As it turns out, when I started down the road to motherhood, I had my priorities back assward. I was so focused on exercise post-baby and getting back to my old body that I didn't stop to think or ponder what this would do to my mind and how I might change as a person.
To put it simply: I had many, many (many, many, many, many) misconceptions about what I was going to be able to physically achieve while pregnant. I thought nothing in my workout routine would change. I thought I was going to be that lady, you know the one running with what appeared to be a giant pumpkin tucked under her tiny workout top. Basically, I thought I was going to be super woman during my pregnancy. Yeah… I thought wrong.
During my 20th week of pregnancy, after a painful, two-mile walk with my pup I melted down on my way to work, a facility where I manage the fitness programs, Personal Trainers, and Group Exercise staff (the perpetually fit). After a good 45 minutes of beating myself up for not being able to live up to my aforementioned disillusions, a member and friend who also happens to be a clinical psychologist (with a one-year old) noticed my despair and gave me advice that changed my attitude and expectations.
In short, Nat told me to be kind to myself, use positive self-talk, do the things that make me happy, eat the things that made me feel good (within reason), and most of all, focus on the things I was enjoying (like having non Wonderbra-induced cleavage for the first time in my adult life). I’m not complaining about being pregnant. I know how fortunate I was and I was so excited to meet Ethan. But, I felt as though I had given up a giant piece of who I was and it was a tough pill to swallow.
As a fitness professional, Nat’s advice helped me so much I felt beholden to pass it to other mommies-to-be, especially those struggling to maintain any semblance of their pre-pregnancy fitness. Women are normally bombarded by images of thin, “healthy” women everywhere they look. In the pregnant world, not much changes. The images of thin, fit pregnant women abound us. Additionally, there’s been a lot of focus on women who run marathons and compete in all types of physically challenging sports during pregnancy. For someone in the industry who’s supposed to be fit for a living, it can be a real mind f%*#! Together with physical pain (and sometimes nausea), the mental agony of not being able to keep up and being envious of those who can, sucks HARD.
Mistake #1: I thought I was going to run (cycle, hike, TRX, lift, etc.) my way through my pregnancy. I tried... OHHH, how I tried but, at about 14 weeks I started having some discomfort in my pelvis (pubic symphysis, tailbone, and hips) despite this however, I went for run with my pup (jackass moment #1). About a mile in, it felt as though my hips were ripping apart and everything was going to fall out! After being told I had a “severe” form of round ligament pain and symphysis pubic dysfunction I stopped running and still have certain movements I'm working to get back to. I was not able to ride a bike or go on extended walks because of the pain. After my ego subsided, I did what Nat suggested: I focused on what I could do without pain; swim, lightly lift, and do yoga.
Take-away #1: NEVER push through pain. Especially during pregnancy. You don't have to be hardcore right now. Do what feels good, and only what feels good (if anything does). Also, work on strengthening the pelvic floor and the posterior chain (back side of the body). This is an ideal time for glute exercises (think: glute bridges, body weight squats, cable/band hip extension).
Mistake #2: Nausea, shmausea- I was going to work out despite nausea!
Jackass moment #2. I didn’t handle being sick well at all. At exactly 8 weeks I threw up so much I needed a trip to the hospital for an IV. Luckily, the puking ceased but the nausea continued all day, every day for weeks, sometimes with bouts of dry-heaving in the public bathrooms at work. On the light nausea days I forced myself to move and realized that when I focused my workout (music helped) the nausea would ease up.
Take-away #2: You MUST listen to your body and do what it tells you. Move when you can and just let your body do its thing. If I had it to do over, morning sickness days would have been meditative days where I practiced my breathing and pelvic floor exercises. Your body is smart- it's good at sending signals of when to slow down and when to bust a move. Nausea should have been my first signal to slow my roll.
Mistake #3: Expecting that my diet was going to stay really healthy and “clean”.
One day I ate three pieces of cake and then I licked the plate. My diet was clean… just not the type of clean I thought it would be. Normally, I would have been a little disappointed in myself but, per Nat’s advice, I was not. I ate my cake in gluttonous contentment.
Take-away #3: It's just food! I'm sorry, I know gaining too much weight can be very hard on the body but being overly concerned about the diet can be equally as harmful. It can carry over into postpartum, and being obsessive about what you're eating and getting back to your "pre baby body". Now isn’t the time to be hard on yourself; if you’re sick, eat what makes you feel better (within reason), and do your thing.
What I realized was- just because I was fit prior to pregnancy didn’t mean I was going to get out easy. The biggest piece of advice I can offer to anyone struggling to continue down their fitness path while pregnant is to just listen to your own instincts. If you can still run sprints, do HIIT, and hop around like a jack rabbit, ok cool and more power to you but, do you need to? I get that the research isn't there to support or deny this type of activity and any negative effects on the child but, research is being done showing the negative effects of this type of exercise and the pelvic floor and surrounding musculature. Remember, this is a fleeting moment in time and you’re making a human.
Be kind to yourself, encourage yourself, and remember what comes at the end.