Exercising in the first trimester
So…Dan and I are having a baby! Eeeek! But this is a fitness blog so let’s talk exercise - as soon as I found out, my entire workout routine inadvertently went out the window, especially in the first trimester. I literally went from exercising six times a week to once or twice, and I’ve really struggled with whether that’s something I can fight against and what’s ‘normal’. I’ve scoured Instagram searching for hashtags matching my pregnancy week, desperate to find out what “18 weeks pregnant” etc. should look and feel like. It’s taken me all these months to realise the obvious, that everyone is so different and no pregnancy is the same.
Here’s my thoughts on navigating your exercise routine in the first trimester (that’s weeks 1 – 13 ish)*:
- Don’t panic if you feel really, really tired. And I mean hit by a bus tired. Before I was pregnant, I just assumed pregnant women were tired towards the end of their pregnancy when the weight was piling on. I have never been so misinformed. I actually felt ill with tiredness until about 14 weeks, finding it tricky just getting through the day (let alone going to the gym), falling asleep on the tube and going to bed as soon as I got back from work. Even now I am only exercising roughly three times a week and it feels like a massive effort for me. My advice would be to listen to your body and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel up to working out – you are growing a human inside you so if your body needs rest, let it rest (guilt free). I still am yet to get up and exercise before work once in my whole pregnancy, which used to be my go to workout slot, as I still really struggle getting out of bed.
- The tiredness will come and go. I was really energised exercising twice a day on the yoga/fitness retreat I went on in October, probably because I wasn’t at work all day!
- Be careful and kind to your body. I got an injury pretty early on, most likely from over stretching in a yoga class, potentially due to heightened levels of pregnancy hormone relaxin. I’ve therefore had glute/lower back issues for about three months around the sacroiliac joint that hurts when I walk (and I mean every step…I’ve basically just got used to it now) and really flares up during certain exercises, including running, lunging and, as I have recently found out, spinning. As much as I would have LOVED to be one of those women continuing to run throughout their pregnancy, I just haven’t been able to because of this injury. I’ve already gone through one physio trying to sort it and am on an osteo now – fingers crossed it gets sorted before I really pile the weight on.
- Tell your instructors you are expecting, even early on. It’s bizarre telling all these strangers when your parents or best friends don’t even know, but just because you don’t look different, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t modify exercises. For example, even at seven weeks I was advised in yoga not to do any deep stretches, twists or inversions, which I never would have thought about on my own because I didn’t physically have a bump. The other thing I’ve been told to avoid is HIIT as apparently it’s best to not suddenly increase your heart rate.
- There are apps you can follow for modified exercises (thanks for the tip, Sally). Please let me know if you’ve found a good one as I am yet to, although You Tube is appearing quite fruitful! I am still following Kayla Itsines but cutting out the crunching and certain exercises aggravating my injury.
- Don’t worry if you feel unfit. There’s various things going on that mean your heart might race just walking up the stairs and even one press up could feel hard, and that's ok. In my case this didn’t really come as a surprise given the dramatic change in my exercise routine. My advice would be to not be disheartened and just take your time during your workout.
- Swimming is likely to be your friend. Even though you are unlikely to need the weightlessness in your first trimester (depending on how big your bump is), it’s low impact and doesn’t get your heart racing. With my glute problem, I have found the leg kick of front crawl especially helpful in alleviating that tension.
*These are just tips based on my personal experience – I am NOT a health professional and I do not hold myself out to be. Absolutely speak to your Dr and midwife about your situation and exercise routine.
To be honest, it can be a lonely time going through your first pregnancy when you’re emotional, tired and your body is changing out of your control, and to top it off you are probably harbouring the secret from most of your friends and family. And as I say, everyone has a different experience so I spoke to some of my favourite yummy mummys to find out their top tips for exercising during the first tri:
“I had been doing crossfit regularly for around eight months when I found out I was pregnant. At first I was worried I might have to stop going to classes but after speaking to my coach she reassured me that as long as I took it steady, didn’t start increasing my weights and made sure I ate before class, I was absolutely fine to continue. Compared to my first pregnancy, I am really feeling the benefit of continuing to exercise and plan to keep going as long as possible (although burpees might start to get a bit tricky!)” – Steph
“Hmm, well I thought I would go to the gym multiple times a week and carry on trail running. I didn’t do any of that. After my miscarriage, I just wanted to protect this one and not do anything to jeopardise the pregnancy. So I got back in the pool after a long time out of it and swam pretty hard once a week. Plus I went walking instead of getting the bus and continuing to eat healthily as I previously had.” – Sally
“As your body diverts more of its resources towards growing the tiny baby, your regular exercise routine might leave you feeling light headed or nauseous so keep a snack bar or energy drink to hand while working out. Also, if you are going to a class, double check the website or call ahead to check it’s suitable for T1 – due to the increased complications at this stage, some studios ask women until their second trimester [to attend class].” – Emma
“I’d recommend Mumhood at Frame for brilliant pre and post-natal yoga and fitness classes. You actually feel like you are doing a workout, not like some faffy classes where you lie under a blanket and fall asleep! However, in my first trimesters I’ve always struggled with tiredness and worried about miscarriage so have stuck to yoga and pilates but generally exercise in pregnancy always gives me more energy and helps me to sleep better. Plus, it really prepares you for the labour (the endurance and breathing parts anyway!).” - Annette
Are you currently pregnant and struggling with your old routine? Have you just got through the first tri and have any tips to share?