Intense Exercise in Early Pregnancy

One of the many exciting parts of my job is I get to develop workout plans for girls in the early stages of pregnancy. Many times, girls contact me via Facebook or my website within days of finding out they are pregnant to inquire about safe exercise routines in early pregnancy. The good news is, most women can maintain their pre-pregnancy level of fitness throughout the first trimester. Intense exercise is generally safe in the first trimester of pregnancy if intense exercise was practiced pre-pregnancy.

Here is an example of a week of workouts for one of my clients who is in the first trimester of pregnancy.

  • Day 1: 800 calories on cardio machines: elliptical, stair stepper, arc trainer. 85% HR;
  • Day 2: 4 mile run
  • Day 3: rest
  • Day 4: 800 calories on cardio machines (see above), sprint workout, plyos, body weight strength training
  • Day 5: 3 mile run
  • Day 6: 1 hour of plyos and body weight strength training
  • Day 7: 4 mile run

As you can see, this particular client is still maintaining a very intense workout routine and feeling great. Like always, it is important to stay properly hydrated and fueled for workouts. Recently I advised a girl in her early stages of pregnancy to scale back on cardio workouts if she continues to throw up from morning sickness. She was not able to stay properly fueled, and in that case, it is better to take it easy. However, as a general rule of thumb, workouts help to relieve many pregnancy symptoms in the first trimester (nausea, constipation, fatigue, etc).

What is your experience with workouts in early pregnancy?

7 thoughts on “Intense Exercise in Early Pregnancy

  1. Michelle says:

    I was lucky as I experienced very little nausea and my energy wasn’t too bad. I made a deal with myself to try and do at least 45mins a day of something and that might mean once or twice a week doing an elliptical “intervals” workout with the rest being swimming, hiking, weight training and water running. About once a week though i would have a “fatigued” day where a 45min walk was all I could manage before needing a 20min siesta. From 8-12 weeks I noticed my aerobic capacity changing, i would get more breathless as my body made its pregnancy adjustments so I would back off a bit on intensity. From 14 weeks on though my full energy returned and i do 45mins to 1.5hrs most days of something. Mind you, I am not land running, so I am building up mileage/speed slowly in the pool as a “pregnancy goal”; I find having goals such as “doing something every day”, “increasing swim mileage to xxxx metres”, or “building to a 45min water run by the end of pregnancy” all help to keep me getting out the door, even as I enter late second trimester and more discomforts appear….having said all this, my body really enjoys doing the workouts, they seem to help me stay mentally on an even keel – and help keep me “regular”!! Love your blog.

    • Amanda Tress says:

      Great job, Michelle! It sounds like you really kept up your fitness level and exeperienced a very fit pregnancy as a result! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience!

  2. Lina says:

    I had 3 very different pregnancies even though they were all girls. But with my 3rd pregnancy I was very into fitness and worked out until the day I had her and it was my BEST pregnancy and my drug free labor was awesome! The days I didn’t feel like working out I pushed myself to a lighter work out and it always put me in a better mood and it made the pregnancy “symptoms” so much easier. I really believe moving your body through out your pregnancy helps with most things as long as you do it with caution even the pregnant body can do some amazing things!!

  3. Jem says:

    My doctor actually told me that I should cut down to running just two days/week at 15mins each time…a warm up for me! I ignored this though because I don’t have any complications and was working out 5 days a week before I fell pregnant (and even in the first two months because I didn’t find out I was pregnant until 2 months in!).
    I have been told to dial down intensity however and not get too hot so I’ve been monitoring my heart rate on runs (not going above 150) and have dropped weights down and do higher reps. I was told that going to heavy may damage ligments.
    Is this correct though as what you seem to be saying is that you can just workout at the same intensity as before you were pregnant but then I’ve also read that if you get too hot when workign out it can actually affect the baby’s development?

    • Amanda Tress says:

      Hi Jem. Wow, this is a tricky one to answer because I do not want to disagree with your doctor. However, my doctor was very supportive of continuing with an intense fitness routine throughout my first trimester. I did make some minor modifications in my second and third trimester (ie: no ab exercises on my back, keep my HR lower, etc), but in general, I was able to stay extremely active since I had a non-risk pregnancy. I think it is important to listen to your body (and your doctor), but it might be good to check with a few other doctors in your practice or even switch to someone who is a little more current in their research of a fit pregnancy. My doctor gave me a fit pregnancy magazine the first time I visited, so I knew he was a good fit for me 🙂 Thoughts?

  4. Vicki says:

    I am pregnant on my 4th and have exercised throughout. I am 5 weeks along and walked into a circuit class which the instructor changed a bit. We had to sprint to the beep, i was the last one and ran to level ten. I felt fine and would of went further but just felt unsure. Im hoping i didn’t do too much….Prior to pregnancy i would sprint on the treadmill and do weight etc

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