In recent years, there has been more focus on the benefits of exercise for the pregnant woman. Until the 1980s, the general recommendation was for a woman to not exert herself. The thought was rest is best.
Since the 80s, as more research was done, the medical recommendations have shifted, and continue to evolve. Moderate intensity exercise has been found to alleviate many aches and pains associated with pregnancy, and can help to prevent or manage conditions like preeclampsia, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, swelling, and gestational diabetes.
Plus, exercise benefits the baby! Cardiovascular development, brain activity, and healthy weight ranges are all affected in a positive way by the mother exercising.
As a trainer, I have been pre/post natal certified since 2011. I have worked with many women throughout their pregnancies, and then after recovery. It has always been a population with whom I have enjoyed working.
And now, I am working as my own personal trainer through pregnancy. It has been interesting on many levels. I feel fortunate for having the knowledge for the hows and whys to exercise while pregnant. There is less mystery for me as to what is safe and what is not.
Initially, I thought I would be able to predict how this would all go: what I would do, and how I would feel at each stage. But, alas, I’ve had some surprises.
In the first trimester, exhaustion was overwhelming. I didn’t have much nausea, but my body felt like it had been run over by a truck, ALL OF THE TIME.
My brain would want to go for a jog, or lift weights; but often my body would only handle 15-20 minutes at a time. Or, I would skip my work out altogether. I didn’t feel energized, or mood improved by exercise, which has been my norm for many years.
Moving my body has been a stress outlet for me. I have always felt better after a workout or a run, than before it. This change was difficult for me. I felt crappy and sluggish and irritable. This was a test of wills for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. I had to trust the trainer in me to keep going, and to do what I could do in a given day without judgement. I had to do for myself what I have encouraged every prenatal client of mine to do.
Going into month 4, (thankfully) my energy shifted. The second trimester is known as the golden time in pregnancy. The hormones that make you tired and nauseous have lessened. I was able to pick up the pace, and work to a closer intensity compared to what I had been doing, prior to pregnancy. My programming was not quite the same; I had to stop running as my SI joints are not stable enough to handle that kind of pounding anymore. (I could write a whole blog about those SI joints!) I rediscovered how much I enjoy step aerobics (bringing me back to the late 1990’s!) and have kept strength training in the mix. And of course, I focus on proper alignment, along with activation exercises for my deep abdominal core and pelvic floor muscles.
I am now in the third trimester. My center of gravity has shifted thanks to this belly. Pressure on my diaphragm makes breathing during activity more of a challenge, and this kid is constantly sitting on my bladder! I am re-learning everyday, how to negotiate new challenges to my balance and range of motion.
My body is not feeling like mine. Every Mom I’ve worked with has expressed this to me: how pregnancy makes your own body feel foreign. It’s like an alien has taken over, inside. It’s not without frustration. Everyday, things like picking something up off of the floor, or finding a comfortable sleeping position, is effort.
But it has also been fascinating. Feeling the baby move is weird and wonderful every time.
The next few weeks will be full of surprises, I am sure. My goals are to keep moving, and to say thank you every day to my body for growing this person. I’m making a human! So strange. So terrifying, exciting, and humbling.