Libby Matthews’ pregnancy page: Exercising while pregnant

Libby shares her tips on how to exercise throughout pregnancy - keeping you fit and healthy for your new arrival.

Exercising while pregnant
The day I had an inkling I was pregnant was the day I couldn’t do my usual morning workout. I knew something was up because I was so puffed and weak 10 minutes into the workout when usually I found it easy.
When I discovered I was pregnant, my morning sickness immediately kicked in and my days of working out six times a week were over - for the first trimester anyway.
Over the last two years, I have made a big effort to improve my fitness levels and I began to love working out, it was my therapy, it improved my mood and helped me tone up. After exercising I felt better about myself and the choices I made. Nobody has ever regretted a good workout!
I am grateful that I was fit before I got pregnant, and I have tried to maintain a level of fitness throughout my pregnancy. People might tell you pregnancy is a time to put your feet up, but if your pregnancy is uncomplicated it is much healthier for you and the baby to stay active.
It felt good to get back to working out after a month off
Some benefits for me to stay fit during pregnancy are:
  • A chance to strengthen my body and build endurance for labor and delivery.
  • Make the transition after birth back to my pre-pregnancy fitness levels easier.
  • Help improve sleep. Throughout pregnancy, sleeping can be so uncomfortable and broken for various reasons. The days I exercise, I find I fall asleep easier and I don’t wake up as often. This means I wake up in a better mood.
  • On the days when I am feeling exhausted and I push myself to exercise I feel 10 times better after a workout. Exercise gets my circulation flowing, boosts my mood, I feel more relaxed and it and gives me more energy.
  • Many women get swelling and bloating during pregnancy and I find that if I do exercise I don’t suffer from these, when means I experience less pain and discomfort.
During my first trimester I tried so hard to exercise regularly but it was hard when I would need to run to the bathroom to be sick mid workout due to morning sickness.
When morning sickness is bad, the thought of exercise can seem exhausting. However, I made sure I was moving my body at least once a day, even if that was a 20-minute walk around the block. This helped get the blood flowing and helped to clear my head.
When my morning sickness began to ease off I stepped up my workouts and incorporated light weights back into my training.
I’m currently 30 weeks and there are some days when I find it hard to get out of bed, let alone exercise. The days when I do have energy, I go for an hour and a half walk, do a light workout at the gym or see my trainer (Coach Rhys from City Fitness in New Market).
I'm a fan of pregnancy yoga to help ease back pain and improve flexibility
My favorite pregnancy workouts are:
  • Walking is one of the best cardiovascular exercises and it keeps you fit at no cost. You can continue to walk throughout your entire pregnancy and you can make it as easy or hard as you can. If you are generally fit, aim to walk for 45-60 minutes and find a hill to walk up to really gets the heart rate up. If you haven’t been previously active, aim for a 20 minute brisk walk.
  • Pregnancy Yoga is great to try at home. Daily Yoga, 5 Minute Yoga and Simply Yoga are all free yoga apps, so you can try poses in the comfort of your own home. Yoga helps to calm the mind, decrease back pain and improves flexibility which can be helpful in delivery. Many yoga studios offer pregnancy yoga classes. Be mindful of overstretching, inverted poses and lying on your back. Bikram and Hot Yoga cannot be done during pregnancy due to overheating.
  • Swimming is one of the safest exercises for pregnancy as it puts no pressure on the joints and ligaments. You feel lighter when exercising, it is non-contact and you can really get your heart rate up. Many swimming pools hold classes for pregnant women.
  • Barre Class is a fun workout to do when pregnant and a safe workout for pre and post-natal care. Barre class is a ballet inspired class with components from yoga and pilates. It is all weight bearing work, which means you use all your own body weight. You can moderate the exercises to make them as easy or hard as you want.
  • I am lucky enough to have a trainer at the gym. I have been seeing him since before I got pregnant and usually see him twice a week to help maintain my fitness levels. Weight training is one of my favorite ways to work out and because this was already part of my exercise routine, there was no need to stop when I was pregnant. Weight training strengthens and tones muscles and helps you adapt to the changes in your body as the baby develops, prepares you for the birth and is great for the postnatal recovery period.
It has been a challenge for me to maintain my fitness throughout my pregnancy. The tiredness and fatigue can be a real put-off and having a big belly can make some exercises difficult. However, I’ve learnt to adapt and try new exercises, walk instead of run and not beat myself up if I go a day without working out.
I know the benefits of exercising during pregnancy extend far beyond the actual birth. My biggest tip to expecting mothers would be to listen to your body, your body is going to tell you what pregnancy workouts you can or cannot do.
L x
Always consult a health care professional or your LMC before undertaking any new exercises.
Libby Matthews is a first-time mum-to-be, who along with sister Julia, has inspired Kiwis with the popular lifestyle blog, Julia & Libby. Over the next few months, Libby will share the highs and lows of her pregnancy with us here at the Weekly.