Exercise, activity and pregnancy

And now, a look back to before I was a fit active mom, when I was a fit active mom-to-be…

I have been a fitness enthusiast for many years. Many, many years. When I was trying to get pregnant, I dialed down the intensity of my workouts a bit to increase my fertility via the estrogen stored in fat cells, but I didn’t stop completely. It was always very important to me to stay active while pregnant, both for myself and for my baby. There are all sorts of articles and studies (here are a few) about the mental and physical benefits to both mother and baby, but actually I found those after I was already doing it. It’s good to know that science supports it, though!

Around the time we found out I was pregnant, BD and I were exploring the paleo lifestyle. We had just determined that BD is gluten intolerant and this triggered an investigation into the way we eat and move. We found Mark’s Daily Apple, a blog by a guy called Mark Sisson who promotes a primal way of living that is different to the way most people approach both diet and exercise. This includes slowing down the way we exercise, which I was more than happy to embrace as I was suffering through my first trimester! Neither of us are diehards, but he has some interesting ideas that are worth taking into consideration.

In my first trimester, once I found out I was pregnant (when I was around 6 weeks along), I pretty much only walked as my daily activity, per Mark’s primal blueprint philosophy. I was exhausted almost all of the time, nauseous much of the time, and it was what felt right for me. I took it easy, but walked every day. Interestingly, I didn’t gain any weight during that time and had a bump you would only recognize as such if you knew I was pregnant.

On the day I started the second trimester, I woke up wanting to go to the gym. So I did. I wore my heart rate monitor at every workout throughout my pregnancy as a way to monitor my exertion levels. I won’t try to tell anyone how to do it, since a lot of it was instinct for me, but I made sure that my heart rate remained significantly lower than my max and slowed down whenever I started getting close. While I was committed to exercise, I was equally committed to not overdoing it (something I have been known to do!).

At the gym I did the elliptical, stretched and did push ups. I tried running but my heart rate would jump up and stay up, so I stopped. I still walked every day (home from work or the gym, about 2 miles) as well. On the weekends, I would either walk, or BD and I would go out hiking, or I would just take it easy. I also did this workout sometimes, which was actually really great especially as I got bigger and less comfortable.

As I progressed through the pregnancy, my elliptical workouts got shorter, the heart rate I allowed myself got lower, and the amount of activity I did decreased. I was still exercising 5 days a week, but very much toned down. The most important thing was my baby’s safety, followed by the importance of continuing to be active on a level that felt right to me on that day. I had to do something; what it was depended on how I was feeling.

And that’s about it! Pixie was born as healthy as they come (even her lungs worked perfectly, which is a common concern with c section deliveries) and I recovered in record time, which I am convinced is partially a result of my activity throughout the pregnancy. I firmly believe in exercise during pregnancy, and encourage every woman to do so (at appropriate levels, of course)!

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