I know several women personally who I have watched do pretty regular exercises throughout pregnancy who all had great deliveries and healthy babies--so I knew it was a possibility. I had never consistently exercised during a pregnancy before. I honestly couldn't even fathom that someone could do that. Between morning sickness and extreme fatigue, I didn't know how you could possibly exercise.
However, I had been exercising almost daily for almost two years. This is not something you can easily just give up, and I didn't want to. I didn't want to go back to square one in the pain I went through to build up my endurance. I had also read many times that exercise was good for you. Great! But what exercises?
I decided to turn to my friend Charlotte and her blog "The Great Fitness Experiment." She recently (recently in my mind...not terribly recently in reality, but my mind is in charge right now) had a baby and had several posts on exercise during pregnancy. One that really helped was this one: Myth Busting: Fitness in Pregnancy.
And then because I am her friend, I went ahead and emailed her for more assurance.
My worry with exercise and pregnancy is hurting my baby. I have lost a baby. I know the pain and I never want to go there again. Char has also lost babies, so she understands my worries.
The thing that stuck with me through our emails was to "listen to my body." Makes perfect sense! But isn't perfectly easy, I found out. You see, I had been working for the last two years to push my body further than my body thought it could go. Exercise is about discomfort. It is supposed to hurt. You are supposed to get tired. I had to figure out how to listen to my body and distinguish what was "slow down for baby" and what was "I want an excuse to slow down."
I spent the first 8 weeks working out the same as I had been--with Jillian Michaels. I love her work outs. The problem I ran into, however, was that she pushes you hard. It wasn't working out for me--I felt like I was pushing harder than I should and I spent all day every day in more worry about losing the baby than I would normally. Yes, I know women do more intense things throughout the pregnancy. My mom was one of those women. But I felt worried, and I think part of listening to your body is listening to your "intuition" or whatever you want to call it and I knew I needed to tone it down.
So I ordered Lindsay Brin's pregnancy DVDs. She has one for each trimester that is designed to help you strengthen your body in the right places for your growing belly. She throws out lots of helpful information (like, did you know your hamstring tightens throughout pregnancy and if you are having lower back pain, stretching your hamstring can help with that?). She also encourages you to go only as far as you can go, and she gives you limits to get to. She reminds you to get water breaks and to take it easier that day if you need to. It is great for me. It is not an extremely intense workout. It also is quite long. It has been good for me, though. I also work out on my elliptical a couple of times a week.
Okay, so after that long, anecdotal story, let's get down to the bare information about exercise in pregnancy.
Yes, this is a hard one. I still find it most effective to exercise before my children wake up, but once morning sickness really hit me, I found this very difficult (if not impossible) to do. I have to eat before I exercise, and then I have to sit for at least 30 minutes or that food is coming back up. Then the kids are up and in need of things.
I have had to let go of what I used to be able to get done. I can't expect to do what I used to do. If I want exercise to be a part of my day, I have to do it later in the morning. A hard thing with that, though, comes when I have to be ready by 9 AM to take children to various places, so it isn't always happening every day, but I am still trying to work it all out. I shoot for 5 days a week, but I don't always make it in the last 4 weeks with morning sickness. It is okay; when morning sickness backs off, I should be able to do it more.
I still do it at home.
Like I said, I am currently doing:
There are lots of great exercises you can do. Generally speaking, you can stick with whatever you were doing before. You can maintain your weights--but not increase. Walking is great, as is yoga and swimming. The things to avoid are things that can cause falling, and during second trimester and beyond, laying on your back isn't great. Yes, some people do things that have a high risk for falling. In Hawaii, my husband and friends were taking surfing lessons. I declined due to pregnancy, and the surf instructor and his girlfriend (both older) said, "Oh, that's fine! Pregnant women surf all the time!" Sure, but they probably already know what they are doing. They are also obviously more comfortable with the risk. I am not--not willing to risk it.
Bottom line, listen to your body. Do what feels comfortable. Do some reading on it so you know what is safe and what is not. Listen to yourself--your body, head, and heart.
I would love to hear from you! What pregnancy workouts do you love? What activities? Any DVDs that you loved? Share share!