The program There are 3 components to this water workout: shallow-water moves, deep-water moves and swimming. You can incorporate all the components in your weekly routine, parts of each or just stick to one. If you’re really fit, you can combine all 3 workouts into a 1-hour program, 3–4 times per week. For a sample weekly guide, see chart below.
As your pregnancy progresses, adapt your routine to what feels good to you. If you haven’t been exercising, start slowly in whichever program you choose. Stay at a low intensity until you feel stronger, then exercise at varying levels of intensity during the week, or add an additional workout session for a greater challenge.
The pool Use a pool with a comfortable temperature: 85–87 degrees is perfect; below 83 degrees is considered cool.
Warm-up Begin with at least 5 minutes of shallow-water walking. As you walk, limber up with shoulder shrugs, ankle and hip circles, head rolls, arm reaches and knee lifts. (If you prefer, you can tread water in the deep end or hold on to the edge of the pool and kick.)
Visualization As you warm up, visualize your body being relaxed and strong, your baby healthy. Even if you’ve never been through labor, imagine what it will be like in a positive way. For example, picture labor as an athletic event at which you will be successful, accomplishing your goal with little pain. As you do each exercise, focus on your breathing, expanding your belly slightly as you inhale and tightening your abdominals as you exhale, doing a Kegel at the same time if you wish.
Cool-down If the water is warm, complete your cool-down in the pool, stretching thighs, calves and back. Hold each stretch 20–30 seconds. If the water is cold, you may want to move through each stretch without holding it too long, or stretch out of the water.
Stand in chest-deep water to do these moves. Be sure to wear water shoes or Aquasocks to keep from slipping on the bottom of the pool. If you’re doing only this workout, spend 20–30 minutes on the routine, 3–6 days per week. Because of the water’s buoyancy, you may be able to continue water walking or running all the way through your pregnancy. Do the exercises in the order listed without stopping.
1. Shallow–water walking or running Use a normal stride as you walk or run forward and backward across the pool. For variety, walk on heels or toes, do grapevine steps or step sideways. Keep moving for 5 minutes.
2. Shallow–water jacks Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms extended sideways to shoulder height. Jump up and bring soles of feet together toward groin. At the same time, press arms downward. Separate feet to starting position, moving arms back to shoulder height. Repeat jacks for 1 minute (about 40–50 reps). Remember to jump straight up and down without arching back or drifting backward. Strengthens buttocks, thighs, hips, shoulders and back.
3. Opposite elbow to knee Stand with feet pointing forward, hip-width apart. Bring right knee up to hip height and cross left elbow down just past outside of knee (as pregnancy progresses, you will not touch knee). Return to starting position and repeat with left knee and right elbow; alternate for 1 minute (about 30 reps). When belly gets large, bring same-side elbow down to knee lift, incorporating a slight side bend. Strengthens abdominals.
4. Side–to–side lunges Facing and holding edge of pool, place feet on pool wall as high as you comfortably can, with knees and feet turned out at a 45-degree angle as in a plié (if pool doesn’t have an edge to grasp, place feet at bottom of wall). Alternately, bend one leg and keep the other straight (lunge position), holding 20–30 seconds before shifting sides. Do 20 reps (10 to each side). Strengthens legs; stretches inner thighs and groin.