An hour of cardio usually flies by for me at the gym, thanks to my secret motivational strategy: watching "Law & Order" reruns on the club's TV. I hop on the elliptical machine as the opening credits roll, and before I know it, Sam Waterston is finishing his closing argument to the jury. At least, that was the case before I got pregnant. In my first trimester, some days, to my amazement, I'd poop out 10 minutes into the show—before the detectives even identified the body.
"Many active women are surprised at how pregnancy affects their workouts," says Renee M. Jeffreys, M.Sc., a prenatal-fitness consultant in Milford, Conn., and co-author of Fit to Deliver (Hartley & Marks). "But remember that these are normal, short-term changes."
So should you dial down your cardio? Are certain machines off-limits? Can you still do Pilates?
The answers depend largely on what your fitness level is, which trimester you're in and how you're feeling, Jeffreys says. But this much is certain: The gym is a great place to be pregnant. If one cardio machine or strength exercise isn't comfortable, there's always another one to try.
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Getting yourself to the gym may take an extra dose of motivation, but the payoff is huge. Consistent exercise during pregnancy can minimize aches and constipation, help you sleep better, and lower your risk of gestational diabetes and depression. You may even end up having a shorter, less complicated labor. Developing good workout habits during pregnancy will help you get your body back faster after delivery too.
Though my first trimester was rough going, my second was a breeze, and my third wasn't half bad, either. With my stamina back, I'd usually make it all the way through "Law & Order" at the gym—except, I'd spend the commercial breaks in the bathroom.