There’s a common theme running through these training posts......listen to your body. But, its 4am and insomnia continues so I’ve elaborated slightly on my trimester two training below.
Fortunately, the easing of lockdown saw the gyms re-open just as I was entering trimester two and starting to feel a bit more myself (by this I mean more energised and no longer likely to puke up at any moment). Progress.
The main issue this threw up was that having not trained in the gym for three months, weight selection was a conundrum. Three months off lifting heavy in any circumstance will lead to a drop in strength, but now I also had to factor in my little buddy.
I did what anyone should do (many don’t) after a break from training and started easy, testing the water to see how I felt during certain exercises and working up to about 50-70% (exercise dependent) of the weight I'd been using pre-lockdown. Tempting as it was to add a few more kg’s to the bar, I played it safe as I was not only trialing my strength, but also my ability to recover from training and deal with the rest of life.
The preference is always to finish a few sets earlier feeling energised, rather than crawling out of the gym with nothing left.
I'd done my best to keep up training during trimester one so my return to the gym wasn’t too dramatic and it was nice to train with some proper weight again. Yes, you can lift weights when you are pregnant. But, this is no time for ego. So stay in that comfort zone and don’t do anything you weren’t able to do pre-pregnancy (unless properly supervised).
I gradually built up my working weights over those first few weeks but still never went above 80% of my pre-preggo weight and training was far less intense, always stopping a few reps short of failure.
That said, there are some exercises where I could push harder than others. You’re less likely to do damage with a set of bicep curls than a back squat or a deadlift and I was always more careful during full body exercises. The last thing you need is your legs buckling with a bar balancing a bar on your back, even if that bar is relatively light these days. I was careful of any feelings of strain in the core/abdominal area and always stopped before it felt too much.
There’s no exact science and who knows, maybe I could have pushed harder and been fine but, for obvious reasons, there’s not a ton of research on how far you can push yourself before harming your unborn child, and I wasn’t about to find out.
I followed a four times per week training split (two lower and two upper-body days per week) which gave me enough time to recover between sessions. Weight selection varied from session-to-session, depending on how I was feeling on any given day rather than trying to hit a certain weight. It’s incredible how one day you barely know you’re pregnant and the next, you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus.
It is all relative and you’ll need to adjust your own training based on how heavy you were lifting pre-pregnancy. Safety is also a key factor, so using the safety bar, asking for a spot, or switching to machine-based exercises are all ways to protect yourself as you get bigger, less stable, and more fatigued.
Recovery is slower nowadays. Not in the way that I have DOMS (muscle soreness) for days after sessions but they just take proportionately more energy from already limited reserves, which can leave you pretty drained if you’ve gone too hard.
The main focus should be on building a baby not a body and any energy expended towards recovery is being taken away from your baby. Fuel appropriately and allow yourself adequate recovery time both during the session and between workouts. Sleep is also a key part of any recovery process and with this already suffering, holding back was key.
You have to listen to yourself and trust your body which will be harder if you haven’t been training pre-pregnancy as you’re less aware of how things should feel. If you’re new to training, I’d recommend getting a PT to check your form, even if it is just for the first few sessions.
I must say I loved my second-trimester training. I was in the midst of a pregnancy honeymoon, feeling comparatively strong and it gave me a sense of empowerment and released some much-needed endorphins, whilst the rest of my life seemed to be changing beyond control.
I did start to notice a significant drop in weight (lifted, not mine) towards the end of my second trimester, one particular session sticks in my mind where I loaded the bar up for my warm-up set before quickly realising, that the warm-up weight was more than enough.
It was good while it lasted.
Trimester three is in progress and I’m already noticing my body changing again. The niggles have started and with energy in even more short supply, I’m making adjustments as I go (almost weekly) with the priority now to just keep going as long as I can. Who knows, potentially in a few weeks I’ll have slowed down enough to finally enjoy pregnancy yoga.