Wednesday, March 6, 2013

12:19 PM
They say you become a mother the instant that you realize you are pregnant. Being a mother is, and means, many wonderful things, but this saying is just a lovely euphemism for your life and your body cease to be your own for several blessed years. And this will start to happen nine months before your partner even has to start worrying about what having a baby will do to their lifestyle and waistline :)

On the bright side, all that life-changing prenatal stuff does somewhat lessen the blow that your previous lifestyle is going to take once the baby is born (sort of like the crappy sleep in the last trimester "prepares" you for the sleepless post-baby nights). Also, on a less sarcastic note, you get to feel your baby move inside you which tops my list of amazing life experiences.

Mommy & Me Rock Climbing
When I was pregnant, I wanted to do everything I could to keep my growing babies safe and thriving. However, I also wanted to maintain as much of my active and healthy (but not austere) diet and lifestyle as I could. Simply put, I didn't want to give up coffee and I really didn't want to get irrecoverably fat.

So, striving to be a good mother-to-be, I bought several books and read multiple articles about the benefits of moderate exercise while pregnant and talked to my doctor regularly about my diet and exercise choices. Generally, the research bears out that exercising while pregnant actually benefits both mother and child and should be an important part of prenatal care. As I was lucky enough to have two very healthy pregnancies, my doctor just encouraged me to listen to my body and do the types of workouts that I felt comfortable doing, at an intensity that was appropriate for my level of fitness. As a result, I had two very active and easy pregnancies, gained an appropriate amount of weight, and had two healthy, full-term babies.

What I did for exercise, and how I did it, varied throughout my pregnancies as my body and energy levels changed. Below is a brief description of how I kept exercising throughout my two pregnancies:

During both pregnancies I ran for about the first 18 weeks. My runs were slower and shorter than my pre-pregnancy runs, and I had to factor in lots of extra bathroom breaks, but I still appreciated the emotional and physical release I got from exercising outside. I stopped running at about the same time in both pregnancies, but for different reasons. The first go round I had a lovely case of Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction, which is where an overdose of relaxin causes your pubic bone to separate and it feels like shards of glass are poking into your pubic area. Lovely. The second pregnancy I developed an inguinal hernia that became too painful to run through and so, knowing I had other options, I stopped running. Runners World Magazine has published a lot of articles about women running during pregnancy that helped guide me and I also liked this video with Paula Radcliffe and Kara Groucher talking about running while pregnant.

Rock Climbing
As you can see in the above picture, I climbed until about 7.5 months into each pregnancy. I stopped bouldering really early on, and switched from lead to top rope climbing during my second trimesters. Once my belly got big I climbed using a full body pregnancy harness which released any pressure on my abdomen. I climbed well within my limits and as such was able to relax and enjoy climbing, even with the added "training weight". Also, I was lucky during both pregnancies to get to climb with other pregnant woman which was a great bonding experience. It was pretty funny seeing the stares and double takes we would get waddling around the gym, or climbing past someone on the wall. One night someone even asked to take my picture they were so incredulous that I and my huge belly were climbing.
Mountain Biking in Tahoe @ 36 weeks

One of the presents that I got myself during my first pregnancy was a really nice dual suspension mountain bike. I figured that on my nice cushy ride I could mountain bike well into my pregnancy without worrying about losing or harming the baby and so that is what I did. Again, I managed my effort and reduced the technicality of the rides that I went on, but was able to bike through both pregnancies until full-term. I supplemented outside riding with spin classes (where I wore a HR monitor) and during both pregnancies went to a spin class within a couple days of giving birth.

Swimming is the holy grail of pregnancy fitness, especially if you are pregnant during the summer months. After plodding around all day, it is AMAZING to feel weightless and to have your rapidly expanding body float around supported in the water. Especially during my third trimesters I would swim a few times every week and always felt so much better for it.

Hiking for Two
Prior to becoming pregnant I promise you that I had never really intentionally gone on a walk in my life, or gave it much credence as a form of exercise. However, during my first pregnancy I  started to thoroughly enjoy walking. I would regularly do a 20-minute loop through the hills in my neighborhood in the mornings or evenings, and sometimes would walk with work friends at lunchtime.  On the weekends I would go on long walks in the open space preserves near my house. I loved the time spent in the outdoors, the camaraderie of chatting with friends, and the slower pace that allowed me to focus on the beauty of my surroundings. The love I developed for walking carried well into my post-natal exercise routines and is something that I now very much enjoy doing with my entire family.
Prenatal Yoga

Whenever any of my friends have gotten pregnant, I have always encouraged them to do prenatal yoga, especially in their second and third trimesters. The physical benefits include increased strength to handle the taxing elements of giving birth, the easing of back and sciatic pain during pregnancy, and the benefits of practicing deep breathing exercises and alternate body positions to assist with pain management during labor.  In addition, you get to spend a few hours each week with a bunch of other big, fat pregnant ladies who are going through similar things to you. It is an amazing and supportive community to be a part of.

I am not suggesting that everyone's pregnancy experiences are like mine and that what I did is appropriate for everybody. I am simply sharing what worked for me while I was pregnant and hopefully giving those of you that are active and healthy the perspective that having a baby doesn't have to mean the end of a fit and active lifestyle, either while your baby is in utero or afterwards.

SUPing With Baby & Doggy
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