For many moms-to-be, the first trimester can be brutal. Between morning sickness and fatigue, it can be a challenge to get off the couch. Light walks were about all I could muster. But the second trimester is different. Granted, I can’t demand as much from my body as when I was training for the Olympics, but I certainly can get my heart rate up. That’s good for me and my baby. It took me awhile, however, to find the right type of exercise. I hope you can learn from my story.
I stopped running, swimming and gyming in the first trimester because I was so exhausted. Going for walks was all I could get my body to do, but it was great because I got to catch up on all the podcasts I had on my list. I find I can’t listen to them just sitting or running, but walking was the perfect conduit to absorb new information and get the circulation going in my body under low stress.
Rolling into the second trimester, I found that I didn’t need 11 hours of sleep most nights and a nap in the day. I found I could run, swim (had to make some adjustments) and do gym (built slow and light) again. I tried biking on the stationary trainer but didn’t feel right so I stopped. I stuck with mainly “running”. That’s a relative term. At best it was jogging but it allowed me to get my heart rate up and get my body’s circulation done in a shorter period of time. I was also very excited to know I could do gym during pregnancy, something I had to let go while trying to get pregnant, as being catabolic (breaking down muscle) isn’t conducive to getting pregnant. But now I could keep up a bit of tone and I’ve always felt great after doing gym.
Swimming was tough but manageable. Swimming is usually an accommodating workout, but I felt like my belly was being pulled away from my body. And not having as much access to my core for rotation and stability, my hip flexors were hanging on to my dragging legs for dear life. Using a pool buoy helped ease that sensation. I also had to stop doing conventional flip turns. I found it difficult to tuck my knees up, so I kept my legs straighter and did more of a swivel. I also found concentrating on rolling in the water more than usually needed, helped me not rely so much on my core, as I was 99% core in my swimming before pregnancy.
Again, rolling with what I can and can’t do, I found I could only run in my second trimester for the first month, then my hips were getting sore. I was not keen on tearing anything, and also accommodating the body’s changes of the loosening ligaments and the hips opening. I know many women run throughout their pregnancy, but I didn’t want to risk anything. My body was changing so dramatically, and let’s face it at my age it had been a certain way for a long time ;). I could feel the lack of strength in my hips and the widening of my hips, and the growth of my breasts (unnecessary!), as at this point I had probably put on 10lbs, mostly in my chest and belly. My center of gravity kept moving. I could really tell I was carrying extra weight when I ran.
Walking worked. It’s great exercise for nearly everyone and can really get those feel-good endorphins flowing. Because I was used to an extensive training regimen, I had to walk for 1.5 to 2 hours to get the same as what I could do in a 40’ run. However, I could reduce that time if I walked uphill. Of course, you should do what’s best for you and your life. Some experts state that if you exercised before becoming pregnant you don’t need to worry about your heart rate during pregnancy, but I stopped at 140 or 150 beats per minute.
Apparently, it’s not so much about heart rate anymore but about heating your core. So doing little intervals is fine, as long as you don’t get too hot and you can cool down. If I couldn’t find a block of time in the morning to go for a long walk or even in the evening, I would split them up. I would wake, get some things organized for the day, have my breakfast then do a little chunk – 30 mins to 1 hour, and the same at night after dinner, a couple hours before bed. Blocking them in after meals would serve the purpose of better digestion so I could have better energy and sleep better at night.
More than anything, I listened to my body. If it felt uncomfortable, I made a change or stopped. I continued if it felt okay. I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to push it to meet training targets. I’ve heard that over-exercising during pregnancy may cause harder deliveries. I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t want to find out, but under doing movement during pregnancy can make the 10 months far more arduous … in mood, digestion, and mobility.
My goal now is making sure my body is ideal for nurturing my baby’s growth. This means exercising, hydrating, eating right, (giving in to the healthy cravings, making the best choices possible about the rest and moderation), controlling the stress in my life, and finding a good routine I can keep. Getting my body in balance – including my digestive health which has been my number one (and number two) concern my whole career – is what I’m aiming for now.