Your level of exercise will vary throughout your pregnancy. Some days (or months) you’ll feel like Wonder Woman, and other times will find you feeling like you ran a marathon when you only walked to the bathroom. During the first trimester, you might find yourself quite tired, whereas in the second trimester, you’ll probably find much more energy.
Fit & Healthy Pregnancy will help you know how to respond to changes in your fitness needs and your body’s response to activity, and the standard OB visits will be adequate for recreational and noncompetitive athletes to monitor a fitness program. More aggressive or competitive athletes should have additional monitoring throughout pregnancy if they want to reach beyond moderate exercise toward high-intensity and/or high-volume training.
You might be wondering what counts as “moderate” versus “intense,” or low versus high volume, and the answer is: It depends. A workout that feels intense to you could be moderate to another woman, and the type of activity you’re doing plays into the distinction between moderate and intense. How your body responds to both pregnancy and exercise over those 9 months will be your individual story, and the rest of this book will help you read your own body’s cues.
If you’re a healthy woman with a regular, moderate workout program of 30 to 60 minutes 3 to 6 days per week, you can continue your fitness routine as long as your pregnancy is progressing smoothly. You can even build your exercise time to 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate exercise per week.
When it comes to strength training during pregnancy, the guidelines set by the Department of Health and Human Services recommend 2 days per week of moderate, light muscle strengthening. If you’re also getting regular cardio workouts, focus your strength training on upper-body exercise, paying attention to strengthening your lower back during the first trimester. In Chapter 2, you’ll read about how light free weights and resistance bands are a great option for building strength during the early months of pregnancy, but keep in mind that your balance can feel off when you’re nauseated or getting bigger. Use a wide, stable stance while lifting, and aim for a higher number of slow reps at lower weights, as opposed to jerky motions with heavy weights. You can also use your own increasing body weight with a stability tool (such as TRX or a chair) as a safe form of resistance for strength training, particularly when exercising your lower body.
Experienced athletes shouldn’t strive to build the intensity of vigorous workouts during pregnancy and should listen when their bodies ask them to reduce their exertion as a result of exhaustion (not just feeling tired) or other warning signs. This differs from the case of a woman who is new to fitness. As mentioned earlier, you can increase the duration of workouts up to a total of 2.5 hours over the course of the week and gradually build the intensity from a gentle (e.g., yoga, slow walking) to a moderate (e.g., brisk walking, slow biking) level. However, you should not increase the intensity of workouts that are already vigorous (e.g., running, swimming).