Your checklist for a safe, comfortable pregnancy workout
The road to good fitness in pregnancy needn’t be complicated. With the right exercise plan, you can easily experience all the health benefits that keeping active will bring you and your baby.
So, if you are getting ready to implement your new routine in preparation for pregnancy, there are some workout essentials you need to think about getting hold of.
If you’re generally an active person, then you might think you have everything you need to start a pregnancy fitness plan. But remember, your body will be changing over the coming nine months, and there will be some items on our list you may not necessarily have thought of.
What you will need
The go-ahead from a medical professional
First and foremost, before you do any form of exercise while you’re planning to get pregnant and during the early days, check it’s OK with your doctor or midwife. Because every body is different, the only people who can make the right decisions about whether a particular fitness regime is right for you are you and a medical professional. Even if an exercise seems low impact and low-risk to you, it’s still worth bringing up – just to be safe – especially if you are not used to formal exercise routines, are overweight or have an existing medical condition..
Topping the list of essential items, and something that you should never attempt exercise without, is a water bottle. Remaining hydrated is important for anyone when they’re working out, and when you’re pregnant, it is even more crucial. Overheating and becoming dehydrated can lead to a lack of fluids for your baby, increasing the danger of them being born with a birth defect.
Remember to take frequent sips throughout the time you exercise rather than glugging down two litres at the end of a super-intensive workout. If it’s unlikely that you’ll be near an easy place to refill your bottle then take this into account. You may need to find a slightly bigger bottle, and when it runs out, it’s time to call it a day.
Some energy-boosting healthy snacks
In order to perform your best and stay healthy, you must make sure your energy levels are topped up. You can do this by having a light, healthy snack before and after a workout session. A great choice is a piece of fruit, such as an apple or banana.
Be careful of eating too much, too close to your exercise, however. Doing so can make you feel ill – and if you’re already struggling with nausea and sickness during the early days of pregnancy, it’s something you’ll want to avoid as much as possible.
Your maternity workout clothes should be comfortable and loose fitting. It’s also a smart idea to buy layers. These layers should be light and thin, and you should be able to easily remove them if you become too hot.
As your pregnancy progresses your breast will get markedly bigger, so your clothes shopping list should include a supportive bra, which will help prevent back pain.
Plus, if you intend to do swimming or aqua-aerobics, then you need to think about the right maternity swimsuit. These are designed so that they will stretch with your body as your baby grows.
A pair of comfortable trainers
An obvious purchase, if you don’t already have a pair, is a well fitted pair of training shoes designed for the sport or exercise you plane to do. There are a few things you need to consider, though. When you’re pregnant, you will be particularly susceptible to developing a condition known as oedema, which is swelling of your feet and ankles due to excess fluid in the body.
Unfortunately, this can mean that your current pair of trainers no longer fit, so you’ll probably have to go up in size to remain comfortable. (Sadly, this will apply to all your other pairs of shoes as well – don’t force your feet into shoes which are uncomfortable or restrictive.)
Your mobile phone
It’s the same for most of us who go walking, jogging or road cycling to keep fit, but when you’re struggling to find the energy to get going, listening to your favourite upbeat song through your phone can get you in the right frame of mind.
However, your phone has another important use while you’re pregnant (or at any time really when we’re considering safe exercise) – it’s a way of calling for help. If you’re out on your own, it’s important you have a way of contacting someone you know, just in case something goes wrong, such as an unexpected fall or you start to feel unwell. This may sound really obvious, but many regular runners don’t take a phone with them – when you’re pregnant you can very suddenly feel faint or experience pain, so having a method of getting help is essential.
Your own common sense
During pregnancy you need to know your own limitations and listen really carefully if your body tells you it can’t do something. Unlike super fit people who profess to ‘run through the pain’, discomfort in pregnancy is a warning sign that something may not be right. So, if you find you’re struggling during exercise, even if it’s a low-intensity activity, you should stop and rest.
If you’re concerned, speak to your doctor or midwife.
Extra fitness accessories to make pregnancy exercise better
Useful for all avid walkers, simply attach one to your wrist, belt or waistband and use it to count your steps.
The recommended amount of steps for adults is 10,000 a day. But to start with, just focus on doing as many as you can realistically manage. Try to keep a day-by-day record and see if you can gradually build your number of steps as you progress. For many, a nice long walk doesn’t feel like exercise, but as long as you are out there, and the brisker pace the better, you are getting a valuable workout.
Thanks to the modern miracle of smartphones, there are many apps available that act as pedometers and they have all sorts of graphs and targets that make tracking your progress fun and easy. A word of caution though, they may not be quite as accurate as a dedicated pedometer, but useful if you want to easily track yourself and stay connected at the same time (see note about exercise safety and mobile phones above).
Again, your phone will probably help you out here, too. This can be very useful if you’re out on a walk or doing another form of independent exercise and want to make sure you’re active for the recommended amount of time (about 30 minutes).
Also known as a birthing ball, these can be very beneficial, not to mention fun, to use during your pregnancy. They can be used for many different exercises, so if you’ve got room for a large inflatable ball in your house, go for it!
While it’s always preferable to exercise under the supervision of a specially trained instructor, as they will make sure you don’t push yourself too far or attempt anything outside your comfort zone, if you don’t want to go to a class, you can always exercise in the comfort of your own home, assuming you have enough space to safely do so.
Fitness DVDs can be helpful as long as you make sure the workout is specifically tailored for pregnancy. Otherwise, you can’t be certain that all the exercises will be suitable. The benefit of a DVD is that you won’t have to go far to get to your workout and you can complete the routine whenever you wish.
Maternity support belt
As your bump grows, you may want to consider buying one of these specially made pieces of equipment also known as a ‘belly band’. They are designed to wrap around your abdomen, helping support your bump and lower back. If you get to your second or third trimester and start to find moving around very uncomfortable, then a support belt is definitely worth a purchase.
Certainly not for everyone, and we’re not talking about setting up a home gym in your garage. But small, light weights that can be used at home can help effectively strengthen your muscles. You can also get weights which strap around your ankles to make a workout slightly more challenging. Make sure you get safety advice from a doctor beforehand, though.
A gym towel
We all perspire during a workout. Unfortunately, a common symptom of pregnancy is excessive sweating – a condition known as hyperhidrosis. This is caused by hormonal changes and a rise in body temperature. Even though it can be embarrassing, it’s completely normal. So take a towel along with you on your workout if you’re conscious about sweating too much.