The end may be near, but you’re not through yet. During the third trimester, the baby can triple his or her weight, and you’ll feel each of those pounds. At this point, excitement and anticipation have most likely been replaced (to a large extent, at least) by exhaustion. The size of the belly and the baby’s nocturnal movements can make it nearly impossible to get adequate sleep, and all the weight you’re carrying puts extra pressure on your organs and spine, resulting in everything from heartburn to shortness of breath to back pain to swollen feet and legs. No question, all those things are going to affect your training. But the key is to not let them keep you from training.
“I would encourage every pregnant woman to get up and move every day of her pregnancy,” says Sara Haley, a trainer at New York City’s Equinox fitness clubs who gave birth to her first child in early March. “When you don’t move is when your body starts to hurt.”
Then again, sometimes your body can hurt just because you’re carrying a small human around in it. Because of that, Haley recommends paying close attention to your body and giving yourself permission not to work out if you’re not up to it: “You could wake up one day and feel ready to rule the world and run a marathon,” she says. “The next day, you can’t even think about getting out of bed and working out.”
To ensure you don’t overdo it, back off the intensity of workouts by 20 percent — either in volume, frequency or both, says Dr. Shannon Clark, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. “After 32 weeks, you might find your workout is just physically harder to do. If that’s the case, you might want to switch from a class to walking on the treadmill and lifting lighter weights,” she advises. “Too-heavy weights increase intra-abdominal pressure, which could break your water.” If you don’t feel good after a workout or if you have to take so many breaks to get through it that you spend more time recovering than you do working, it’s time to back off, Clark says.
On days when you can work out, Haley encourages focusing on functional training: Squats will help open up your hips for labor; push-ups and bench presses will strengthen your upper body for carrying the baby and pushing a stroller. Because lying flat on your back isn’t advised after the 20th week (the pressure of the uterus can stifle blood flow through major vessels), simply do any floor exercises from an incline position, such as push-ups against a wall or doing a plank by resting your forearms on a bench. And when doing cardio, you can make sure you stay in a safe zone by talking to yourself. Out loud. “I will occasionally just check in and say out loud, ‘I’m OK, I can do this,’” Haley says. “If you can’t talk, you’re going way over a moderate pace.” If all that self-chatter makes you feel a little nuts, just pretend you’re talking to your baby. You’ll be seeing him or her soon enough.