GENERAL DISCLAIMER: This blog entry should not to be considered as advice on how to exercise during your pregnancy. It is merely an account of my own fit pregnancy. I will be totally honest and if you read to the end you’ll find out that I did have some physical problems post pregnancy and would possibly make changes to the way I exercised during pregnancy if I were to do it again. It’s important to remember that every pregnancy is different just as every woman is. Before taking part in any form of exercise or dietary plan during pregnancy it is important that you get advice and clearance from your GP as they will know your own history and if there is any reason that you shouldn’t exercise or shouldn’t do any specific forms of exercise.
I will be posting another entry very soon with advice for the general pregnancy population on exercise during this special time.
DISCLAIMER OF SHAME AND BLAME: I am not judging anybody who chooses a different way of doing things and this blog is not intended to make anybody feel guilty if they don’t keep fit during their pregnancy. My blog entries will never have that intention. I want to help women who want help.
This is not about weight either. Some women love the idea that pregnancy is a time to quit exercising and eat what they want and I say each to their own. (The other voice in my head would have LOVED to let us do that but this one won!) However anyone who has done that knows only too well the consequences. For me the idea that I would lose my fitness and become unhealthy really got to me. I’ve worked really hard on my fitness over the years and follow what I believe to be a relatively balanced diet. Also as I’m self employed and fitness is my job I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to continue to work and that my business would suffer as a result. (I know my Bootcampers were delighted that my pregnancy didn’t affect how tough our sessions were at all :))
With all of that in mind when I first discovered that I was pregnant in December 2013 I buried my head in my laptop to research pregnancy exercise and diet but I found it really hard to get straight answers. There’s no end to the websites and advice forums out there on the Internet and it can be hard to decipher what’s what. The advice varied a lot. It went from the ‘quit anything strenuous right now and don’t even think about starting again until you are at least 3 months post pregnancy and while you’re at it have a tub of ice-cream daily’ brigade to a certain group of extreme exercisers who have become popular over the last few years and who shall remain nameless and who’s advice was, well, extreme. I found that at my medical appointments the doctors and midwives that I spoke to were encouraging but somewhat vague on what I could and couldn’t do. It always kind of felt like nobody actually really knew what the answers to my pregnancy fitness questions were.
I decided to follow the advice of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which basically says that if you were fit pre-pregnancy and have a normal pregnancy then maintenance of your fitness levels is fine as long as you have medical clearance and make the necessary adjustments to your exercise regime to make it safe. I hadn’t been participating in any contact sport, something which seemed to be a definite no-no. Even with this advice I had to pick my way through what I had been doing previously and try to come up with a modified version that suited my pregnancy.
Thankfully during the first trimester I was only sick a couple of times. I did get that horrible feeling of nausea a lot and found myself turned off almost all healthy food. This was frustrating in some ways as eating well became tough when all I could seem to stomach were very basic carbohydrates like bread and pasta (and not the brown variety either!). I ate a lot of fruit but also a lot of chocolate. I couldn’t look at my usual favourites such as eggs, chicken, steak, fish and nuts. But it was helpful in some ways as I had no desire for coffee or alcohol (having pre-pregnancy enjoyed both). With my fitness classes I had no choice but to continue teaching. I had always been quite involved in the workouts and continued to be. I always felt better after a good workout though. I only had two weeks where I was exhausted and luckily these coincided with the Christmas break. Pinocchio had nothing on me with the lies I told during this time about why I couldn’t go on nights out. By mid-January my secret was out but by then I was coming back to myself and getting back on track.
My second trimester saw my energy levels increase a lot. I was able to get back to doing most of what I had been doing prior to becoming pregnant. In terms of cardio, for me, that meant running about 5km 3-4 times per week (big dog, life is just easier when you tire her out!) and plyometric type exercises usually in a circuit style. Before my pregnancy I had been strength training quite regularly. I had been dead lifting in excess of 60kg using a trap bar but I cut this out in the second trimester as I didn’t want to jeopardise my lower back. I could actually feel my lower back starting to niggle after the first trimester so instead I stuck to a 24kg kettlebell for deadlifts and ensured that my lifting technique was correct at all times. I didn’t decrease my upper body lifting weight much, still pressing 12kg kettlebells.
Running at 6 months (left) and 7 months (right)
I was really careful with my abdominal exercises. All of the guidelines that I read advised avoiding lying flat on your back or front after the first trimester to avoid the risk of supine hypotensive syndrome. As I was teaching Pilates at least 3 times per week I was required to demonstrate a lot of the exercises but thankfully a regular attendee in each class took over demonstrating the tougher exercises as my pregnancy progressed. I still continued to do a lot of the regular exercises but I elevated my upper body and was careful not to put too much pressure on my stomach muscles when performing. The danger is that you will put excess pressure on your rectus abdominus muscle causing a tear or Diastasis (something I will blog more about soon). During this trimester I was also able to get my diet in order too. I got back into my usual habit of eating a balanced diet from Monday to Friday and then having my ‘off’ time at the weekend. It wasn’t always easy to get out and exercise or eat right and temptation was always there but I’m so glad now that I did stick to it.
My third trimester continued similarly to the second with plenty of energy however by 32 weeks I was ready to quit running and change to a fast paced walk instead. I was finding it increasingly difficult to get around the block without having to stop at some poor unfortunate’s door to ask to use their loo. Considering I was running with a big drooling Boxer dog I don’t think there would have been too many willing to let me in. I’m pretty sure most people who saw me out and about thought I was mad too. From a dietary perspective I was definitely a lot hungrier so I increased my intake throughout the day. I’d love to say that it was all fruit and veg but in truth my scone addiction really took over by month 8 and I was very good to myself in month 9. I can’t say it was ‘cravings’, I was mostly just giving in to temptation. I was meeting up for lunch or dinner with friends and family a lot because I was conscious that it might be a while before I had that sort of freedom again. A dietary bonus of the big bump was that I hadn’t room for large portions so even though I wasn’t eating particularly well I was only eating little and often which is actually recommended for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
I really pushed the boundaries with exercise during my pregnancy. Often women fear doing harm to their baby by exercising during pregnancy. Fear of the unknown along with old wives tales and unsupported myths hold so many women back. I was confident that maintaining my fitness levels wouldn’t hurt my baby and from most of what I was reading, I understood that it would be good for my pregnancy and my baby. Unfortunately bad experiences do happen to some women but exercise should not be the cause once you have your medical clearance and you exercise sensibly. With pregnancy exercise becoming more popular it is important for mothers-to-be to consider the impact of their exercise choices on their own body – bones, muscles, joints etc. Post pregnancy I suffered with a shoulder injury and some lower back pain, both of which continue to trouble me. I can’t be sure how these injuries occurred but I have considered that some of my exercise choices may have been too severe on my body. In a later post I will discuss my injuries and look at the different exercises I did and how they may have contributed.
People’s reactions to how I exercised during pregnancy were interesting. As it’s not something that has been encouraged over the years people find it hard to accept. It’s sad that people can react more negatively to a pregnant woman who continues to exercise than they do to a pregnant woman who continues to smoke. I did my best to explain to anyone who was concerned about me that as long as I was careful and made the necessary modifications then it was perfectly safe. The majority of people were just looking out for me and I appreciated their concern.
I had such a nice pregnancy with no protein or glucose issues and also no swelling or major discomfort. My weight gain in total was 1.7 stone / 25lbs. I continued to exercise right up until the morning that Frankie was born, going for a 5km walk with the dog. By this stage people were actually openly gawking but I didn’t blame them because to be fair it’s not something you see every day. I was admitted to hospital at 1:30pm and gave birth without an epidural at 6:01pm (torture but fast torture!). I had to have an episiotomy because the little divil held his hands up to his head and made himself even bigger. Even though he arrived a week before my due date Frankie weighed 7lb 8oz, was in perfect health and we couldn’t have been any happier!
I’m a Pinterest lover and really like what a lot of women in America do by taking regular bump photos to watch the progression. I took fortnightly pictures of my bump and posted them to the following link. There’s a whole lot of bump going on here so don’t say I didn’t warn you:
If you do nothing else to document your pregnancy then do this as it’s so nice to have afterwards.