Pre & Postnatal

How to Make Movement Accessible for a Pregnant Client

When I was pregnant I went to a lot of group fitness classes. In fact, I wrote a post about it 🙂 I tried as best as I could to keep up with the class and instructor, but I often found I needed a few options for my changing body. Some of these options I was given. But mostly, I figured it out on my own. This experience was one big reason I sought additional education. 
In talking with other pregnant women I’ve heard this feedback a lot. In group fitness they can sometimes feel ignored or unsupported. “The instructor didn’t help me or show me any modifications,” “I didn’t know which exercises were safe or unsafe,” and “I couldn’t keep up” are just a few examples. 

This can be for a variety of reasons:

1. Instructor isn’t knowledgeable on how to train a pregnant client. The truth is, not every instructor knows how to coach a pregnant body. They may fear causing more harm (liability), so they may choose to do nothing OR see if a colleague or other class participant can help (if time allows).

2. Instructor doesn’t have time to support a pregnant client 1:1. A lot of group fitness classes are large. A bootcamp class could have 30+ people. With an instructor following a clock, a set routine, coordinating music, and cueing 1-2 groups, there’s very little time to work 1:1 with a client. As an instructor I often see people performing an exercise incorrectly. But, there’s very little time to help everyone. That’s what before or after class time is really for in a large group setting. 

3. Pregnant client doesn’t ask for support and/or show up early to class to set up their space for success (if possible). This is where the responsibility falls on the pregnant client. A mom-to-be needs to speak up and ask for support. Show up early to set up your space, ask questions about the upcoming workout, and get comfortable with the instructor. This makes such a huge difference. 
4. Pregnant client does not disclose their pregnancy or need for support and staff / instructors are afraid to ask. Often times instructors may be afraid to ask if you’re pregnant. No one wants to be wrong! So, voice up 🙂 I also recommend studios and trainers put this on their intake forms. 

How do you make movement accessible for a pregnant client in class?

1. Train the person you have in front of you: You shouldn’t be training at the level you did pre-pregnancy. You may feel pressure to do so, but I promise you’ll get there again. If you need to take a break – do it. If you need to go lighter in weight – do it. Tune in to your body and your energy levels. As a coach we need to encourage this versus “pushing through it.” Language is important.

A note about language: One of most amazing aspects of group fitness is community and inclusivity. I like to use the words “options” and “accessible” versus “modifications” while teaching. This implies they are capable of performing the movement, but doing so in a way that makes it accessible in their body.

2. Be Flexible: Pregnancy is exhausting. Being a new mom comes with a ton of new priorities and daily activities. Clients may show up a few minutes late or need to leave early. They may have to run out to use the restroom. Be flexible. Don’t call them out or make a big deal about it, unless it’s a serious safety concern. Most likely, they are upset about any of these scenarios already.


3. Refer Out: Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” That actually makes you a better coach. If a client says, “I have pain here” don’t make a guess unless you have the knowledge to do so. Refer out to a Certified Coach or recommend the client see a medical professional.

4. Ask the question, “how can I support you today?” Leave the conversation open for the pregnant client to answer. I recommend a pregnant client shows up early to class so they have time to have this dialogue with a coach. I might set up their bench or space a bit differently, grab different equipment, encourage them to take a particular spot, or give them a preview of what may pop up in class, as well as an option that may feel best in their body. Set them up for success. I guarantee they will have a better overall experience and come back.

Making movement accessible for all bodies is so important as an instructor. Asking for this support is important as a pregnant woman, or as a client in general. The goal is to create an experience you will love, and one that is safe and fun for your body. 
Why is it important to learn how to support a pregnant woman in class? Chances are you will have a pregnant client in class soon 🙂
  • Women make up 67 to 75 percent of all health and fitness clients.
  • Women influence 70 to 80 percent of all spending globally.
  • 85 percent of women will have a baby at some point in their life.

Stats via Girls Gone Strong. 

What was your experience like attending classes while pregnant? I’d love to know more below! 

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