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How exercise is looking for me at 20 weeks pregnant

Compared to my pregnancy with Thea a couple of years ago, this one is absolutely flying by; Likely a combination of having a hectic toddler to keep me (very) occupied, and not being in the middle of a lockdown where there was little else exciting to focus on beyond the human growing in my uterus. Until recently I've been in a state of, though perhaps not denial, certainly "bury my head in the sand"-ness (an official term ofc) to the fact I'm having another baby. That being said, since our 20 week scan last week things have started to feel more real. Seeing our boy healthy and happily wriggling around, and now starting to feel him give me a good old kicking in his waking hours, the balance of nervous feelings and excited feelings is shifting joyfully more toward the excited.

Mercifully, exercise has stayed a pretty consistent part of my routine so far with a few necessary adaptations. I wanted to share what my typical weekly training routine is looking like at the moment. Crucially this is not to act as a prescription for anyone else, but to give an idea of a few of the forms of exercise that are still perfectly safe (advisable, even) through pregnancy and, where necessary, how they can be adapted to suit the needs of the ever changing pregnant body.

Monday: Traditional strength training

Typically a full body workout adopting a 'high rep, low-moderate weight' approach. Proper bro training, if you will.

Tuesday: CrossFit class

CrossFit classes tend to be pretty varied, but the current Tuesday programme at my gym is strength centric and calls for 15 minutes of olympic lifting, 15-20 minutes back squat, and 15-20 minutes push/pull strength.

Adjustments: for now, I'm just adjusting weights and keeping the barbell movements the same. However, once my bump gets to a point where it's impeding my bar path for the olympic lifts like snatch or cleans, I'll be replacing those lifts with something with less risk of "bumping the bump" such as deadlifts. In terms of knowing how to adjust weights appropriately, I'm still allowing myself to feel challenged but avoiding high percentage weights that require me to really brace or feel like I'm having to grind out repetitions.

Wednesday: Rest/Active recovery day

I still get some walking in and I'm at work for 12 hours which means a fair bit of time on my feet. I'm by no means totally sedentary, but it's an opportunity for my body to recover from the last couple days of lifting.

Thursday: CrossFit class

Unlike Tuesday's programming which is predominantly strength, Thursday's is predominantly 'metabolic conditioning'. These workouts tend to be high intensity, cardio focussed workouts and can include a huge range of movements. You might see erg based exercises like rowing, biking, skiing, gymnastic movements like pull ups and toes to bar, weightlifting movements like squats, cleans, presses, thrusters, and/or high impact movements like burpees and box jumps.

Adjustments: erg based exercises remain the same, though I will be reducing or eliminating use of the rower as I progress through my pregnancy due to it being quite core dominant and the fact that at some point my bump will get in the way!

Gymnastic movements are probably the most heavily scaled for me at this stage if not eliminated. Going upside down for handstand push ups is a definite no for me, and I'm not able to control my core through any kipping movements like kipping pull ups or toes to bar and experience coning/doming (see pic). I am substituting any kipping pull ups for strict pull ups with the support of a band or ring rows. Toes to bar have been eliminated completely in favour of exercises like farmer's carry or front rack lunges that better serve me right now.

Weightlifting movements are generally just lower in weight.

For the high impact movements: burpees are currently switched for burpees where I step out to the chest to floor position and step in. Soon I will be removing the "chest to floor" aspect and either performing burpees with hands on the floor but no press up, or elevating the movement so my hands are on a bench or a box to reduce core pressure. Box jumps remain in my schedule so long as they're feeling good - a shock to me as I thought I had to stop jumping fairly early on. The same applies for single skips but I've removed double unders and I'm keeping my skipping reps low .

Friday: CrossFit class as above OR Swimming

Truth be told I only did my first pool swim since the age of about 13 last week. I managed 1km in 30mins and was pleased as punch with that. Swimming is a lovely low impact exercise that can be continued right up until the very end of pregnancy, all being well. It felt good to challenge myself in a different way, and I plan to incorporate more swimming in my routine as pregnancy progresses and I choose to reduce some of the impact work that is still feeling good at the moment.

Saturday: Run 5km-10km

Adjustments: pre-pregnancy I had got up to running distances of over 10km, with my longest run when I was unwittingly 1 week pregnant a half marathon! I've reduced distance to honour my lower energy levels and to reduce the time where my pelvic floor is under impact. More recently my runs have been closer to 5km because that's what has felt good, with a view to perhaps switch out running completely towards the latter stages of pregnancy for something like biking or swimming.

Sunday: Rest/Active Recovery

It's worth noting that at 18 weeks pregnant I had a 'Pregnancy MOT' (a women's health physio assessment specifically for pregnant women) with women's health guru Rosie Cardale and that has really informed what I'm doing exercise wise right now. The assessment has facilitated my keeping up with more impact work than I did at this point in my last pregnancy, the reason being I can be confident that my pelvic floor is strong and responsive enough to continue with it until/if it no longer feels comfortable or I start to experience symptoms such as leaking. I didn't have any kind of physio assessment during my first pregnancy and subsequently erred on the side of caution, removing impact work fairly early on. If you're in your second trimester or beyond and want to continue with exercise in the most informed, safe and empowered way possible, I would strongly advise seeing a women's health physio for such an assessment and/or working with a qualified prenatal trainer such as myself.

I have loved training even more this pregnancy as I am able to approach it without any fear or uncertainty. With the information from my Pregnancy MOT appointment, paired with my knowledge of pre and postnatal coaching, my lived experience of going through a pregnancy already and having worked with lots of pre and postnatal clients I'm feeling empowered and confident that I'm doing the best for my body (and my baby) at this stage of pregnancy.

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