Before I get into my pregnancy workouts I think it’s important that you know a little bit about me and working out in general.I love to exercise; it’s part of who I am. In my first memory of an organized workout I am six-years-old, holding onto the wall of a pool listening to the swim coach. I can still picture the tense muscles in his face as he half threatened to tape my feet together for the butterfly kick. Later I was the ten-year-old in junior lifeguards who requested the run-swim-run workout over a game of beach flags. In high school some of my favorite days went like this – early morning 2-3 mile run with my best friend, swim practice after school, and late evening club water polo. After finishing my last practice I’d drive home wearing my swimsuit, sometimes my cap, a bathrobe and usually stop at In-N-Out. I kept playing water polo for a year in college then switched to the crew team. Rowing was the best and the worst; my first year I talked myself in and out of quitting too many times to count but I am so happy I stuck with it. Since then I’ve run 3 marathons, a 20 miler, 8 halves and one “Aqua Blaze” through the Shenandoah mountains. Like I said, I really like to workout.
I was determined to keep exercising during my pregnancy. Before getting pregnant I was in amazing shape. I was running a minimum of 15-20 miles a week and getting in a couple of circuit workouts. I was running fast, and it felt really good. I’ll admit that I was really motivated to not just be fit, but be lean because of our trip to Thailand. And it worked. Here I am in Thailand a few days after we found out we were having a baby – so about 6 weeks pregnant.
When we got home from our trip morning sickness set in and running sounded horrible (so did green vegetables and anything garlic). To keep myself moving I walked to and from work which came to about 5 miles a day. Some days walking sounded icky too and I took the bus. A couple of times I tried to run, but it was not fun.
A note on shoes – before getting pregnant I was running in Nike Free 4.0’s, and I loved the flexible, minimal shoe. But, pregnancy changes everything. It didn’t take long for the hormone relaxin to set in and loosen my feet and joints. I switched to a more supportive shoe through the rest of my pregnancy which helped a lot.
At week 13 it was almost like a switch flipped and I felt pretty normal! I picked up running again, I could eat raw veggies without gagging, and I had energy! I tried to get 20 miles in/ week. Most weeks I was successful, but some weeks I did 9 or 5 and called it good. I did a half marathon at 20 weeks and felt incredibly happy and surprised to finish under 2 hours (barely squeaked in at 1:58). Lucky for me the course was flat and on a road 🙂
At around 20 weeks I also started using a support strap, or as Colin called it, a Belly Bra 🙂 I bought this one and liked it – Belly Support Band.
I did another half at 28 weeks on Angel Island. It wound up hills with rewarding views of the Bay, and it was almost all on trails. I got poison oak from a trail squat pit stop and I was not even close to the 2 hour mark, but I still loved it. My daily runs got slower, and I started walking up hills.
I ran through 34 and a half weeks and then my body said, hey, this doesn’t feel good anymore. So I started walking again and going to Bar Method work outs. Side note on barre – I thought the workout was going to be too girly for me, but I LOVED it. If it didn’t cost an arm and a leg and require a babysitter I’d still be in that studio 4 days a week.
The week that Gemma was born I walked like crazy. I went into labor early Sunday morning. On the Wednesday before I logged 10 miles – I walked to work, to my prenatal appointment, back to work, home, and ran out to pick up Indian food. Everyday after that I walked 5-7 miles. During my pregnancy I followed Kimberly Snyder and read her blog all the time. She walked 5-7 miles/day even at 41 weeks and looked amazing doing it. She was my inspiration.
One thing that surprised me when pregnant was that yoga became my enemy. I wanted to love yoga while I was pregnant but it wasn’t in the cards. My joints were so loose and funky that I often left yoga feeling misaligned. So I shut down the dream of being a pretzel pregnant lady and moved on.
I worked out during my pregnancy because it felt good, and it helped me feel like me. I got a lot of mixed reactions especially as my belly got bigger. Some people were really encouraging and would give me high fives, a thumbs up, or a “keep-up the good work” wink. Other people looked at my like I was irresponsible to run with a child in my womb. One woman even started talking to me while I stretched and told me I looked like I was working too hard and it would not be good for the baby. Everybody has an opinion, but the most important thing is to listen to your body and be in tune with your needs.
I know it sounds cliche, but really, listen to your body. If you don’t feel like working out then don’t. Your body is doing something amazing and sometimes that means you’re tired and need an evening in with ice cream and the remote. I definitely had those nights.
Being in great physical shape helped my labour, but I think the biggest impact was on postpartum recovery. I still went through all the normal recovery steps but I felt good the whole time. Bleeding was manageable, walking was doable and I had energy. There were many days in the last month of my pregnancy that I wanted to phone it in, not because I couldn’t work out, but because I felt like I had a pretty good excuse to watch Netflix and melt into my couch. I’m so happy I got up and went for a walk or did a circuit workout instead.
I know every pregnancy is different and working out is not in plan for lots of mamas. But if you want it to be and you feel good, you can totally have an active pregnancy.