Over the last decade of owning Tank’s Training Facility and a few years prior to that, I have trained around 10 women during their pregnancies and probably triple that number post-pregnancy. While my methods of training are different to some, for the most part, I have trained these women almost the same during their pregnancy as before. For those in group classes, they continued their workouts in a group setting. My keys to success as a trainer have been always keeping open communication and making sure movement and pace are OK with them.

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Along with a doctor’s permission to exercise during pregnancy, I have my clients go by “feel.” Because of this, every woman’s experience working out while pregnant is a little different. Since what is safe and effective varies so much from person to person, rather than providing specific workouts, I’ll be focusing the first part of this article on the experiences of five women I’ve trained while pregnant, in their words.

Meet the Clients

While these women come from different walks of life and athletic backgrounds, they all had the same goal: a healthy baby and smooth birth.

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Celeste O’Brien: I’ve been working out at a high level for about seven years, including training to compete as an amateur kickboxer and training to participate in a few powerlifting meets.

Jeanna Giesler: I played college soccer and high school volleyball and soccer. I’ve been a marathon and half-marathon runner but would consider myself a weekend warrior as a working mom.

Kim Kozer: I have played volleyball since I was in fifth grade and still play to this day. However, I wouldn’t consider myself an athlete.

Bailey (Tracy) Stack: I’d describe myself as a semi-fit mom, coach, and teacher. I played college soccer for NJCAA SWIC (Belleville, Illinois) & NCAA D2 Lindenwood University (St. Charles, Missouri).

Alicia (Bodkin) Lignoul: I played soccer beginning at the age of five, continued on to play in college on a scholarship, and after college, I continued to play co-ed soccer for a few years. Currently, I run 5Ks, Tough Mudders, and most importantly, I focus on trying to live a healthy lifestyle and setting a good example for my son.

How have you trained with me pre-pregnancy?

Celeste: I lifted twice a week most often to prepare for competition either in kickboxing or powerlifting. Pretty much every workout was “as much effort as possible.”

Jeanna: I trained with you a few times during off-season in college.

Kim: I started at Tanks in May 2017. I started out not being able to do anything. It was a big struggle for me. Over the months, I increased my weight lifting and started feeling better about myself with what I could do. I would go to the gym three to five times a week.

Bailey: Pre-pregnancy, I trained like a college athlete should with Chris and completed the hardest training of my life. The training increased my mental toughness and physical abilities on the field.

Alicia: I trained consistently with various lifts and conditioning.

How did your training change during pregnancy?

Celeste: I had to switch gears mentally to not push as hard as possible through every workout and we modified to accommodate changes in my body. First, the main mods were just to switch to higher reps and avoid squishing my baby bump. I started to experience some strains around my groin and lower stomach around Month 4 that required some additional accommodations (additional stretching, avoiding lunges for a while, and later on, using squat movements that allowed for more control such as bearcat machine, Freemotion machine, belt squats, and box squats). I also had to limit or stop most jumping motions over time, though lateral jumps have continued to feel OK even in Month 7.

Jeanna: Both times I was pregnant, I had to alter my workouts due to joint pain and pelvic pain since the babies sat low (I completely stopped lifting weights, but I did keep running and was able to run half marathons both times I was pregnant). It was hard to keep a workout routine, but I did. I think that helped me during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum to feel good and stay healthy.

Kim: When I found out I was pregnant, I still was lifting the same amount of weight that I had been doing the whole time. I did stop going three times a week because I started getting sick and could not do the endurance like I used to. When I started feeling better, I went back and went down in weight because my muscles were pulling and my back was hurting.

Bailey: During pregnancy, I really did not have to modify much of my training right away; I just didn’t max out or increase weight. I still lifted heavy but didn’t shoot for huge gains during pregnancy. I participated in the athlete improvement and the strength and conditioning classes and continued to lift AND run every session. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I continued to lift and run but scaled back on the number of sessions per week. I still ran around the block with the athlete group up until delivery.

Alicia: I trained with Chris until I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant. I trained with him just as I did before I was pregnant. I squatted, benched, deadlifted, ran, and more. The only thing I was obviously limited to doing was core training (and that was only after I reached a certain point in my pregnancy).

What experiences stuck out to you (positive or negative) working out while pregnant?

Celeste: I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too difficult for me mentally to switch gears from working out as hard as possible to working out at a moderate pace and paying attention to aches and pains as a signal to ease up. When my bump first started sticking out, my inner thighs and groin were too tight to run. After working with an experienced massage and sports therapist, I learned how to stretch more effectively to mitigate this. As the bump grew, lunges started to become difficult, as my abdomen would hit my legs. Also, pull-ups and dips pulled uncomfortably on my upper abdomen, so I had to move to a LOT of assist on these exercises. I had to stop doing any kind of deadlift movement fairly early in as it put too much strain on my lower back.

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Kim: The only issues that I had were not being able to breathe as well and my heart rate increasing a lot more than usual.

Alicia: The only negative that arose was when I became too clumsy to continue to run. I fell during a simple warm-up jog while pregnant due to the fact that being clumsy while pregnant is indeed a real thing.

What misconceptions about working out while pregnant did you come across, and how was your experience different?

Celeste: I tried to base everything on listening to my own body and talking to other women who stayed active throughout their pregnancies. I also bought a book (Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James F. Clapp III) for additional information. My doctor told me not to lift more than 30 pounds, but my mom (an OB/GYN) told me that seemed excessively light and was probably an occupational guideline rather than a fitness one.

Jeanna: Women often stop and do less exercise, but for me, keeping moving made me feel much better. The doctors also told me they could tell I was an athlete when I was giving birth because of the way my body and mind were handling the contractions.

Bailey: Many people criticized me for lifting moderate weight and even for running throughout my entire pregnancy. They say you should continue to lift, run, and train as you did prior to pregnancy, as long as there are no safety issues that can increase your risk of falling, such as jumping rope or bicycling. However, I think it is important to note that you should listen to your body and know when to stop and when to continue to push yourself further. I honestly felt amazing when training during pregnancy and would highly recommend it to anyone as long as they are not high-risk.

Anything else to add?

Jeanna: It is important women speak to their OB/GYN about their workouts especially if they are interested in starting any type of new workout. Mine told me I could keep working out but not to introduce new workouts unless I spoke with them.

Kim: Do the best you can through your pregnancy with working out. I know it is hard because I struggled, but it does make your joints and body feel better.

Bailey: Lifting and running while pregnant will make you feel great! It definitely helps with keeping all of those crazy hormones in check.

Alicia: Working out and training while I was pregnant helped me tremendously. I still had fatigue in the first and last trimesters, but training helped minimize that. I never had any issues while pregnant (i.e., morning sickness or anything else for that matter).

I hope these questions and answers help the reader better understand some things women may encounter while training through pregnancy.

In Part 2, we will check back in with these ladies to learn more about their postpartum experiences with exercising. We will also go a little more in-depth on how I have worked with women to help them shed body fat and drop weight gained from pregnancy, including some sample training sessions.

Header image courtesy of Elena Pimonova ©