Remember when I talked about triathlon, running, and fitness on this blog? Me neither. It’s not that I’ve become a sloth since I got knocked up. I’m just not working toward a specific training goal. My pregnancy fitness regime includes no speed work, no tempo training, no hill repeats, and no recovery workouts. My victories aren’t about faster times and lower heart rates right now. These days, if I can work out- even gently, for 30 minutes, keep the house from looking like a bomb hit it, get dinner on the table, and keep my toddler fed and clothed, all on the same day, I’m a superstar.
During pregnancy, I exercise to:
-Maintain some level of fitness (however small)
-Elevate my mood
-Maximize the quality of my sleep
-Be proactive in the fight against cankles. (I didn’t get them during my first pregnancy but I gave birth in February. With a summer due date, I don’t know if I will be so lucky this time)
-And, as always, to allow the possibility of seconds or dessert with minimal guilt. (In case you missed the memo- the “eating for two” thing is a lie).
I’m sure some would argue that being in shape helps prepare you for an easier delivery. A positive attitude never hurt anyone, for sure. But getting on the elliptical for 45 minutes four times a week as a means of labor preparation would be about as effective as a rousing game of Marco Polo in the shallow end of the pool as a training technique for a Navy Seal. (And if you think I’m wrong, go ahead and let me know in the comments. If you know of a workout that can get you ready for labor, for god’s sake, TEL ME WHAT IT IS).
During my first pregnancy, I read everything I could get my hands on (which, sadly, was not much) on the topic of exercise during pregnancy. It turns out, it’s impossible to get approval for a study that requires pregnant women to exercise really hard, and see what happens. So, here’s what we know- a pregnant woman’s core temperature should not exceed 102.2, according to ACOG. The only way to know one’s core temperature with certainty is to use a rectal thermometer. I’m not anal enough to employ this method, however. (Sorry! I absolutely could not resist the pun). My personal rule is to stay at an endurance pace. If I am breathing so hard I couldn’t have a conversation, I back off. If I am sweating profusely, I back off. If my pelvic floor hurts, I back off.
That said, If I were 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I would most definitely get on the Stairmaster- the one that is like an escalator, the really hard one- and bang out as many flights as I could, for the duration of two back to back episodes of Weeds. And not hypothetically, either.
During my last pregnancy, I had more flexibility in my schedule, so I was able to hit Zumba classes and prenatal yoga, which I really enjoyed. This time around, I can’t prioritize group exercise classes as easily, so I have been doing gym workouts more frequently. I typically do some form of exercise 3-5 times a week for 30-50 minutes. Here’s what I have (and haven’t) been up to:
–Running. That lasted for about a month after I peed on the stick. (Don’t ask me which stick. There were so many. It’s a long story involving faint lines, expired tests, brand new tests, and perseverance). I wish I was one of those women who went for a five mile jaunt every day up until the day she delivered. Instead, I am one of those women who feels like she can’t breathe, her inner thighs are splitting apart, and her uterus is verging on falling out if she continues to run through her pregnancy.
-Elliptical. I was really sad when I finished all the Mad Men episodes on Netflix. But the silver lining was that I had a chance to start Breaking Bad, which is, dare I say, an even better, more gripping series. We don’t have a TV and, typically, the only time I watch shows is when I’m exercising. (Minus Downton Abbey and New Girl. I relax for those). Breaking Bad makes me look forward to spending 48 minutes on the elliptical.
-Treadmill Walking. We have a treadmill in our basement and it gives me a nice chance to watch Breaking Bad. There’s something about the treadmill that inspires me to watch Arrested Development once in a while. (Why, oh, why, have I only just discovered this work of genius?) The treadmill hasn’t been an option lately, since they are working on our basement and the treadmill has been hibernating under a tarp down there. My greatest concern regarding the basement remodel has been that dust from the construction will find it’s way through a gap in the tarp and into the belt on my beloved treadmill and the motor will be destroyed.
-Outside Walking. I have a confession. As much as I love the outdoors, I hate walking for its own sake. I will walk with a friend and get our chat on, no problem. I will take Sweet Pea in her stroller for a walk to the supermarket or to surprise Dan with a quick visit at work. But walking for exercise bores me. It always has. As I get bigger, it’s even less fun. I just feel heavy when I do it.
-Swimming. I love swimming, especially when I am pregnant. It makes me feel weightless. When I’m not pregnant, I almost always choose a run or a bike ride over swimming. When you have to add travel time for getting to and from the pool, you have a very time inefficient workout. Not to mention, you get the added bonus of chlorine seeping out of your pores that no amount of Vanilla scented lotion can completely mask. But I really do love it. Also, because I taken a long break from regular swimming, it is actually a sport in which I have improved since becoming pregnant. When I first returned to the pool, I could do about 50 yards before I would have to take a little rest break at the wall. Now I can bang out 300-400 yards before I need to take a break to catch my breath.
-Weights. Since they are working on our basement (which is where we normally exercise), I have been using the Rec Center for almost all of my workouts. Sometimes I like to vary my routine by lifting weights after I use the elliptical. Partly, I want to get the most out of my punch pass. Partly, I can’t maintain good form when I do push-ups at this point in the pregnancy (which is the point at which I am 26 weeks in and people are asking me if it could be twins) and I’m not old enough to justify having bat-wing arms.
-Stationary Bike. Early in the pregnancy, I liked to get on my triathlon bike, which was set up on the trainer in my basement, and watch a show while pedaling enthusiastically to nowhere. About the same time my belly popped out, we had to move the contents of our basement into storage to make way for the remodel, and away went my bike. At this point, I don’t think it would be comfortable to pedal with my belly squashed into my thighs. I have, however, taught and attended a couple of spin classes, which is comfortable and fun. It gets hot in those little rooms, though, so I drink two bottles of water during a one hour class.
I intend to keep up this routine until I deliver, at which point, I will rest for about six weeks and then gradually get back into the swing of things. I did this the first time around and it worked out well.
I know people think taking six weeks fully off is totally nuts. I know I thought this, but I did it anyway after I gave birth to Sweet Pea, under the insistence of my midwife. As with any set-back, if you return to sport before you are 100%, you’re going to have problems and/or re-injury. The bleeding you have after you give birth- that is from your placenta separating from your uterus. There’s a wound there and it needs time to heal. Jostling it around before the wound has closed will impede the healing process. Also, pregnancy and birth- whether vaginally or by C-section- take a huge toll on the body. I think it’s important to respect the amazing amount of energy your body has given to create a new life and give it the rest it deserves. After taking the deep rest I needed after having Sweet Pea, I was running faster than ever by the time she was nine months old.
How do (or did) you stay fit during pregnancy?