A reader asked me ages ago to discuss exercise during pregnancy. I have failed miserably in posting this within a reasonable amount of time, but hopefully it might still be interesting or relevant for someone. Let me start by saying that I have never been terribly athletic. I have strived to maintain at least a respectable amount of physical activity, but I have been more or less successful in doing so at different points in my life. I mention this so that you don't think I'm some great sage on this topic. Just sharing what I personally do to keep active and some other ideas that I've heard. I think staying active and healthy contributed to my healthy and smooth labor and delivery with Penny.
My number one physical activity is yoga. I've said many times on this blog that I do yoga weekly, and I just love it. If I miss a week, I don't feel right and can't wait to get back to it. Yoga is the perfect workout for me–it's physically challenging but not in a "running around getting winded and nauseous" kind of way. It's more of a "I am a powerful goddess warrior" challenging. It builds strength and flexibility. It has mental and spiritual components, and it works with the mind-body connection. I started going to yoga class when Penny was 6 weeks old, and I've gone pretty much once every week since then. I would love to do it more often, but once/week is what works logistically for me as a new mom. I joined a gym in our new town, and I attend a basic yoga class once/week. It's not a prenatal class, but there are a couple of pregnant women who take the class, and the instructor is able to modify certain poses for us. I have also taken yoga at a yoga studio, which I think is preferable but much more expensive, especially if you have to take childcare into account.
When I was pregnant the first time, I did do yoga, but I did prenatal yoga DVDs: this one and this one. I much prefer going to class because of the community aspect and the feedback from the instructor, but when I was working full time and pregnant, I wasn't willing to drag my butt to class, so I did the DVDs. It was better than nothing, and it's also a good way to try out yoga if you're self-conscious or want to see whether you'll like it before you spend lots of money. The Shiva Rea one has three women, one in each trimester, so you can see how to modify various poses for your stage of pregnancy. It is also broken down into small segments, so if you only have 20 minutes, you can still get something done. The second link is a little more challenging, and it's basically like what you'd find in one full-length prenatal yoga class. It's geared towards mid-late pregnancy.
I also stay active just by having a toddler. Penny doesn't slow down just because this mama is getting huge, and keeping up with her active life is a pretty decent way to keep moving. We walk to the park, and then I chase her around there (Why don't all parks have fences and gates? WHY?! I mean... thank you, city parks department, for helping me to stay active). We take lots of walks around our neighborhood. Also, have you attended any classes oriented towards one-year-olds? They are basically wiggle-fests, and if you're not getting up and down and frolicking around the room, you aren't being a good role model for your kiddo! And, no, pregnancy is not an acceptable excuse for not participating.
During my first pregnancy, I also did some swimming to keep active. I didn't really get to do this too much this time around. We joined a pool over the summer, but I couldn't exactly leave Penny unattended at the pool so I could swim laps, so we just kind of hung out in the kiddie pool or splashed around together in the shallow end. Now my gym does have a pool, but I don't have a maternity bathing suit, so I haven't gotten in the water there yet. This is a lame excuse. I should get a maternity suit. I bet I can find a good deal this time of year. I have, however, put my feet in the hot tub. Does that count? No. No, it does not.
Walking is another way I stay active. When the weather is warm, we love to take walks after dinner. Josh and I have been doing that for years. I remember during the last few weeks of my first pregnancy, we had to walk so slow and couldn't even go half as far as we usually did, but we kept at it. It was frustrating though because I like to walk at a swift pace. It's such a bummer this time of year when it gets dark so early. Walking in the dark is a little creepy, but Penny and I take daytime walks, and she especially loves walking to the park.
That's about it for my pregnancy exercising. Make sure you talk to your care provider about exercise during pregnancy if you have questions–most sources say that it's important to keep active but to choose activities carefully and avoid anything that will raise the heart rate too much or cause you to overheat. I've heard that, in general, it's not a good idea to take up new physical activities during pregnancy (swimming, walking, and yoga excluded), but that if you're already involved in something like running or pilates, it's okay to continue. Also, it's generally advised to avoid contact sports for obvious reasons. I used to participate in a softball league, but I stopped playing when I found out I was pregnant with Penny. I think the biggest mistake people make is to use pregnancy as an excuse to not exercise–don't assume you can't! Just talk to your doctor or midwife about it.