Staying Fit and Active During Pregnancy

I thought I’d write today about how I have stayed fit and active during pregnancy, so far…

Now, when I first found out I was pregnant, I slightly panicked. Out of all the things a mum-to-be naturally worries about, one of the main things I wanted to check out straight away was how my active lifestyle was going to change. I’m no Olympic athlete or fitness coach; I am no body-builder, but I do so love being active, and I love throwing myself about a bit, so to speak. I am outdoorsy, and don’t do gyms. (Far too boring.) But what was ‘safe’? What was ‘recommended’? What is enough? What is too much?

The official NHS advice – and the advice I could find on all the main pregnancy websites out there – is to all repeat the same mantra:

Walking, swimming and yoga are all good forms of exercise during pregnancy”.

They mention these Golden Three at every turn, like a pre-recorded message or standard rehearsed reply from a dodgy MP. And, when I went to my (rather sedentary) midwife for the first appointment, I thought I’d get some more comprehensive information. (I really didn’t want to become a sudden couch potato overnight, just since being labelled ‘handle with care: pregnant’.)

“So, what is safe for me to do during pregnancy, fitness-wise?” I asked.

The response: “…Yes, things like walking, swimming and yoga are all very good for you. They are all good things for you to do during pregnancy.”

I thought, “I bet you’ve never run up a mountain or lifted any weights in your life, love!”

Hmph! I left disappointed with the ‘official’ advice, and none the wiser. They all sounded utterly boring. Nine endorphin-less months sounded like torture. I felt depressed.

I decided to go with the flow and trust my body. Internally, all my tests have come back very healthy, I have a very good blood pressure and an amazingly low heart rate. I generally feel fit and strong. So anyway, here I thought for the benefit of other outdoorsy women out there maybe in a similar boat to me, is what I have got up to throughout my pregnancy. I am currently 31-and-a-half weeks pregnant.

  • At 5 weeks pregnant (a week before discovering I was pregnant) – Went camping (tent) for the weekend at the beginning of May in really cold 11ºC weather. Slept in everything I owned. Brrr! No wonder I was so grumpy!
  • At 6 weeks (3 days before discovering I was pregnant) – Played 2 hours of vigorous tennis doubles. Pushed myself harder physically this day than I had all year, to the point where I was beasted. Sweated my nuts off. But I enjoyed it!
  • At 6 weeks (2 days before discovering I was pregnant) – I was to be found rolling down the mote of a historic castle. {Oops!} You know that way that kids do, when you lie straight out with your arms in front of you, and roll in somersaults down the grass? *Couldn’t resist* I felt really nauseous afterwards though. ;-~
  • At 8 weeks – Swimming in the sea, avoiding jellyfish. Ran up a hill the next day, 325m ascent, and 3½ hour round-trip walk. Galloped over the top of the hills and felt good!
  • At 12 weeks – Went camping (tent) for the weekend. Included several long-ish walks (including one at 3am when I couldn’t sleep!). Jumped into this bath:
  • Annie in bath on Mull

    Annie in bath on Mull

  • At 14 weeks – Went jogging in the park with my rucksack on. No adverse effects noted.
  • At 17 weeks – Picnic to the beach including barbecue on a log fire. The 2012 Olympics are on! Was to be found doing the ‘long-jump’ on the beach, which, though I am not sure what my midwife would have thought about me sprinting and jumping barefoot into the sand, certainly made me feel pretty amazing. Ha-ha!
  • At 18 weeks – Swimming pool swimming. Went to the local pool on the ‘advice’ of the NHS. Started off in the slow lane, then quickly thought “stuff this” before migrating to the medium lane, then quickly thought “why are these non-pregnant people going so slowly??” before hopping over to the fast lane. Much better. In short, even pregnant, I still like to swim faster than most of the other people dawdling about in the pool. They are not working hard enough!
  • At 19 weeks – Went backpacking camping (tent). Carried rucksack, food, sleeping equipment etc on my back. Pitched tent, cooked supper then went exploring round the coastline. This involved a bit of unexpected rock-climbing / scrambling on hands and knees up some pretty vertical dodgy bits! Heart racing with adrenalin as I looked for toe holds gripping onto sheer rock faces (“don’t look down!”) and wondered what my midwife would say if she could see me! Ah well, we all need a bit of danger to get the heart pumping.
  • At 20 weeks – Went camping (tent). Included several long walks into the mountains. Heat wave. Stripped off my clothes and went bra-and-pants river swimming in the ice-cold River Dee in Aberdeenshire. The water was glacial. But boy, was it refreshing and invigorating! Climbed a steep 524m hill at dusk to get a sunset view. (Which was quite knackering and the first time I actually felt my ‘bump’ getting in the way).
  • At 20 weeks – Olympic fever grips me! Watching it on the telly is enough to have me on the floor doing weights and kicking my legs in the air.
  • At 22 weeks – Sea swimming/diving in the rain and a spot of rock-climbing and cliff-jumping. Still fitted (just!) into my size 10 wetsuit at 4-5 months which came as a relief to me!
  • At 24 weeks – Doing dumbbell weights. Tricep dips, bicep curls, lateral raises, chest presses and squats.
  • At 25 weeks – Played Aerobie in park, including sprints to catch the damn thing! When I run I have to hold my bump now.
  • At 28 weeks – Still doing push-ups, lunges, squats and bicep curls. I particularly made sure I did my push-ups before my 28-week midwife appointment because there is a lot of unmentioned obesity in the NHS and I think that made me even more determined to do them!
  • At 30 weeks – “Don’t lift heavy weights” is the official advice. Anyway – I was to be found supporting my 13 stone 4 lbs husband – fully – who was standing on my back! (Don’t ask… he needed a lift into the loft and this is the only quick way of doing it.) Never mind, I am strong.
  • At 31 weeks – Still doing a few push-ups (but bump in danger of hitting the ground now!) and the Plank. Dumbbells – still doing weighted squats, bicep curls and dumbbell rows. Still having my invigorating ice-cold showers in the mornings. I find it helps combat the fatigue caused by my pregnancy insomnia. This includes doing tricep dips in the shower. I use my inflatable 75cm exercise ball daily to help with my posture as my back is increasingly aching. I also find being on my hands and knees in the evening is way more comfortable than just ‘slouching’ on the sofa. (This is the worst thing ever!) Try to walk at least a mile a day, with my maximum amount being about 3-4 miles these days (because my pelvic floor does get a bit sore what with the pressure of the baby compressing down on it). Nothing else hurts though – I feel like my legs could go on forever!

The result is, my husband says I have actually ‘lost’ weight! I am not sure if this is true, it is probably an optical illusion caused by having a bump bulging out! – but hey-ho, I definitely don’t feel like I have put tooo much on. CONSIDERING THE AMOUNT I ATE IN THE FIRST TRIMESTER! Yes I have a bigger chest size and a huuuuge bump, but arms/legs/bum still look the same as they did before.

Now: – I feel healthy, in reasonable shape (as much as can be expected), in that I have not gone up any dress sizes, and I am determined not to turn into a sack o’ tatties. After the terrible first trimester (where I was unbelievably sick ALL the time, hungry, ravenous, and ate carbs-carbs-carbs and junk like it was going out of fashion), and the weird-cravings second trimester, in the third trimester I seem to have found the ultimate balance of healthy eating. My body seems to have settled down now and is telling me what it needs. I seem to be craving more fruit, healthy foods, nuts, and meat. I also have the odd bad stuff. I don’t seem as bothered about ramming my face full of carbs at 2 hour intervals like I used to, and my pressing bulge seems to have ‘stapled’ my stomach so I really don’t feel like eating huge portions all in one go. My metabolism seems to have actually increased! – rather than decreasing, as they all say it does during pregnancy. Which is weird!

Going forward… I only have two months to go, and I am sure I will begin to slow down. Walking will become more of a waddle. Oh, and I have to make sure I can always – at the very least – run up and down 3 flights of stairs every single day, so this is my bare minimum fitness ‘goal’ at the very least!

So in conclusion, I would say that if you are moderately fit, and enjoy staying active and ‘moving’ and love being outdoors, then don’t let pregnancy stop you doing all that. The NHS advice (and most of the other ‘safe’ advice out there) is for wimps/those that have never exercised, and for people that are happy with just ‘gentle’ ‘relaxing’ exercise. Me, I need more than lying on a mat in the cat position going ‘Hummmmm’ to make me feel endorphins!

Yes, I have read about inspirational women that walk marathons and run half-marathons at 7 months pregnant – great!, and I am sure I have friends who are far fitter than I am, but I was never at this high fitness level before pregnancy. It’s not a competition – just doing what you are comfortable with. But, rather than turning me into a couch potato and using it as an excuse for pigging out on everything that is bad for you and being even more lazy, I think pregnancy has actually made me realise how much I take my freedom to ‘run about’ and ‘hurl my body about’ for granted. The other day I saw a bunch of women pumping iron in a British Military Fitness class in the park, and I thought, “Damn, I really wish I was able to run over and join in! I am so jealous!”

Well, I am no slim-jim. With a largeish frame, my body is designed to be strong rather than skinny and waif-like. You see, the thing I always say to people is that exercise for me has never been about ‘exercising and working out in order to be thin’ (going to the gym as a nightly chore, counting calories, dieting, weighing myself etc) – rather it is the other way round: I want to be trim and fit so that I am able to exercise outdoors and run and skip and feel the rush of endorphins in the fresh air that enable me to have an amazing quality of life!

What the baby thinks?


I cannot WAIT to be able to skip and run down the street again!


* Serious Disclaimer and Update: I should point out that at 35 weeks pregnant I went for a vigorous swim (front crawl in the fast lane – what’s the point in pussying about). I love swimming!  ‘Phew! OK, perhaps that was a bit much.’ Two days later I went into labour (a month early) and gave birth to my son! Still, no harm was done, despite the little one being 4½ weeks premature! Just a word of warning! – AC

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