One look around a workout studio and you’ll see we’re living in an era of the super active pregnancy. Experts say that’s not only okay, it’s great for the health of both mom and baby.
And many top fitness structors and yogis currently sporting baby bumps (two with twins!) are modeling the pro-sweat pregnancy—while continuing to teach fitness classes.
So we side-barred with these impressive women after class to learn what workouts and habits made them feel great over the nine months (despite bouts of morning sickness), and gathered some super-honest advice for other moms-to-be.
Here are seven real-life examples of how to have the healthiest, active pregnancy ever.
Baby stats: Joaquin, due December 31
Her healthy pregnancy: I had a really terrible first trimester, so I barely worked out for about 10 weeks. Getting back into it was hard, but I’m so glad I returned as soon as I could. I think my Bari schedule (three to four times a week) has been the key factor that has made the past four months feel so amazing.
Food evolution: The main difference in my diet, apart from having to eat more, is that I have to make a conscious effort to add more protein. I’ve had to get creative. I drink a vegan protein shake every morning from Parsley Health, which has about 30 grams and gets me off to a great start.
How being fit helps: When I was able to start working out again, I was really tired and felt defeated. In almost every class I took there was another pregnant woman in it much farther along than me who encouraged me to keep going. Outside of the classroom, I’ve been hearing positive birth stories from my clients for years… I think Bari has just given women the confidence to trust their bodies, to know they are strong and to connect with what they are feeling, and to feel comfortable taking on a challenge.
Biggest surprise: I was suffering from a lot of stress and anxiety when I got pregnant, and when I saw Joaquin move on a sonogram and started feeling him move, my anxiety disappeared. Instead of focusing on problems or my to-do list, my mind and heart was filled with positive thoughts and feelings.
Top tip: Take time to connect with your baby and fall in love with the process week to week. The more in-tune you are to what is happening, the easier it is to be good to both you and the baby. Weekly workouts, prenatal massages, and acupuncture seem like a lot of work, and I don’t know if I would keep up a schedule like that outside of pregnancy, but they are some of my favorite and most purposeful hours of my week now.
Baby stats: Josephine, born April 2016
Her healthy pregnancy: After my first trimester, I was able to get out more, be active, and it felt so good. During my whole pregnancy I was teaching at Flybarre, Dailyburn, and Qinetic—also at CityRow up until six months of my pregnancy when it became too hard for my pregnant hips. Around 30 weeks I had to stop teaching Sport Flybarre classes—I just couldn’t jump anymore. But otherwise I continued to teach 10 classes a week up until April 2016. I was really proud of myself!
Food evolution: I had a well-balanced diet when I was pregnant, with a few cravings. The hardest part was to stop drinking so much coffee. I was used to having a few cups a day. That was tough to let go of.
How being fit helped: Staying active was so good for my body in all stages of my pregnancy. Especially for the days I felt extra tired, after I taught a few classes and got my blood flowing and stretched, I felt more awake, and those small aches and pains from my baby bump went away.
Biggest surprise: You always hear women say how they felt so tired, but boy, it was way worse then I expected it to be. I was so frustrated with myself at the beginning. Before pregnancy I was out of the house for eight to nine hours at a time, running around working, working out, meeting friends. During my pregnancy, I could teach my two to three classes and I was wiped out, had to go home and nap. I was taking it really hard, feeling lazy and disconnected. It took me a little while to remind myself, “I am growing a human, relax!”
Top tip: Be kind to yourself during pregnancy, and especially after. I learned to give myself credit for the little things I could do, instead of looking at all the things I couldn’t.
Baby stats: Flynn, born October 2015
Her healthy pregnancy: I was able to stick to a modified version of my pre-pregnancy routine throughout my pregnancy. For the first three months, I’d wake up feeling nauseous, so I had to have a snack of some sort, digest a bit, and then work out. That cramped my style. I was lucky enough to have a Megaformer in my apartment, so I was able to continue with SLT either at home or in a class. I kept up with my once-a-week yoga privates until my sixth month and then found it too difficult to maneuver around my big belly. The final few months of my pregnancy I swam a lot. I spent the last week of my pregnancy walking a ton to try to go into labor.
Food evolution: Like most pregnant women, I had random cravings and aversions to certain foods. I was obsessed with Challah, peanut butter, and oranges. I was repulsed by fish.
How being fit helped: Having an active job and lifestyle helped me stay in good shape and feel excellent throughout my pregnancy. I think that my strong core eased the pain of labor and delivery, and post-pregnancy, I was able to be active, and for the most part (damn tummy), my body bounced back quickly.
Biggest surprise: I breastfed my daughter for nine weeks—the hardest nine weeks of my life. I found it near impossible to fit exercise in when I was trying to work, breastfeed (or pump), hang out with my baby, and still have a social life. Working out was what I usually had to sacrifice, and I found that it dramatically affected my mood.
Top tip: Do pelvic floor exercises! Doing Kegels helps to avoid post-pregnancy bladder control problems and long term prolapse.
Baby stats: Due January 28, 2017
Her healthy pregnancy: Up until about week 16, I didn’t change ANYTHING! In fact, I am so grateful for AKT. If I didn’t have a daily routine that incorporated a workout that I loved and a community I looked forward to seeing, I don’t think I would have been able to push through those really tough moments in the first trimester. Between all the exhaustion and nausea, it was REALLY difficult to get up in the morning and get motivated. Now, at 23 weeks, I am starting to cut back to about four days a week, 90 minutes per day. I absolutely love interval training: short bouts of cardio and strength at whatever pace I am feeling capable of that day. And I try to do five to ten minutes of pelvic floor/diaphragmatic breathing exercises on a daily basis as well as a moving meditation twice a week on my days off.
Food evolution: I have to make sure to eat before working out so that my body has the fuel it needs to perform and not draw from my reserves, which I need to create this tiny being! Fueling up post-workout has also become much more important to me, now that I know I am eating for two.
How being fit helped: Just walking into the studio and catching up with the women I love helped that “pregnant brain fog” disappear and re-focus my intentions for the day. My job really taught me how important exercising during pregnancy is and how transformative it can be during those really hard moments.
Biggest surprise: How early I could feel the hormone, relaxin, starting to kick in. It relaxes all the ligaments in your body, so your joints are not as well supported. I noticed that I needed to be very aware of how I was moving through space to properly support my neck and spine, instead of riding high on those endorphins and pushing myself too hard.
Top tip: Exercise is incredibly important to help women with some of those more challenging moments and to feel healthy and strong. So even if you don’t feel 100 percent, try to commit to moving for just 15 minutes—putting on that workout jam you love, getting yourself into a nice deep stretch, connecting to your body, going for a long walk with friends…try to stay active. You may be surprised at how much better you feel.
Baby stats: Priscilla and Alexia, born June 2015
Her healthy pregnancy: Other than the 2–3 weeks (which felt like FOREVER) when I was on bed rest after having a cerclage (a cervical procedure) around 22 weeks, I exercised every day, which is my norm. Moving felt really good as my body changed and expanded. I was either doing an at-home yoga practice or a regular vinyasa or SoulCycle class with a teacher I trusted. Interestingly SoulCycle felt better on my pregnant body than anything else, because of the way that you are mostly out of the saddle and your belly is hanging down. It really alleviates a lot of pressure. I did Laurie Cole’s class until the week before I gave birth to my twins; she made sure that I never pushed too hard. Having prenatal yoga training, it was easy for me to modify my own yoga practice—cutting out closed twists, etc.
How being fit helped: I’m sure yoga and meditation kept me sane amidst all of the crazy roller coasters. I also attribute my ability to take deep breaths to make it through a lot of pain at the end. I also think that the self-love and self-acceptance I have learned through yoga really helped me embrace (and celebrate) all of my body changes throughout pregnancy, as well as being okay with not bouncing back like a celebrity a month or two after my twins were born.
Biggest surprise: I was shocked at how much easier SoulCycle was for me than vinyasa, and how it allowed me to get the feel-good endorphins that prenatal yoga didn’t. And I’m not hating on prenatal yoga, because it’s awesome. But in my experience, you don’t move very much (which is why I did my own prenatal videos on Qinetic, for women with a regular yoga practice), and I needed to move to feel good in my pregnancy.
Top tip: Do things that make you happy and feel great. When the pregnancy is over, you will be responsible for another human life. Relish the last few months of being in control of your schedule.
Celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor
Baby stats: 3-year-old Timothy and twin boys due in November
Her healthy pregnancy: I still practice yoga and Pilates two to three times a week. I also try to strength train at least once a week. I walk everywhere in NYC still, and chasing after Timothy gives me my cardio. The first time around I was super active, but I feel this pregnancy a lot more. I just can’t do as much now. So I listen to myself and take it easy, but I still teach all of my classes and clients!
Food evolution: I eat more, that’s for sure. I still stick to healthy foods and have breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then add some extra snacks either mid-morning or mid-afternoon or before bed.
How being fit helps: Teaching yoga and Pilates is such an awesome job, and it definitely helps make my pregnancies so much easier. I stay active, I connect with my body constantly, I listen to my breath, I stay flexible…the list goes on!
Biggest surprise: I am always shocked at how great the second trimester hormones are! I didn’t expect to be so horny both times around. I’m also shocked at how itchy my skin gets and how it affects my sleep. I get tired easier, or I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
Top tip: Listen to your OWN BODY. You are your own best guide, and you know what’s going on. Of course listen to your doctor’s advice as well, but allow yourself to do what’s right for you. When you connect with yourself daily, you will feel so happy and be able to experience the amazing process that pregnancy, delivery, and raising a child is.
Amanda Rose Walsh
Yoga teacher, fitness trainer, doula
Baby stats: Due March 29, 2017
Her healthy pregnancy: My life revolves around fitness, yoga, and movement so it was natural for me to stay active. During my first trimester, I definitely had to take it down a notch both in intensity and frequency. While I didn’t experience morning sickness, I did have pretty intense fatigue, which meant lots of naps. I would try to push myself to move daily but some days it just didn’t happen. Now that I’m in my second trimester, I definitely feel a surge of energy; I’m riding my bike, practicing yoga, strength training as much as possible. I’ve also started taking walks in Central Park and practicing prenatal yoga at the studio where I became certified as a pre/postnatal yoga instructor.
How being fit helps: I feel like I’m well prepared for birth—I’ve consistently worked on my stamina, strength, and endurance in fitness and as a doula, so I’m ready for the crazy adventure birth requires. I feel that by having a healthy diet, a consistent movement practice, healthy emotions, a career that I created and love, a solid relationship with my husband, I was able to get pregnant with ease and so far have a very smooth and happy pregnancy. Healthy living pays off!
Biggest surprise: I’m amazed that my body is changing by the day and how good to feels to have an expanding waistline—something I so intensely avoided for years. Also, as a health and fitness professional, I always maintained a relatively strict diet. Since becoming pregnant, I am still super conscious of what I eat but I do feel more freedom. I really try to tune into my body and babe and if they are asking for something sweet, I eat it without guilt, shame, or worry. It has been one of the greatest gifts of pregnancy.
Top tip: Prepare! My husband and I took over a year to get ourselves ready. It started with dietary changes… I also got rid of all toxic beauty and cleaning products. We upgraded our water and air filter. We also worked with a financial advisor so we can get our money in order. I attended as many births as I could as a doula and read countless pregnancy, birth and baby books. I felt that if I prepared for my wedding for over a year, I can dedicate time to preparing for baby, a much larger and greater life change!
Ready to hit the studio? Experts weigh in on how to work out while pregnant.