Strength Training While Pregnant: Do or Danger? Hear from fit mom expert, Christa Doran MS, NSCA-CPT, about this important subject. Christa Doran is a wife, mom to (soon to be) three, strength and conditioning coach, owner and creator of Tuff Girl Fitness in Hamden, CT, and lover of ice cream and lifting of heavy things. She has been working with women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and stages of life since 2002. She has a Masters Degree in Science, is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and has coached hundreds of clients before, during and after their pregnancies. To learn more about Chirsta visit www.SweatRinseRepeat.com and www.ChristaDoran.com
Are you ok? Should you be lifting that? You are going to hurt your baby! Go sit down! Your uterus might fall out! Don’t be selfish! Don’t be stupid!
The above comments have all been said to me at one point during one of my three pregnancies. As a strength and conditioning coach who has strength trained through now three pregnancies, I let these comments roll off my strong back as I have both the knowledge and experience to make a smart and safe decision, and I know the benefits to me and my baby are worth the work. But for the average woman, I know being pregnant makes you ask some questions about training, particularly at high intensities and with heavy weights. Is it safe for you and for your baby? Or should you take it easy for ten months, put your feet up, and throw back some pints of ice cream?
Your ability to safely train during pregnancy depends on several factors.
First, were you strength training and training at high intensities for at least 1-2 months before you got pregnant? If you were, than it is ok to continue with modifications to intensity, impact and weight as you progress in your pregnancy.
Second, are you low risk with no complications? If the answer is yes, and your midwife or doctor gives you the green light, than carry on strong momma!
Third, are you training under the guidance of a qualified, knowledgeable and experienced coach who knows how to modify your workouts as you progress in your pregnancy? An expert strength coach who has experience coaching prenatal clients will be able to offer you modifications to keep you safe and strong as your belly grows and your pace slows.
Fourth, does your body feel good? You have to listen to your body. If you feel anything out of the ordinary, stop. If you feel achy, sore and even more tired than usual the next day after training, take a day off and reduce weight load and intensity the next time you train.
Fifth, are you being safe and smart? Throwing hundreds of pounds up over your head while your ligaments loosen and stretch, while your balance is questionable, and your core is compromised is not safe for you or your baby. There is too much at stake. That does not mean you have to stop lifting weights over ten pounds, but for ten months your goals have to shift.
Smashing PR’s, dominating competitions, and increasing your intensity and workload are all amazing goals! Just not when you are pregnant. There will be plenty of time for you to train hard and heavy in your life, for now, your focus must shift to staying fit, strong and safe as you grow your baby.
You are going to have to dial the intensity down, take away some (or maybe even all) of the impact and lift less weight as the weeks tick on. If you are working on baby two, three, four or five (bless you), your body might take pregnancy even harder.
It is important to stay strong and fit during pregnancy, so don’t trade in your dumbbells for bon bons! Carrying and birthing my children was the most physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting thing I have ever done. I was so thankful for my preparation and the mental and physical strength and stamina I had built come month ten, hour 15 of back labor, and as I neared hour two of pushing on no sleep.
Most midwives and OB’s are now realizing the benefits as well and encouraging you to stay active during pregnancy. “As a high risk OB with a focus on diabetes and obesity in pregnancy, I spend a great deal of time talking to women about the importance of exercise and healthy diet in pregnancy. I tell them that becoming fit before pregnancy and staying active during pregnancy can decrease their rates of complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, blood clots, and need for cesarean delivery. I also tell them about the benefits for their children, including the effects on their son/daughter’s future rates of adult-onset diabetes and heart disease.
I knew all the research going into my own pregnancy, but what I did not realize was how wonderful staying active would make me feel during the pregnancy, the delivery, and the postpartum period. As my body and hormones behaved in ways I’ve never experienced, training became a huge source of emotional and physical relief. With Christa and Mike’s help, I was able to modify the exercises as my body changed and continued to benefit from that post-workout endorphin release. Training kept my energy level up when I was sleep deprived, helped me to find my zen when the hormones were surging, and helped me pace my weight gain despite the cravings. Now I can go back to my practice and tell my patients firsthand what exercise can do for them in pregnancy!” -Chris Han MD, New mom, Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist, and diabetes researcher
Wishing you a fit, strong, safe and healthy pregnancy!
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