Pregnancy Cardio

There’s something about starting the morning with a tough workout that sets a healthy tone for the rest of my day.  Reminding myself that I’m strong and awesome at the very beginning of my day is good for me. While I’m not (and never have been) tiny, I am fit. Exercise helps me focus on health being all about how I feel, not just what I look like.

Of course, it’s a nice fringe benefit that exercise trims and slims your physique. But that’s not the focus when it’s just me and the trail or me and a killer workout DVD, giving all I’ve got and being amazed at how my body can do so much. There’s no mirrors, no one watching, no one—most importantly, not even me—judging. It’s just me and my pounding heart and the rush of endorphins. A daily dose of that feeling is a powerful, powerful force when it comes to talking myself out of a potential binge. I’m better able to appreciate all the great things I am, inside and out, when I’m putting in tough workouts most days of the week.

But what happens when you become pregnant? Can you keep up tough workouts, especially tough cardio workouts, and keep reaping the benefits your workouts used to give you?

Sarah McConkie
Here’s a picture of me in fall 2015, right before running the SLC Comic Con 5K. I’m fit but not itty bitty at 5’6″ and 145ish lbs non pregnant. Exercise is powerful in helping me remember that my picture doesn’t need to look like something from a Victoria’s Secret catalog. This body of mine is fit and strong and beautiful in its own unique way!

Should I Run During Pregnancy?

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t really answer this. But non-pregnant, my favorite mode of exercise is definitely running. I LOVE RUNNING. But for now, I’m taking an extended running hiatus.

Now, I know that there are women who run marathons at 8 months pregnant (which is incredible!) but I am not one of those women. I tried running a little during my last pregnancy. While it felt great in the moment, it left me crazy sore and in pain afterwards. By week 26 I decided I was done, and I didn’t really exercise at all for the rest of that pregnancy. For me, running during pregnancy isn’t the best choice. But it might be for you! Consider how you feel  both during and after runs. And most importantly of all, talk to your doctor about it.

Pregnancy Cardio

If you can run when pregnant, go for it! But if you’re like me, you may find that, walking is my best pregnancy cardio option. It feels great both during AND after the workout. Also  important is that it’s something I think I can keep up through all three trimesters this time around. If I had regular access to a pool, I imagine that swimming would also be a good option. But walking is great because pretty much anyone can do it anywhere as long as you’ve got a good pair of shoes and somewhere safe to walk.

But what about pregnancy workout DVDs? Here’s my personal opinion on cardio during pregnancy: most DVDs that claim to offer prenatal cardio tend to be unsatisfying, hokey, or both. I’ve found some stellar strength and toning DVDs for pregnancy; prenatal pilates and barre workouts can be amazingly fun and challenging. And lots of them feature maybe one good but short cardio segment. So when it comes to pregnancy cardio, good old-fashioned walking is my weapon of choice.

walking is a great form of pregnancy cardio
Lucky me. I live near a fantastic trail where I do most of my walking.

How to Make Walking a Real Workout

Walking can be a lazy non-workout or an absolute sweatfest depending on how hard you push yourself. Now, I’m not going for heart-slamming, torch-a-milllion-calories cardio workouts during pregnancy, but I do like to work up a bit of a sweat and challenge myself a little. I want to approximate the feel of those runs I miss so much, even if I simply can’t push at the same intensity as before. So how do you make walks appropriately challenging during pregnancy? Here are 3 tips:

Hit the Treadmill

Treadmills are great because they can force you to keep up a challenging pace. I find that it’s easy to zone out and slow down when I’m walking on the trail, but a treadmill walk tends to be a better workout because I can set the pace and stick with it. Treadmills also allow you to throw in hill and incline intervals. That’s a great way to keep walking both challenging and interesting.

Another major plus to using a treadmill for pregnancy workouts is that you can stop right away if you suddenly don’t feel well. Walking outdoors is a little riskier that way, because if you suddenly have a problem, you may be some distance away from help. I feel safer pushing myself a little on a treadmill because I know I won’t be caught high and dry in the event of a problem.

Build a Killer Walking Playlist

Using a treadmill is a great way to maintain a tough-but-doable walking pace. That’s a major pro. But one of the cons of a treadmill is that, well, it’s a treadmill. While treadmills do offer huge benefits in some ways, I much prefer walking outdoors when I can.

Have you ever heard of jog.fm? This site is AWESOME. Basically, it allows you to search for songs and build playlists based on BPM (beats per minute). That way, you can walk to the beat of songs that are all about the same tempo, meaning that if you put together a playlist of similar BPM songs you’ll walk roughly the same pace for your entire workout.

Best of all, it’s free! You can click on links on the site to buy songs through iTunes,  but the service of finding the BPMs for each song and compiling playlists with those songs doesn’t cost a cent. And I’m all about that. 🙂 I found that I already owned about 20 songs that fit my target BPM and simply put them all onto one playlist on my phone.

 my pregnancy cardio playlist

 

Also important to note: jog.fm gives a pace-per-mile number as well as the BPM number, and I’ve found that those numbers don’t usually line up with the actual times I’m walking. For instance, my ideal BPM supposedly lines up with a 10:00/mile when I’m actually doing more like a 15:00/mile.

Make It a Game

I like to wear a heart-rate monitor during my workouts. It helps me keep my walking workouts fun because I can compare past workouts to my current one and try to “beat” my previous walks. For example, some days I try to walk farther than I did the time before in the same amount of time. Other days, I see if I can score a higher calorie burn than my last workout. Thinking of workouts like a game with a score can be really fun and motivating.

 

walking
I wear a HRM watch during my workouts, and here’s a final summary of my 45-minute walk the other day. Not bad!
How do you get in pregnancy cardio workouts? Any other tips to keep walking workouts challenging and fun? Let me know in the comments below!