We hear it time and time again that swimming is one of the best forms of exercises for pregnant people, and we couldn’t agree more!
My name is Paige Biskaduros and I am the VP of Marketing at MySwimPro. As soon as I got pregnant 8 months ago, I realized how difficult it is to find swimming resources on the internet. So here I am today to help change that.
Keep reading (and watching!) to hear my journey of swimming through pregnancy, along with safety tips and my favorite suggested swim workout.
Benefits Of Swimming While Pregnant
Before we get started, I do want to talk about how important and SAFE it is to exercise while pregnant.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, swimming is one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy.
Swimming laps is low impact on your joints and ligaments, which helps to soothe any aches and pains you may be experiencing due to hormonal changes, swelling or weight gain. The weightlessness you’ll feel in the water can give you some pain relief, and the endorphins will make you a happier mama! It’s a safe form of cardiovascular exercise that raises your heart rate and is not likely to cause overheating.
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Is It Safe To Swim While Pregnant?
Swimming is great for all 3 trimesters, and only involves a very small risk of falling or slipping on a pool deck.
And once your baby is born and you are cleared for exercise by your doctor, it’s a fabulous exercise for postpartum.
We recommend that you swim in a chlorinated pool, or a clean and safe open water source such as a lake, ocean or river. It’s important to avoid pools or hot tubs over 102.2°F or super cold water to keep your body temperature safe for the baby.
It’s also important to keep in mind though that while swimming is generally considered safe during pregnancy, it may not be approved for people with certain medical conditions or activity restrictions due to pregnancy complications. We always recommend that you speak with your medical professional team before you swim, and to not take these tips as medical advice.
How I Exercised During My Pregnancy
Now let’s get to the fun part – what it’s like to swim while pregnant.
I am 31 years old and I’ve spent my entire life in my water. When I was a child I started swimming competitively and even did synchronized swimming. In high school I fell in love with water polo, and went on to play in both the Division I and Club leagues in college at Arizona State University.
Since then, I’ve been playing co-ed masters water polo 2 times per week, swimming every now and then, and competing in both water polo and swim competitions around the country. I also lift weights and go to a 1-hour HIIT class twice per week.
Now when I became pregnant, my exercise habits really changed. I sadly had to quit playing water polo because it is a physical, contact sport. But my doctor gave me the thumbs up on exercising and cleared me for my favorites – swimming, lifting weights, cross-country skiing, yoga & walking.
Because I’ve been an experienced athlete most of my life, she told me not to worry about elevating my heart rate and to modify exercises by listening to my body.
5 Important Swim Tips For Pregnant Swimmers
Now that’s enough about me. If you want to hear more about what I’ve learned in pregnancy, stick around to the end of the article.
Before I dig into my swim tips, I do want to over-emphasize how important it is to speak with your doctor and/or medical care team before beginning any form of exercise. Your body is changing a lot in pregnancy, and although swimming is a great form of exercise for some, it is not for everyone. This is not medical advice, and we highly recommend consulting with your doctor before you go for a swim.
1) Let go of your expectations
Your body is rapidly changing in ways you’ve never experienced before. You will need to learn how to modify your volume, load, and intensity in your exercises. Pregnancy is not the time to maintain or even grow your fitness levels, it’s a time to focus on your long-term goals of lifelong health and fitness.
2) Be prepared when you show up to the pool
Pay extra attention to how to keep your body and baby safe. Find the right swimsuit that is comfortable (more on that topic later!), stay hydrated with lots of water, apply sunscreen if you’re outdoors, and prioritize your safety with a lifeguard or training buddy.
3) If you’re a beginner swimmer, your goal should just be movement
You don’t necessarily have to swim the 4 competitive strokes to get a great water exercise. Remember, movement is medicine… and that can mean water jogging, modified strokes, stretching, or even just a super short workout of a few laps.
4) If you’re an experienced swimmer, remember that your body is much more capable than you think it is!
Just modify to accommodate discomfort in any strokes or drills, and accept the fact that you will feel slower and more fatigued in the water.
5) Focus on how you feel after your swim
This is what it’s all about! You should be proud of yourself for supporting your mind and body throughout this experience.
Now let’s jump in the pool!
The Best 30-Minute Swim Workout For Pregnant Swimmers
Today’s workout is 30 minutes and 1,000 yards long. It can be modified for any level of swimmer. I wrote this in the MySwimPro app, so my intervals are personalized to my skill level based on what the coaching app recommends for me. You can always adjust these times to your speed.
What’s cool is that I can sync the workout to my Apple Watch, and be guided through it step-by-step as I swim. It’s going to record all of my analytics, but to be honest… I’m not going to care much about my speed, because at this point in my pregnancy… my mindset is to train for enjoyment… not for speed.
- 1 x 200 freestyle @ 4:40
- 4 x 25 frIM @ 0:40
- 2 x 100 freestyle @ 1:55
- 8 x 25 kick @ 0:45
- 5 x 50 frIM @ 1:10
- 1 x 100 freestyle @ 2:10
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Before I get in, I’m going to do some dynamic stretching to loosen up my joints, prevent injury and get my heart rate going.
Wearing a silicone swim cap and tinted goggles is also going to really help me be more streamlined in the water, so I can focus on my technique.
I am not going to jump in the pool like I used to, but instead I’m going to slowly slide in so I don’t irritate the muscles in my core.
For our warm-up, I’m going to stretch it out nice and slow, there are no expectations to go fast here. I’ll do a 200 freestyle, then 4 x 25s FRIM. FRIM is a modified IM, which replaces butterfly for freestyle. So I’ll swim each stroke for 25 yards – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, then freestyle again. I personally hate doing butterfly while pregnant, so I swap this out for freestyle. Use these 25s to stretch out different muscle groups with each stroke.
For the Main Set, I’m going to get my heart rate up with 2 x 100s, focus on long and strong pulls with an early vertical forearm. If you’re like me, give yourself longer intervals to account for open turns, in case doing flip turns is uncomfortable for you.
Then I’m going to warm up my legs with a fast kicking set. I usually use a kickboard on my belly, but sometimes find that the arch in my back irritates my round ligaments and core muscles. You can also flip over to your back and kick with your arms in perfect streamline.
I also like to switch up the flutter kick with breaststroke kick to work different muscles.
Then I’m going to finish out with faster FRIM 50s. These short distances should be just enough to maintain technique, while also getting some endurance work in.
And the Cool Down… I’m going to end my workout with some silent swimming. I encourage you to think about your pregnancy journey as an almost moving meditation. Celebrate your body for going through this transition, and pat yourself on the back for getting through another great swim workout. Treating your body to this exercise is the best thing you can do for you at this moment.
After my swim, I love to feel my baby kicking around enjoying the movement! I’m going to avoid getting out on the side of the pool, so I don’t experience coning in my ab muscles. Instead, I’ll head to the ladder where I feel more stable. Now it’s time to EAT and TAKE A NAP!
If you want to make this workout easier or shorter, you can swap some of the strokes out for strokes that you’re more comfortable with. You can shorten the amount of reps, distance or interval speed. Or, you can simply replace some of this with water jogging if you’re in a pool that is not too deep.
To make this workout more advanced or longer, I recommend doubling the reps in the main set. Just make sure to swim a longer cool down so you can properly recover.
Give it a try today in the MySwimPro app and let me know what you think!
What I Learned As Pregnant Athlete & Swimmer
- I played in a men’s masters water polo tournament when I was 9 days post-ovulation, and MAN was I exhausted. I could tell something was up with my body, since I got tired very quickly, and I noticed more shoulder and knee pain after playing a full game. I’ve never experienced that achiness in my joints before. I spent the weekend enjoying my potential last tournament for a while, before finding out I was pregnant in the coming weeks.
- Then fast forward to our MySwimPro Team Retreat in Phuket, Thailand! I traveled with our team and spent weeks 8 & 9 in my pregnancy on this trip. My doctor cleared me for exercise, and even told me that diving was alright, since my little one was barely 1 inch long and still protected low behind my pubic bone. Although I had nausea most days, I was able to enjoy the trip and got to swim with the whole MySwimPro team – that was a blast! Now I won’t get into the details of the 24 hour trip back to Michigan… that was MISERABLE!
- From weeks 10-20 of my pregnancy, it was extremely hard to exercise. I was very sick, nauseous and vomiting more than 5 times per day. The pure exhaustion made it really difficult to even go for a walk around the block. I gave myself some grace knowing that this phase is not forever, and I will be able to get back into moving my body more once again. Now don’t get me wrong, this was really hard for me and made me feel pretty depressed… I just had to be patient.
- I spent my time learning a lot about how to train safely and effectively while pregnant. I followed a lot of accounts on Instagram and TikTok which connected me with some great resources for coaches who specialize in pregnant athletes. Our medical community still has so much to learn about pregnancy, but it’s truly amazing how capable and strong your body can be throughout this transformation. I highly recommend doing some of your own research on how movement and strength training can dramatically improve your pregnancy symptoms.
- By the time my 2nd trimester came around, I was still puking all day up until around 20 weeks. I slowly got back into swimming, weight lifting and walking around 18 weeks. It felt INCREDIBLE to be back exercising!!
- On days where I felt super sick, I still tried to show up to the pool and honestly spent most of the time just walking back and forth in my lane… just keeping my feel of the water, and getting some movement. Being in the water always makes me happier, but this was still tricky some days where the movement just made me more nauseous.
- I kept a puke bucket at the end of my lane, which I definitely had to use once or twice!
- As for my technique, doing perfect streamline was a bit more uncomfortable. Stretching my abdomen muscles that much was a little painful.
- I gave up on doing flip turns, my abdomen muscles felt so much weaker and the spinning was a lot for me. I transitioned to open turns for every stroke.
- Around 25 weeks, I started experiencing really intense pain in my pelvic joints and ligaments. This made doing breaststroke pretty tricky. After visiting a pelvic floor physical therapist, I was diagnosed with symphysis pubis dysfunction, also known as SPD. I made sure to do my daily stretches and exercises, and decided to even ramp up my # of workouts per week. I’m very glad I did this, because the pain dramatically decreased at around 30 weeks.
- I wore a smartwatch some days to track my heart rate while swimming. Based on my research and my doctor’s recommendations, I was not concerned with getting my heart rate too high – since I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and was training at pretty high intensity before pregnancy, it is safe for my body to continue this level of exercise with a higher heart rate
- Wearing a smartwatch and tracking my times did stress me out, to be honest. It was disheartening to see how much slower I was getting. Honestly, this made exercise not as fun. Which was a bummer, because for so long I’d been pretty depressed from the all day nausea, it was hard to not have exercise as an outlet for endorphins and stress relief. Eventually I chose not to wear it, and just enjoyed the water.
- I also had to get used to a new swimsuit – the options on the internet are pretty terrible. A lot of them are made of lycra or materials that wear out really quickly, and are too stretchy. They also have padded cups which are annoying for swimmers. It was also tricky to find one that I knew would fit me across the different growth stages of my belly, helping me to justify spending money on a suit that I would probably only wear a handful of times before I outgrew it.
- Now in my 3rd trimester, I’d say the biggest hurdle I’m dealing with is my weight gain. I’m on track to gain at least 35 pounds during my pregnancy. My doctor says everything is healthy, but the weight gain has definitely brought its toll of aches and pains, which also makes it hard to sleep at night.
- On top of that, I am just so tired and out of breath all the time. Due to my schedule and pool availability, I have been swimming far less. To be honest, at this time in my pregnancy, I prefer my group HIIT classes, weight lifting & yoga because it’s a great social outlet, and I really believe that by focusing on strength training and pelvic floor work I’ve been able to avoid pelvic floor issues and joint pain. Thanks to my pelvic floor PT’s guidance, I personally feel a lot better during and after exercise. I truly believe that movement is medicine.
- Dealing with the mental side of rapid weight gain has not been easy. But I just keep reminding myself that my body was made to do this, and that this is just a phase… it won’t last forever. When the time is right, I’ll be back to my old exercise habits and feel strong again in my body!
- Overall, I have been extremely lucky to have a healthy and happy pregnancy. My biggest advice to other pregnant people is to KEEP MOVING and see a pelvic floor physical therapist as soon as you begin experiencing painful symptoms.
I hope these tips and workout ideas help you or a loved one in your pregnancy journey. Thank you for following along! I’d love to hear what’s helped you while pregnant, leave me a comment below to share!
For more personalized swim workouts and training tips, download the MySwimPro app!
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