Over the past 36 weeks my body has had the incredible blessing of being a home to a growing baby boy. Although there have been many emotional and physical ups and downs, the one thing that I know I can always return to is making my body strong to endure the marathon of labor and the even longer marathon of mommyhood.
It’s interesting though: working out has taken on a completely different meaning for me over the past several months. It is no longer recommended to push myself the way that I’m used to doing as an athlete. Exercise in general is no longer about the way I look, the way that I perform in an athletic endeavor, or competition in any way, shape or form. Exercise is now about making sure my baby has a healthy place to grow and making sure that my body will be able to handle the pressures that will surely come over the remaining bit of pregnancy, labor, and postpartum life. And you know what? I would not have it any other way! The respect I have for my body and what it has gone through and what it will go through has been one of the biggest influences a girl could ask for.
That being said, how does one stay fit during pregnancy? How can you make sure that your body is in the best shape for the biggest change of your life? What does it look like to exercise in each trimester?
First of all, do not start any workout plan without first consulting a physician, especially when pregnant. Be sure that you are paying attention to what your body needs in terms of rest and fuel – now is not the time to be a hero!
In my experience (and according to my doctor) it is typically best to do what you have been doing pre-pregnancy in your first trimester. That means if you are running and it still sounds good to run, do it. If you are doing yoga, keep it up. One of the best ways to fight morning sickness and fatigue is to move, so do your best to get up and move around. When I first found out I was pregnant I had just built up to running a mile without resting, but did not feel comfortable continuing to do so. I changed my morning running routines to walking and hiking and, when the summer heat got unbearable, would do cardio DVDs in the comfort of my air-conditioned living room. I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t do it every day, but the days that I did I could tell a huge improvement in the way I felt both physically and emotionally. Luckily for most women relief comes in the form of Week 14, AKA the beginning of the second trimester.
In the second trimester I started walking a LOT more. As in 5 miles a day 5 times a week more. I immediately felt better, was able to eat better, and moving around just felt good. I also began prenatal yoga classes to help stretch and strengthen muscles that were being neglected in the flexibility department and that I knew I would need to be strong for labor. On vacations, with the OK from my doctor, I paddle boarded, kayaked, and swam. I continued to work out to DVDs and took up more strength training with bands for stabilization work. Second trimester was a dream in that I felt amazing pretty much all the time. This is definitely the time to realize what your fitness goals should be as a pregnant woman and go for them – remember, all with the blessing of your caregiver!
Now that I’m in the third trimester the bulk of my workouts are in the 3-4 mile walks after lunch every day, the evening chores that I do (and trust me, chores are very physically demanding at 9 months pregnant!), and the prenatal yoga classes that I go to weekly. I have really toned down the intensity of my workouts, but just as in the first trimester being on the move is one of the most important things you can do!
Pregnancy has been an exercise in being humbled; I miss running, I miss hard strength training, and I miss Bikram yoga. I want to try the newest, hardest, coolest workouts, but realize that it is not the best idea when there is life being created within me. I’m already a superhero as a mom-to-be!
What are your favorite ways to decrease workout intensity but still get a great workout?