Certified Personal Trainer and soon-to-be mom Libby Petrucci shares what’s been working throughout her first pregnancy.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy is a priority for many soon-to-be moms. However, with a baby on board, expectant mothers are faced with the challenge of finding a balance between maintaining their own physical health and ensuring the well-being of their baby. The question of ‘Is it safe to work out while pregnant’ has likely floated through the minds of many women, so to get to the bottom of how to safely and effectively work out while pregnant, we asked Certified Personal Trainer (and expectant mom) Libby Petrucci. Read on to see her recommendations for keeping both yourself and your baby safe and healthy.
For many of us, getting fit is partially for the health benefits, but it’s also because we want to look good (and there’s no shame in that). For expectant moms, though, Petrucci stresses that exercise becomes more about “learning” what your body is telling you, and not so much “to lose weight.”
Talking about the mental aspect of watching her body change, the trainer says “The mental aspect was really tough. My first trimester I was very much like, ‘I don’t feel good. I need to exercise. I need to work. I need to do this,’ and you’re fighting yourself. And then watching your body change is tough at first. You start comparing yourself to other people who were pregnant,” Petrucci says of seeing other recently pregnant trainers posting about their pregnancy journeys online.
While social media can be a helpful tool when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, Petrucci brings to light a problem that’s especially common in the fitness industry: the comparison trap. “You’re constantly comparing yourself to other people,” she says.
However, instead of letting comparison get to her, Petrucci decided to use her pregnancy to “appreciate the learning process.” She says she’s embraced “just going from my experience and saying, ‘Okay, I know that this is okay for me, so I’m going to do this. If other people want to follow, then it’s okay.’ And that’s given me a lot of mental strength as a trainer to become a little more confident and a little more comfortable because I know how to listen to my body more.”
On the topic of comparison, Petrucci stresses that pregnancy is an incredibly personal journey, and it’s important to do what works for you – not necessarily what you saw another trainer or influencer doing.
She says that while there are trainers who provide a wealth of knowledge on training and pregnancy, it’s important to “always do your research and see who you are following, and who you look to for advice. There’s so much information out there, and there’s so many different opinions. I always stress to my clients and try to remind myself that before you start doing stuff that you see people posting about and talking about, do your research on who they are and what their experiences are before you just do it.”
Petrucci emphasizes that what works for one mom-to-be might not work for another, so it’s important to go at your own pace and remember that pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all journey.
“Some of my pregnant clients are right on track with me, maybe a week or two ahead or a week or two behind,” the trainer says. “Then I have some that are just in their first trimester. I always tell them to be honest with themselves and never try to push themselves too hard. It’s the act of just moving that’s what’s really important, and that’s what more people need to do while they’re pregnant,”
“If my clients need to take breaks, or if something doesn’t feel right, we always adjust,” she says. As you continue on your pregnancy journey, remember that your pregnancy is unique. You might not be able to do all the same things a friend, trainer, or celebrity was able to do while pregnant, and that’s just fine.
Petrucci’s pregnancy has not only helped her find more confidence in her connection with her body but it’s also helped her discover the ‘why’ behind why she exercises.
When she initially started getting into fitness, Petrucci says she was “so into how my body looked. When I was just getting into my fitness journey, I wanted to strengthen this, and look better here, or be leaner here. Becoming a pregnant trainer, you become more aware of what your body is telling you, and what your body can handle. The purpose of training while you’re pregnant becomes learning.”
Petrucci continues, saying she’d ask herself, “Why is it important for my glutes to be stronger? Because my glutes will help me support my back, and help with my posture. Your perspective really does change as you’re pregnant and on your fitness journey. I’m protecting something else besides me. You just have a totally different perspective while training, and I think that’s allowed me to appreciate exercises and more behind why I do it while just enjoying the learning process.”
While Petrucci says that it is perfectly safe to work out while pregnant, she also stresses that it’s important to consult with your doctor, as every person and pregnancy is different. “I always consult with my doctor. I let her know this is what I’ve been doing training-wise, and ask if I need to step back.”
Petrucci also emphasizes the importance of having a doctor who values movement. “My doctor is very athletic, and she appreciates exercise,” the trainer says. “If I had a doctor who didn’t like movement, or didn’t encourage exercise, she wouldn’t understand,” Petrucci continues, sharing how the doctor you choose can have a larger-than-anticipated impact on your fitness journey while pregnant.
Even on top of her thorough knowledge of fitness, Petrucci still stresses that it’s “always good to consult a doctor.”
“I can’t speak from experience,” Petrucci says of her first pregnancy. “My doctor told me at my last appointment that as I get into these last nine weeks, my balance is going to be totally thrown off, so she recommends taking off deadlifts, taking off the unilateral work, and things like that. It helps me a lot because I don’t know what I’m going to feel like at 36 weeks, but I can be a little bit more aware of when my balance is going to be off. So then I can do that for myself, and pass it on to my clients.”
While there’s a lot that you can do while pregnant, there are also a few things that you should avoid, namely “hot yoga and hot Pilates. You just don’t want to go into a sauna when you’re pregnant. You don’t want to put your baby in that heat for a long period of time or under stress. The heat for the baby is not great,” Petrucci advises.
She also recommends watching out for hot days and outdoor workouts. “For me, I was starting to work out in our garage, and it would get a little later in the day, and I’d realize that it was too hot for me. I’d get air bubbles, become dehydrated, and just didn’t feel well.”
In addition to avoiding the heat, Petrucci also says that it’s important to know how to adjust your workouts as your “belly is growing.”
“In my second and third trimesters, I stopped doing full extension planks and I started doing more bear crawl position planks so that my knees protected my stomach and I could continue to keep my core engaged without pulling my back down. I also didn’t want to put any weight on my hips for hip thrusters or things like that. So I always wanted to make sure that if I added weight, it was because my core could support it. And if not, then I wouldn’t add weight to it.”
Petrucci says that if “you aren’t aware of what to avoid, following a program” can be a great option for expectant moms.
She currently has a pregnancy program in her app, Light by Libby, that just launched. The Glow Pregnancy Program includes “intense workouts so that you’re not just going a bodyweight workout every day,” she says but emphasizes that the program is tailored to include pregnancy-safe exercises that can work for every stage of pregnancy.
Want more from Libby Petrucci? Follow her @iamthelibster or check out her pregnancy-safe workout programs here. She also has several other programs if you want to train with her but aren’t a soon-to-be mom.