The new (and sometimes harsh) realities that come with being pregnant and trying to stay active
Before I got pregnant with my first daughter, my fitness routine was running on all cylinders.
I just finished a 30-day nutrition challenge, which totally transformed how I felt and looked. I had set some lofty goals for myself in the gym, and since I had a flexible work schedule at the time (oh, life before kids) I was working out daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I was 29, but felt like my high school self.
My husband and I weren’t trying for a baby, but we weren’t exactly not trying either. After a week or so of feeling totally lousy, with no other viable excuses, it finally dawned on me … I was pregnant.
Friends told me that because I was “so active,” pregnancy would be breeze. I was naïve enough to believe them. By medical standards, they were right. I had no major complications: no gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, no bed rest or activity modification, nor did I have one of the hundreds of other scary and extreme complications found in books and blogs. I was extremely lucky.
Emotional standards are different though. I struggled. I had terrible hip and back pain that impacted how I trained — in addition to the growing fetus stealing all my oxygen. I found myself grappling with my changing body. I knew it was inevitable, but I still found myself crying in front of the mirror after getting out of the shower, wondering if my body would ever be the same. Spoiler alert: nope.
I relied on staying active to keep my body image issues in check or curb them at best. My OB/GYN encouraged me to continue working out but to listen to my body. Her common sense approach put me at ease.
Time after time, I would start a doctor visit with variations of the following, “I read pregnant women shouldn’t do sit-ups after the first trimester,” or “Guys at the gym say 65 pounds is too heavy for me now.” Her rebuttals always shifted the focus back to me.
“Well, can you still do a sit-up comfortably?” she asked. “And does the weight feel heavy or dangerous?”
Her constant reminders that my own body would let me know when it was time to back off were right on.
People tend to have a very strong reaction when they see a pregnant woman exercising, especially if she is doing something intense like CrossFit. I totally get it. Watching a woman 8 months pregnant squat 65 pounds looks extreme, but she probably was lifting a lot more than that prior to a little baby taking up residence in her belly.
My doctor’s guidelines took the guess work out of it. As long as I was comfortable and could hold a hypothetical conversation while I worked out, I was good to go.
Eventually, my body told me to tone it down. Maybe it didn’t happen in the first trimester, but there came a time when doing a sit-up became mission impossible, my belly got in the way of maintaining a solid plank during a push-up, and the growing baby made normal pull-ups impossible. So, I listened to my body and changed my routine accordingly.
Fast forward to today. I am 7 months pregnant with daughter No. 2. We have a stubborn, feisty and sometimes disgruntled “three-nager.” I now work a job where it takes a small act of God to be home by 5:30 p.m. Factor in dinner making, spending time with our disgruntled toddler, bath, bed and boom — it’s 8:30.
I don’t want to compare motherhood to war, because that would be just a slight exaggeration, but I am in the trenches, y’all! The last thing I want to do before bed is exercise. Any other moms out there find themselves in this situation?
In this season of my life, I am just not CrossFit material anymore. Not because I wouldn’t love to do it. Right now, I’m still trying to figure out how to manage it all: wife, mom, friend, full-time employee.
My advice to pregnant women and new moms: Just don’t get hung up on what your exercise regimen used to be, and definitely don’t waste a second beating yourself up about where you are in the journey. Definitely talk to your OB/GYN who can help you stay fit and avoid any issues.
As all those parenting experts say … it’s just a phase. There’s no reason why that can’t apply to your workout routine.
– Ashly Goins
Norton Women’s Sports Health is a first-of-its-kind program designed to help Louisville-area women of all ages get and stay active. Through a team of nutritionists, trainers, orthopaedists, psychologists and fit pregnancy experts — all in one system — we aim to encourage fitness success while creating a community in which female athletes and active women can thrive.