Keep the intensity, lose the impact

Unless you have particular medical concerns or require a specific exercise program during pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will likely tell you to “keep doing what you’re been doing, as long as it feels good.”

My first and second pregnancies were very different. During my first pregnancy, I was a cardio queen. I taught Zumba until I was about 36 weeks pregnant, did dance cardio at least once a week, and was walking and Stairclimbing to my heart’s delight. Strength training went by the wayside. While I’ve always enjoyed a good iron-pumping session, it didn’t feel as good as it used to. I stuck with super light weights, and it wasn’t a consistent part of my routine. Flash forward to my second pregnancy, and I found out at 13 weeks that I had placenta previa. This is where the placenta is low, so it can be covering the cervix (complete previa), or close to it, which is what mine was doing. Doctor’s advice: watch the impact exercise. So, I had to take time off from my favorite workout (Orangetheory) and spent more time in the yoga studio. As the placenta moved up during my pregnancy, I stayed with more low-impact options. My round ligaments were killing me, I had a heaviness in my hips, and became sore and uncomfortable easily. I guess that’s what happens when you’re growing an almost 11-lb turkey. 😉

Pregnant chest press

While both of my pregnancies felt different, my body gave me the indictor that I needed to change up my routine. With my first pregnancy, I was like “Oh hey, this feels awesome” until it didn’t anymore. During my second, my doc made the call for me. I’ve also learned with many of my friends that there became a point where they knew they needed to change up their routine, whether they’re marathon runners, barre fanatics, boot camp fiends, or weightlifting lovers. While everyone and every body is different, you may find a point where you’re ready to dial down the impact of your workouts. It might not feel right, your doc may suggest it, or you may just be to that uncomfortable finish point where you’re like “get this baby OUT.”

Here are some ways to keep up the intensity of your exercise moves, while decreasing the impact on your joints:

-Keep one foot on the floor at all times. You can do many plyometric movements by keeping one foot on the floor at all times. For example, if you’re doing a modified burpee, walk back to plank instead of jumping back. If your favorite fitness class is doing any type of jump, do the same movement with one leg. Just make sure to alternate sides.

-Experiment with height dynamics. If you are moving your body from low to high, you will still get your heart rate up without impact. (Just be careful with that growing belly!) One of my friends would do this awesome move where she’d start on her knees, press her arms up overhead 3-5x, and then walk her hands out to a modified plank. She’d do 3 modified push-ups, walk her hands back so she’d be back on her knees and press her arms up overhead again.

-Walk instead of run. You can always add in gentle hills or power walk blitzes. A lot of my serious runner friends were able to maintain their running schedule (with less mileage and a decreased pace) during their pregnancy. Some of my runner friends switched to walking entirely. I think that walking in general is so good for the body and mind, and is a great chance to get in some activity while you listen to a podcast and enjoy being outside.

-Try prenatal yoga. During my first pregnancy, I despised prenatal yoga because I hadn’t found a class for me, and I didn’t really know how to modify. All of my tips for modifications are here! If you don’t enjoy a class, try another one. With modifications, I was able to practice fairly regularly, and I feel like the meditation aspect was beneficial for me during such a difficult birth and newborn period.

Pregnant reverse warrior

-Go for a swim. There’s something very wonderful about feeling as light and buoyant as a feather when you’re currently waddling around and uncomfortably huge. Swimming is fantastic because it has zero joint impact, and you can still get in a great cardio workout with added strength from the resistance of the water. Check out a water strength or aerobics class near you! If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised by how challenging it is!

Fellow mama friends: what changes did you make to your routine while you were pregnant? Were you more of a cardio or strength queen?

Expecting mama friends: what do you currently do in your routine?


  1. Caitlin on April 25, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    I had to stop running at 18 weeks due to intense pubic bone pain. I had thought that I may eventually get uncomfortable as the baby grew, but didn’t anticipate the effects of hormones on my joints so early! My Dr. Told me to modify the impact but had no other advice.

    I also had to pass up yoga, even prenatal modifications… I had no idea that it was making my pubic joint issues worse. The relaxin hormone loosened, therefor destabilized my joint… Any stretches to ‘open up the pelvis’ were increasing that separation, instability, and pain.

    I did stick to a lifting routine, which felt great & I credit for keeping back pain at bay. I also walked, but even scaled pace & distance down at the end.

  2. Elle on April 25, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    I’m finding barre and yoga are pretty much the only things I can still do at 34 weeks. I miss running and sweating soooo much!

  3. Allison Peters on May 4, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Thank you!

  4. Katie P on May 4, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you!

  5. Ellen on May 4, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    You may have already talked about this, but I’d love to see more information on core work after pregnancy. When can I start doing what and how long should I wait for certain things like sit-ups, leg lifts and oblique exercises? Thanks!

  6. Catherine on May 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I am only 10 weeks and am still trying to figure out my “routine”. For now I am still doing many of the same things as I was before, with a few exceptions (I was jumping rope a lot but that doesn’t feel too great lately). Before I found out I was pregnant I bought a few classes at a boxing gym, so I have been trying to use those before I start to show (I have this fear they won’t let me continue if they knew-not sure if gyms have standard policies concerning pregnant participants and I’m afraid to find out!). It is mostly boot camp-type exercises and then work on the bag; no contact of course.

    This is not an idea for an entire post but I am unsure about the “no exercise lying on your back after first trimester” rule. Specifically, is bridge work not allowed? You are mostly off your back except for between sets. I think “hip raises” are the same thing as bridges but am not sure. Thanks!

  7. Kristina Edson on May 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I’d love to read a post on any suggestions of how to fit in workouts with a toddler and a new baby!

  8. Whitney Distefano on May 4, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Cardio all the way!

  9. Anna on May 4, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Gina!

    I love your blog and look forward to reading it every day! I’m wondering if you have workout suggestions that INCLUDE your baby. I have a 7 month old babe that currently cannot stand to be put down or not be touching/looking at home. I would love some workout ideas that include using his body weight!


  10. Charlsie N on May 4, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I would love to see more workouts that are good while pregnant. I know this is supposed to be post but there’s a lot of different information for during pregnancy.

  11. Indhu Sivaramakrishnan on May 4, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I am getting back into running after a baby. I was never that speedy to start with. But I find that I am super slow now. I know that it takes time to build back the fitness. But it is definitely demotivating to run so slowly.. Would love to get some tips on how to increase speed in a safe manner 🙂

  12. Lynne Murphy on May 4, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Would love more posts on quick foods to prep and have on hand. I find it super hard to find time to eat. You may already have done some other meal prep posts a while back, but I love any posts you do with meal preps. Thank you!

  13. Maggie Lee on May 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    I would love to see a post about getting back into fitness specifically after having a c-section. I know the recovery time tends to be longer, and the lack of information I’ve found on the web is astounding! Thanks so much!

  14. Megan on May 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    My baby has allergies unfortunately and I’m still breastfeeding. I know you faced this with baby P for a while. Any tips on getting back to healthy eats when you have to cook ALL your food (which is really time consuming).

    Plus, with all the food prep and cooking, it’s hard to sneak in workouts. Workouts that include baby would also be great!

  15. Meredith on May 4, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    This is wonderful! I would love more posts on low impact workouts since I have a knee injury and low impact helps me keep up with exercises. I would also love to see more pelvic floor maintenance workouts.

    I’d love to hear more about how you find time to fit in workouts with the kiddos. When do you work out? How can I break up workouts between work and kiddos and husband and all that jazz. I love PBB, and have been working on it with my husband, but it can be hard to get in a workout with a rambunctious 1 year old.

  16. Caitlin on May 4, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Would love to see something about pelvic floor exercises (other than kegels) or workouts that incorporate the baby. So far I’m just stuck doing things with him in the stroller, but soon it will be too hot to keep working out outside

  17. Amara on May 4, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Hi!! I’m 4-months post partum with baby girl #2. This time the weight IS NOT coming off as easily. I work part time & have trouble finding time to work out. I’d love ideas on quick workouts to do at home to improve flexibility & core strength (my lower back has been feeling the effects of poor core strength). Thank you!!

  18. Danielle on May 4, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    I’d live to see more safe workouts for diastasis recti!

  19. Krissy on May 4, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I would to see more pelvic floor exercises and those that help with proper alignment. Thanks! 😊

  20. Alexandra on May 4, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    I’d love to see posts on breastfeeding and how exercise affects your supply…things like how much more to eat to compensate for exercise etc..thanks!!

  21. Liz on May 4, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Things I would love to see are options for 10 min workouts during pregnancy to squeeze something in here and there. Also core work for postpartum and when to start doing what (timeline).

  22. Camee on May 4, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    I would love to see safe core workouts after having a baby. Thank you for everything!!

  23. Stephanie W. on May 4, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    I would love to know how others deal with the fear or anxiety during the pregnanacy. I’ve had two miscarriages and one slightly complicated pregnancy with a healthy baby. I know I’ll be nervous when I get pregnant again.

  24. Annie on May 4, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    I’d love to see some videos once you are up to it. I would also appreciate some posts on diet and breastfeeding. I struggle with supply (and am on loads of meds to help) but have a solid 20 pounds that isn’t budging. I don’t want to do anything that would lessen my supply but would like to start making inroads on the weight.

  25. Morgan on May 4, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    I’m no longer pregnant (PBB tester) but when I was, I would have loved to get some information on dealing with pregnancy cravings. I get you have to just give in to an extent (don’t get me wrong, I totally ate allthegummybears – so random. I would pick chocolate over fruity candy any day) but I would have liked some readily available snack ideas for when the gummy bear cravings were too much.

    Or – as a postpartum idea – dealing with abdominal separation. I have a small separation above my belly button so I’ve been researching what exercises to avoid, what exercises to do to repair, etc.

    Thanks for the sneaky giveaway!!

  26. Alaina on May 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    I would love to see more HIIT workouts!

  27. beth a. on May 4, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    i would love to see more posts on how to heal Diastasis recti. Thanks!

  28. Verhanika on May 4, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Right now I’m still pregnant with my first and the biggest thing I needed help with (and couldn’t really find) was how to restart working out after my first trimester. I was so queasy and so tired that I basically didn’t move for 12 weeks and had no idea where to begin again. I know this is post-baby bod, so it may not fit, but there are truly few good resources for active women in pregnancy.

  29. Beth Flanagan on May 4, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    I’d like to see postpartum yoga modifications if you have diastasis recti

  30. Sarah on May 4, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Baby #3 is due in late September. I need advice on fitting in workouts with three kids and a crazy schedule. My oldest will be in pre-k going to school 5 half days a week and my middle child will be 20 months when this baby comes and I just keep thinking when? When will I ever workout again? Gym memberships and babysitters are not an option due to a limited budget. Any advice would be appreciated.

  31. Erin on May 4, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Gina,
    Love this article! I also equated high intensity with fun for a long time, and thought I would be regulated to boring workouts in the last trimester. I found that biking really soothed my need for cardio without the impact. I biked to work until a week before I gave birth (got some funny looks) and it kept me sane!!

    Like others mentioned, I would love to read more about the “not lying on your back” recommendation. When is it applicable? How can you modify exercises to get around the limitation?


  32. Gabrielle on May 4, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Yes Gina – you are so clever with posts. I would love more low impact workouts and particular exercises for upper body and abs. Oh and: still in the cast with the stress fracture in my ankle, buttttt guess who has been cleared to train upper body from today?!

    Yes. This girl. 1 hour in the gym broke me. I couldn’t shampoo my hair this morning in the shower… My arm muscles HURTTT. And I am so happy! 😍😍😍

  33. Ashlee on May 4, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    What are pelvis floor exercises other than kegels?

  34. Nour on May 4, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Short workouts for nap time! And how to strengthen pelvic muscles.

  35. Holly brockman on May 4, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you! I am working on my PBB! Going on 8 weeks since twin delivery. Going great!

  36. Amber on May 4, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    I’d love to hear more about how to maintain your milk supply while working out. It seems like every time I start working out my supply and tanks. I work hard to stay hydrated and consume quality calories but I’d love any other tips or tricks especially as far as when to pump or feed baby (pre or post workout).

  37. Katie N. on May 4, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    I’d love more examples of pelvic floor exercises. After reading some of the new posts about the issues that can arise post birth

  38. Julia on May 4, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I was happily chugging away at PBB and then… I’m pregnant again. I felt awful for two weeks and finally took a week off. Then I found out about baby #4. I’m not sure where to begin with working out, but definitely I’d love to see some posts about 1) core work during pregnancy, perhaps a specific routine, 2) Workouts specific to arms & legs. I kind of figure I’d like to work a lot on my leg and glute strength this time around. I don’t want to lose strength in my arms and Legs, and my glutes are the undoing of my back… so I guess routines that are short and sweet that I can follow. I’m always down for nutrition ideas too, even though the PBB plan is good enough for me, dealing with food aversions and eating enough but not eating junk is always my struggle.

    Was that clear lol? I had two clear points. Oops. I apologize for the remaining rambling.

  39. Claire on May 4, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    My post requests are 1) what fitness to do pre-pregnancy and 2) diastasis recti tests to find out if you have it and 3) success stories!

  40. Michelle Agens on May 4, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    This is a great post! With a young baby and a toddler at home, I barely even have any energy to workout at all these days. I sometimes feel worse after a really intense workout because I’m living on such little sleep. I do feel good doing low intensity workouts though. Great suggestions and great reminder that you don’t have to go so intense all the time, especially when your body is telling you that you shouldn’t. Thanks!

  41. Erin O'Loughlin on May 4, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Love this post!! I teach pre natal barre and mommy baby barre at my studio! Its great for pregnant women!

  42. melissa on May 4, 2016 at 10:23 pm


    The email was great! Pregnant and went from being very active to limited activity and I’m struggling to find a new balance and keep up my fitness while pregnant with having to walk. But my question for you is strength training while pregnant????

  43. Jessie on May 4, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    I would love to see a post about how to gradually start a workout routine after having a c-section and what core exercises are safe for that recovery. Thank you for the giveaway! After over a year and a half of trying, we are expecting our second one. Take care!

  44. Erin on May 5, 2016 at 1:46 am

    I want to know where to start with core work after delivery. What a good routine and frequency would be, etc.

  45. Stephanie on May 5, 2016 at 1:55 am

    I am four months postpartum with my first child. The first 10 weeks with my baby were very difficult. He has reflux, cried constantly and slept very little. Things are now starting to settle down a bit but I still find myself saying, “Where did my day go.” I would like to see more post about finding time to squeeze in workouts. I also find myself buying a lot of pre-prepared meals. Easy, healthy meal ideas would be great as well. I love how your meal ideas are healthy, minimal ingredients and delicious!

  46. Nicole on May 5, 2016 at 2:24 am

    During and post pregnancy I have dealt with quite a bit of hip pain, especially after my second baby! What are the best exercises to help stabilize and strengthen hips?

  47. Sara on May 5, 2016 at 3:53 am

    I would love to read about ways to tighten everything back up specially my core. Id love breastfeeding friendly diet ideas to make the best milk for my little man and still lose weight for me!

  48. Sarah on May 5, 2016 at 5:28 am

    I am interested in posts about when to start doing core exercises postpartum and which ones. Also exercises to do with the baby since I feel like I’m always holding her and doing curls with the baby just seem wrong ;). And stroller exercises would be great too!

  49. Lauryn on May 5, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Hi Gina,
    My baby has just turned 12 weeks and I have started walking 30 minutes at least 3 times a week to build up my cardio again, however I really need some toning workouts. This is my third baby boy (!!!) and I have pretty bad diastsis recti (which I also had with my second). I would love to avoid having corrective surgery so any help with proper core workouts for those with DR would be fab! Thank you 🙂

  50. Amanda on May 5, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Love your blog and what you offer your readers. Keep doing what you’re doing, thank you!

  51. Elissa on May 5, 2016 at 11:15 am

    I’m 9 weeks post pardom, and have started doing a “tummies for Mommy’s” class once per week It’s great for strengthening my pelvic floor and abs, but I’m ready to add other things. How many days should I work out to start?

    I would love PBB!!

    I’m also like you with a preschooler and now a baby. Thoughts on things she can join me for? I was thinking Zumba or dance dvd’s and yoga….

  52. Maribeth on May 5, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I’d love to figure out how to workout when you have an infant. My little guy just wanted to be held for weeks, but now that he is gaining some independence (he’s 17 weeks), I just don’t know when I will have time to work out!

  53. Rachel on May 5, 2016 at 11:41 am

    2 months postpartum here and working on restoring my core. Slow and steady these days. Would love your tips. Thanks!

  54. Rose on May 5, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Like previous commenters I would like a post about exercises you can do with baby in my arms or in a stroller–besides walking 🙂

  55. Lisa R. on May 5, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    I love this site so far and think you’ve been doing a fantastic job covering a lot of different topics! I agree with another post that said some stroller exercises would be fun! Being able to work out outside and take my little one along sounds great 🙂

  56. Caitlin on May 5, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    I already commented once, but for a sneaky giveaway…..

    I’m 4 weeks postpartum and having some issues you’ve mentioned having, symptoms of possible prolapse. (And my baby wasn’t an 11 pounder! She was 8lbs but refused to come out without a fight….). I ordered the Hab-it DVD, and have my 6wk appt next week (a wk early) and will discuss with my dr. then but… I’d love to see pelvic floor and diastasis recti safe exercises- basically the safest of safe exercises! I’m petrified to do much of anything, even walk for fear of making this recovery worse! And thanks for being so honest about your postpartum experiences, recovery is a lonely road.

  57. Stephanie D on May 5, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    I’d like to see a post on fitness and nutrition considerations while breastfeeding! Thanks!

  58. Rachel on May 9, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    I’m 10 weeks post-partum, and prior to my pregnancy I taught spin and Zumba 3-4 times per week. I had a high risk pregnancy and had to quit everything, even intense walking. I gained forty pounds, twenty of which dropped right away, but the others are stubbornly still sitting there. I would love more tips on how to get back to my previous level of fitness safely, without injuring myself, and how to lose the weight without affecting the breastfeeding. I find myself wanting to do too much when my body isn’t quite ready for it. Am aiming to start teaching again in July but I’d love to be able to fit into my old exercise clothes first…

    I also love the posts about food that have ideas for meal prep – the postpartum clean eats post was genius! Suggestions like roasting root vegetables to use all week… anything to keep me full so I don’t snack on empty calories is much appreciated.

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