There is nothing standing in your way (certainly, not a baby in your tummy) of a healthy, low-impact work-out during your pregnancy. In fact, for normal, no-risk pregnancies, studies have shown that it can actually help open up the body for the grueling process of childbirth. So, we reached out to one of Montreal’s best (hey, she trained Jennifer Aniston last summer when she was in town filming Murder Mystery) for some advice on how to maintain a healthy body while trying not to eat for two—yes, that’s a pregnancy myth!
Make a plan
Before jumping into any kind of physical activity, make sure to clear it with your doctor.
If you don’t already have one, this would be a great time to connect with a personal trainer.
Even if you can’t see them regularly (having a baby can be expensive, we know!), you at least have someone who is in your corner and looking out for your best interests. “It’s important to make sure they are up-to-date with their certifications,” says Val Desjardins, Head of Strength and Conditioning at Victoria Park in Montreal. “Rely on someone who is knowledgeable about pregnancy.”
Understand the goals
“The main intention is to make pregnancy as stress-free and pain-free as possible,” says Desjardins. “As your breasts swell your shoulders may start pulling forward and lower back issues start creeping up as the hips open up. We want to create stability. We work on posture, back exercises, butt. We need to tighten up the whole posterior chain to keep you upright. We eliminate right off the bat any plyometrics or jumping or any situation that could potentially present a threat. We focus more on basic fundamental movements: rotations, squats, lunging. Generally, we’re more conservative, and we’re very aware of heart rate elevations that we keep track of with a chest band, or watch.”
During your first trimester, your energy levels are different and your patterns are thrown off. Don’t add any stress to your body during that time. “Reduce 50% of whatever you’re doing,” says Desjardins. “You can still come to the gym because it’s important to stay connected to your community, and your friends. But remember that your goal is not to burn fat, there are no esthetic goals during pregnancy.” The mantra is sleep well, feel good and keep moving. For the duration of your pregnancy, Desjardins recommends low-impact exercises like walking uphill on the treadmill (not running), using bands, TRX, or 5 lbs dumbbells. Every day is different so train accordingly.
“Recovery, movement, mindset, and nutrition are the 4 pillars of wellness,” says Desjardins. “After giving birth, you’re sleep-deprived and your hormones are out of whack. You don’t want to challenge the body if you’re not sleeping and eating well.”
Once you’ve had your 6-week doctor’s appointment, they’ll tell you if you are ready to exercise. Start taking walks, getting fresh air and moving. “As much as possible, think of posture when you’re holding your baby. Square your shoulders, don’t hold the baby on one side only. It’s important to roll your shoulders back and down,” suggests Desjardins. These are the small things that can have a big impact on your well-being. Allow your body the time to heal. “A lot of women are in a hurry to get back to their former shape. I would say give yourself a year,” says Desjardins. “After 3 months, you can start taking your work-outs a step further.”
Book the time
Booking an actual appointment with a trainer will encourage you to go through with it and will give you a legitimate reason to hire a babysitter or enlist some help from a family member. Make a realistic plan. Ask yourself how many times a week you can actually get to the gym. Even if it’s once a week, coupled with training at home, you can reach your long-term goals.
Working out at home
“Twenty minutes is a good home workout for me,” says Desjardins. “Invest in some mini bands and use your body weight—or your baby’s! Try these exercises:
Tantrum soothing squats
Squat holding your baby for at least 1 minute. “This is something you’re doing anyways,” says Desjardins. “If you have a colicky baby, or your baby is crying, most often you’ll move with them.” Why not turn that movement into an exercise?
Easy planking with a side of funny face
Lie the baby on the ground in front of you, and in a bear position, go from table top (on all fours, knees bent), lift your knees up to almost a plank, and back down. You can make funny faces to your baby, even reach and kiss them on the way down. This will work core and arms.
While lying down on your back, do presses with your baby for at least 1 minute. They’ll get a kick out of “flying”.
For more inspiration, visit her Instagram.