Working Out While Pregnant: Learning My New Limits

Welcome to Pregnancy Without a Filter, my weekly series in which I chronicle my life as a first-time mom-to-be. Read along for insights, outbursts, ups, downs, and the real deal about the crazy adventure of making a person.

Week 20

My husband and I love our ob-gyn. He’s an old Irishman who doesn’t pull any punches and has delivered approximately one zillion babies. But my favorite thing about him is his sensible approach to taking care of yourself during pregnancy. Rather than teaching us to be afraid of anything and everything, he’s instilled in us a kind of “common-sense” approach. (His take on eating cold cuts: “If it looks more tired than you feel, stay away from it.”) So when he told me that the only physical activities I absolutely should avoid were scuba diving and working out above 7,000 feet, I was pumped. His advice: Listen to your body and make sensible choices.

I’ve gone to the gym five or six days a week for as long as I can remember. Working out is part of what keeps me sane and makes me feel comfortable in my skin. But now with a baby on board, despite our doctor’s laid-back instructions, I’m feeling that there are definitely changes I need to be making while getting my sweat on. I can remember during my first trimester, hopping on the elliptical for one of my regular cardio sessions. I set the machine to my usual settings, but about five minutes in I was drenched in sweat, my legs were exhausted, and I was nauseous from the bouncing motion. Lesson learned, little baby. We need to take it easy today.

Since that day, I’ve been taking a more monitored approach to what my daily workout will be. Some days, I my body feels wiped out and I’ll have to dial things back a bit. Some days, I feel one hundred percent up to a tough workout and it feels like exactly what my body wants. So I think for me, the key has been to just listen as carefully as I can to my body’s cues. Even with weight lifting, I have been being careful that nothing I’m doing feels like it puts too much pressure on my belly or that I’m straining too much. (Truthfully, that feeling is so uncomfortable I’m not sure I could work out through it anyway).

I’m sure that things will change as my pregnancy progresses. I’m already starting to get the side-eye at the gym, now that my belly is pretty clearly a pregnant one. People seem to find it fascinating that a pregnant woman is at the gym, let alone picking up a pair of dumbbells. But with my workout history, a daily session walking around the block a few times just isn’t going to cut it. I feel my body wanting to be challenged, and I’m feeling confident that I can safely do that. Maybe that challenge will look different at 36 weeks than it does right now at 20, but I’ll just take that as it comes.

Mamas, I’d love to know — did you work out while you were pregnant? What were some of your favorite pregnancy workout tips or tricks? (If you’ve got some great ab exercises, I’m all ears!)

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