How to Stick to Your Workouts When You’re Dealing with Morning Sickness

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Quick disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional of any kind. If you have specific questions about exercising while pregnant, please consult your doctor. This post is based on my own personal experience with morning sickness and working out during my pregnancy.

I’ve been getting a ton of questions about working out during my first trimester, especially with regard to exercising when you feel like poo because of morning (all day) sickness. As you probably remember, I had a pretty bad case of morning sickness myself, but I didn’t end up missing too many workouts because of it. That said, here are a few tips and tricks that helped me stick to my workouts during my first trimester.

Listen to your body

You guys knew I was going to say this, right? Well, it’s true. There were days during my first trimester that I just felt so bad, there was no way in hell I was going to exercise, so I listened to my body and laid on the couch instead. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with this. The first trimester is a really busy (and exhausting) time for your body””hello, you’re making a HUMAN””so I never once felt bad about taking a day off from exercise. If anything, the time off and extra rest helped me feel better and more like my old self for the next day’s workout.

Switch the time of day you exercise

If you typically exercise in the morning, but your nausea is terrible first thing in the day, exercise at night. If it’s worse at night, switch your workout to the morning or mid-day at lunchtime. You get what I’m saying, right? Basically, work out when you’re feeling your “best.” My nausea was so bad in the afternoon and evening, I often switched my CrossFit workouts to the morning or tackled my training runs right after breakfast before my morning sickness got too bad, which made it possible to stick with my usual exercise routine.

Incorporate intervals or rest into your workouts

Doing workouts that incorporated intervals or rest helped me so much during my first trimester (as well as the rest of my pregnancy), especially since I was still getting used to what my new (pregnant) body was capable of. Before I was pregnant, I could do a 30-minute metcon or run 5 miles without stopping, no problem. Midway through my first trimester, however, my cardio capacity changed, and I found it a lot more difficult to power through these types of workouts. Obviously, taking breaks was the easiest way to catch my breath, but I really appreciated (and enjoyed!) when my workouts incorporated intervals or rest into them (i.e. short AMRAPs, Tabatas, EMOM), so I could stick to a good pace and keep going with my workout.

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Eat a small snack right before you work out

Eating a little something before exercising always helped settle my stomach. Usually, I’d eat half of a banana with almond butter or a rice cake with some The Laughing Cow cheese spread on top. The key for me, however, was not to eat too much because then I’d end up burping up whatever snack I just ate, which was not fun. (I did this once with guacamole, and it was awful!) I just made sure whatever snack I ate was small and mostly carb-y.

Find something you love to do

For real. I cannot stress this one enough. If you don’t like your workout, you will NOT want to do it when you’re struggling with morning sickness. Obviously, I love CrossFit, so I never wanted to miss a workout, which kept me going even when I wasn’t feeling 100%.

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Remember exercise might make you feel better

During my first trimester, I almost always felt better and had more energy after a workout. In fact, my nausea would pretty much go away for the hour or so following my workout, so that was a big factor in helping me stick with my workouts. Even if I felt crappy at the start of a workout, I knew I’d feel better by the end, and I usually did!

Go for a walk

When I wasn’t feeling well enough to do my usual workouts, I would often head outside for a walk with Murphy and my favorite podcast. Simply moving and getting some fresh air always made me feel a little bit better and gave me some energy.

Don’t worry about missing workouts

Seriously. I get this question so often from readers, and I really, truly didn’t worry about missing workouts when I wasn’t feeling well. I knew pregnancy was a whole new ball game for my body, so I just trusted that it would do what it needed to do (i.e. telling me to take a rest day or toning it down with the intensity of my workouts). Same goes for gaining weight. (I also get this question a lot.) When you’re pregnant, you are suppose to gain weight. I gained more than the recommended amount during my entire pregnancy, but my doctor was never concerned, so I wasn’t either. Again, I trusted my body to do what it needed to do to make a healthy (and insanely active) baby.

P.S. Here is a great article from the CrossFit Journal where mothers share their experience with CrossFit during their pregnancies: Baby On Board.

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35 Comments

  1. I found working out before I went to work in the morning was best for me because if I felt nauseous, it was mid morning. I agree with not worrying about missing a workout, the first trimester is truly exhausting! You look great:)

  2. I found that working out actually helped with my morning sickness (as strange as it seems). It was just a matter of convincing myself that I would feel better if I went, but it worked like a charm!

  3. I honestly think one of the things that scares me most about pregnancy is dealing with morning sickness at work. I’ve seen some ladies who end up taking long breaks in their cars… but I have all-day meetings I run which wouldn’t work. I have no idea how you managed to keep up with all your workouts – you’re amazing!!! (and the baby due date is sooooooo close now 🙂 )

  4. I feel like you should rename this post. It’s not about “sticking to” workouts, like you say. It’s about adapting your workout schedule during your first trimester. And it’s actually really great advice! The only thing I would add is that women should double up on the hydration efforts. If you’re programmed to count calories/miles/reps, whatever, it’s great to switch to counting ounces of water you’ve consumed. Try to hit 64 one day, 72 the next, etc.

  5. I recall that my workout routine changed pretty drastically right away (I couldn’t handle the smell in the gym lol)…I did however ensure to take a daily walk each morning before work plus a walk during my lunch hour. It was enough for at the time and my body still bounced back after delivery (it took a few months to get to normal but I think nursing had something to do with that too!).

  6. These are good tips. I think they all ring true. For me, eating really frequently helped keep the nausea at bay and I usually felt best first thing in the morning, so that’s when I went.

  7. What great tips! Although I am not or plan to be pregnant anytime soon this will help me with my clients who are 🙂 I am starting to do a lot of research with exercise and pregnancy and the benefits (of course!) are astounding! Keep it up!

  8. I certainly hope to maintain my workouts when I’m pregnant one day, but with safe modifications of course. It’s great to see someone who was able to stay consistent throughout. Thanks for the thoughts.

  9. Great advice! I took a solid 3 weeks off in my first tri because I was just so sick. Thankfully, I’ve been able to workout regularly in me second trimester but there are definitely days when my body just needs rest. This happens a lot more often than when I wasn’t pregnant but obviously, my body is working a million times harder than it usually does.

    1. I’m so glad I ran across this blog and reading all these responses. It’s comforting to hear Lauren’s post because I’m just half way through the first trimester and I’ve been dealing with nausea that has nearly stopped all my workouts. I’d workout 2-3 hours everyday from yoga to trail running to weights. Then bam, one day nausea, and getting worse day by day, and since smells and motion set it off even worse, I’ve had to cut back a lot. I’ve even felt worse after a workout! I am certain it’ll get better, but for now this is my new norm and I’ve got to be patient with my body and growing baby.

  10. Hi Tina,

    Just wanted to say thanks for your post today. While I am not pregnant, I was not feeling too great when I got home from work. I was tired and had zero energy. I had a 3 mile run scheduled for today, and I was just going to skip it. But then I read your blog post. And I decided that instead of running it, I should do some intervals. I ended up finishing the three miles and then walked a little extra. And I felt way better when I was finished. So I just wanted to say thanks for the reminder that something is better than nothing.
    Thanks for the motivation,
    Janette

  11. I always felt better when I worked out when I was pregnant. It was the one thing that made me feel like regular non pregnant self. My OB encouraged it and says that his patients who exercise have less morning sickness. While I didn’t feel great during that first trimester, I did feel better after each workout. I worked 10 hour plus days at my job on my feet all day as a CRNA, so I would often sleep for 30 minutes until my hubby got home then go and work out but I was able to train and run a 1/2 marathon when I was 18 weeks and worked out unitl 32 weeks when I was put on bedrest. It was a big mental boost to workout for me.

  12. You have such a healthy view on trusting your body and listening to it. Great post! Though this doesn’t really compare, this past week has been crazy and I’ve only gotten about 6 hours of sleep at night. I had planned to work out on Tuesday, but was so exhausted, I knew I would be doing more harm than good if I worked out. So I took the extra (unplanned) day of rest and I felt so much better the next day.
    Good to know that you actually felt better after you worked out.

  13. Good post, I agree having just gone through all that myself. 🙂
    Taking walks is a fantastic way to get moving even when you don’t feel like it, and you posts are such great resources, I’m 21 weeks now, and refer back to your workouts, tips, struggles, and encouragement week by week. So thanks.

  14. Great post! I think that you are helping a lot pregnant women with this article. i personally believe that pregnant women should still exercise especially if it has been a part of their daily routine. I read somewhere that women that still work out during pregnancy have easier time during labor and delivery that being said women should still be very careful and delicate about it since working out is really not that common with pregnant women let alone do it with morning sickness. Your post can be a very good guide for pregnant women who want to work out but are clueless on how to do it or where to start.

    Regards,
    Dennis

  15. I was an avid person who worked out everyday 5 days a week after having my first son. With this new pregnancy my morning sickness is literally all day long. I can barely leave my home. My workouts don’t consist of much anymore because even the simplest movements like walking sets it off. I’m missing my workouts more than ever. Can’t wait for this morning sickness to go away!!

  16. When I was pregnant I had terrible morning sickness and read that peppermint helped with nausea, I did a little digging and found this wristband that combines aromatherapy and acupressure to help with nausea. I bought it off http://www.nomonausea.com and they helped me through my pregnancy! Absolutely amazing!

  17. Thank you for this article, I went from prepping for NPC Bikini show to finding out I was pregnant and hardly being able to move from being so sick. It’s bothering me that I can’t work out like I used to, but at the same time it has helped put life in perspective.

  18. Thanks for this article! I’m on my first pregnancy at 8 weeks and I’m a collegiate athlete on the track and cross country team I am use to running around 75 -80 miles per week and I can make it through the week but then the weekend hits and I hate running all the sudden because of morning sickness! I feel guilty sometimes for skipping my training until I realize that I honestly can’t do it some days right now… I’m learning to have grace for myself. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t being a big ol baby and that morning sickness can be bad enough to stifle my training some times.

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