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Exercise dos and don’ts during pregnancy

It’s not everyday I get to interview a three-time Olympic medallist, but a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to do just that. As one of Canada’s most elite and decorated Olympic athletes, Karen Cockburn has quite literally taken the sport of trampoline to new heights.

As incredible as her professional achievements have been though, she says her greatest moment yet was becoming a mom one year ago. So who better to speak to the importance of exercise in pregnancy? Here is part of my conversation with Karen, talking about her leap from the Olympics to motherhood and back again.

Q: When you were training for the Olympics, what did your average week entail?

A: When I was training for the Games, it was six days a week up to six hours a day and it included trampoline sessions, weight training, cardio, Pilates, flexibility work. Lots of different things to be in peak form.

Q: Then along comes baby!

A: As an athlete, you’re always planning everything. So after the Olympics, I planned to get pregnant. I was in great shape and already taking prenatal vitamins at the Olympics. It took about three months and I was ecstatic that it happened so quickly. Then there was a complete change of pace. You can usually continue to exercise when you’re pregnant, but with trampoline, you have to stop because of the impact. I had to find other things to stay in shape, so biking, swimming.

Q: Did you plan out your exercise strategy with your doctor?

A: My doctor advised me on what I could do when I was pregnant and of course I followed those guidelines. I had to be very careful during my pregnancy because I had gestational diabetes. I’m an elite athlete with a healthy diet and have no family history, so I was shocked when I got the diagnosis, but these things can happen to anybody. I only gained about 35 pounds during my pregnancy and had to stay active throughout because of my condition.

Q: Did staying active help keep you in a positive mood?

A: It was a huge change with my body, but you’re growing a life and that’s such a magical thing! It was more about staying healthy and being in shape to last through the labor, which mine was 27 hours, so being in shape really helped with that. I had morning sickness for 19 weeks, 24 hours a day and it’s tough to exercise when you’re feeling like that, but I tried to do as much as I physically could and I think it made me feel better actually. My second and third trimesters were great.

Q: What was your training schedule like after the birth of your daughter?

A: After her birth, I had about 5 weeks of just baby time and rest. Then I started jogging again and my body was feeling better. About two months later I started in a gym with body weight exercises, just getting fit. I didn’t come back to trampoline until 5 months after having her. I had a good three months of weight training, cardio, just to have that strong base before trying to jump 20 feet in the air!

Q: What advice to you have for other women?

A: It’s really important to talk to your doctor about what you’re going to do. It’s good to be in shape before you get pregnant. And doing some form of exercise in pregnancy and after. But enjoy your baby! I wasn’t rushing back into training. It’s a special moment when your baby arrives and that’s your focus. Then you just slowly fit exercise back in when you can. It gives you more energy to be with your baby.

Q: How does motherhood compare to the Olympics?

I always thought achieving Olympic medals and standing on the podium were those moments, but nothing can compare to my daughter being born. That’s the most amazing moment so far for me.

For more information on exercise in pregnancy, check out these resources:

• Exercise+Pregnancy Hotline: 1-800-363-9353
Health Canada
PARmed X for Pregnancy
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada


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Dos and Don’ts

Exercise in Pregnancy:

• talk to your doctor
• determine safe levels of activity for you
• switch to low-impact activities
• eat proper nutrients and stay hydrated
• be aware of the guidelines

Not Advised:
• starting an exercise program without physician consent
• participating in high-risk activities
• being sedentary unless so advised
• cutting back on necessary nutrients
• continuing activity if pain or bleeding occur

Exercise May
• lower the risk of gestational diabetes
• reduce the need for interventions in labour
• help mothers maintain a healthy weight
• reduce some aches and pains of pregnancy, like back pain


About the author

Monica Matys

Monica Matys is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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1 Comment

  • Oh WOW! It’s so wonderful to see that one of the maternity photos I did with Karen made it into your video (the shot with the belly and Olympic medals) I just LOVED working with her! Your blog post and video were very informative and I’m sure will help to educate women on the benefits of exercise during pregnancy! 🙂