event, the real work starts. You need to do everything in your power to ensure you’re staying fit throughout your pregnancy to remain as healthy as you can. Certainly, pregnancy isn’t the point in life where you should explore new contact sports or start training for that marathon you’ve always wanted to do, or even become super adventurous in the food department. But, there are many ways you can stay healthy and keep your body in shape over the next nine months as long as your doctor approves it. Here is your complete guide to pregnancy health and fitness!
Pregnancy Fitness: Trimester One
If you’ve been pretty active up until this point, then you can probably just carry on with what you’ve been doing. For example, if you were doing strength training and squats prior to becoming pregnant, you can carry on with those. You just don’t want to throw anything new into the mix right now. You may not feel up to exercising, though. It’s no secret that the first trimester is fraught with the pitfalls of morning sickness (more like all day sickness!) and extreme fatigue, but if you can work in physical activity it’s going to work in your favor to help you feel better.
If you’re new to the exercise scene and this pregnancy has motivated you to get healthy, well welcome! Most exercises can be safely done in the first trimester, including aerobic exercise and jogging. You simply need to avoid any contact sports or sports that increase your risk of falling. Save joining that new women’s hockey league until that bun is baked and out of your oven!
The most important thing to remember during this time is that you have to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you and respect your limits. Lower the intensity of your exercise if that’s what you feel you need to do since pushing yourself will only make you feel worse. Personal trainer Lalo Fuentes, CSCS, suggests keeping your heart rate under 140 beats per minute, which can easily be tracked with your Fitbit or other heart rate monitor.
Pregnancy Fitness: Trimester Two
Let’s get one thing straight: Gaining weight during pregnancy is a good thing. If you’ve been active it can be hard to slow down a bit and letting your body do what it needs to do. But you should listen to what your doctor is telling you when it comes to weight gain since part of that weight gain accounts for a healthy and growing baby. On average, women gain about 30 pounds over the course of the pregnancy, and as you gain weight you’ll need to lessen the intensity of the exercises you’re performing. This is, however, a great time to work on strengthening your lower back muscles, since your back is going to have to support more and more weight as the pregnancy goes on. Deadlifts are a great way to get your hamstrings, lower back and upper back strong. All the muscles you will need to stay healthy.
The good news is that even though you’re growing, you can still keep moving. You may find at this point that sports such as cycling and running are becoming a bit more uncomfortable, so just remember to listen to your body and go with exercise that feels good. Walking is a great exercise at any point in your pregnancy!
Pregnancy Fitness: Trimester Three
Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Well, the arrival of your little bundle of joy is fast approaching, but you’re probably feeling great since you’ve been exercising and eating well throughout your pregnancy, right?
At this point in the pregnancy, you may notice that any activity that involves bouncing or jumping will be uncomfortable. That belly literally has a mind of its own at this point, so make sure you’re being mindful of how it is changing your center of gravity and throwing off your balance. Your risk of falling increases in the last trimester, so stick to exercise that is comfortable such as strength training, yoga, swimming, walking, water aerobics, or hiking. In fact, according to Los Angeles personal trainer Lalo Fuentes, CSCS, a brisk walk is going to be more beneficial to your overall fitness right now than a slow run. And don’t forget that water exercise will be kinder to your back and your joints, but still allow you to keep your core strong – which will come in handy during delivery.
It will pay to remember to continue some level of strength training for your upper body and core, even at this advanced state of pregnancy. Once the baby is here, you will be doing a lot of carrying and holding on just one side of your body. Sure, your baby will be small, but how used to carrying around an 8 pound sack of potatoes are you up until now? You need to prepare your shoulders, biceps and the rest of your upper body for this task through regular strength training in order to avoid upper back and neck pain as you nurse your child through its earliest days and weeks.
Exercises to Avoid in Pregnancy
So, there is a no-no list for exercise when you’re pregnant. While no one can keep you from doing an activity you enjoy, you have to understand there are risks to certain sports when you’re expecting. You should avoid:
Contact sports – As previously mentioned, any sport where you can be knocked down or risk getting hit in the belly needs to be avoided. Rugby can wait a few months.
Skiing – This means any type of skiing, both snow, and water. It carries too high a risk of falls and you tend to travel at some pretty fast speeds while doing these activities too. The only exception is cross country skiing, which should be OK in the first two trimesters.
Off road cycling – Cycling is generally a safe thing to do during pregnancy until it’s off-road. If that’s the case, then you need to choose the tamest, flattest tracks of land possible to do this activity, but remember the falling risk is high.
Scuba diving – Scuba diving involves decompression, and this is unsafe at every point in your pregnancy.
Surfing – Yes, you love surfing, but even the most experienced surfer falls and since falling is frowned upon, then this is an activity that you should wait to do until after your pregnancy is over.
Focus on doing other things that are safe for you and your baby during your pregnancy, and get back to the sports on the naughty list once you’re baby has arrived – because then everything is back on the table. Who knows? This opportunity to try some more low impact and relaxing exercise might help you find a new exercise to love and continue on with after pregnancy.
Other Aspects of Pregnancy Fitness
When you take on challenging physical tasks, you train for them. After all, you wouldn’t run a marathon without training for it, so why have a baby without helping your body to perform at its best? To prepare yourself for the day you see your baby’s precious face for the first time you need get your body and your mind ready. As pregnancy fitness expert Lalo Fuentes says, “The stronger you are, the more likely your body will be able to deal with the process of labor.”
When you’re pregnant, your body releases a special hormone that relaxes your ligaments and joints, allowing your body to grow and accommodate your baby. Practicing a few techniques can help to keep your body and your mind healthy, and they’ll certainly come in handy when labor finally begins. You can help your body and mind to stay healthy and strong throughout this process by:
Remaining active – No matter how large you get, you have to keep your body moving. It’s OK to slow down as you get closer to giving birth, and never push yourself too hard, but walking for just 30 minutes a few times a week can make a big difference when the big day arrives. Swimming is great too – just make sure you’re keeping up with your water intake!
Learning to warm down – Make sure you practice relaxation techniques after exercise to prepare for labor. After you are done working out, make sure you take the time to stretch comfortably as you train your muscles to relax. This will come in handy between contractions, since tensing up may be your instinct, but won’t help your labor to progress.
Training your focus – When you’re training for something such as a race, mental focus is half the battle to the finish line. The same thing can be said of labor since mental focus and toughness will see you through as you assist your body in doing what needs to be done. Plus, relaxing and focusing helps your body to release endorphins, which will help you deal with the pain and keep you going.
Continue strength training – Work with a personal trainer who is knowledgeable about fitness during pregnancy to help you adjust your strength training routine over the course of your pregnancy, but don’t forget how important strength training will the whole nine months!
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Just as with an athlete at any level, you have to fuel your body well so it can perform at its best – and pregnancy is no different! Personal trainers just like Lalo Fuentes can design a nutrition plan tailored especially for you and your nutrition needs, but in general, you should remember these pregnancy nutrition rules:
Load up on the Big 5 – The “Big 5” refers to the nutrients that are especially important for a pregnant woman. You need to eat foods filled with calcium, fiber, folate, zinc, and iron. These will keep you and your baby healthy.
Eat the rainbow – This doesn’t mean you need to eat all the Skittles you can get your hands on, rather you need to eat foods of all different colors throughout your pregnancy. Get plenty of variety from fruits and vegetables with rich and deep colors – the deeper the color, the better it is for you!
Go organic – When you’re pregnant you need to be mindful of eating foods that haven’t been produced with pesticides. So, focus on organic and locally grown produce when you can.
Don’t forget omega-3 fatty acids – You have to watch your fish intake when pregnant since many types of fish contain mercury, but you can get omega-3 fatty acids from many other sources such as eggs, walnuts, and flaxseed oil. Low mercury fish that you can safely eat in moderation include wild Alaskan salmon, herring, Atlantic mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. You may be surprised at how those pregnancy cravings work with sardines!
Choose foods that pull double duty – You want to include as many nutrient-dense foods as you can in your diet. Foods that pull double duty are higher in essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, and protein. So, add more chicken, eggs, dairy, peanut butter, pork, spinach, and black beans to your diet.
Of course, if there’s a list of things you should be doing with pregnancy nutrition, you know there’s also a list of things you shouldn’t be doing. In order to set yourself up for a fast recovery after giving birth and have a healthy pregnancy, you need to remember to abide by the “don’ts” of pregnancy nutrition. They are:
Never eat for two – According to personal trainer Lalo Fuentes, “Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t actually eating for two people, you’re still just eating for one that happens to be creating another person.” Half of all women are gaining too much weight during pregnancy, and while you shouldn’t focus on the numbers on the scale, you should focus on staying healthy. That means eating only until you feel satisfied.
Watch the refined carbohydrates – You need carbs to be healthy, but highly processed and refined carbs aren’t good for you. Limit how many refined carbs you have a day and try to have more complex carbs such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grains.
Watch your food safety – You have to be on the constant look out for food-borne pathogens when you’re pregnant since they can hurt your unborn baby. Practice good food safety in your kitchen, specifically when handling raw meat, and stay away from undercooked or raw meat. The sushi will still be there after your baby is born!
Eat regularly – It can be a balancing act, but in order not to overeat you have to remember to eat regularly. When you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t go more than two or three hours without eating. Fuel your body to help it with the hard work it’s doing!
Drink plenty of water – Staying properly hydrated when pregnant can be a challenge, but you need to make sure you’re hydrated so you don’t risk preterm labor. Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water every single day.
Being pregnant is an amazing thing, but it’s also a time when you have to be diligent to stay on track with your fitness and health goals. Once you’ve given birth, then you can get back on track with the help of Los Angeles personal trainer Lalo Fuentes – but until then just remember to care for your body through good nutrition and appropriate exercise until your baby arrives.