I was in great shape when I found out I was pregnant. I ran regularly and consistently hit my 10,000 daily steps. I practiced yoga at least twice a week. I had started taking Pilates again.
After seeing those two positive lines on the pregnancy test (and after celebrating with my husband), I committed myself to a fit pregnancy. The potential health benefits – an easier pregnancy, delivery, and recovery – and the positive mental juices I always get from a workout made continuing to exercise a no-brainer for me. Plus, I assumed that, with only minor modifications, I could just maintain my current fitness routine. After all, I had heard stories about women running six miles right before going into labor. I figured, sure, why not?
I discovered why not just a few days after learning I was pregnant, when 1st trimester exhaustion, nausea, and food aversions
sucker punched me set in. I could barely get off the couch, let alone get to the gym. By the time I made it through 1st trimester and felt well enough to work out, I was far from my pre-pregnancy stellar shape. I had lost endurance, muscle tone, and weight. I was weak.
Restarting a fitness routine after an extended break is always hard. Restarting when pregnant was, for me, a major reality check (as was my ever-expanding waistline). I had no choice but to recalibrate my expectations of what a fit pregnancy would look like. It was not going to be business as usual with some minor modifications, but rather a new way of exercising and thinking about exercising. Here’s ultimately worked for me*:
Run, run-walk, walk-run, walk (and crawl): Once I peeled myself off the couch, I began running again. No speed records were set (which is saying a lot, since I am notoriously slow), but I was out there running. After a while, I needed to add some walking breaks into my runs. And that walking time became longer and longer, to the point where I was walking with an occasional few minutes of running. In 3rd trimester, I switched entirely from running to long walks, and as those became harder, I aimed for several shorter walks a day rather than a single long one. By the last few weeks of pregnancy, making it two blocks (which was more of a crawl than anything else) was a challenge. Still, I did it (all while cursing those women who ran 6 miles the day they gave birth).
Try out prenatal Pilates/yoga: I was religious about taking prenatal Pilates and yoga classes. Yes, the cost of classes adds up, but the hubby and I figured we were saving so much money in wine and dinners out, that it was a wash. More importantly, I felt infinitely better when I took the classes. I tried several options, and settled on two standouts: the prenatal Pilates classes at Core Concepts on Belmont, where we had a regular group of expectant mamas and two amazing teachers, and the prenatal yoga classes at Sweet Pea's Studio, which were part yoga and part group therapy.
Strength train arms, butt, and legs: I was not broken, just pregnant, so I continued non-core strength training. This was important not only for once the baby was born (tiny humans are heavy!) but also for delivery, which, along with running a marathon, was the most physically intense thing I’ve ever done. Beyond the strength training in Pilates and yoga, I did squats every day and TRX work outs until I was 36 weeks pregnant.
Remember, you are not eating for two: Public service announcement - you are eating for one plus a peanut. As such, pregnancy is not a free pass to eat whatever you want/twice as much as you need. In fact, most pregnant women only need 300 more calories each day than they did when not pregnant. That is not a lot. Did I indulge in a few extra sweets now and then? Absolutely. Especially at the end when pregnancy was particularly uncomfortable and ridiculous (how is it humanly possible to get that big?). But I did not make a habit of it.
Enlist your partner/friends: My husband and friends regularly
walked me joined me on my runs and walks. And I took Pilates with a great group of expectant women who were also dedicated to having healthy pregnancies and who I looked forward to seeing at each class. Knowing others supported my fit pregnancy goal was crucial, not to mention it made exercising a lot more fun.
*Before starting any exercise routine, speak with your doctor/midwife/etc… about what is right for you.
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