It goes without saying that I want to have a smooth, healthy, robust pregnancy. It does not go without saying that I want to look and feel like a pile of mush by the time it’s all over. So, I’m determined to create an exercise plan that will result in a positive experience for the baby and me, while keeping my ego in check!
I started researching even before I got pregnant. I thought it would be easy. I’d just look online and find tons of resources for pregnant athletes. Wrong. There are not many resources for pregnant athletes. I found a few books, including one called “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp. This book is pretty cool because it debunks many existing myths and supports its claims with clinical studies. Other than that, I was able to find bloggers, some good youtube videos on strength training and a few articles here and there.
Most pregnancy websites have small sections about exercise that safely repeat the AMA recommendations. They include more of an outline on how to live a generally healthy life with “moderate” exercise prescribed 3 or 4 times a week for 30 minutes. Recommended activities rarely vary from walking, yoga, stretching and swimming. Not that there’s anything wrong with those activities; I plan to include all of them in my own program. But those aren’t the ONLY activities I want to do!
As a little background, I have been running consistently 3-6 days a week for almost 20 years. Since I got pregnant, I cut back to 2 to 3 times a week. I also hike 1 or 2 times a week, so in total, I’m out on the trails or roads 4 to 5 times a week. I run for 30 to 60 minutes which is a little shorter than pre-pregnancy, and I’m definitely slower than before.
I slowed down both purposely and accidentally.
I slowed down purposely because I started reading about a myth that led to a greater truth. The myth is that pregnant women must follow a specific heart rate guideline. Since we are not all created equal, there is no way that our physiologies would dictate that all pregnant women follow the exact same heart rate range.
There is a better way to make sure you are staying in a safe range – do not allow your core body temperature to spike. Since most of us don’t have access to core body temp probes that wind down your esophagus and up your rectum (even if you had access, who would enjoy doing this?!), then common sense will have to suffice! I know these things should seem obvious, but it never hurts to repeat them: don’t exercise outdoors during hot weather (wake up early or go indoors), drink lots of fluids (carry water on a 30 minute run when pregnant – you need it), and listen to your body. I can’t say that enough. You know when you’re pushing the limits. You’re athletes and active women. Be smart and listen to your bodies. Egos begone!
I slowed down accidentally because the following two things happened.
- I started breathing like an old man who has been chain-smoking for 40 years.
- My boobs, butt and belly got bigger and I literally couldn’t go as fast or as far without bonking!
Let me start with #1. I am so fascinated by the crazy hormonal changes in the pregnant body. There are all sorts of scientific reasons for shortness of breath during pregnancy, but the short story is that pregnant bodies are working really hard and every system is being taxed. The respiratory system is working double time and its tendency is to make a scene whenever you try to move!
The worst part about wheezing like a lifelong smoker is that it’s embarrassing! Especially during first trimester when you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re pregnant. I remember joining Tim at a race in California in May. I was about 8 weeks pregnant at the time. I went for an easy 30 minute run one evening and as I was huffing along at 10 min mile pace (I used to be a pretty fast runner, so this is considerably slower than my usual pace.), a former competitor of mine, and current pro, Leanda Cave, ran up and started chatting with me. She was doing an easy warm-up run and seemed content to jog with me. The only problem was that I couldn’t talk! I faked it as best I could for a few minutes and then told her I had to turn around. I could just imagine her thinking that she would never end up that out of shape when her pro racing days were over.
#2 is pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a little more detail. First my breasts started to hurt while running, so I had to track down some support bras since I never needed much more than a basic shelf bra. I solved that problem pretty quickly, but then my rear end began to grow. The other day I jogged across the street to the car and I could literally feel my butt bouncing up and down! I’m gonna need support tights soon! Finally, the glorious belly is expanding at the speed of light. Right now she just sort of moves with me, but I’m paying close attention to the day that she decides to strike out on her own. Really, it’s just harder to drag an extra 10 pounds around with me, it takes more energy to move, so I really had no choice but to slow down!
More than anything, I know that the best information I’ve received has come from my friends and fellow athletes who have gone before me, so if you discovered a formula that worked for you while pregnant, please share! I know I could use it!