Well, I wrote about it on my blog, I posted some workouts and images of a bloated whale waddling up and down the HB Beach path and clumsily flinging around kettlebells on the Insta, and I became quite intimate with the elliptical, my balance ball and my free weights when I couldn’t walk distances greater than to my fridge and back anymore. I tried (and I like to think I succeeded) at maintaining some semblance of fitness during my pregnancy with Naia (formerly “The Nugget”).
PS – Everyone at the gym wants to talk to you when you are pregnant. Everyone.
Working out while gestating a human being wasn’t always sunshine and butterflies – there was a lot of trial and error to find what worked and what didn’t, there were some days where it was a challenge to simply get off the couch, and there were some…ahhhh….embarrassing moments. BUT, at the end of the day, I’m so happy I put the work in. There’s no way to know what would have happened if I hadn’t worked out regularly during my pregnancy, but I truly believe that maintaining a steady fitness regimen for those 9 months not only helped make my pregnancy, labor and delivery easier, but it also helped with my physical and emotional recovery in the weeks after Naia’s birth.
Well this is just basically me at every yoga class I have ever been to, pregnant or not. I’m not what we call “bendy”.
As always, I like to start with a few disclaimers: If you are pregnant and would like to implement some sort of fitness regimen, get it approved by your doc first. Your pregnancy is not the same as your sister’s, your best friend’s, or that crazy blogger who likes to overshare on the internet. So that being said, my experience can be used for some suggestions. It is not to be taken as gospel or to be used as a basis for comparison. And finally…I’m a private personal trainer and running coach…it is a big part of my job description to stay in shape at all times, and I trained clients literally up until the day before my water broke. During my pregnancy, I did not have a 7-5 job with a gnarly commute (been there, done that!), nor did I have other children at home. Put simply, it was easy for me to carve out time during the day to work out, and I do appreciate and fully acknowledge that my circumstances allowed me to be more active than I could have been if I had more responsibilities on my plate.
First Trimester: Wrote about it here. Basically kept up the running, but kept all runs at “conversation pace” and did about 1-2 HIIT workouts per week and took the occasional spin class. I was averaging about 20-30 miles per week running-wise, and about 4-6 workouts per week. Things felt good! I did have to forego running the Santa Rosa Marathon I had signed up for; it was HOT last summer, and long runs in the heat were not happening. I also learned during these weeks that it was super important for me to stop when by body told me to stop and not”push through the pain”.
Second Trimester: Wrote about it here, here and here. Fitness-wise, the second trimester started much like the first trimester. I was still able to run, do HIIT, and spin. And then, my friends…then the wheels started to fall of the very large and awkward wagon. Around week 22/23, I noticed that running was becoming a lot more painful on my hips, and came with much more frequent pee stops. I bought a maternity belt to wear during runs, and that did buy me a few more weeks of running. But my body was telling me to cool it on the running…and as hard as it was, I knew I needed to listen to my body or risk hurting myself, or worse, my nugget. There were also a few trips thrown in there, including our babymoon to South America, and I’m just really shitty at working out when I’m traveling. At that point, I was averaging about 4-5 workouts per week.
Third Trimester AKA “All Systems Failure”: Wrote about it here. Houston, we have a problem. I basically had my own gravitational pull at this point. Frequent was the “Are you sure there’s only one in there?” question. (Truth. People still think it’s OK to ask pregnant women this question.) I had a BIG bump on a petite body. Good thing I ate all those cookies to increase support of my spine and baby bump via my ass. At around week 29, I had to stop walking. Even with the maternity belt, I would feel as though a sledgehammer had been taken to my hips after a walk. The stationary bike and the rowing machine all turned into no-go’s. It was beyond boring, but the last 9-10 weeks or so, I was confined to the elliptical, the squat rack (lunges hurt…squats did not…weird, right?), the free weights and the balance ball. I kept training my clients, and at 39 weeks 6 days I taught a small group fitness class. My water broke 12 hours later.
Post-Partum: Aside from a couple short walks, I didn’t do a darn thing fitness-wise for the recommended 6 weeks after giving birth. I knew it was important to let my body heal, and let be honest here kids, any spare iota of time we have during those first few weeks is dedicated to sleep or laundry…soooo much laundry.
So why is staying fit during pregnancy so important?:
First of all, labor is hard work. They don’t call it “labor” because it entails lounging around, reading a good book and sipping Mai Tai’s. If it did, I might be much more eager to give Naia a little sibling. Your body is working hard for, on average, 18 hours. And in my case I pushed (super hard work) for about 90 minutes. Some women push for as long as 3-4 hours. When the nurses were on the fence about wheeling me into the OR for a c-section, my doctor actually called them and said to try their best for a vaginal delivery because, in her words, “Rachel worked out the whole pregnancy and her body can handle this.” BOOM.
Taking care of an infant is physically hard work. I thanked sweet baby Jesus every time I had to pull myself up from a prone position to a sitting position (you do this about 12-16 times a day if you nurse) that I had maintained a strong core. Bending over to change diapers, pick up your baby, grab that pacifier off the floor, whatever, is absolute murder on your back. I think I wore a hole in our upstairs carpet from pacing back and forth every night, trying to rock our baby to sleep. All this stuff was a lot easier to do with a strong body.
“Bouncing back” after giving birth is a bit of a touchy subject – and I am personally of the mindset that it took us mommies 9 months to put the weight on. It could take 4 months, 9 months, or 2 years to get back to our pre-pregnancy weight. Or it might never happen at all. And that’s OK…We’re mommies now. None of the cute guys are looking at us anymore anyways. (kidding…sort of). But I decided long before I had Naia that I would not drive myself crazy trying to hit a number on the scale or a certain jeans size by an arbitrary point in time. However, I did admittedly lose a lot of my pregnancy weight (about 30 lbs total) pretty quickly, and I attribute this to the fact I had crazy oversupply of breastmilk. In addition to feeding Naia, I was pumping about 30-40 oz. every day, and as a result, a lot of the pounds just came off on their own. Yea, yea I know…poor me…but this was the reality of my situation, and everyone is different. It is what it is…I’m not gonna lie and leverage my position try and sell you my “lose the baby weight” meal plan for $59.99 or my “get flat abs after baby” workout videos for $19.99. That stuff is, quite frankly, total scammy bullshit and only serves to perpetuate this myth that postpartum women need to be back in their skinny jeans no sooner than 5 minutes after they have pushed the placenta out of their body.
Me, 12 days postpartum. No, contrary to what you may think, I did not style my hair with bacon grease that morning.
Now fitness-wise, that’s a whole different story. I get into it a lot more on my Insta page, but some things have come back easier than others. HIIT workouts…easy peasy. Strength workouts…ain’t no thang. Running…ugggggh eff me. It has been a frustrating, infuriating, and extremely humbling experience. I recently started training for the Long Beach Half Marathon, and currently medium effort runs are at about an 8:50/mi pace, and easy effort runs are at about a 9:05-9:15/mi pace. I’m literally scared to do any speedwork because of how much I am afraid it is going to hurt, so I haven’t even tried it yet. It’s a far cry from where I was at when I got pregnant, but I also truly believe that had I not continued to do some form of cardio work at least 3-5 times per week all throughout my pregnancy, I would have a much rougher go of it than I do now. Despite the frustration I feel, seeing gains is always encouraging, and I’m learning to appreciate and celebrate the small milestones along the way.
Hangin’ with my new favorite running buddy.
Looking back on the whole pregnancy/labor and delivery/postpartum experience, I really couldn’t be happier with the way it all went down. Despite the bumps and challenges along the way (both physical and mental), I am 100% confident in the fact that staying active throughout my pregnancy benefited me (and continues to benefit me and my family) in so many ways, both tangible and intangible. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing….except I would have listened when people told me “Sleep when the baby sleeps. The housework can wait.”