For an overview of exercising during pregnancy, check out my post on Exercise During the First Trimester of Pregnancy. There’s a ton of information on safe exercise during pregnancy, exercise guidelines for pregnancy and restricted exercises which are applicable during all three trimesters. This post serves as a continuation of that article, so check that one out first!
If you’re like many women, the second trimester of pregnancy is by far the best in terms of energy, comfort and just plain feeling good. That’s why it’s also the best time to establish a regular pregnancy exercise routine, if you haven’t already. Even if morning sickness and fatigue sidelined you in the first trimester and you end up too tired and uncomfortable to exercise in the third trimester, there’s so much you can achieve fitness-wise during the 14 (or so) weeks in between. Take this opportunity to minimize muscle loss and you’ll not only be stronger and have more stamina during labor, you’ll have a lot less catching up to do once you’re cleared to exercise again after birth. Plus, staying active can prevent you from gaining unnecessary weight – that mean less weight to lose after your baby is born, but in the meantime, it can make the remainder of pregnancy far more comfortable. Gaining too much weight can mean more aches and pains, less energy and poorer sleep (trust me, I speak from experience!).
In addition to the guidelines that apply during the first trimester of pregnancy, you’ll probably need to be more careful about where you step as you move into the second trimester. As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts; in turn, your sense of balance changes and you might be more likely to misstep and take a spill. If your usual workouts include aerobics, dance, hiking or anything else that requires careful footing or a great deal of coordination, be extra careful and don’t be afraid to take things down a notch if you find yourself stumbling or feeling unsure of your footing.
If you’ve been lifting weights up to this point, there’s no reason you need to stop. But as your body changes, your lifting routine might need to as well. If your usual weights seem tougher to manage, drop down to lighter weights or skip the dumbbells altogether and stick to bodyweight exercises from here on out. Personally, my strength routine didn’t change much from the first to second trimester, but I did modify certain moves slightly; for example, squatting deeply was no longer comfortable, so I only went as far down as I could manage easily.
What to Avoid
- Once you hit the second trimester, it’s time to give up all exercises where you lay flat on your back. The weight of your uterus puts pressure on the vena cava, a major vein that supplies your heart with blood. Lying flat can reduce the flow of blood to your uterus and brain.
- As with the first trimester, you should avoid contact sports, scuba diving and anything that puts you at risk for a fall (think horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing, etc.).
- Try to avoid standing still for extended periods when exercising, as you might do with certain strength-training moves or yoga positions; this can decrease blood flow to your uterus and cause dizziness. Keep moving throughout your workout and modify your routine by sitting on an exercise ball during strength moves that normally require you to stand still.
Now that you can’t lie supine (face up flat on your back), certain exercises are off-limits. If many of your usual strength-training moves are no longer doable, try these modifications and substitutions:
- Instead of traditional chest presses, try incline chest presses on a bench at a 45 degree angle.
- Instead of lying ab work, try planks and side planks, modifying if necessary.
- Instead of lying tricep extensions, try overhead tricep extensions while seated on an exercise ball, or tricep dips.
My Second Trimester Routine
You might notice my routine really didn’t change much from my first trimester. The main difference is that I was a lot more consistent about working out, although I can’t pretend I didn’t take plenty of days off! Here was my typical routine:
- Strength training 1-2x per week: Lauren Brooks Baby Bells kettlebell video (highly recommended – read my review here).
- Walking 2+ times per week: my walks were rarely long, especially as the heat and humidity here in Miami increased noticeably about halfway through my second trimester. I tried to get outside and walk on days when I just wasn’t up for anything else.
- Zumba for Wii 2+ times per week: Zumba has really become my go-to workout in this trimester. It’s fun, I can do it inside with the AC, the workouts are short (I’ve been doing the 20-min workouts) and when my energy levels are low, it doesn’t seem like nearly as much of an undertaking as a “real” workout.