My Greatest Fitness Challenge: Pregnancy

Three years ago I realized that I needed to find something of my own that was just for me and no one else. By setting one goal to run a 5k each month during the year (2016), this goal became the catalyst to a completely different lifestyle that became sustainable and necessary for both my physical and mental well-being. My health and fitness became my gift back to myself. My fitness journey has evolved as new challenges and obstacles presented themselves, and this new approach to my health has greatly impacted my latest challenge of being pregnant.

As I near the end of this pregnancy, I wanted to take some time to write down my tips and thoughts before I forget them all in a cloud of sleep deprived newborn baby brain. I have been blessed with the experience of three pregnancies that are on target to produce three healthy babies. My current healthy pregnancy, my second what I will call normal pregnancy and my first pregnancy which was not that healthy.  With this first pregnancy, I had fluid issues, I gained way too much weight (like 50-60 lbs!) and I was ultimately put on bed rest for the last few weeks. Having this spectrum of experiences, I can say that this fit pregnancy has been the absolute easiest pregnancy. I am now 37 weeks along and while I am ready to be done, it’s not because it has been overly difficult. I am just ready to have my body back and regain the tiniest bit of normalcy (ie to take normal cold medication when needed or SLEEP ON MY STOMACH!!!). I’m not asking for a lot.

Before I jump in any further please keep in mind that 1.) I am not an expert or a doctor. I only speak from my experiences. 2.) What I write about is my experience and I do not intend to imply that because you may have had complications with your pregnancy that you are to blame. We are all just doing our best, but many things are outside of our control.

Throughout this pregnancy I have been able to workout with the same frequency and in most cases the same intensity as I was before I became pregnant. My tips below are what has allowed me to keep at it and feel good along the way. As far as frequency, it was until just last week at 36 weeks that I went from a 6 day workout schedule down to a 5 day workout schedule. I still move on days 6 and 7 but mostly by walking. My rest days are restful, but not sedentary.

As far as intensity, I have been fortunate enough to keep doing nearly everything that I was doing before becoming pregnant until recently.  Boxing was the only activity that I gave up pretty early. Around week 24 I stopped as it was becoming too difficult on my core. If you think about throwing punches from a fighter’s stance,  a lot of that power comes from your core and that combined with the lack of balance I needed to effectively kick I knew it would have to be tabled until after Baby. Also around this time I had to start modifying certain activities like taking a full push-up down to my knees. I learned to make adjustments rather than giving up on any exercise. You can modify nearly anything. At 36 weeks, I stopped running. Quite honestly, I could have kept going but I craved the break. I have a hard time stopping things when I know that I can technically do them no matter how difficult. Everything else has remained pretty much the same and I am thankful for it. Below I have highlighted what has worked for me an led me to 37 weeks of an active healthy pregnancy.

  • If you aren’t currently pregnant or active, but want a fit pregnancy: Start now! Give yourself 6 months to a year to get in the shape you want to be. It will be so much easier to sustain during a pregnancy if you already have a routine and habits in place.
  • Once you are pregnant, don’t stop or start any new type of exercise (unless you play dodgeball or do roller derby in which case both are awesome, but contact sports probably need to be modified). This was the only rule I was given by my doctor at my 8-week appointment. No dodgeball. It’s also why I didn’t start doing yoga even thought it sounded nice on some days.
  • Don’t buy maternity workout clothes! Wait to see what you will actually need once your belly is big enough to warrant new clothes otherwise you will likely be wasting money.  I always assume that I am going to have a super pregnant belly right away and what I find is that I can get away with wearing normal clothes for far longer than I expect. Because of seasons, I purchased two pairs of maternity leggings, but other than that all of my tops and shorts are regular non maternity work out clothes. Just find something with a little stretch.
  • Speaking of stretch…..do it and trust me. I have this terrible motto that I will stretch in the shower…otherwise meaning that I don’t want to “waste” my workout time stretching. As I got further into my pregnancy, I realized just how necessary it was. Stretching was recommended by someone whose opinion I greatly value and she was right. The further along you get, the more you need to stretch. I have really tight hips and the more pregnant I became the more trouble my hips would give me as I was trying to go to sleep each night. Stretching before my workouts really helped alleviate this discomfort especially on running days.
  • Speaking of the person noted above, find inspiration. It really helped me to have pregnant friends who were also active to provide motivation. These friends were further along than I was and it was so helpful to see what they were able to continually do while weeks/months ahead of me.
  • Establish a positive frame of mind about your pregnancy. I have always viewed my pregnancy as a challenge to push me and not something that would completely debilitate me and give me excuses. I still wanted to do the things that I enjoyed so I was determined to find a way even while pregnant.
  • You know yourself better than anyone else. If something doesn’t feel right….stop. If you feel great…keep at it.  Expect judgement, but don’t let it get to you. People are ignorant and for whatever reason they think you want their opinions. 
  • Set small goals for yourself to keep motivated or do like I did and take things week by week. Each week that I was able to keep at it was a small success just for me!
  • Finally, be kind to yourself. I feel like I should look into a mirror when I write this one, but know that some days you may not feel like doing anything, and that is fine! You are growing another human and that is flipping hard work in itself!

 

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