Two Prenatal Experts Weigh in on Workouts for Your First Trimester

So you just found out you’re pregnant…YAY! This is incredible! You are creating new life in your own body and you’re on top of the world. It’s everything you ever wanted and more. If you’re an avid aSweatLife reader, my guess is that you’re already active and living a generally healthy life and you just know that nothing is going to change that.

And then, roughly 6 weeks in, it hits you. The nausea. The morning sickness. The evening sickness. The exhaustion. And did we mention nausea?

Somehow, your morning workouts turn from a 6 AM Lagree class followed by a juice and walking to work to racing to the bathroom before you get sick all over your bedroom floor. This is not what you were hoping it would be. Will you ever feel normal again?

I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant with my first child and before I got pregnant, I swore to myself that I would push through any sickness I felt and maintain my current schedule. For some reason, it felt like an achievable goal for me…a goal that other women didn’t try hard enough to hit, but somehow I would be easily be able to achieve. What. A. Joke.

first trimester

According to the American Pregnancy Association, over 50% of women experience morning sickness during their first trimester of pregnancy. Experts aren’t sure why some women experience it while others don’t, but they do know its most likely brought on by the influx of hormones that your body experiences. Boo, hormones.

Your body is changing at an incredible rate, but that doesn’t mean you have to pause your life completely. I was lucky enough to get some pointers from two incredible Chicago-based and pre-natal certified fitness professionals, Victoria Sloane of EnviroFit Chicago and the SweatWorking app and Andrea Hassberger of SWEAT on working out during the first trimester. Both of them were happy to share some tips on making your fitness routine work for you, even during the dreaded first trimester.

Below are a few of their best tips that really helped me push through the nausea & exhaustion I felt during my first 12 weeks as a mommy-to-be.

On morning and evening sickness:

“The biggest challenge is exhaustion or morning sickness,” shares Sloane, a certified personal trainer and SweatWorking coach with a pre-natal fitness certification. “However, getting up and moving around will often help you feel better.”

Sloane goes on to explain that as long as you were regularly active before you got pregnant, you should be fine continuing your fitness routine with a few modifications here and there, but you should always check with your doctor first.

Pro tip: pay attention to the timing of your nausea and try to plan workouts outside of that time, even if it’s not when you would normally work out. For example, if you typically work out in the morning but you’ve had terrible morning nausea so far, switch to evening workouts temporarily.

“Just find a time when you feel best, and try to incorporate some exercise into that time,” advises Sloane.

On what workouts to try:

Sloane mentioned that interval training was her go-to during her first trimester because it allows you to maintain a good pace but also rest mid-workout.

Pro tip: Intervals, like AMRAP, TABATAS and EMOM are especially good for expecting moms because they raise your heart rate but allow you to take a breather in between. This allows you to really control how hard and how long you’re working out and ensures a great workout!

Andrea Hassberger has a different but equally effective approach. She believes in “simply moving throughout the day! Walking, doing chores, etc will actually fight off the feeling of fatigue and ward off nausea.”

Pro tip: Try what worked for Andrea: making a promise to yourself to at least show up to a workout class even if you’re not feeling well challenges you to at least give it a shot. Give yourself permission to leave mid-class if it feels like too much or if you’re simply not feeling it. (If you take classes, give your instructor a heads up before class starts that you’re newly pregnant and need to listen to your body!)

Hassberger says she found that she would always feel better once she started and almost always made it through the full workout! Just getting started can be the hardest part.

On what workouts to avoid:

For the most part, you should be able to stick to your current workout routines and attend your favorite classes during your first trimester, but there are some workouts that could potentially be dangerous to you and baby.

Sloane advises to “Avoid any sport that carries a higher risk of falling or abdominal injuries like gymnastics, downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, racquetball, outdoor cycling, etc. You’ll also want to avoid back bends of any deep flexion or extension of joints. Advanced ab moves like full sit ups or double leg lifts should be avoided.”

She goes on to say “Avoid any exercise environment that raises your temperature like hot yoga or a sauna, steam room, or hot tub because your blood will rush to your skin to cool your skin off and pull that source of blood towards your baby.” Sounds scary, and not worth the risk to you or your baby! Save the hot yoga for post-pregnancy.

On good advice during this time in general:

Both of these ladies gave me such an interesting outlook on maintaining my fitness routine in my first trimester. I asked them each to leave me and the aSweatLife readers with a few words of wisdom.

Sloane crushes it with her advice: “Your baby’s health and yours is the most important priority right now.” She advises to watch for common warning signs (like dizziness or lightheadedness, unusual pain, bleeding, chest pain, or generally feeling like something is wrong). If resting doesn’t help these symptoms go away, you should contact your physician.

Hassberger remind us all your body starts going through a million changes starting the second you conceive the baby and winning marathons can resume after the baby is here. She says “Now is NOT the time to start learning how to box or taking up any long distance races. It’s important to be active when you are expecting, but even more important to work out with the expectation and understanding that you are doing it to be healthy and have a healthy baby, NOT to lose weight or become ‘ripped.'”

Every doctor I’ve talked to mentions that working out while pregnant can help women have easier deliveries and shorter recovery time. But every doctor also advises that you need to learn to listen to your body and slow down if your body is telling you to.

Hassberger tell us to keep in mind that “there is nothing more important that taking care of that sweet child inside your belly, so if your normal workout routine doesn’t work for you during pregnancy, than don’t sweat it and don’t beat yourself up over it.  You can resume after you have your baby, and I promise you that you’re not going to care about missing your workouts for one millisecond once you hold that baby in your arms for the first time.” Never feel guilty for taking care of yourself or slowing down a bit during pregnancy – your body is giving you those cues for a reason!


The benefits of staying active while pregnant certainly outweigh the drawbacks, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to feel the same as it did before you were pregnant. The two most important things are that you move your body a little bit each day and listen to what your body needs. Chances are that once you start moving a bit, the endorphins you release will keep you going for longer than you had in you. And if they don’t, your body is telling you to rest because that’s what you need.



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About Ashley Stevens Phillips

Ashley is an Integrative Nutrition certified health coach living her dream life in Chicago with her husband and two puppies, Sal and The Dude. A Pinterest account manager by day, Ashley spends her free time tapping it back at Soul Cycle, blasting rap music while baking home made gluten-free granolas, and strolling though the local farmers markets with a green juice in hand. Ashley believes in balance in food and fitness and loves helping people meet their holistic wellness goals. Her ongoing personal goal is to try every class on ClassPass at least once, and she’s made a pretty good dent in the list so far.