As a personal trainer, the one thing I was absolutely determined to do whilst pregnant was to keep up my exercise regime. It was important to me to maintain my strength and manage the pregnancy weight gain. So, here’s my story.
Pregnancy Number 1:
My first child was conceived with a little help from a fertility doctor. We were lucky that it didn’t take me long to get pregnant. When it was confirmed, our doctor advised me to slow down on the exercise front and not do anything too vigorous. By this, he obviously meant capoeira, and suggested that it would be best if I stopped jogging too. However, he allowed me to continue “light” weight training and swimming (thank goodness). This is pretty normal advice for people with non-complicated pregnancies in the first trimester.
Once the first trimester was over and I got the all clear from the doctor, I was back in full swing at the gym; my happy place. My weekly exercise schedule comprised of five sessions – 3 days of weights, 1 of yoga and 1 of swimming. My husband did not allow me to continue with capoeira training, which is fair enough as it’s a contact sport, which is definitely not advisable during pregnancy. I did, however, get to participate on a few special and safe occasions.
So what happened when, a little unexpectedly, baby No. 2 came along 20 months later?
By this time I was doing Crossfit and my fitness level had progressed tremendously. I was strong and I was even more determined to (somewhat) maintain all these gains. I was prepared to continue with Crossfit, knowing that my body was capable of doing so. I also took up yoga again, as yoga in general is a great form of exercise, but during pregnancy I would say it’s essential.
My last Crossfit workout was at 37 weeks, whilst my last yoga session was a few days before delivery at 40+ weeks.
So you may ask, why all this exercise during pregnancy?
Because I felt great; both physically and mentally. I experienced no discomfort whatsoever throughout either of my pregnancies, and I genuinely loved being pregnant. As my body went through the changes, the one constant was my exercise. I focused on what my body could do at each stage and continually surprised myself. I received so much encouragement, which is always good for the soul. I also received lots of stares, to which I became immune, as I know for many it is strange to see a pregnant woman exercising more vigorously than one who isn’t.
Did the exercise prepare me for an easy birth?
I laugh at this question. Giving birth to a baby is not easy. Also I simply don’t know whether not exercising would have resulted in anything different. All the birth stories I hear are just so different and in my case I exercised throughout both, so I have no comparison. I do know, however, that exercise helped me recover quickly. After the birth of my first child, by week 3, I was doing squats, lunges and push-ups, and by the fourth week I was doing HIIT training five days a week.
My second birth was easier (but still painful). Although late, our baby came naturally. I had a drug-free birth and a reasonably quick delivery. Recovery was even quicker and I felt I was ready to exercise by week 2, though my older (and I guess wiser) sister said no; internally, my body, not just my mind, still had to recuperate. So, I obediently waited till week 3 before going back to yoga. This was as long as I could manage before going crazy.
Where did I find the time?
Babies spend around 20 hours of the day asleep. There was time to exercise.
The bigger question you probably have is whether all this exercise is safe?
Well let me ask you a question, why do we exercise? The answer is simple – to be healthy. Pregnancy is a crucial time to keep healthy.
My purpose in writing this is to give you the confidence to exercise during pregnancy. I must stress however that you should get the all-clear from your doctor. I also advise you to work with a trainer who is experienced in pre-natal exercise. The kind of exercises you do are determined by your personal capabilities.
Pregnancy is a time to pay particular attention to your well-being and to prepare you for motherhood. Exercise can certainly help with all of this. It did for me.