In my second trimester, I was so happy about the way I looked that I bought a hot new outfit: a black tank top with spaghetti straps, snakeskin-print capri pants and silver strappy sandals. The secret to loving my body? Exercise. I used a burst of energy in my fourth month to step up my aerobic workouts.
I felt fit, strong and sexy. But it wasn’t always that way.
For the first few months of pregnancy, as I developed a little pooch, I worried that people might think I just needed to lay off the Häagen-Dazs. When my husband admitted that he noticed some pregnancy-induced cellulite on my thighs, I broke down in tears. Despite his assertions that he thought I was sexier than ever, it was hard to feel comfortable — much less sexy — in my own body when those first pounds showed up.
Since I’ve spent most of my life worrying about my weight, this reaction shouldn’t have surprised me.
“Women who were hyper-conscious about how they looked and how people viewed them prepregnancy are likely to become even more sensitive while pregnant, especially in the early months,” says Adrienne Ressler, a body-image specialist at The Renfrew Center in Coconut Creek, Fla. Her advice: Hold on to a positive self-image by viewing yourself with “soft eyes,” meaning to consciously appreciate, rather than criticize, your body. Name-calling is definitely out. Instead of referring to yourself with words such as huge or waddling, find complimentary adjectives, such as glowing or graceful.
Exercise can help you feel good about yourself and your body, too. “By toning key body parts such as arms and legs, expectant moms can feel more comfortable wearing sexy new clothes that will boost self-esteem,” says Elizabeth Trindade, creator and owner of Strollercize, a pre- and postnatal workout program based in New York, and a mother of three.
How to begin?Fit Pregnancyasked personal trainer and yoga instructor Teri HansonFit Pregnancy's fitness editor, to design an arms-and-legs workout to help you get ready for summer. “These exercises helped me to feel sexy because my arms and legs looked great while my breasts and belly were changing,” says Hanson, whose daughter, Shane Elizabeth, was born in February.
Hanson says she was surprised by how much pregnancy affected her ability (and desire) to do her usual routines. That’s why she developed a program that can be done at home with a chair and a few light dumbbells. “Weight lifting can be strenuous when you’re pregnant,” she says. “These moves allow you to continue to work out even as your body grows, to help maintain fitness levels, and to feel better about yourself and your changing body.”
Exercise helped me turn the corner. As soon as I was able to increase my workouts, I began to enjoy my new body. But I have to admit: I celebrated the day when my belly finally extended beyond my breasts, telling the world (in not so many words): “It’s not Häagen-Dazs — I’m going to have a baby!”
The Arms and Legs Workout
This routine can be done throughout your pregnancy (some moves do include trimester adaptations). Aim to do all of the exercises 3 times a week. Warm up by taking a brisk 5- to l0-minute walk; pump or swing your arms to warm up your upper body, adding arm circles if you like. When you’ve completed the workout, cool down by stretching your arms, back and legs. Hold each stretch without bouncing for about 30 seconds; don’t overstretch.
1. TRICEPS OVERHEAD EXTENSION
Sit back in a chair with your feet flat on the floor so your upper back is gently touching the chair back. Cup a dumbbell vertically between thumbs and forefingers and hold it behind your head, elbows bent and pointed toward the ceiling (A). Pull your navel in toward your spine to keep from swaying; squeeze shoulder blades together while keeping shoulders down. Keeping elbows stationary, straighten your arms, lifting the dumbbell toward the ceiling (B). Lower arms to starting position and repeat. Recommended weight: one 8- to 10-pound dumbbell. Do 2 sets of 10 reps, resting 1 minute between sets. What it does for you: This move gives great shape to the back of your upper arms and shoulders (and it’s easy to do throughout your pregnancy). Trimester tip: In the first trimester, you can do this standing; in your last trimester, place a pillow behind your back for support.
2. BICEPS CURL
Sit on the edge of a chair, feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging by your sides so elbows are against your side, palms facing forward and wrists straight (A). Pull your navel toward your spine to help you sit up tall and keep your back from arching. Pull your shoulder blades down and back. Keeping your elbows stationary, bend one arm, curling dumbbell toward your shoulder (B). Lower; then bend the other arm for one rep (a rep equals a curl with both arms). Recommended weight: 5–10 pounds in each hand. Do 1–2 sets of 10 reps, resting 1 minute between sets. What it does for you: This move tones and firms your arms and prepares you for lugging around a baby and all that gear. Trimester tip: As your pregnancy progresses, you may want to sit farther back in the chair and place a pillow behind your back for support.
3. LATERAL RAISE
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your body, and let your arms hang by your sides (A). Pull your navel toward your spine to help you stand tall. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back; keeping a slight arc to your arms, lift arms out and up to shoulder height (B). Slowly lower and repeat. Do 1–2 sets of 10 reps, resting 1 minute between sets. Recommended weight: 3–8 pounds in each hand. What it does for you: This move gives shape to your shoulders by strengthening your upper back muscles and teaches you how to maintain proper posture. Trimester tip: In your second and third trimesters, sit in a chair and place a pillow behind your back for support.
Stand with your legs hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Pull your navel toward your spine to stand tall, tailbone pointing down to the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back (A). Keeping your body weight toward your heels, bend both knees, lowering hips to the floor as if sitting in a chair; don’t let your knees extend over your toes (B). Straighten legs to starting position, squeezing buttocks at the top of the lift to bring your hips back under your shoulders. Do 2 sets of 15 reps. What it does for you: This move works all lower-body muscles at the same time and tones your thighs and butt. Trimester tip: Hold on to the back of a chair for balance in the third trimester.
5. STANDING HIP LIFT
Stand with your right side to a chair. Hold on to the back for support and place your left hand on your hip. Shift your weight to your right leg so you are balanced without leaning; lift your left foot off the floor and slightly in front of the midline of your body (A). Keeping your hips and shoulders square, and without rotating your hips or shoulders, sweep your left leg up and out to the left (B). Return to starting position and repeat for reps; then switch sides. Do 2 sets of 15 reps. What it does for you: This move strengthens and tones your upper hips and strengthens the hip rotators, which can help to prevent sciatica. It also helps to keep your hips stable as your pelvis expands and loosens in pregnancy (a response to the relaxin hormone).
6. BALLET LEGS
Stand with your right side to a chair. Hold on to the back for support and place your left hand on your hip. Bend your left knee to rest your left foot against your right calf (A). Extend your left leg out in front of you (B), then return to A. Without leaning forward, extend your left leg behind you (C), squeezing buttocks; then return to A. Repeat for reps; switch to other side. Do 2 sets of 15 reps on each leg. What it does for you: This move helps to strengthen and tone your legs and butt; it also teaches you how to maintain balance as your belly grows.
Video: Leg and Butt Workout, Prenatal Fitness, Class FitSugar
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