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If you take a moment to think about it, pregnancy and its results are nothing short of a miracle. The female body quite literally transforms to house another human, birth said human and then sustain its life through the perfectly portioned sustenance. Incredible, isn’t it?

Because of this wonder, I found, through advice from my doctor and lots of independent research, that exercise during pregnancy is an amazing way to keep your body strong, as well as prepare it for the demands of labor and delivery.

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As a personal trainer, I always give my clients tailored guidelines/rules-of-thumb that should be practiced in each workout. This time, I set some guidelines for myself and got to work! It didn’t take long for me to realize that my body was 100 percent in control, so adhering to the following was not hard.

Listen to your body. Beyond listening to the guidelines of your doctor, you MUST listen to your body. Much like pregnancy itself, the human body is equipped to communicate when you’re working too hard, or conversely, when you can kick it up a notch. Try enlisting the “talk test.” If you can easily speak 3-5 sentences, you can afford a little more exertion. But, if those 3-5 sentences are a long shot, ease up and give yourself some rest.

Hydrate. There is no question that proper hydration is key to ANY situation, but your blood volume nearly doubles while you’re pregnant, meaning you’re going to need more water to properly hydrate. Aim for two to three liters of water per day while you’re pregnant and a little more on days that you exercise.

Recover properly. Your body is working overtime, all the time while you’re pregnant, so it’s crucial that you give yourself ample time to recover. Taking a warm (not hot) bath with epsom salts is an amazing way to replenish your magnesium stores while helping to keep swelling down. You can also try elevating your feet when you’re sitting to keep the blood from pooling in your lower extremities and gently stretch every day whether you’ve exercised or not. Just remember, your body is extra flexible due to an increase in the hormone relaxin, so be sure to keep your stretches very gentle.

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With these keys in mind, my pregnancy workout routine went a little something like this:

FIRST TRIMESTER

Because I felt extremely tired, I allowed myself to workout infrequently and only when I felt like I had the extra energy to do so. All of my workouts were low impact and featured very light cardio. On days when I felt great, I popped in my Tracy Anderson Pregnancy Project DVDs and listened to my body as moves we queued.

SECOND TRIMESTER

They weren’t lying when they said that the second trimester is magical! I felt almost completely normal for the entirety of those 12-ish weeks and I was back at my normal routine of strength training, bootcamp and regular barre classes. I continued to keep my cardio light, however, as I was careful never to feel like I couldn’t catch my breath during my pregnancy workouts.

THIRD TRIMESTER

As my belly got bigger during my third trimester, I focused on keeping as much of my stability and alignment in place as I knew they would be important come delivery. Therefore, I spent much of my time practicing gentle prenatal yoga, strength exercises on a stability ball and going on long, long, long walks.

>> Read more: Best Workouts for Pregnant Mamas

There is no doubt in my mind that my pregnancy workout routine contributed to a very fast delivery after a very long labor. I am also certain that my recovery was swift as a result of my body being in great shape for those 41 weeks leading up to birth. Of course, every body and every pregnancy is different, so be sure to ask your doctor or midwife and a certified fitness professional to help you tailor a pregnancy workout routine to your specific needs.