The last thing you need to do when you’re pregnant is intimidate yourself right out of a fitness routine. Sure, you want to keep yourself and your growing baby as safe as possible during pregnancy. But there’s no need to put your gym membership on “suspend” status while your bun is baking. Barring medical conditions that prevent you from exercising, you can, and should, maintain a prenatal fitness routine for the duration of your pregnancy—as long as your doctor or midwife agrees.
There’s no easier piece of equipment to use, or customize to your fitness level, than the treadmill. Whether you end up running or walking, the goal of the treadmill workout is to help you get stronger for yourself and your baby, says Kirsten Higgins, a personal trainer and group instructor specializing in prenatal fitness at Prestige Fitness in Chicago. It comes down to feeling good and boosting energy levels as a mommy-to-be.
Running during pregnancy is definitely safe, says Erica Ziel, a personal trainer and founder of Knocked-Up Fitness prenatal DVDs. But if running doesn’t feel right, it’s time to walk instead. You are you own best monitor, so if your pace starts to feel like too much, then lower the intensity to something more comfortable for your body.
Here are some tips and tricks on how to get the most from the treadmill while you are pregnant.
Tip #1: Use the Talk Test
Say a few words out loud to measure your exertion. Yes, you might look like the crazy pregnant lady at the gym, but people will probably just assume you’re singing along with your iPod. The important this is that you’ll be monitoring yours, and the baby’s, safety.
“The best way to figure out if you aren’t working hard enough, or if you are working too hard, is to imagine someone running or walking next to you,” Ziel says. “Ask yourself if you would be able to converse with a few words.” If you can’t, then you are short of oxygen, which means baby is too. Or, if you can stroll around and converse with ease, then you probably need to pick up the pace. The results of this type of assessment vary day to day for every woman, so always check in with yourself via your breathing.
Tip #2: Choose incline over speed.
Boost your intensity by increasing strength, not endurance.
If you are that runner or walker who misses the intensity of your pre-pregnancy workouts, try increasing the incline of the treadmill instead of the speed. Ziel says that you will not only be getting cardiovascular benefits, but you will also be strengthening your legs. Even better, you shouldn’t feel as much of a pull on your ligaments around the hip flexor area if you use the incline more.
Tip #3: Get some support for your bump.
When aches and pains ensue, turn to the belt solution.
“Wear a belly band to help take some weight off around the ligaments and give the back and belly more support,” Ziel says. You can find maternity belly bands at many retail stores like Target. The bands may not be the most fashionable items, but your body will thank you.
Tip #4: Use your pre-pregnancy workout stats as a baseline for progression.
Because treadmill exercise is different for every woman, it helps to use your past fitness levels to gauge your new plan.
You most likely won’t want to power through a long treadmill session the way you used to now that you have your baby bump, so it’s best to recalibrate how you use your time. Ziel recommends you scale back the length of your actual workout, yet increase your warm up and cool down time. That way, you can fit in a good amount of movement, but without the exhaustion of too much intensity.