Your nine-month fitness plan

Being pregnant does not mean putting your feet up, says personal trainer Peter Gaffney


You can exercise confidently through your pregnancy but try to avoid overhead lifting movements

You can exercise confidently through your pregnancy but try to avoid overhead lifting movements

You have been working out hard at the gym and you have finally found a diet that works for you. The summer holidays are approaching and that size 10 dress is now looking like a realistic option.

Then you find out that you are seven weeks pregnant. Of course you are filled with joy, but that size 10 dress you were hoping to wear quickly fades into the background. The good news is that you can still maintain a good figure and stay in top shape while pregnant. You just need motivation, good eating habits and exercise routines.

Being an exercise physiologist and trainer in the community for more than nine years I have seen a lot of women exercise and enjoy their pregnancy without panicking that the body they have worked so hard to achieve has been lost forever.

As long as there are no medical contra-indications, you have not had problems with previous pregnancies and you have been exercising for at least three years before falling pregnant, you can exercise confidently throughout the pregnancy. But please note you still need to be careful during the first 12 weeks.

The first piece of advice I give clients is to buy a heart rate monitor. This will give you piece of mind that you are exercising within the correct parameters. Your heart rate should not exceed 145bpm for any length of time, so if it is reaching that point you can slow down what you are doing and start again once it is within the zone.

You can still maintain your figure and stay in shape while pregnant

Secondly it is always a good idea to take advice from an exercise professional who has experience with pre- and post-natal fitness. This will give you the freedom to work yourself to a suitable intensity while feeling confident that you are not doing any harm to you or your baby.

As the pregnancy progresses, with each trimester there are certain movements and exercises you need to be aware of. Here are some of the major points:

Avoid any overhead lifting movements in the gym or classes (for example, shoulder press, lat-pulldown), and be careful with abdominal crunching movements. In fact, I would advise pregnant women to stop all abdominal sit ups/crunches. Instead, try to focus on building the core (deep abdominal) muscles.

An excellent exercise is a horizontal woodchop (using a cable, start with arms extended on the left side of the body and move them horizontally to the right side of the body) this will also help strengthen your pelvic floor - very important towards the end of the pregnancy and after giving birth. You should also avoid all high-impact work such as jumping and road running as this will increase your heart rate over the recommended maximum of 145bpm.

You will find your body starting to become more flexible. This is due to the production of large amounts of a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy. To avoid injury you should try not to put joints through a full range of movement.

Also, do not do breaststroke while in the pool as this puts too much strain on the hip joint. One may consider treatment from an osteopath/physiotherapist if back pain occurs.

Now onto food. I always hear soon-to-be mothers quoting "I'm eating for two". Wrong! This is why many women find it so challenging to shift those post-baby pounds.

You should try to consume only an extra 450 calories a day (equivalent to five slices of bread). Follow this advice and, post-pregnancy, that size 10 dress could still be a reality.

    Last updated: 10:53am, June 23 2011