Hiking is a great way to improve your strength and cardiovascular health during pregnancy. Plus, it works wonders on your mood (look at that view!). Just ask Stacy Keibler, our June/July cover star, who told us that exploring the great outdoors is one of her favorite workouts!
But when you're doing it for two, hiking does take some special considerations. So before you hit the trails, check out these tips for a better, safer hike.
Get The Go-Ahead From Your Doc
First thing's first: Talk to your OB-GYN to make sure hiking is right for you and your baby. If you're a long-time hiker, hiking is probably safe, but if you have a complicated pregnancy, or have never hiked before, it might not be your best bet, says Marielena Guerra, M.D., of Elite OB-GYN in Florida. Also, be sure to also discuss any hiking trips that may take you to extreme elevations, as they may be contraindicated or require additional precautions.
Opt For Even Terrain
Carrying an extra 20, 30, or 40 pounds of baby weight can throw off your center of gravity, putting you at an increased risk of falls when traversing challenging terrain, Guerra says. To help keep your footing, stick to clearly defined paths that don't require scrambling over slippery rocks.
Buy New Hiking Shoes
Wearing the right shoes is also vital to staying upright during your hikes—not to mention preventing backaches. Visit your local sporting goods store and ask to try on their hiking and trail shoes with the best traction and support. Tip: Do this in the afternoon when your feet are at their most swollen, recommends Kristina Pinto, co-author of Fit & Healthy Pregnancy. That way, they won't be too tight mid-hike. Be sure to wear them around the house and while running errands to break 'em in.
And Some Hiking Poles
Hiking with trekking poles can help improve your balance and lessen any impact on your knees, says Pinto. Bonus: You'll work your upper body, too.
Plot Your Potty Breaks
Feel like your baby is hiking on your bladder? Check trail maps for bathrooms or porta potties when trying to select the right route for you, says Pinto. But it never hurts to pack some TP in your backpack just in case nature calls at an inopportune location.
Stay on The Grid
"You want to be able to get to a medical professional if needed," says Pinto. "In your third trimester, it's wise to hike on more populated paths and in quick proximity to your car or access to help." And make sure you have a hiking buddy and cell phone service. If your signal drops, turn back.
Protect Your Skin
Pregnancy hormones can make your skin sensitive to the sun, so follow tree-covered trails when possible, says Guerra. And don't forget to slather on SPF 30 or higher.
Pack Your Water Bottle
Between the hiking, the heat, and the infamous pregnancy sweats, it's easy to get dehydrated on the trail. So pack your water bottle (if it has ounce-markings, all the better!) and drink eight ounces of water every 15 minutes, recommends pre- and post-natal fitness expert Lindsay Brin, C.P.T., creator of Moms Into Fitness. If you're at high altitudes, you may need to drink even more water as your body adjusts to the new environment.
Snack As You Hike
Pre- and post-workout snacks are always important, but when you're pregnant, you may need to space these snacks out throughout your hike—especially if it's a long one—in order to keep your energy up and blood sugar even. Pinto recommends slowly snacking on a combination of healthy carbs and protein (think: candy-free trail mix, a granola bar, or a banana with peanut butter) on the trail.
Know Your Limits
"Some women can hike at 40 weeks pregnant, whereas others require more rest," says Pinto. Likewise, different women will be able to hike at different paces and durations. But all women need to listen to their bodies. If you feel dizzy, light headed, or nauseated, call it quits.