A detailed look at my pregnancy/fitness journey up until now. The struggle is getting real!
My pregnancy journey has been filled with a ton of emotions such as excitement and joy. But, what most people don't talk about are the feelings of confusion, fear, anxiety, etc. that come along with the journey. I am now responsible for another human and I wan't to do everything in my power to keep my baby safe and healthy. Yet, there's so much conflicting information out there saying " do this, don't do that" along with doctors saying " In regards to exercise, just don't do more than what you were doing before." Talk about being confused and nervous!
If fitness is a big part of your identity like it is for myself, you may be able to relate to some of the things I am going to write about. If not, I hope you are able to take away some pointers, learn from mistakes that I have made, and know that everyone's pregnancy journey is different.
1st Trimester: Talk about Exhaustion:
After our first appointment with the doctor, we were handed a packet with all the detailed information. Yet, being a personal trainer, I still left confused about the exercise portion. I just continued to train as normal while listening to my body and not doing more than what I was doing before as the doctor stated. But was this the right call? During classes, I noticed I would get lightheaded when I would do any exercise that required me to lay on my back so I would modify. Holding a plank felt fine, but what is that little pouch that looks like a cone at the top of my stomach? It must just be a part of the baby bump and it's fine. No, it wasn't fine. I should have stopped doing any exercise that caused this "coning" to happen but at this part of my pregnancy, I had no idea what "coning" was. (Don't worry, we will go into more detail about this in the 2nd trimester). It was hard for me to differ between baby tiredness and work/life tiredness. Usually, I would just suck it up, workout, and feel much better after. But this time I had to ask myself "Is the risk vs reward" worth it? The answer was no. A nap was just what the baby and I needed. The first trimester, I would try to workout 4-5 times per week and stick to my normal plan for the most part. I gained about 3-4 pounds the first trimester.
2nd Trimester: Listen but also understand your body:
This was the time when I started to notice some body changes. I struggled with this phase because I just felt bloated 24/7 and I didn't have the "bump" that everyone talks about having at this point. This is when people's words started to play with my head such as "Are you sure you're pregnant" "You haven't felt the baby kick yet?" "Are you sure you are eating enough?" "Are you sure you should be working out that much", etc. The list goes on and on. While I know that these words were not meant to make me feel uneasy, they did just that. With being a Registered Dietitian and a personal trainer, I have preached to my clients to not worry about what other people are saying about their journey and to focus on themselves. But I had a hard time applying this advice to my own situation. I started to think "Maybe something was wrong", "Should I look like the 984 girls that I look at on instagram who are #20weekspregnant", "Maybe I should call my doctor." But then I had my 20 week appointment and the tech looked at me and said, "I am sure people are making comments on your body, but you have a very strong core and this baby is extremely healthy. If anyone says anything to you all you have to say is "my doctor said my baby is healthy." At that moment, I could take a deep breath and be at peace with my little girl. Leading up to my third trimester, I gained a total of 15 pounds!
Between the statements people would make and the lack of instruction I received from the doctors about exercise, I decided to educate myself through the FitForBirth Pre and Post Natal Corrective Exercise Course. I am kicking myself in the butt for not taking this course when I first found out I was pregnant as I could have prevented some issues that I am now experiencing throughout pregnancy.
Below are the main points I have learned through the FitForBirth certification (Note, I have a exercise science background and there is much more information in this course than stated below):
1) Breathing, exercise, nutrition and de-stressing are foundational components in balancing the body's synergy of hormones.
2) The "coning" I referred to earlier could be Diastasis Recti which is the widening of the gap between the 2 sections of the Rectus Abdominis (or 6 pack) abdominal muscle. The split occurs at the Linea Alba, the mid-line collagen structures of connective tissue at the front of the abdomen. Interestingly, diastasis can show up in those whose abdominal musculature is too tight (over facilitated), as well as too weak (under facilitated). Therefore, while I thought tightening my core while exercising was helping, it was actually causing more harm.
Throughout this course, I learned the "Core Belly Breathing Pump" which taught me how to correctly inhale and exhale with my diaphragm (Belly moves in and out rather than chest and shoulders moving when breathing). Thankfully, with this course, I have learned how to teach specific activations for the inner unit, primarily the diaphragm (DPH), pelvic floor (PF), and transverse abdominis (TVA).
For more information on this topic, read here:
3) Joint Laxity is increased due to a spike in specific hormones such as relaxin and progesterone. Therefore, there is reduced stability of the joints during pregnancy and may increase a pregnant woman's susceptibility to over-stretching, hyper extending, or general joint instability. Therefore, paying attention to specific workouts that include lunges, quick or jerky movements, etc. is extremely important to prevent injury and pregnancy complications.
4) Form vs Function (More so for trainers): Correct muscles to activate more than just re-positioning of the joints. As stated in this course "As fitness professionals, we can sometimes forget how disconnected our clients are from their own bodies. Encouraging them to feel themselves again is a primary route toward health and vitality."
5) Weight Gain and exercise: Many people want to stick within the guidelines for weight gain which is between 25-35 pounds. However, every pregnancy is different and some may gain more weight than others. The goal for many pregnant clients is to stay fit during pregnancy while keeping the baby healthy. But what kind of exercise is most likely to help with this goal? The answers are Strength training and Interval Cardio Training; not so much Long Slow Distance (LSD) Cardio. "Research clearly shows that interval training can shift the cardio effect back toward the strength training effects, especially performance, stress-reduction, and long-term fat loss."
3rd Trimester: Hello Baby! Bye Bye Running!
There she is! The bump that I have been waiting to see and she is growing rapidly! Can you guess what kind of comments are being thrown my way now? "Wow, you really have popped" "How much longer do you think you'll be able to work", etc. At this point, I expect comments. I am not used to having people comment on my body every day which at times can make me feel uncomfortable, but I know there is no ill intent behind anyone's words. I am now at 33 weeks and my exercise routine has changed tremendously. Walking has become my best friend. My running shoes have been put away until she arrives. 1-2 minutes rest between sets has become the norm. Some days I work out for 10 minutes and other days it's 60 minutes. It's all about how active this little one in my belly is and her positioning. I am working on doing more bending and twisting exercises (I know, I know- some of you have been probably told not to do these) but with the proper breathing and activating of the core, these exercises will better prepare me to bend over to pick the baby up or twist and put her seatbelt on without throwing my back out. Breathing is becoming harder even when I am just sitting down. As much as I love planning my workouts, not everyday goes as planned. Therefore, my mentality around this is something is better than nothing and if nothing is what feels best at times, then tomorrow is a new day to try again! At 33 weeks pregnant, I have gained a total of 19 pounds and will try and continue to gain 1-2 pounds a week until this baby is born! (Could be way more than that!) Stay tuned for more information on this trimester as time goes on.
Moral of the story:
1) Every pregnancy is different and there is no one size fits all plan.
2) If you are pregnant, I highly recommend you work with a trainer that is certified in pre and post natal exercise.
3) If you are pregnant, stop comparing yourself to others. Easier said than done and this is something I have to work on every day but if your doctor says the baby is healthy, then that's the only verification you need.
4) Commenting on another's body pregnant or not may do more harm than good (depending on how you phrase it). Don't be scared to speak up and let someone know if their words make you feel uncomfortable. They may be able to clarify what they really meant before we assume it's a negative comment.
5) Understand your body. Is the risk vs reward worth it?
6) Try and move (whatever that means to you)
If you are interested in learning more about this course and the information provided in this blog, here is the link: