In the first trimester, your body may have signaled to you that it was pregnant, but in the second trimester, your baby really makes its presence known. By this point, morning sickness wanes, energy levels improve and, overall, women tend to feel pretty good. The biggest change, though, is the one you can’t miss: that big bump you’re carrying around. As the bump grows, the body’s center of gravity will move from lower in the abdomen toward the chest — a change that creates balance issues.
“When working out, you don’t want to be in a position where you can fall or otherwise put pressure on the belly,” says Stacy Adams, manager of Fitness Together in Bethesda, Md., “but yoga, swimming, walking and low-impact exercises are really beneficial.” Women accustomed to outdoor cycling may want to move their cardio indoors to a Spin class; regular Spinners might want to stay seated during their workouts even when the rest of the class is doing jumps or standing climbs. If there ever is a time to train with Bosu balls or agitation platforms, this definitely isn’t it.
This is also not the time to try to set land-speed records. During cardio, stay within 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, a number that you can find by using the following formula: 220 – [your age] x 0.6. This is all attributable to the fact that the heart is doing nearly double duty. Resting heart rate is 15 to 20 beats per minute faster than before, and many women find themselves shorter of breath than usual. Blood pressure also could be lower than you’re used to, and you might find yourself becoming lightheaded because the blood from your lower extremities is having a harder time making it back up to your heart. Those are normal developments, 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, and shouldn’t keep you from working out — just use common sense and do your exercises from a seated position as often as you need to.
The same goes for training with weights. If you’re an experienced lifter, then you can keep going, within reason. “I typically tell pregnant women to continue doing what they’re accustomed to,” Clark says. “But the second trimester is when you’ll start to notice if an exercise isn’t right for you anymore. If you become dehydrated, overheated or you just can’t do it because your belly is too big, you will have to modify your exercise in duration, frequency and how you do it.”
But some things you shouldn’t ignore. Vaginal bleeding in the second trimester needs to be taken seriously, as does any leakage of amniotic fluid. If you have chest pain, calf pain or swelling while working out, stop. And any signs of preterm labor — contractions or not feeling the baby moving the way it normally does — means it’s definitely time to throw in the workout towel and have a conversation with your doctor.
One exercise that’s entirely safe and wholly recommended for expectant mothers is one that may not yield visible results but will absolutely come in handy as pregnancy progresses and after delivery: Kegel exercises. “With the weight of the baby on the pelvic floor, you start to lose control of your bladder,” Adams explains. “Kegel exercises will help you learn to tighten your pelvic floor.” Those pelvic-floor muscles are also the ones that help you push harder during delivery, so making Kegel exercises a regular part of your routine now will yield multiple long-term benefits. To do them, simply pretend you’re shutting off your urine flow; hold that for a count of three. Try doing three or four sets of 25 throughout the day.