Keeping fit on your path to pregnancy is a great thing. But overly intense workouts may do more to hinder your conception efforts than help.
Does your daily exercise routine include Rocky-style runs? Lance Armstrong–length bike rides? Or Michael Phelps–like laps? While starting an exercise routine and being active is almost always a positive move (exercise, after all, plays a huge role in overall health and wellness) and can help prepare your body for conception and pregnancy, there is an exception: Too much of a good thing can be, well, too much for your body when you’re trying to conceive. Super-intense exercise during preconception can alter your menstrual cycle and even halt ovulation. So if you’re looking to get pregnant soon, now would be a good time to reevaluate your workout regimen and talk with your health-care provider about your routine. The good news is that you won’t have to skip your fitness fix altogether — you’ll just have to dial down the intensity a bit. These guidelines will help:
If you’re a runner:
There’s no reason to give up this exercise before pregnancy. Running is an excellent cardiovascular activity; and it’s a surefire way to get your blood pumping. But this is not the ideal time for you to be training for a marathon or working toward a five-minute mile — both of which can put a big strain on your body and possibly interfere with your menstrual cycle. If you notice that your runs are wearing you out (they leave you extremely winded and weak, for instance) or that your menstrual cycle has become erratic, tone down the frequency, pace, and duration. Moderate jogs should keep you fit without jeopardizing your pregnancy plans.
If you’re a weight lifter:
Weight lifting is a great form of exercise. It builds muscle tone and bone strength — both of which will help keep you in top shape during pregnancy. But like any other form of exercise before pregnancy, pushing your body to the limit can interfere with your menstrual cycle. So instead of buffing up like Xena the Warrior Princess and lifting massive tons of heavy metal, use this TTC time to ease up on the poundage. Lift lighter weights with more repetitions or focus on resistance exercises that use your own body weight (including lunges, squats, crunches, and push-ups). You can also invest in some exercise bands, which add more resistance to your moves and keep you toned without overdoing it.
If you’re into yoga:
Yoga is an ideal exercise before pregnancy. It builds strength, balance, endurance, and muscle tone, and it helps to relax you — all things that will help your conception efforts. But it’s not without risk (hey, it’s hard to make like a pretzel!). Yoga injuries are common, and they can derail your baby-making efforts (imagine trying to get busy under the sheets when you have a back injury!), so you’d be smart to seek out the guidance of a teacher who can help you pinpoint your body’s limits. Plus, if you’re a fan of the super-hot Bikram yoga, you’ll probably want to cool it with that one for now. This form of yoga involves doing poses in a room that’s heated to between 95 and 105 degrees, and some doctors don’t recommend it while TTC. First, this is an especially strenuous type of yoga (which can leave you dizzy and dehydrated even if you’ve been doing yoga for years) and could potentially interfere with your cycle. Second, if you’re actively trying to get pregnant, sperm and egg can meet at any time, making you officially pregnant even if you haven’t gotten the happy confirmation from a pregnancy test — and exercising in an overly hot room isn’t safe for your brand-new developing fetus. But there’s no reason you can’t adapt your yoga routine to your needs now. Talk with your yoga instructor (and your doctor) to find the yoga style that will work for you.
If you’re a swimmer or a cyclist:
Both of these activities are fantastic forms of exercise. They are low impact yet they still build muscle tone and offer cardiovascular benefits. But pre-pregnancy is not the time to train for that triathlon because this could put undue strain on your system and interfere with ovulation. So put your dreams of completing the Ironman on hold for now and focus on exercising at a moderate to somewhat high pace. The activity should feel challenging, but it shouldn’t leave you drained and gasping for breath. A note to your partner in conception: Excessive cycling can raise body temperature in the groin area — and that can decrease sperm production. What’s more, men who do any form of exercise at a highly intense level may risk a decrease in sperm count — so tell your man also to keep his workouts in check during the TTC phase.
If you’re a cross trainer (you switch up your workout routines):
No matter what form of exercise you do, let your doctor weigh in on your routine to make sure your activities are safe while you’re TTC. Once you get the okay to go ahead with your exercises of choice, be sure to listen to your body, rest when you need to, and drink plenty of water. And when you cross that baby-making finish line and become pregnant, you’ll have to remember that overdoing exercise can still be risky — and so can certain activities, such as downhill skiing (falling could cause a blow to the abdomen), contact sports (ditto), horseback riding (double ditto), and scuba diving (dangerous gas bubbles can get into your baby’s circulatory system — so switch to snorkeling). And keep in mind that after you deliver your bundle of joy you can go back to your pre-pregnancy exercise routine (if you can find the time, that is!).