"Throughout your pregnancy journey there are SO many changes that happen within your body and this requires you to reflect that in your day to day activities and that also includes your workouts.
I don’t like to think about dramatic changes, more so adjustments. Like when you use the word ‘DIET’ all I can think about is all the food I’m not allowed to eat, it’s a lifestyle change and that is the same with pregnancy, a conscious decision to adapt your training to your goals.
Although some of my pregnancy workouts look a little intense, heavy, longer than some people’s normal workouts just know that it is all relative to my current pregnancy journey and my fitness levels prior. My training has been adjusted to my pregnancy and how I feel on a day to day basis.
Before I get into how I adjusted my training. One thing I have to CONSTANTLY remind myself during both pregnancies is that pregnancy is not about getting fitter, stronger, faster, losing fat, gaining muscles, etc. It’s about staying healthy mentally and physically with the long term in mind, which is your postpartum journey (the 4th trimester) and beyond.
For a lot of people modifying/adjusting workouts can feel like your “holding back” and this can be SO frustrating, I know it is for me. Whether it’s for pregnancy, injuries, recovery post-surgery, rehab, etc. “Holding back” can be VERY hard to do when you are used to pushing during workouts, and knowing what your body can do but the reality is your pregnant & it’s not about you anymore, it’s about bringing a beautiful healthy child into this world.
This was and is the same for me. This is where you have to have a little one-to-one with your EGO and listen to your body.
Ok, so how did or do I adjust my workout and when did I make the adjustments. Straight away I removed all midline movements sit-ups, planks, toes to bar, etc. Also, as soon as a movement caused any ‘coning’ in my midline I substituted that movement for something else. Now when you're exercising correctly naturally you should be engaging your core, therefore there is always going to be some natural coning when you engage your core during exercise but forcing the coning with sit-ups, etc is not good for your POST NATURAL journey. Around week 8-10 simple movements like pull-ups and hanging from a bar would course large ‘coning’ so I substituted that for ring rows. Yes, I still had the strength to do strict pull-ups, ring muscle-ups but remember…. long term, long term, long term.
What is ‘coning’?
Without going to sciencey, during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles are naturally going to separate to accommodate for your growing baby. When you course internal pressures in your abdominals through movements like sit up, lifting heavy, push-ups, etc, even just sitting up in bed, your tummy will create what looks like a cone ^ the highest point being at your midline. It’s a visual representation that there is a mismanagement of the pressure in your abdominals coursing you to push outwards with no muscles there to protect and control that outwards pressure. Continuing to do movements that course coning may make bringing your abdominal muscles back together a much harder process after giving birth. These also include your pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, multifidus, and diaphragm not just your 6 pack.
As you will see in the images below. Image 1 is me sitting completely relaxed, Image 2 (the middle) I am in the same position but I have engaged my pelvic floors and deeper abdominal muscles (a skill that can easily be learned and again I can't emphasis enough the importance of this skill pre, during, post or never had a baby before) and Image 3 is me again in the same position but unengaged and I am simply trying to sit back up straight from leaning back slightly.
To break my training down into the 4 Trimesters (Yes 4 trimesters) this is how it has looked:
Trimester 1 (week 1 - 12)
I was so sick from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, 24/7 from about week 4. The first trimester was a huge mental battle for me because it’s not the person I like to be, dying on the floor, hating on salads and vegetables. I simply feel like a bad wife, mum, everything the whole time. Ultimately feeling hungover, every day, every moment, without the party and the fun the night before.
But I tried my best and moved every day. Some days this was a walk, yoga or when I mustered up the energy, I would get a weight and sweat session in. I am not going to lie it was super tough to talk myself into doing something EVERY DAY, but I did. Besides movements mentioned before I had no other adjustments to my workouts and weights.
Trimester 2 (weeks 13 – 26)
Around the 16-18 weeks, I was feeling like myself again. My workouts were back to almost normal. Some days I could push hard than others, I just went off how I felt knowing that something was better than nothing. I reduced my weights to roughly 70% of my normal weights. At around 20 weeks I stopped all gymnastic movements like handstands, muscle-ups, box jumps etc. Not because I couldn’t do them but because it wasn’t necessary for me to do those movements anymore under the current circumstances, as well as safety as your ligaments as they become lax/looser due to the body’s hormones and prep for birth. The majority of my workouts incorporated a strength component and some cardio proportional to how I felt that day, energy levels, etc.
One important area I also started focusing on was my breathing, ‘diastasis recti’ exercises – if you watch some of my stories on my IG page you will see how crazy this can look but it is so important for your pelvic floors, deep stomach muscles. Even years after giving birth these exercises are so effective (or if you have pelvic floor issues).
Trimester 3 (weeks 27 – until you give birth)
28-34 weeks my workouts were still structured the same, a metcon (Cardio) and strength component. My weights are approximately 20-40% of my regular weights, light weights baby. I rarely time myself and I still go on how my body is feeling, I work out 4-5 times a week for 45-60mins, as well as a few walks with my fur baby.
I am now 35 weeks and things have changed a lot for me. The baby’s head feels low and walking too much can leave me a little tender for the rest of the day. My plan for the next few weeks until the baby is born is to continue moving, small walks, stretching every day, light weights nothing over 30% of my previous weights, and continuing my ‘diastasis recti’ exercises and diaphragmatic breathing.
It’s hard to say exactly what I’ll be doing from 36 weeks because my body is changing day by day at this stage, but I plan to be ‘WALKING HIM OUT’, stretching and no more weights from here on out either, just bodyweight which is already like I’m wearing 12+kg weight vest.
Trimester 4 (Postpartum)
What is the 4th Trimester – They say the 4th trimester is from giving birth to 12 weeks postpartum but really it can be much longer, months, even years.
I do remember my first weighted workout back after giving birth to our first girl, Maddie, it was at about the 4 or 5-week mark. Hayden gave me ONE 16kg Kettlebell for deadlifts, I was offended. I thought “Dude, I can do more than this” at 36 weeks pregnant I was still doing 80-90kg deadlifts and now you give me a 16kg kettlebell. Hayden had to remind me what a huge trauma and process my body just went through giving birth and to use the 16kg as a starting point. Fitness isn’t a one-day thing, tomorrow is a new day and we can build on the 16kg. So I used the 16kg and HOLY SHIT I was so sore the next day.
Trimester 4 is the most underestimated of all trimesters and where I feel a lot of people don’t share enough of their struggle because it is a struggle physically and mentally. Firstly, note birth is as big as MAJOR SURGERY and sometimes addition Major surgery is required, it is a huge trauma to your body.
For me the start of your 4th Trimester is where no parts of your body are talking to one another, there is no connection, as much as you can see the movement in your head your body does not follow. And for those not giving birth, think about this as post-surgery, rehab, etc. This lasted a good 4 months for me and in certain movements much longer.
This is where you and I must learn patience and learn to enjoy the process of progress because every day will bring setbacks and new milestones.
My plan although this can change dramatically depending on my birth experience is to
Again, this could completely change depending on the baby and myself, but I will certainly share as much as I can and the progress I am making on my Instagram @michellethorneycroft_
A very common question I get is “do I wear a heart rate monitor?” No, I don’t wear one at all during my pregnancies. I use the exercise and talking method (you should be able to talk/hold a conversation, never on the floor trying to catch your breath after a workout, you should be able to finish the workout and go straight into a 400m cool down walk) and I listen to my body but by all means, if you feel the need some guidance and want some extra comfort levels then it’s a great option to explore this.
To wrap it up….
Each and every pregnancy is different including my own from my first pregnancy to my second. Making adjustments as you go and know things can change from day-to-day.
Remembering that during my pregnancy my priority is my growing baby and my goal is to deliver a healthy baby and to make my postpartum journey easier for myself by listening to my body now.
Now more than ever it's a time to listen to your body, continue to move where it feels right, be kind to yourself, but don’t use it as an excuse to do nothing (unless medically advised).
Remember your body has just spent 10 months growing out, don’t expect it to go straight back into place, be patient, and kind to yourself. The postpartum journey is a long road but be consistent, enjoy the process of progress, and appreciate everything your body has been through.
Enjoy every kick, turn, and movement from your baby because it is over so fast and soon you will have a beautiful baby in your arms."