Training for the big day: Exercise during pregnancy

Me at 36 weeks last time, ready to hit the elliptical.

Hi friends! I’m really excited to be featured on Twin Cities in Motion’s blog today. Twin Cities in Motion is the organization that puts on the Twin Cities Marathon, among other races. They have a “20 Questions, Miles of Answer” series every Wednesday and I’m this week’s feature. Yay! Thanks Twin Cities in Motion!

In honor of that post, I thought I’d help kick off my pregnancy/baby post marathon (ha ha) with some thoughts on maintaining an active life during pregnancy.

Laying on the couch is highly appealing to me during pregnancy. While I get antsy in normal life if I don’t do something active every couple of days, when I’m pregnant the days can melt by without my noticing. When I do exercise I generally feel good and enjoy it, but getting up the motivation takes a bit more work.

My main motivation to exercise during pregnancy is to not lose my fitness, not gain too much weight, and to help my chances of having a good labor and childbirth recovery. Those are three pretty big carrots. But it’s the fourth, less important but more short-term rewarding carrot that drives me the most — and that is the desire to enjoy my couch-sitting and dessert-eating time without guilt.

Here’s how I like to stay active:
1. I take a break during the first trimester, but then I lace up my running shoes again and continue running (very slowly, with walk breaks as needed, 2-5 miles or so) for as long as it feels good. Last time I made it just shy of 8 months, but when I stopped and walked my Lake of the Isles lap instead of running it the following week I discovered I was only a few minutes slower, so my “run” by then was hardly that. So at some point for me, running becomes less effective for fitness than other, less bouncy methods of exercise.

2. Walking and hiking always feel great. By the end hiking (or snowshoeing, as it was in the winter) got pretty slow, but I loved getting outside and being active. (I took along my ski poles for added stability). When I was pregnant last time I’d listen to pregnancy podcasts to pass the time; now I take Beatrice for company.

3. I usually don’t like exercise machines, but I love my time on the elliptical while pregnant. It seems designed to help a pregnant woman get a good workout while not taxing support muscles. If you’re nervous the heart rate measurement tool can be helpful as well.

4. Yoga helps work out the kinks and aches as your body shifts and moves. I got overwhelmed trying to figure out what was “safe” during pregnancy and opted for a prenatal class. It’s fun having some preggo-only time and inspiring to watch 39-weekers rise into downward dog.

But I also cut myself a hefty dose of slack during pregnancy. If my body is saying no I listen to it. I throw away my run-tracking charts and check my competitiveness. And per doctor’s orders, I watch the hydration really closely.

I recommend buying or finding some maternity workout gear. I bought one shirt but I wore the heck out of it, and I was pleased to get a hand-me-down tank and yoga pants. I was able to keep wearing my regular but looser shorts and skirts.

Right now it feels like I will never be speedy and have much endurance ever again, so I’m heartened to have the knowledge that I worked up to marathon 6 months after childbirth last time. It’s easy to feel slow and heavy during pregnancy and forget how hard you’re really working and what great shape your heart and muscles are in.

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  1. […] more post on pregnant and postpartum running, check out: Training for the big day: Exercise during pregnancy (working out during my second pregnancy) Running at all, four months postpartum (postpartum running […]

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