Pregnancy & exercise: What you need to know about working out for two

Jess shares a few shots on how she stays active during her pregnancy

Jess shares a few shots now that she’s working out for two!
Credit: Jess Allen/

You can’t read a celebrity magazine nowadays without seeing some kind of commentary on pregnancy and weight gain, whether women are being criticized for being too thin or too heavy.

All this attention on the pregnant figure got me thinking about the changing attitudes toward exercise and pregnancy and how we still have a long way to go in debunking popular myths about staying active while expecting.

To learn more (the topic hits close to home; my sister gave birth March 18), I sat down with blogger Jess Allen of, a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, adjunct exercise science instructor, CrossFit fanatic, coach’s wife and former Stanford softball player (whew!).

Allen is not only in the final few weeks of her pregnancy, but she’s also uniquely qualified to address some of the most common concerns when it comes to working out for two.

Kinetic Fix: How do you think the views toward exercise during pregnancy have changed over the years?

Jess Allen: Thankfully, our society has embraced fitness and pregnancy in recent years. No longer is pregnancy a sentence for sedentary lifestyle. We are seeing women stay active throughout their pregnancy continuing to run, strength train, CrossFit, with modifications, for the duration!

Why is it important for pregnant women to maintain their fitness routine?

While pregnancy isn’t the time to make gains or set PR’s, maintaining one’s strength will help support the impending weight gain that occurs. I think maintaining one’s fitness throughout pregnancy not only promotes an easier delivery (I sure hope this is the case with me!), but women can recover much faster postpartum by staying active.

Walk us through your own experience: Did you amp up your workouts in anticipation of pregnancy, or did you take a wait-and-see approach?

To be honest, this pregnancy was a bit of a surprise! However, I was in the best shape I’ve been in since college, and that has played a huge role in how great I have felt during this entire pregnancy. My energy level and strength have been consistent. As a result, my weight gain has been manageable, and I’m still teaching classes! However, with some workouts, like CrossFit, I have reduced my intensity and expectations.

What’s been the biggest benefit of working out while pregnant?

By practicing a “fit-pregnancy,” I have received many compliments from women telling me how empowering it is to see! That excites me! I want to continue to set a healthy, active example for my future daughter. Staying fit is simply a lifestyle.

Has anything surprised you about exercising with your “new” body?

My lack of mobility! Now that I have a growing belly, I simply don’t have room to bend and move like I used to!

What’s the biggest myth you’d like to dispel about fitness and pregnancy?

The prescribed heart rate (140 bpm) is merely a ball-park figure. Listen to your body. If you can talk and exercise, you are probably fine to keep going. Likewise, be realistic and forgiving; you won’t be able to push yourself like you did pre-pregnancy, so adjust expectations accordingly.

Any favorite exercises for expectant moms that you can share with us?

Even though the mid-section is growing in girth at this time, planks and the many plank variations, help pregnant women support a growing belly, strengthen upper body, and maintain a strong core. Additionally, I love kettle bell swings for a full-body strength move that gets your heart rate up!

Have you made any plans for getting back to your pre-pregnancy level of fitness once Baby Girl arrives this summer?

I have thought a lot about this already! I know I must be adaptable to a new schedule and routine with a baby, but my plan is to utilize the HIIT (high intensity interval training) home workouts I have created in the past and take advantage of my home “gym.” These workouts are efficient but VERY effective, so I don’t need to spend hours working out. Because it will be summer, I anticipate spending time outside, walking my dog and gradually incorporating running and CrossFit back into my routine. Additionally, I plan to breastfeed, so my food choices will revolve around healthy, nutrient-dense foods so my daughter and I both benefit!

Interested in learning more about exercise while expecting? Check out Jess’s blog, Blonde Ponytail, for great workout tips, training advice, nutrition information and more.

And stay tuned for my post-pregnancy interview with Jess…we’ll discuss her workout and weight-loss plans after Baby Girl Allen makes her debut in just a few short weeks!