When you get pregnant, suddenly every single thing you do affects a tiny person you haven't even met yet. So working out raises lots of questions — you need to know exactly what you can and can't do to make sure you're keeping your baby safe.
We asked Olympic gold-medal–winning swimmer and mom of two Summer Sanders, who was seven months pregnant when she filmed her Summer Sanders Prenatal Workout DVD for Gaiam, to share her top 5 tips for medically approved prenatal workout do's and don'ts.
"You shouldn't be afraid to sweat when you're pregnant. You don’t have an illness!" says Sanders. "You worry, rightfully, about what you should and shouldn’t do. But exercise makes you happy and makes your pregnancy a better experience. You CAN be active and you CAN work out — and it’s good for you."
So get going! Check with your doctor first, and follow the safety tips Sanders recommends below to keep you and Baby safe while making you a sexy mama.
Follow Sanders' prenatal safety workout tips
1. Always drink water, and more water … more water than you think you should.
That little baby just sucks it all up. There were times honestly when I’d look over at a toddler drinking apple juice and I just wanted to reach over and steal it! I craved ice cold apple juice. It’s insane how thirsty you get — and if you’re thirsty, it’s already too late; you’re getting dehydrated.
Many people don’t realize how much fluid that baby’s taking. You have to drink three or four times as much water as usual. Not drinking enough can lead to cramping and other problems; and if you’re cramping, you worry that working out is making you cramp. I always drink a ton of water
, but when I was pregnant I was drinking water ALL the time.
2. Don’t overdo the stretching.
Your body is obviously changing. But what you can’t see is all the little changes … your hips are shifting, your ligaments are stretching. Everything is stretching on its own in your body. Just get your stretches to a comfortable level — don’t push it like you might during training when you’re not pregnant. If it burns or hurts, stop. Stretches you did when you weren’t pregnant feel different than when you are.
3. Watch your posture.
While I was doing weight training and resistance band exercises
during my pregnancy, I was much more conscious of when my shoulders were riding up and of making sure my back felt good. Tighten your belly to help control what happens to your back. Your back wants to arch with that big belly.
So when you’re working out while pregnant
, think about tightening your core muscles. While standing in one place talking on the phone, for example, get in your super-grounded position — feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, butt tight, stomach tight, quads engaged. Think about it consciously. When you do this everything just kind of lines up the way it should. It will save your back
4. Practice controlling your breathing and heart rate.
A lot of what you learn in the DVD
is about controlling your breath and knowing your breathing rhythm. Being conscious of this is so important when you go into labor, especially if you want a natural birth; you need to understand how to breathe through it. Be more conscious of your heart rate, too. If you’re out of breath, your heart rate could be at 140; you’re supposed to keep it under 120 when pregnant. You have to know yourself. I really took it day to day and knew every day would be different.
5. Know yourself.
You know better than anyone: If you feel you’re doing too much, you probably are. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, out of breath, cramping … those are signs that you’re overdoing it. Really listen to those signals, and don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right. Before I was pregnant, I liked to run. But the pounding was too much when I was pregnant, and I felt this early on and knew I couldn’t handle it.
The pace WILL be slower, of course. Getting down on the floor and getting up from the floor are much harder and slower. But there’s just happiness in being active and working out. When you’re exercising, it’s like, “OK, I feel healthy.”
Give it a try: 3 mini workouts by trimester
These 3-minute video clips from Sanders' Prenatal Workout DVD
will help you get a feel for the modifications that make exercising while you're pregnant safer and more comfortable. There's also a short clip from the DVD's interview with the M.D. who consulted on the DVD about the benefits of prenatal exercise.
Of course, some days during your pregnancy you'll be so tired, a 3-minute workout will sound like a marathon! But Sanders says you'll feel better and more energetic.
"I watched a friend who was very active before pregnancy," she says, "but then when she got pregnant, she ate whatever she wanted and really didn’t keep active. She was amazed at how much weight she was gaining. She had a great pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy child, but afterward the weight took a long, long time to come off. Her body just didn’t respond the way she hoped. You need to eat and gain weight while you’re pregnant, but if you stay active it comes off more quickly after pregnancy.
"So I purposely did this DVD when I was seven months pregnant," she adds, "because I wanted everyone watching to know that I had not only been pregnant before, but I was going through it then. You can see what happens to a pregnant belly when you do abs exercises, for example.
Check out Summer Sanders' Prenatal Workout DVD
for both quick workouts and longer routines you can do to make labor and delivery easier and stay strong, toned and sexy without worrying about Baby. Sanders demonstrates proper form for each exercise with sensitivity to the vast changes your body is undergoing. You may also be interested in additional prenatal yoga DVDs
featuring Shiva Rea and other experts.