When I was newly pregnant with Asha and Alina, before I actually confirmed I was having twins, I told my suspicion of having twins to one of my sisters. To this day, I remember verbatim what she said to me. With a look of utter shock (and maybe some pity) she said to me, “If you’re having twins, you might as well jump out of a window now”. The very next day, I found out I was indeed having twins.
Now you might be thinking of how that was such a terrible thing for my sister to say to me. However, after the twins were born, and I wanted to actually jump out of a window, I was extremely grateful for both of my sisters’ honest, no bullshit approach to sharing mothering, pregnant, birthing & general parenting information. They have, and will always be, my go to resource for no sugar coating advice and information.
And now it is my turn to share the no-sugar-coating-no-bullshit-approach to my experience with training during pregnancy.
It’s no longer a secret (and if you’ve seen me around the gym recently, certainly no surprise) that I’m pregnant with my third baby. I’d love nothing more than to say that pregnancy is beautiful and filled with joy. But it can be hard to remain joyful when your body aches, you begin to sleep less and can’t stop thinking about ice cream. (Ok, maybe that last one is pretty joyful and beautiful!)
The little feminist voice in my head reminds me that, yes, pregnancy can certainly be beautiful but my training has certainly suffered as a result. And I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of vent sessions with my coworkers coming to terms with this fact. At least daily they have to remind me, quite sternly some times, “YOU’RE GROWING A TINY HUMAN INSIDE OF YOU, ALISON”. So sometimes I opt for a nap instead of an intense training session. Most times I opt for conservative weights instead of my previous training maxes. And all of the time, I remain mindful that my main goal is no longer getting stronger or training for an upcoming barbell meet, but rather to maintain my strength and to train for a meet of a different sort: labor and delivery.
Most pregnancy training blogs talk about things like: Sticking to low impact exercises, how prenatal yoga is the best form of exercise during pregnancy, not to lift heavy weights, not to lie on your back, and how to generally (in my opinion) let pregnancy take over your life.
But this is Union Fitness and we don’t know how to be average (and/or normal). So here is my personal experience on training during pregnancy:
- I’m pregnant not broken/incapacitated/dead!
No, I don’t need those special parking spots for expectant mothers. No, I don’t need you to carry the heavy boxes for me. Yes, I may walk a little slower than usual, but I could probably still crush you in a Cardio Lab class. Yes, I may lift less than usual, but my form is spot on and I feel great!
- I’m cautious but not scared!
So I’m a little more cautious about certain movements but not fearful of anything that I did previously to getting pregnant. I still back squat, deadlift, snatch, bench, clean & jerk and basically every other lift/movement I did when I was sans fetus. Being cautious doesn’t have to automatically mean eliminating them from my routine. It simply just means I pay more attention to how I’m feeling and how I may need to adjust my position or the weights.
- I still lay on my back (GASP!)
There are so many myths floating around out there about training during pregnancy and the “no laying on your back” rule is one of them. Pretty much the only hard and fast rule about pregnancy that I follow is “listen to your body”.
- I deal with tons of body image issues
I don’t want to speak for all pregnant women out there but I imagine a lot of women deal with some sort of body image issue at some point during their pregnancy. As a coach and competitive athlete, it’s difficult to see the scale climb each week. Even with the knowledge that this is healthy and what’s best, it’s hard for me to watch the growing belly and increased body fat. It’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance. This is where the help of my loving coworkers screaming, “YOU’RE GROWING A TINY HUMAN INSIDE OF YOU, ALISON” definitely comes in handy. It’s helpful to have constant reminders that this state is temporary and normal and healthy.
- Yoga sucks
At least it does for me personally in this stage of my pregnancy. (I’m in no way advocating that yoga actually sucks. You should really go do some yoga right now. Seriously, stop what you’re doing and go to a yoga class!) I’ve dealt with some SI joint issues this pregnancy and the stretching involved with yoga actually makes it feel worse, so I’ve completely cut it from my training regimen. Most, if not all, pregnancy training blogs advise doing prenatal yoga as the best form of exercise during pregnancy. The one size fits all approach is antiquated at best. Any time I’m in doubt, I ask my midwives or consult the fitness experts (read: my coworkers).
- There’s so much pee
It’s not just the fact that I have to pee every 15 minutes during the day or even the fact that I wake up approximately 5 times every night to pee. That I can deal with. But there’s definitely nothing beautiful or graceful about peeing your pants mid deadlift, mid jumping jack or mid sneeze, is there?!? While this is a common occurrence with pregnancy and women that have had children in general, it’s not normal. I’ve realized I have to take some of my previous training time to start to strengthen my pelvic floor. This means extra time with belly breathing exercises and kegels when I’d rather be squatting heavy. The things we do for our kids!
- I can still set PR’s!
One of my goals this pregnancy, like I mentioned before, is to just maintain my strength. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been shying away from adding on the plates when it feels good. In fact just this month I’ve managed to set a personal record for my bench press and my overhead press! At the same time, I acknowledge my limitations. I know my lower body lifts are more challenging right now because of my decreased ability to brace my core properly. So I accept the fact that I bench press as much as I squat right now. But a PR, at anytime, feels great!
- My endurance, strength, stamina and balance have all taken a huge hit
It can be huge pill to swallow when things that were previously easy for you become challenging. But I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge! I see this time as an opportunity to learn new things. Because of my ever-increasing belly, it’s become impossible to deadlift conventional style. So I started learning how to pull sumo style. Admittedly, this has never been my forte but with the patient guiding of Coach Lindsey, Coach Ryan and Coach Casey, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of this style. Dare I say I even enjoy it?!
Pregnancy does not have to be a time where you accept your fate of growing big and slow. Naturally, every pregnancy and every woman is different and obviously I encourage anyone that is pregnant, trying to get pregnant or recovering from pregnancy to consult with their doctor or midwife before training or starting a new training program.
I have about 10 weeks give or take left in this pregnancy and I’m excited for whatever obstacles and/or surprises come up in my training program until the birth of this baby. For now, I relish in the fact that I (mostly) feel healthy, fit, fabulous and strong. And as always, I am ever so thankful for my coworkers and gym family here at Union Fitness for creating such an encouraging and positive environment to be in! Now I’m off to grow this tiny human inside of me and toss around the barbell for a little bit. Cheers!