Exercise Throughout Pregnancy

This is the third post in a series of pregnancy related posts. You can read my first post about surviving and thriving with food here, and my second post about body image here.

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I have to say: working out throughout my pregnancy has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

  • It’s helped me stay sane and relieve stress
  • It’s helped me stay in relatively good shape
  • It’s helped me feel better about labor and where I will be after giving birth

I wanted to share a little bit about my experience and give you some tips that I’ve gleaned from that experience to help you out.

So here’s a little more about my story with exercise during pregnancy:

Leading up to finding out I was pregnant I was in the best shape I’ve probably ever been in.

I was lifting lots of heavy things and running– hiking every day with my dog and even thinking about competing in Olympic Lifting.

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The week before we found out I was expecting, I did a weight lifting clinic with Mike McKenna at Crossfit H2O where I PR’ed my snatch at 153 and my clean at 193.

After than clinic, I started a more intense training program with the hopes of competing in the months that followed. So, basically I was a few weeks pregnant and working out harder than I ever had before.

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Me, Jaffney and Jessi at a Crossfit H2O Ladies’ Night WOD right after I found out I was pregnant.

Once we found out that I was pregnant, I made the conscious decision to tone things down a bit. Every one tells you to keep working out and to keep doing what feels good. For me, that meant one or two slow, heavy (ish) lifts, and the occasional short metcon– like 5 to 7 minutes.

That was before I started feeling nauseous.

Then everything changed.

I continued to listen to my body…and it told me that I needed to take it easy. I took more days off, and started lifting much lighter weights. No more metcons, or running.

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Listening closely to my body and relying on it to tell me what to do morphed my workouts into barbell complexes and Every Minute On the Minute workouts with some built in rest. My favorite complexes were hang cleans and jerks (not really a complex, I guess), and snatches and overhead squats.

Basically, I kept on lifting and doing what felt good to me.

That meant lots of air squats to a med ball, and lots of walking.

I was encouraged by my midwife to continue to exercise through my pregnancy and I was so grateful for that. Exercise has always been a huge part of my life. In fact, before we decided to have kids, one of the things keeping me from making the decision to start a family was losing control of my body and my fitness.

I was so surprised that as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I was totally okay with toning it down.

I was actually relieved that I wouldn’t have to fight with my body for the next 9 months.

That I was content with doing what felt good.

BUT I realize that this is not the case with everyone.

That sometimes it’s hard to take a break from your workouts.

Especially if you consider yourself a serious athlete.

So here are some tips for keeping up with exercise throughout your pregnancy:

Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor. I’m also not a personal trainer. All of the recommendations are based on my own experience as an athlete and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. 

Do What Feels Good

I’ve found that with pregnancy, everything comes back to listening to your body. Listening to your body when it comes to food, and listening to your body when it comes to exercise. Intuitive Exercising is especially important during pregnancy– you need to focus on doing what makes you feel good and what is comfortable. I strongly feel that if you listen to your body, you’ll make safe choices for you and your babe.

During pregnancy your body is going through lots of changes. Your joints get looser, your center of gravity changes– basically everything about you is constantly changing. The only way to make sure that you’re doing the right thing is to take it slow and do what feels good.

Create New, Exciting Goals

If you were training for The Crossfit Games Regionals before you found out you were pregnant, your goals are obviously going to change. But even you were just a casual exerciser your goals will probably change too.

It’s important to set new goals to keep you excited about where you’re headed.  Why are you continuing to be active? To stay healthy? To help with labor? For a healthy baby? Take some time to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing and allow that motivation to be your new goal.

Take Time to Rest

You are going through a lot of stuff. Like a LOT. You’re growing a tiny human. You probably need to sit down.

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Part of doing what feels good means allowing yourself to rest when you need it. Personally, whenever I was uninspired by my workout, I took a day off. I did a lot of walking with Chester (my black lab). Toward the end of my third trimester, I started to take lots more days off to prepare for labor– walking to keep my energy levels up, but also resting and conserving energy for the task ahead.

So, don’t be afraid to take days off. Or to just take a walk. If you feel like you need it, you probably do.

Be Patient with Yourself

Exercising throughout my pregnancy helped me stay sane: in the moment and about the future. I knew that if I just kept doing a little bit, when I actually got back to my old routine (if I ever got back to my old routine?) I would be ahead of the game.

Yes, there were days when I was like “ugh. I don’t think 125 lb back squats do ANYTHING. What’s the point?!”  But then I reminded myself that everyone starts somewhere…and that I was just creating a new starting point for myself. That everything would be okay– that everything would be as it should be when it is meant to be.

For all the mamas out there: Did you workout through your pregnancy? What are your thoughts, tips and tricks?

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