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Exercising When Pregnant – My Experience

A few people have suggested I write this blog, sharing my experience of exercising when pregnant. As I write this, I’m currently around 22 weeks pregnant, well into my second trimester. So I’m going to split this blog into two parts otherwise we’ll be here all day – so part one will be about my exercise experiences in the first trimester and part two will be about the second trimester.

(This picture isn’t me by the way, I may share one in the next blog!)

As a personal trainer, I’m pre and post natal qualified and have a lot of experience in training pregnant clients. But when I first found out that I was pregnant one of the first things on my mind was how it would affect my training.

Some may think this is selfish, but those who truly know me will know how important training is to me. It not only keeps me in good shape, but also keeps me sane. I train hard and I train a lot. Sometimes, twice a day. Not because I’m obsessed but as a keen triathlete and someone who represented GB in Duathlon at age-group level earlier this year, training twice a day is what it takes to perform at this level. So thoughts whirling around in my mind where could I still keep training as hard? Could I still train twice a day?

When you study to become a pre and post natal personal trainer, some of the advice you  give to pregnant clients is:

  • Don’t take up any new activities
  • Exercise at a moderate intensity (ignore what you may read about not letting your heart rate go above 140 bpm there is no solid research about this)
  • Don’t lift weights above the head
  • Don’t lie on the back for prolonged periods of time
  • Do your pelvic floors!!

Much of my training before I found out I was pregnant was based on interval training or training at high intensities with my heart rate often above 170 bpm. Whilst I knew there was no evidence about prescribed heart rates during exercise when pregnant, I couldn’t help worry that 170 bpm was a little high!

I remember my first run after finding out I was pregnant. I did a 7 miler and kept a close eye on my heart rate, as soon as I thought it was getting too high I walked…..jeez, I felt like a right lemon! Not saying there is anything with run/walking but it’s not what I do, I run! For my own peace of mind I needed clarity on what I could do from a professional otherwise I’d drive myself mad!

Soon after this run I had my first midwife appointment, I explained my background, what I did as a job, described my training scheduled to them, and was advised I could train as hard as I liked as long as I didn’t feel like it was doing any harm to the baby or myself. They explained that as my body was used to working at such high intensities it was ok to continue doing so. They even said I could still race provided I just counted it as a training session and didn’t give it my all trying to get a PB!

I was over the moon, and where possible I continue to worked hard in my training sessions. I still did interval training, I still pushed myself in my cardio sessions whilst closely listening to my body and monitoring my heart rate. During my interval sessions I took longer rest periods between sets to help me recover more, and if during a session I wasn’t feeling up to it I changed the session to a steady state session instead.

During my first trimester I didn’t gain any weight, and so my body shape didn’t change (apart from my boobs getting bigger!) which also had it’s benefits to training. Had I gained weight or seen any changes to my body then this would definitely have affected the intensity at which I worked.

I do two strength sessions a week, I adapted these accordingly:

  • No lifting above the head
  • No lying on the back for prolonged periods
  • Replaced direct abdominal work such as crunches with more core work such as planks, oblique planks.
  • Added in daily glute and pelvic floor strengthening exercises.

One of the things I don’t think you can truly understand until you are pregnant is how exhausting morning sickness can be. Those who know me know I’m a true Northern lass with a ‘crack on’ with it attitude to most things in life! But every day bang on 4pm I felt so nauseous and tired I could have literally slept anywhere! So this meant I had to fit my training around these lulls. I tried to fit my training in on a morning, and then if I felt up to it fit my second session in on an evening. I’ll be honest though, there was some nights I knew that it was better for me to get home and get an early nights sleep than train and so I did just that!

During that first ever doctor’s visit the only activity I was advised not to do was open water swimming due to the increased risk of infection. Since I started triathlons open water swimming is one of my most favourite activities. But I could still swim in a pool plus open water season was coming to an end so I could cope apart from the fact that I was meant to be doing an open water triathlon two days later.  I was gutted, I just wanted to finish the triathlon season doing something I loved and wasn’t going to be able to.

I did manage to fit in some racing during my first trimester, finishing off the triathlon season with a the Last of the Summer Tri at Holmfirth. I also did the Abbey Dash when I was around 13 weeks pregnant. Both were nowhere near PBs but it felt good to be part of a race.

One of the hardest things I had to do was pulling out of a GB Age-Group Qualifier at Oulton Park, a qualifying race for a sprint Duathlon in September 2018. So in reality, I could still compete in this race if I managed to qualify.  However, the weather forecast for the race was wet and whilst the race is legally a non-drafting race, the bike circuit does get a bit congested. Reluctantly I decided to pull out as I was worried I’d slip off my bike due to the wet track or get clipped by someone else and I just couldn’t risk it.

I’m going to share my experiences of training in the second trimester with you in my next blog, and boy are they different to the first trimester. Lots of changes to my body shape have meant lots of changes to my training!

As a summary, if you’re pregnant and reading this during your first trimester I would recommend:

  • Provided you feel ok, and have the energy, you are ok to continue training as you normally do just watch out for the points above such as lifting above the head, lying on the back
  • Hydrate more – since being pregnant I need to be more hydrated than normal
  • If you don’t wear one already get a bloody good sports bra
  •  Start your pelvic floors as early as you can!
  • Listen to your body, if you’re tired sometimes it’s better to have a lie in or get an early night. I’m not giving you the go ahead to become lazy but sometimes I just needed some extra sleep and then I was ready to give it my all in my next training session rather than do two lacklustre sessions.
  • Morning sickness can attack at any time – try to plan your training sessions in when you have the most energy so you feel motivated to do them.
  • You are an individual, work to your own intensity and listen to your own body. Do what you feel comfortable with.

 

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