Pregnancy Fitness Training - Third Trimester
I’ve shared my experience of the first and second trimester and I’m now writing this on maternity leave with my baby due 4 days ago! Being active is still very important to me and I’m walking, swimming and doing home workouts to break up the day, deal with boredom, practise patience, and help me to relax guilt free.
I expected to feel a lot more pregnant by the third trimester but the reality was nothing drastic changed because I entered this stage and I had adapted to the changes in my body.
It was in the month leading up to my due date that I started to slow down and be more conscious of doing less in a typical week. Luckily for me I enjoy my job and my commute was one 25 minute train so I worked up to a week before my due date. If I had been stressed at work and/or had a terrible commute I may have thought twice about this.
I’ve outlined below some of my experiences and tips for what to look out for in the third trimester and how your training may be affected in these months.
I stopped exercising on my back for extended periods. I would still bench press but wouldn't spend more time than that on my back. An alternative position was having my upper back on a bench and bridge up from my feet. In Pilates when others lay flat on their back I was up on my elbows.
I couldn't lie on my front so alternatives were bent over exercises or seated/standing exercises using resistance bands instead of weights and gravity.
Standing, seated, side lying, kneeling and on all fours positions were all great. I just had to get a bit creative with exercises to work different muscle groups.
I maintained focused on the right kind of core training. Not training the rectus abdominis but the deep core muscles like the TVA and pelvic floor. I did a lot of abdominal breathing through exercises, or abdominal breathing as an exercise in itself.
I would still work hard in a gym session but the effort level was less intense. Form was even more important as was breathing and being conscious of my blood pressure which was lower throughout my pregnancy.
Running during pregnancy
Running for me became a reason to enjoy being outside and be grateful of my body more than anything. I pushed myself quite hard during a couple of Park Runs but mainly plodded along for the rest of them. Here are my pointers for running in the third trimester:
First and foremost, do it if you are enjoying it, not because you think you should!
- Keep distance up if it feels good. But you'll probably need to reduce distance, ascent and be more careful on the trails as at some point you get heavier, your centre of gravity shifts, and you lose some core strength/function.
- Focus on small steps which are more relaxed, to lessen impact on joints and lower back which is carrying more weight.
- You can wear a bump support for comfort and to reduce pressure on your lower back. I did this from around 32 weeks.
- Remind yourself of good posture. Stay relaxed up top and lead with your hips to reduce excessive lumbar curvature.
- Breathing should be consistent, you shouldn't be gasping for air.
- Wear comfortable clothing that will keep you cool.
- Take a phone with you in case of emergency.
- Hydrate and fuel accordingly.
- Remember you can always walk.
I didn't have to adapt swimming, mainly doing front crawl with a bit of backstroke, but my swim speed got slower. Probably due to a combination of me putting in a bit less effort, just enjoying being in the water, and it becoming more difficult with bump drag for example.
I still enjoyed the social aspect of bouldering and would do less overhangs and only climb routes I could confidently climb down from. Jumping down was not an option!
Some days I had loads of energy and would bounce around, other days I felt like I could sleep anywhere. I just had to make the call if some exercise would perk me up or exhaust me more. I didn't always get it right but learnt along the way.
Tip: the only way you'll know what is right is a bit of trial and error and getting to know your pregnant body.
Sleep became challenging with having to get up for the loo or roll over in bed so I was good at having a bedtime routine to help with recovery. Though I've always loved an early night anyway!
Tip: try to get to bed at a similar time each night and listen to relaxing music or podcasts if your mind is whirring. Lavender essential oil can also help.
I found nutrition difficult in the last few months and having had an eating disorder I sought extra support for this as I knew it was such an important time for me and my baby.. It was difficult to know when I was hungry until I was ravenous as everything felt different and squashed in my stomach. It was also difficult to know if I was pregnant tired or lack of fuel tired. I probably could have eaten more to support my training and something I will work harder at if there is a second time around.
Tip: if you're unsure or struggling, speak to your midwife/doctor. It might be helpful to get weighed every now and then to make sure you are on track with the estimated expected weight gain!
In the last month I found it difficult to stand or sit for long periods as my back got achey, but as long as I got up or moved around and stretched I was fine. Walking was absolutely fine and helped to ease tightness and aches..
Tip: rest and relaxation are good not for extended periods; mix it with some movement and stretching. I used what I learnt from Pilates in the living room at home and got up from my desk at work. I went on long walks when I got to maternity leave.
Finding time for training
There were quite a few doctor/midwife appointments in these weeks, and weekends away to make the most of seeing friends and enjoying couples activities without parental responsibility. The latter was obviously lovely but ate into a bit of the organised training time. This probably wasn't a bad thing and helped me to slow down a bit, I know I personally have always been tempted to do too much.
Tip: don't worry if you miss a few workouts to the important things like the above. There will be opportunity to work out in the future but potentially not to hang with friends and loved ones so easily and care free. At least for a little while.
And just the inconvenient…
By the end simple tasks became more difficult, such as rolling over in bed, picking stuff up off the floor….and along side that I began to drop things a lot more, or so it seemed!
Tip: yes you might still be running/climbing/working out but you can still accept or ask for help for the other tasks in life! Let people help you out if they offer, it's a rarity (especially in London!) and can take a bit of the inconvenience away and can end up being a nice social exchange.
What did a week look like?
As I said life became full of appointments and last chance activities so there was less of a weekly plan. I generally exercised 5-6 days a week, and what I did depended on work, social life, the weather, time, and how I felt that day. These are the activities I did and when I did them until.
Tennis: I enjoyed a game of social tennis at my cousins wedding at week 31. I was allowed 2 bounces of the ball to stop me sprinting and lunging for the ball!
Outdoor bootcamp: until week 33
Full body harness indoor rope climbing: until week 34. I stopped as there was just less opportunity to go; I could have climbed for longer.
Cycling: I took my last spin class at week 36, and thoroughly enjoyed it
Running: I mainly ran around 5km until 37 weeks. It surprised me how good I felt running. Only on a couple of occasions did I have to turn back due to round ligament pain or a stitch that wouldn’t go away.
Pilates: until week 37. I didn't join a specific pregnancy Pilates but it was a beginner class. My instructor was happy to have me there and give alternatives, and I also read into what I could and couldn't do.
Bouldering: until week 37.
Gym: I did my last weights gym session week 38 mainly because after that I was on maternity leave and had less access to a gym.
Home workouts: Instead of the gym I did light/body weight and resistance band circuits at home or in the park until the end. I'd stick on some music and enjoy it rather than beast myself and often found myself dancing between sets! I did a lot of variety but a circuit s would usual included squats, back and glute exercises, exercises on all fours, and deep core exercises.
Swimming: I completed a 5km Swimathon at week 29 and could happily swim 2.5km until the last week of pregnancy.
Pelvic floor exercises: I continued to do the all-important pelvic floor exercises every day.
Focus on making time for relaxation in your daily life, not just training. With your life about the change somewhat try to have a few weekends with friends and/or your partner doing what you enjoy, and make sure there is relaxation in there as well as activities you enjoy.
Remember the longer you can keep up with physical activity the easier it should be on the other side, but it needs to be done with some care. You are not the only person to consider with your training anymore. You’re nearing the end so stay positive and look forward to when you can train again post birth.
Unless you are training for a specific event and have a coach and/or pregnancy fitness specialist, try to focus on physical activity to help you with staying physically and mentally fit for pregnancy, birth and beyond.
As a side note, I've started reading Bump, Bike and Baby by Moire O'Sullivan. So far it's a great read: funny, honest, insightful and an amazing account of what is possible during and after pregnancy. I feel some similarities to her thoughts and experiences so it was nice not to feel alone; it could be worth a read if you are planning on racing post birth! I would also recommend The Pregnant Athlete by Brandi Dion for a simple but informative guide to training through and after pregnancy.
About the author: Sophie Kennedy is a Sundried ambassador.