How to Stay Fit During Pregnancy: Tips from a Trainer + Mama

March 19, 2024

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Hi, I’m Victoria! Certified in exercise physiology + nutrition coaching. I wanna help you create vibrant health without losing perspective on what matters.  

Meet Victoria

how to stay fit during pregnancy

Before pregnancy I worked out 5-6 times a week, for about 60 minutes a session. I like to lift heavy, run long distances, and do lots of high intensity circuit training.

When I found out I was pregnant I was worried I would be restricted to walking and water aerobics. There’s nothing wrong with either of these things- and if you enjoy it, more power to ya… but it’s not my jam.

And I knew I couldn’t get by without a good sweat for 9 months.

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Because I was active before pregnancy, my doctor cleared me to continue with my regular training program. I was instructed to listen to my body because the level of intensity I was used to training at might not be possible while growing a human. So off I went. (This is just my personal experience, always talk to your doctor before starting on a fitness program.)

Here’s a little bit about my approach to each trimester to ensure that my body stayed strong for delivery and recovery. After all, delivering a baby is one of the most taxing events the human body will endure. It makes sense to train for delivery day just like you might if you had a big race or competition coming up. Right?

How to stay fit during pregnancy

First trimester:

Anything is better than nothing… but sometimes nothing is ok too.

This first phase of pregnancy was filled with so much GRACE. It had to be. The body goes from doing it’s own thing to suddenly putting tons of energy into building a whole new human! And you can definitely feel the adjustment as your body’s main focus starts to shift.

Tip 1: Start with just 10 minutes

I told myself that even if I could do just 10 minutes I would feel better and then I let my body tell me what would be possible for the day. There were some days where I felt fine and was able to complete a full circuit. Other days, I told myself if I could just stand up and do 100 bodyweight squats that I could count it as a workout and get back in bed. I was SO tired.

Tip 2: The Simpler the Better.

I found because I was so exhausted I didn’t have the mental strength to convince myself to follow a complicated workout plan. The simpler it was, the easier it was to talk myself into doing. I used tabata timers and would do one basic movement on repeat (most timers are 4 minutes) until the timer was up. Then I’d move onto another body part.

This gave me built in rest, I didn’t have to count reps, and I could go at my own pace when I didn’t feel great. Other days I would go for bulk reps. (Ex: 50 reps of 5 bodyweight movements).

Aside from feeling sick or being tired- your body doesn’t feel like there’s a baby inside quite yet. The baby is still very small at this point and you don’t have to worry about a big belly getting in the way of your regular movements.

On days when I felt good, I was able to complete my normal workouts. I still lifted moderately heavy, ran long distances and was able to box jump, burpee, lunge, etc.

Tip 3: Make sure you are listening to your body.

You might get tired faster or feel light headed easier than you’re used to.

Second trimester:

Tip 4: Set up healthy habits NOW…so that you don’t have to start over later.

One of my favorite workout songs has a line that says, “I think I might give away a million bucks, because I feel GOOD, yes I feel GOOD” ……and that’s precisely how I would classify trimester 2.

It’s crazy how much better you feel after the first trimester. And I think the reason I was able to stay healthy, manage my weight,  and maintain a good level of fitness during my pregnancy was because of the good habits I set up early on.

I was able to do at least 30 minutes every day. Instead of trying to do 60 minute workouts, 5 days a week- I switched to trying to do 30 minutes everyday of the week. It helped because I still wasn’t able to mentally get on board for 60 minutes, but I was able to stay in the habit of moving every single day even when I didn’t want to.

My belly wasn’t too big during the most of the second trimester. I added weights back in more regularly and was able to do most movements without any problem. I did stop running during the second trimester- not because I couldn’t. But my stride felt weird and I would get frustrated knowing that I was running slower than normal. I switched instead to rowing, biking, and circuit training to get my heart rate up.

Staying fit during the second trimester of pregnancy

Tip 5: Maintain, not Gain

For lifting, I was able to maintain most movements. I still squat at about 60% of my normal lift and I was able to do my regular weight for most upper body movements. In the past, I would have focused on increasing the weight that I used in my workouts. But during my pregnancy I didn’t want to put too much strain on my body.

Instead, I maintained the weight I had always done, and just played with the reps and volume instead. About halfway through I gave up deadlifting and bench pressing. Both felt weird and I didn’t want to push on something that I didn’t need to.

For this trimester I focused on moving as often as I could and listening to my body for things that felt weird or uncomfortable. I started with high intensity circuits to keep my heart rate up and as I got bigger I focused more on slower lifting days.

Third Trimester:

So much Excitement, such little lung capacity.

During my third trimester, I was maintaining 4 days a week of at least 30 minutes of exercise. Sometimes I did more depending on the week, but I liked to make sure I got at least 4 sessions in. I tried to do one day with a leg focus, one with upper body, a full body circuit day, and a long endurance cardio session.

Tip 6: Pay attention and modify

In the third trimester, I definitely had to cut some movements out. I did planks throughout most of the second trimester. Once my belly got bigger and I started noticing a little coning I cut them out. I also cut out push ups which had the same effect on my abs. I still was able to squat with weight on my back, I just made sure to go slow to maintain my balance. To get my heart rate up I used the bike! I did lots of intervals along with timed distances. My long endurance days consisted of 30 minutes straight on the assault bike! Ouch. I usually tried to get 10 miles in before my time was up. It was just enough to keep my heart rate up without pushing me too hard.

The main focus during this last stretch is making sure movements didn’t put too much stress on my abdomen.

Tip 7: Notice Your Center of Gravity

As my belly got bigger, my center of gravity changed. I wanted to go slow to make sure that I was doing movements correctly without injuring myself or causing any stress to the baby.

Tip 8: Track Your Intensity

Another thing to think about is tracking your intensity. When you DO get your heart rate up, make sure it’s not too high for an extended period of time.

I like to use the talk test. If I could say a sentence without taking a breath in the middle of it, I knew I could push a little more. If I couldn’t speak more than a word or two, I knew I needed to definitely bring the intensity down.

It’s easy to find a sweet spot right in the middle with interval training (short burst of intensity, followed by a short rest).

Tips to stay fit during pregnancy from a personal trainer + Mama of 2

That’s all folks! The MOST IMPORTANT thing for anyone who is working out pregnant is to listen to their body to find out what works for them. 

Everyone is different and some movements will feel normal to some people, and completely wacky to others. Listen. to. your. body. It was designed for this entire process and if you trust it, it will lead the way.





P.S. I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below and let me know your favorite tips on staying fit during pregnancy!


Related: 3 Secrets to Enjoy Exercise (from a Certified Personal Trainer)


Remember, always check with your health care professional before starting any new diet or exercise program. Any product recommendation is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Our statements and information have not necessarily been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Every body and person is different. Therefore, We cannot and do not guarantee that you will attain a specific or particular result, and you accept the risk that results differ for each individual. As with any health-related program or service, your results may vary.

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