Pregnancy: Getting in Shape is Easier Said Than Done


Even though I helped clients before, during and after birth, I didn’t quite understand pregnancy until I tried it for myself! There’s nothing like the real experience to shed light on a situation. From sharing stories with others I know that no two pregnancies are exactly alike. Yet, many similarities exist.

Aside from the baby himself, pregnancy is one of the most natural resistance training programs for women. As long as they’re active, it’ll get them in better shape. 25-35 pounds is the average amount of weight gained during pregnancy and the muscles have no choice but to get stronger if they’re being used.

A cycle occurs as weight increases. 1-2 pounds are added to the body every week or so making it seem harder to move. Then the muscles catch up and it feels a bit easier again. This cycle repeated for me every couple weeks during pregnancy. For the first time in my life I could understand the struggle of weight gain. My mind battled with my body to stay active.

Understanding how challenging it can be to find fitness motivation helps you keep pregnant clients on track. If it seems like she’s bringing a different body with her to the gym for each session, it’s because she is!

Business Tip: If your client is shy about coming to the gym, you can provide health coaching over the phone.


Staying motivated on the tough days

1. Set a time or distance goal. Coax the mind and body into a short bout of exercise –
10 minutes or a walk around the blockwalk. It might feel good to keep going after that. If it doesn’t, some is better than none.

2. Plan walking dates with friends. Social accountability is the sweetest kind. The time goes faster when you have someone to chat with. You could be a walking partner for her.

3. Keep the baby in mind. A mothers love starts with conception. It’s not just about her anymore. Active mothers usually have easier labors and bounce back faster after birth. The baby benefits from a healthy mothers body, since so much is being shared. Remind her of the bigger picture when it feels impossible to get moving.

Notes for Each Trimester

All women are different and experience a variety of symptoms from the many hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy. Here are a few considerations based upon what I’ve read and my own experience.

1st Trimester – There’s a surge of hormones that take some getting used to (to say the least). The body is creating a placenta, the organ that supports the baby until he/she emerges into the world. These two factors can cause nausea, vomiting and low energy. Some women sleep 10-15 hours a day.

Being sedentary for that many hours requires an antidote – movement. 

*Motivation for exercise may be at it’s lowest. Keep it light and easy. Small achievements like a walk around the block, vacuuming, raking or doing laundry might be the best case scenario.

2nd Trimester – Deemed the honeymoon phase for many (but not for all), this is the sweet spot. The placenta is completely formed and the body has (hopefully) gotten used to the new hormone levels. Bump up activity, with caution. Some days are better than others. Keep the cycle I mentioned above in mind.

*Avoid supine exercises, because the womb puts pressure on the blood vessels. Monitor heart rate and perceived exertion.

3rd Trimester – One of the largest challenges in the final phase is the weight gain. It makes movements like bending down, squatting and twisting uncomfortable. Some women feel fatigued again, while others sail through to the end. It’s really important to keep up strength, because once the baby comes out he/she will want to be held – so in a sense the weight doesn’t disappear!

Emphasize breathing and good posture. Breathing practice and mindfulness with aid her during labor. Good posture helps make more room through the abdomen and encourages the baby to get into birth position.

*It’s always important to check in about energy levels and comfort of various exercises – but now especially.


Four of my go-to pregnancy exercises

1. Wide squats with suspension strap
2. Hip circles on physio ball and standing
3. Bird-Dog
4. Kegels

Get clearance from a doctor before working with someone who is pregnant. Keep in touch with them throughout the stages to get necessary updates or restrictions.

Check out these NFPT articles to learn more:
Safely Exercising During Pregnancy
Three Exercise Principles That Do Not Apply When Pregnant

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Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev's NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.