Staying in Shape While Pregnant

  • Posted on
  • By Erica Wendt-Richardson
  • 0
Staying in Shape While Pregnant

Pregnancy isn't a stroll through the park. Not just because of morning sickness, but because of the changes that your body undergoes to create a baby. All these changes are particularly difficult on a pregnant athlete, but it’s not impossible to maintain your fitness. So, here's the truth about pregnancy and how to counteract those changes with regular exercise...


“Baby Belly”

Pregnancy obviously causes your stomach to stretch to unreasonable lengths as the baby grows. As a pregnant athlete, it hurts to exercise because of how much your muscles are stretched. After delivery, it still hurts to exercise because your muscles are shrinking back down. You just have to buckle up and deal with it if you want your ‘baby belly’ to return to normal. Of course, you will still have unwanted flabs of skin that don't hide very well, but exercise does a great job of tightening your muscles enough to hide your ‘baby belly’.

A side note: something first time mothers are rarely told. After you give birth you will still look pregnant… for a minimum of three months if you're like me. Your stomach will not automatically collapse and shrink the instant the baby is born. It will take time for your internal organs to readjust and for your skin to shrink back into place. But regular exercise will hasten the shrinking process.


Hip Expansion

In order for your body to prepare for the pinnacle point of pregnancy (birth), your hips will naturally expand to make room for the baby during delivery. Expanded hips are particularly difficult for a pregnant athlete to deal with because it alters your walking/running gait. You’ll eventually develop a ‘pregnancy waddle,’ and your joints will often feel out of alignment. The best alternative is to cross train in the pool where there is minimal pressure on your hips. Mountain View Hospital in Idaho Falls offers free prenatal water classes, which I highly recommend for pregnant women who want to maintain their fitness throughout their entire pregnancy. Water is much easier on a pregnant body than most other forms of exercise. I’m not saying it’s impossible to run/bike during your pregnancy (I’m doing it), but it does take additional motivation and a higher pain tolerance.

Another side note: Along with expansion comes the natural stretching of skin and fat on the hips, which are commonly referred to as 'love handles’. So the question is, “will my love handles go away after pregnancy?” Sorry, the answer is “no” (I still have mine). BUT, they can definitely slim back down through regular postpartum exercise.


Expanded Ribcage

The last thing you can think of occurring during pregnancy is rib expansion, but it's true. Your torso will have more of a squarish figure once the baby is born because of all the pressure on your ribcage to expand. Luckily, proper postpartum exercise can help your ribcage shrink back down. Strength conditioning (abdominal and upper body) is the best remedy for helping your ribcage return to normal.


Bigger Bust

As your rib-cage expands to make room for your growing baby, so does your bust size. For a pregnant athlete, that means investing in sports bras that offer more support and padding. Otherwise exercise can be extremely uncomfortable and awkward. And for nursing athletes, it’s important to pump/nurse before going out to exercise so that you can minimize any additional discomfort.


Weight Gain

In order to deliver a healthy baby, doctors will often recommend how much weight you should gain in order to keep yourself and the baby healthy. I’m not just talking about the weight of the baby, amniotic fluid, and placenta, I’m talking about excess fat and muscle that your body naturally creates during pregnancy. This additional ‘padding’ is not always wanted, but is necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy. With proper postpartum nutrition and exercise you will lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. Keep in mind, it takes time to get back down to your pre-pregnancy weight (it took me an average of 7 months after delivering my two children). If you are diligent with your exercise, you will be successful with your weight goals.


Bladder Control

During pregnancy your baby to sits right on your bladder, which causes you to run to the bathroom more often than you’d like. But no one really talks about bladder problems after pregnancy. The truth? You’re going to end up with an old lady’s bladder because your bladder muscles become loosened during pregnancy. The only alternative to counteracting bladder problems is to exercise on a regular basis during and after pregnancy. Prenatal yoga does a great job of helping bladder muscles stay strong during pregnancy, and abdominal strength conditioning will aid in re-tightening your bladder muscles after the baby is born. Mountain View Hospital offers free Prenatal yoga classes for those who are interested in strength conditioning to help maintain bladder control.


Back Pain

Carrying a baby on the front of your stomach puts more pressure on your back than is normal. The best way to counteract back pain during and after pregnancy is to exercise. Exercise helps to strengthen your back muscles and ironically provides relief from the pressure of the baby weight. While it is difficult to stretch your back during pregnancy, it is a great idea to do 15 minutes of daily back stretches after giving birth to help relieve unwanted back pain.



The pinnacle point of pregnancy is birth. So what happens after birth? It’s called time and patience, and several weeks of recovery. Maybe I’m just naive, but I thought I’d be able to return to normal life as soon as my first baby was born. In envisioned giving birth one day, and going for an 8 mile run the next day. Oh boy was I wrong. Giving birth hurts, but recovering from it hurts too. I honestly wasn’t able to run until two months after I had given birth to my children. My recommendation for other women looking to get back into a regular postpartum exercise routine is to start short, slow, and steady. If it hurts too much to exercise, stop, and try again the next week.


Why it’s worth it

I’m not sharing all of these facts  to discourage women from ever having children. I’m sharing them with you so you know what to prepare for. I wouldn’t ever trade my children for the body I had before I got pregnant. My kids are much more precious to me. They are two of the best things that have ever happened to me (and the baby on the way is about to be the third best thing that has ever happened to me).

I admit that becoming a mother of two with a postpartum body was a difficult adjustment (especially after I developed a ‘slim figure’ from collegiate running). Even when I got back into competitive running, my figure was never able to return to my pre-baby look. However, regular exercise definitely aided in reducing my ‘baby belly’, expanded hips, bigger bust, and expanded ribcage. Exercise also helped me regain bladder control, reduce back pain, and return to my pre-pregnancy weight. If there are other women out there seeking solutions to any of these problems I’ve mentioned, believe me, exercise is totally worth the time and effort. And if you are a prospective mother, take my advice, and start a regular exercise routine that can carry you through your pregnancy.


And just for kicks and giggles, this comic is totally true for a pregnant woman. I’m just over 7 months pregnant and I literally can’t tie my shoes unless I contort my body into the most uncomfortable positions imaginable. There is no remedy for this problem :)


Be the first to comment...

Leave a comment
* Your email address will not be published
* Required fields

Bill's Bike Locations

Pregnancy isn't a stroll through the park. Not just because of morning sickness, but because of the changes that your body undergoes to create a baby. All these

Idaho Falls: 930 Pier View Dr
Idaho Falls, ID 83402
Phone: 208-522-3341 Store hours: Mon-Fri 9am-6pm                       Saturday 9am-6pm
Rexburg: 113 S 2nd W
Rexburg, ID 83440
208-932-2719 Store hours: Mon-Friday 10am-6pm
Click here to activate
View route