Having always been an active person, continuing that through my pregnancy seemed like a natural process. Working out is as much for my mental well being as my physical. I was blessed to have “good” pregnancies and just your typical symptoms along the way (nausea, fatigue, lower pelvic aches, etc). I found I felt less nauseous and had more energy after working out. I strived to keep up with what I would usually do, until my body forced me to modify and adjust. That included CrossFit, running, cycling, Zumba and general cardio equipment. I got an equal number of kudos to questions along the way both pregnancies about my level of activities and “was I being safe”. My OB was well aware and very supportive of everything I was doing.
Giving birth and delivery can be and is for most people a marathon event. Some would say, myself including, it was one of the most challenging things I have done physically. Would you train for a marathon by remaining stationary for 9 months? Or would you choose to adapt and strengthen your body as it grows and changes leading up to the big day? I am certain choosing to do the later made all the difference for me during my pregnancies, deliveries, and recovery. I maintained healthy weight gains both times and when it came time to push my body was ready and the babies arrived quickly. While not everything felt great after delivery (lets be honest here lol), I rebounded quickly and progressed back into activities easily.
Here are some of my takes on exercise, fitness and pregnancy and how you can adapt them to your lifestyle.
*Please be in contact with your OB before and during your exercise planning! If you have any high risk factors, please make sure your Doctor knows what you are up to along the way.
- Start getting active before you get pregnant– If you are considering kids, there is no better time to get moving. In standard pregnancies the rule of thumb is to continue the exercises you had been doing prior to pregnancy. It isn’t a great time to, say pick up marathon training or join CrossFit for the first time if you haven’t done either of those before. So find something you love to do before and commit to it. I felt confident doing CrossFit and running pregnant because I had been doing it so long before. Knowing my body and limits pre-pregnancy helped me to be in tune to those signs while I was pregnant.
- Know your limits and how to adapt– Every pregnancy comes with it’s own set of aches, pains and issues. Some days I went to the gym and felt great, other days was like wading through mud. While one day running doesn’t bother you much (unless you are a pace watcher like myself and can’t stand the quickly slowing mile times) and the next day seems impossible. As your belly grows your adaptations progress.
- I ran until about 30 weeks with each baby, including a 5K race at 28 weeks with my oldest. I stopped because I no longer enjoyed it. It felt like running with a fridge on my back and I was just counting down to being done. I wasn’t able to do burpees once I got too big and choose to stop overhead squats as my front counter weight overcame my poor shoulder mobility. I also choose to slow or modify if I felt that whatever I was doing was too much for that day. Worst case scenario, you just stop. Ian only came looking for me once in the car when my run progressed to a walk and I was gone for way longer that expected.
- Focus on your core– This seems counterintuitive as time goes on, but I swear this was my saving grace. Pregnancy naturally stretches your abs and places a heavy load on your back the further out your belly goes. Planking for me was the key. Planking engages your abs and back muscles at the same time. I stand in the operating room for work 2 days a week and up to 10 or so hours per day. Doing 1 minute of standard planking and 1 minute on each side each night before bed helped me to minimize the back pain and helped with my posture. I am certain I wouldn’t make it through those full work days without this.
- Going along with this is having a go to set of pelvic floor exercises. Each time I encountered pain and pressure along my pelvic floor and few of these exercises, along with some rocking and bouncing on a exercise ball, helped to stretch and reset.
Overall, find something that works for you and your body. You postpartum self and your baby will thank you!