Exercise during pregnancy is essential for proper circulation and nutrient flow to the placenta so I have remained "active" aiming to get at least 10K steps per day and doing "organized" exercise 2-4 times per week. Experts recommend keeping the intensity of exercise at a level of "somewhat hard" on Borg's scale of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and always maintaining correct technique during lifts. Not much has changed in how I work out other than moving in ways so my growing belly doesn't get in the way. As you read this, remember that I am maintaining the level of exercise intensity that I had before I got pregnant, so I'm not implying that everyone needs to go out and lift heavy weights just because you're pregnant. The key is, is it somewhat challenging for you?
I know many people have been asking how my workouts have changed. I had an injured thumb for a little while in my first trimester so I naturally stopped doing heavy-grip-dependent exercises like deadlifts and pull-ups and focused more on bodyweight/lighter weight exercise. Now that my thumb has healed, I'm back to doing some heavier lifting. See the videos below. Since I'm planning to have a natural birth (God willing), I need to prep my body to have both the strength and the stamina necessary for holding a deep squat and tolerating discomfort, so I'm training for those goals.
I've been doing a mix of exercises, including but not limited to deadlifts, squats, dips, pullups, overhead press, kettlebell swings (high rep), kettlebell deadlifts (high rep), box step ups, running sprints (at 80% capacity), rowing/bike sprints etc. In the photo below (right), you'll see me doing isometric biceps curls. I started by using 5 lb dumbbells and have progressed to 8 lb for 3 min so far. If you've ever held a baby, you'll know your back, arms and shoulders get tired. This is my version of progressively training to hold the baby for prolonged periods without having to compensate my posture.
In some cultures, it is traditional to discourage women from movement especially exercise. But the way I think of it is this: If a pregnant woman was in the wild and was being chased by a predator, would she act weak and allow the predator to win the race? Or would she step into her God-given power, one that gives her the strength and capacity to overcome anything that stands in the way of her life and the baby's? Pregnancy increases her blood volume such that she can perform at levels similar to an athlete blood-doping. Why shouldn't she take advantage of this and concurrently enhance nutrient delivery to the baby?
Now of course, this wild woman lives in the modern day and no longer has these built-in stressors throughout her day. However, as women, we still need to behave in this way. We have to build these controlled stressors into our life for the sake of our health and the health of the baby. With that being said, below is a video of me doing a 100m sprint at 80% capacity.
Below is the Partner WOD Mark and I did on the 4th of July (19 weeks pregnant) at SnoRidge Crossfit (great place!). I modified the burpees, doing pushups on plates instead of the floor (since belly would touch first) and instead of doing toes-to-bar, I just brought my knees up to 90-degrees. Everything else (KB swings, power snatches, and wall balls) I could do without modification. Thanks to Rob Wilson, we got some nice photos too!
Working out in a gym environment or doing other organized exercise only takes place maybe and hour or two out of the day. What about the rest of the time? If humans were made to move, then why should I be sedentary the rest of the day? Of course, we don't need to be moving ALL the time; it's okay to rest. The key is to be constantly varying the forces gravity applies to the body.
With this philosophy in mind, I aim for lots of non-exercise movement as well such as squatting and floor-sitting. Here's a little of what biomechanist Katy Bowman has to say about the topic on a podcast about transitioning to floor-sitting, "Getting to the chair and getting back up again: That’s one range of motion. Not stopping at the chair level and continuing all the way to the floor just increases the range over which you are using your body. So it’s not only move more, it’s move more of you. So you’re using different body parts, using your same parts but to a different extent when you travel that full range."
If it were up to me, my house would be furniture-free. Instead, I use small floor pillows and do my work at the coffee table (constantly changing positions) or we sit on the floor and read, talk, or watch TV. It's amusing how many people try to offer me a chair specifically because I'm pregnant. I understand it's well-intended, but what is actually better for my body and well-being is being on the floor! :)
Squatting is easy to incorporate into your day-to-day life if you try to get outside and into the wilderness. It's actually recommended by midwives as a way for women to prepare for birth, since no woman in nature chooses to birth on her back. Fun fact: The pelvic opening becomes 30% larger during a squat than when lying on your back. A couple days ago, I probably did over a hundred squats to pick berries off the hiking trail after gardening (above is a photo of a different time berry picking at a farm). One step to take if you're not used to squatting is this: Every time you check your phone to scroll through social media or email, get into a squat. It's a great way to limit your screen use because eventually you will get uncomfortable. Two in one ;)
Now all this talk about movement makes me want to get up off the floor, go into the forest and pick some berries! Join me?