Listen, they call it labor for a reason.
Between growing an entire human for 40 weeks and then bringing them out into the world, mamas put in the work. And so while exercise sessions can feel increasingly comical as the size of your bump increases, they're all the more important as well.
"Expectant mothers absolutely should be working out," celebrity trainer Ashley Verma told E! News in a recent interview. "As long as your doctor and you have that conversation and you are on track, healthy, I've got to keep you moving. That is my job, and that is going to inspire you to get through labor and on the other side." As such, she continued, "I tell all of my clients that are expecting to keep going as much as you can. See how it feels."
At the time, the author wrote in her weekend column for Waitrose, "Keeping active—even for a sport fanatic like me—is getting increasingly challenging, but I'm determined to keep agile in preparation for labor, delivery and post-natal recovery. Besides, the third trimester is when your back and lower half take the most strain, and issues such as sciatica can kick in. So, keeping your back strong and in optimal health will help in the final few weeks."
So she hit the barre with Ashley. The retired performer founded boutique studio Define in her husband's native London in 2016 after a knee injury in the Vanessa Hudgens-led production of Gigi had her ready to try a new song-and-dance.
"I got into fitness as a side gig, working at a gym for free membership kind of thing," Ashley explained. "And, I really fell in love with group classes, and it just kind of escalated." Barre workouts a natural extension of her decades of dance training, "My workouts are full-body, head-to-toe," she said of the ballet-inspired, muscle-toning isolated movements. And by incorporating six- to eight-pound weights, "you can really get that calorie burn that a lot of people are looking for, but you can also get that kind of sculpted, long, chiseled lines."
Or, in the case of Pippa and her other expectant clients, you can prep for the workout of your life.
With labor—and the activeness of parenting—looming, "They need to not only be working on strength, we need to also be working on their endurance," noted Ashley. "They also need to be working on the cardiovascular element."
Interval training elevates the heart to a healthy rate while leg lifts and bridgework strengthens muscles enough to handle most of pregnancy's curve balls.
"As the baby grows, your posture will start to hunch, which creates lower back pain," explained Ashley. "Building strength in your legs, building strength in your arms will keep all of the negative stuff—the lower back, the sciatica—all away."
That was the goal for Pippa, who wrote in her column, "I feel far from a ballerina, but I'm equally determined not to break into a penguin-style waddle and plod around with bad posture."
Finding barre workouts to be "hugely beneficial in elongating, strengthening and protecting the back and spine—plus engaging the lower body," shared the mom of two, who welcomed daughter Grace March 15, "It's excellent for pregnant women in all trimesters as you mostly rely on your body weight, so it means little impact for your joints and is generally low risk."
And Ashley is well-armed with modifications to protect her clients' changing abdominals. "Do they drop to the floor and do 10 push-ups for me? No," she insisted. "They head over to a desktop, they head over to a ballet barre and they do an incline push-up there. There are wonderful, modified ways to get a killer workout in."
So she pushes clients like Pippa through standing leg work ("She was very energetic") and the "very old school '80s Jane Fonda" bridge movements that guarantee the type of rear that makes the world take notice. "I incorporate ankle weights as well," shared Ashley. "I incorporate gliders, anything that's going to get in there a little bit deeper, that's going to elevate that heart rate and make them sweat, make them burn, make them mad at me and then love me at the end of it."
Because the mom to 13-month-old Adiya is well aware her clients need to be tough as a mother.
"I hold my baby girl in the strangest funkiest ways," she shared. "And I might be down on the floor, holding her on my head while the other arm is trying to put laundry out. Like it is bonkers and you need to have strength."
Heading into labor and delivery—and beyond—"whatever your birth plan is," said Ashley, "you have to be prepared not only mentally, but physically."
And not in any sort of "snap-back" rediscovering-your-pre-baby-body type of way. "It's not about getting back into my skinny jeans," noted Ashley. "I mean, screw that." For her it's about safely building up as much strength in your core, in your pelvic floor "and learning all of those tools that you need to move safely," she explained. But above all, just keeping it moving, "Because the strength that you work on during your pregnancy, that strength is going to be your foundation on the other side."