As you all know by now, I PREACH about exercise during pregnancy due to the long list of benefits to the preggo mama, the baby and the labour. So I had big plans and expectations for my own exercise regime during pregnancy. The current guidelines recommend 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise a week for the duration of pregnancy. However, I fell victim to the wild woman voice in my head saying ‘Caitlin, you must get EVERYTHING done that you’ve ever wanted to do, ever, before you have a baby!!!’. So my exercise regime had to fit around my 3 jobs, starting my own business at 20 weeks, alllll the weekend physio courses I frantically signed up to, weddings and as many restaurant/cafes/movies I could fit it before bubs arrived. So I figured that an average of 20 mins a day was achievable, reached the recommended amount, and wouldn’t affect my fatigue. Much to my own surprise, I stuck to this (making up 2-3 days off with an hour session when I could) right up until delivery. So here’s my journey through the trimesters:
Previous to becoming pregnant I ran 3-4x a week, for about 30 mins each run. I taught or attended 1-2 pilates classes a week, I also did about 1 hour of interval training using my body weight as exercise in my neighbourhood park.
I pretty much continued this regime through the first trimester (luckily I didn’t suffer from morning sickness, but I did get fatigued). We adopted a dog when I was about 6 weeks pregnant so some of my regular runs were swapped for dog walks, which helped to manage my fatigue.
Pregnancy hormones (namely relaxin) makes ligaments and connective tissue all loosey goosey throughout the body, which can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction and joint pain. So I started to be a bit more aware of my running technique (ie I focused on soft landing and pelvic stability to protect my pelvic floor and pelvic joints) and modified the abdominal exercises in pilates classes ie avoided sit up type movements, full planks or double leg lowers to prevent too much abdominal separation. And of course, did my pelvic floor exercises using the ‘Squeezy’ app as a reminder (great app, download it now).
I stopped running after the 12 week mark, as I knew I was going to start to show this trimester, and I was going to be dealing with the stretchy effects of relaxin, plus the stretch of abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and changes in posture. Also, I have had some sacroiliac joint pain previous to pregnancy, and I didn’t want to flare it up during pregnancy.
Here’s where I started my 20 mins a day regime. These 20 min stints could be:
- 20 mins of brisk walking with the dog
- 20 mins of interval training on my stationary bike at home. See here for some of my sample workouts.
- 20 mins of interval training using the benches in the park down the road from my house
Bearing in mind that it is recommended to avoid exercises lying on your back after 16 weeks of pregnancy, and to also avoid intense abdominal exercises or heavy weights. So, I modified the body weight exercises and used the park bench for support. For example, I would do 1 minute on/45 seconds off of a combination of 3-4 these exercises on park benches, for 20 minutes:
- tricep dips on bench
- push ups with hands on the bench
- squats aiming to tap my bum on the bench
- hip lifts with my elbows on the bench
- step ups onto the bench
- alternating side planks with hands on the bench
I pretty much continued as per the second trimester. Things got a little slower and I got a little waddlier but I made sure I exercised right up until delivery. In saying that, I had some mild pubic bone pain at times, and made sure I took my own advice and cancelled commitments/got horizontal/had a day or two off exercise/put and icepack down my pants to help manage it and prevent it from flaring up.
I’m currently 4 weeks post natal after a c-section. I’ve recovered really well and am pain-free (which I put down to following this advice, and keeping active during pregnancy), so I am out walking everyday (up to 45 mins most days this week, on the flat). I’m also doing my pelvic floor exercises, and deep abdominal exercises. I also do some gentle chest, upper back and neck stretches to improve my posture from breastfeeding. Oh, and I get a great arm workout from scoffing all the food in sight.
My plan from here? I want to run! So, I’ll continue with my current regime until 6 weeks post natal, then I’ll start adding in low impact exercises like the bike, pilates and the interval exercises above. I am under no illusion that I’ll bounce right back into running, and will follow this advice and slowly ease into it after the 12 week mark when my pregnancy hormones have relaxed a little.
Hot Dang, this is a long post, sorry. But not really, coz if you weren’t interested you would’ve gone back to scrolling Insta, and plus, I’m passionate about exercise, and if I can do 20 mins a day – you can totally do it too!
– the vagina physio