Prenatal Workouts

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Pregnancy can be pretty exhausting (more so than I realized!), but I’ve been determined to keep some movement in my life for these nine special months. It’s not always easy, but I imagine it would be even more difficult trying to get back into an exercise routine after the baby arrives, if I didn’t.

Prenatal workout[source]

In some ways, my workouts haven’t changed much. I’ve definitely cut myself some slack when it comes to sticking to any sort of schedule or time limit, but I’ve been happily surprised to find that I’m still comfortable doing the same types of workouts I was doing pre-pregnancy, with just a few modifications.

Here’s what my workouts have looked like lately:


This is the area that has probably changed the most for me. During my first trimester, I felt physically comfortable doing jogging/walking intervals, but I was careful to wear a heart rate monitor to make sure my pulse didn’t get too high. Your pulse is automatically higher while pregnant, so it can be challenging to keep it down while exercising!

heart rate monitor watch

Note: There’s some debate over what the recommended heart rate should for pregnant women, but I decided 140 BPM was not feasible for me, so I stuck to a heart rate of closer to 155 BPM. You can also simply go by your perceived rate of exertion–> if you can carry on a conversation while performing your workout, you should be good. If you can’t carry on a conversation, or need to gasp for air, it’s time to take it down a notch.

By my 12th week of pregnancy, I started to feel a bit dizzy while jogging, so I stopped the jogging intervals all together and have stuck to walking as my primary source of cardio. I’ll occasionally walk for 30 minutes on my treadmill, but mostly, I make sure to take my dog on a leisurely two-mile walk most nights of the week. It’s great for both of us!


When I first found out I was pregnant, I thought I’d need to do some special “pregnancy workouts” to keep my growing baby safe while strength training, but I surprisingly felt pretty normal those first few months. I continued going the the Physique 57 studio each weekend during my first trimester, and didn’t feel the need for any modifications at that early stage. It’s not until you reach your second trimester that you must start avoiding workouts on your back or stomach, so that’s when things get a little trickier.

prenatal workout

Note: A good rule of thumb when pregnant: If you ever feel uncomfortable performing an exercise, don’t do it! I wasn’t sure exactly when I was supposed to stop doing certain exercises on my stomach, and then one day, I rolled over and felt a “brick” in my tummy. I seriously couldn’t have done something on my stomach if I wanted to! I had the same experience when lying on my back. All of the sudden, you can feel the pressure from your growing uterus, and *know* you shouldn’t be lying on your back anymore.

For pregnancy-specific workouts, I also invested in Tracy Anderson’s Pregnancy Project. I’ve enjoyed this DVD set for the stretching and Tracy’s gentle workout approach for each month of pregnancy (she was pregnant while filming it!). However, I have a very hard time doing the same workout over and over, so one workout per month wasn’t going to cut it for me. I need variety!

So, I started learning some pregnancy modifications from my visits to the Physique 57 studio, and applied them to my home DVD workouts, as well!

throw pillows on the floor

Physique 57 is already perfect for pregnant women, since it’s low-impact and only requires the use of some light hand weights and your own body weight for resistance. In fact, the only modifications needed are for the floor work, and that can be solved with the use of a pregnancy wedge, or a few throw pillows! The key to working out while pregnant is to ALWAYS keep your heart above the baby, so whether you’re laying on your back or side, you need to prop yourself up to keep your heart higher than your uterus.

When I’m not doing Physique 57 or Tracy Anderson’s workouts, I also love Jackie Warner’s workout DVD. This is my perfect solution when I don’t want to commit to a long workout, because the DVD is broken up into 20-minute segments. One day, I’ll do the 20-minute lower body workouts, and the next day, I’ll do the 20-minute upper body workout, for a total body approach that isn’t too overwhelming. The only modifications needed are for floor work, so I’ll either use the pillow trick I mentioned above, or I’ll just come up with another workout to do for that minute. (The workouts are divided into 1-minute movements, so you never have to worry about doing the same movement for too long!) I seriously break a sweat doing these workouts, so it’s an effective 20 minutes!

I seem to be averaging a 30-minute strength workout 2-3 times each week, which seems like just enough to maintain my muscles, without burning myself out or pushing too hard. My energy levels can be really fickle lately (with “growing” days, as I like to call them) where I need all the rest I can get, so I don’t worry if I don’t move too much one week, compared to another. Exercising at all seems like cause for celebration!

Reader Feedback: If you are or have been pregnant, what are your favorite pregnancy workouts?

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I loved swimming! I could only go once a week, but up until the day before labor started I was swimming a kilometer each week. It was relaxing to be so lightweight in the water. Otherwise, I stuck with my walks for groceries (carrying everything there and back), and normal housework, with 30 min+ walks a few times a week. I had a fast birth for a first delivery (only about 5 hours of painful contractions and pushing.) I don’t know if it was the exercise, but it certainly helped with the weight. I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans just 5 days after the birth. It also helps so much with morale, when you can still do lots of activities as your stomach gets bigger and bigger!


From everything I’ve read/heard from my obstetricians, the 140BPM guideline is outdated. I’ve been told that for the first trimester at least, you can basically do what your body is accustomed to doing. I even raced during my first trimester, although I played it a bit safe by racing at about 90-95% instead of really going all the way to race pace.

Of course, by the third trimester things are very different, but the primary guideline I’ve been given in terms of intensity is to avoid going too anaerobic- the main concern is that the baby continues to receive enough oxygen.


I’ve so enjoyed reading about your pregnancy progress, because I am just a few weeks behind you! I recently discovered Julie Tupler’s “Maternal Fitness” book, and have been doing at least the “basics” regularly. It’s supposed to help with strengthening the abdominal & back muscles, as well as the pelvic floor. ๐Ÿ™‚


I was running 25 miles a week and doing free weights but was having Braxton Hicks. I’m 31 weeks now and do the Perfect Pregnancy Workout. It’s 40 minutes and uses a step and free weights. She offers Beginner or Advanced versions of each set and includes kegals…which is good because I forget to do them sometimes. I also developed a circuit workout of my own. It’s 30 high knees, 15 squats, 25 standing crunches, 15 lunges, 20 push-ups and a 1 minute wall-sits. I try to do five rounds with a rest in between. It keeps my heart rate up and my buns nice and tight!! ๐Ÿ™‚

Good luck!!!


I loved the Perfect Pregnancy Workout too!! It kept me fit and strong, and definitely helped me during labor and delivery, (I had a natural water birth with no drugs/no complications.) ๐Ÿ˜‰


A good rule of thumb is if you were active before pregnancy you can be active during pregnancy, I ran my first 5k pregnant! It should be noted that it becomes UNSAFE for you to lay flat on your back starting at 218weeks, as this puts too much pressure on blood vessels and can cut off oxygen supply to your baby.

Ruth Dickmann

I am pregnant and have the Physique 57 DVDs but there is no studio here in Florida. What were your modifications for the ab and floor work? I thought you weren’t supposed to work on abs during pregnancy?
Thanks for any tips!

    Megan Gilmore

    At the Physique 57 studio, they recommend always keeping your heart above the baby– so you don’t ever do anything flat on the floor. They provided me with a wedge pillow, similar to this one: which props you up during any floor work. During pregnancy, you can pretty much feel what you should and shouldn’t do. After 20 weeks or so, you can’t do anything on your back, because of the pressure the baby can place on your spine, so then my ab work was mostly done standing or sideways. And the last few weeks of my pregnancy, ab work was no longer appealing, so I stopped! But I did Physique 57 up until I was 35 weeks, and felt great until then– I had my son just two weeks later, at 37 weeks, and had a relatively “easy” delivery. I think my workouts helped with the process!

Jocelyne Weida

I was never much of a swimmer but during my pregnancy I found myself in the pool a few times a week. I had a lot of pain in my back and feet so it felt amazing every time I was in the water.

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