Pregnant and fit? Definitely easier said and imagined than done!
When I first found out I was pregnant, I was so excited to embark on a new journey, including a new health & fitness regime well-suited for pregnancy.
Of course I immediately started researching the right/good/recommended foods to eat and safe forms of exercises to perform, what I could continue doing, what I could not, etc. Little did I know my body was soon going to take over control and dictate my eating habits and energy levels!
My first Trimester
About 6 weeks through, the nausea and fatigue kicked in. First, I couldn’t get myself out of bed in the mornings. I found myself waking up 20 minutes before I actually had to leave to work. No time for working out then! Workout in the evening you say? On good days, I’d be able to go for a walk around the compound then come back home and collapse on the couch as if I had just run a marathon. On other days, I’d come back and all I’d want to do is nap. My family now has a good collection of first trimester napping pictures of me (no, I’d rather not post them).
Second, I was nauseous ALL THE TIME! The only thing that would make me feel better is munching (or sleeping….or muching and sleeping…on a mountain of pillows of course cause I had eaten so much I felt sick). Cheese sandwiches became my favorite breakfast. As for the rest of my meals….bring on more carbs! pasta, rice…LASAGNA… bolognese on pasta, bolognese on rice, greasy fries….you get the idea. How about greens? Ukh. Green juices and smoothies? Ukh. Thankfully, I did crave fruits.
Needless to say, going from being active twice a day, exercising in the morning for at least 30 minutes and horse riding at least 1h30 minutes in the evenings to no exercise + bad diet … not only did the weight start to pile on faster than it should have, but I wasn’t feeling so great. It’s a vicious cycle…
Things started to turn around by the end of my first trimester however.
For starters, I was able to incorporate greens in my diet again. Finally! I was missing my salads! Although green juices and smoothies were still out of the question. I also found the energy, at least 3 times a week to plug in a workout. I was walking, swimming and strength training whenever I felt I could. I actually ordered a few pre-natal workout DVDs.
My favorite at this point was definitely “Body by Trimester” by Joy Southworth. I felt I was getting a good full body workout in only 30 minutes. It got my heart rate up just enough, worked all muscle groups and it didn’t bore me. Also, it was closest to the style of workouts I usually enjoyed i.e. Interval training.
My Second Trimester
People generally tell you the second trimester is the best. You get your energy back, and whilst you are getting heavier, you don’t “feel pregnant”. I totally agree. Or at least it was the case for me.
I was eating better, moving a lot more, travelled. It was a good change.
At this stage I really enjoyed Karena and Katrina from www.toneitup.com strength workouts as the Bikini Series took off (not that I was looking too become bikini ready by my third trimester!).
I especially enjoyed the Bikini Kettlebell workout – although I did omit two core exercises including “V-sit figure 8” (move 10) and “rock the boat” (move 11), and modified move 9, the “Burpee press”, walking my feet up rather than jumping. Their arm workouts are also great. As for core workouts, I generally avoided anything where I needed to lay on my back, crunch or twist. Standing abs and plank variations felt OK. Just remember to listen to your body and get advice from a professional!
I also dug up some old DVDs for more cardio-oriented workouts such as Kathy Smith’s timeless Step Workout. I enjoyed this workout as it is divided into segments including:
- A warm-up – which I sometimes used as a warm-up before other strength training workouts
- A beginner segment
- An intermediate segment
- An advanced segments
- An upper-body routine
Each segment lasts approximately 10 minutes. You can choose to do it all at once or pick individual segments depending on the time and energy you have.
This “honeymoon” phase did not last too long unfortunately. Entering my 6th month, I caught a really bad case of bronchitis + pneumonia. It didn’t help that I took a flight and didn’t do much resting as soon as the cough started. I guess I overestimated my immune system’s will to fight nasty bacteria and viruses. I was pretty much a vegetable for almost a month after that. With constant coughing – and consequent bruised ribs-, wheeziness, and so on, I would get short of breath just getting up from the couch, so lazing around all day became my daily activity.
My Third Trimester
Finally getting over the chest infection and everything else that came with it, I was ready to be out and about again… or so I thought! First walk out and I come back home feeling like I’ve run a marathon!!! My body was aching. Abu Dhabi’s June heat (and humidity!) didn’t help either. FYI Pregnant ladies, remember to keep hydrated, as dehydration may cause premature labor!! Plus you don’t want to overheat an already warm and cozy baby.
In the beginning of my third trimester, I generally felt that too much walking was causing discomfort in my low back, hips and pelvic area. I much preferred short walks – about 10 minutes at a time – or a few minutes on the elliptical, which I alternated with strength exercises.
Note: I realized walking longer distances became much easier on my body once I went on maternity leave. I guess sitting on a desk 8 long hours a day didn’t do me any favors. I highly recommend you keep moving around during office hours to avoid stiffness and enhance blood circulation. Plus it helps if you are experiencing swelling.
Also, I found that a good foam rolling and stretching session once home generally did the trick. Make sure you don’t over stretch though as your joints and ligaments loosen up during pregnancy caused by a hormone called relaxin, which on the one hand we should be thankful for as it helps ease the process of child birth, but on the other hand makes you more prone to injury.
If you are not too sure what stretches you should be doing or how to properly use a foam roller, I highly suggest you see a physiotherapist or a trained masseuse to help ease discomfort.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, strength training became a little strenuous. At this point I decided to stick to walking, swimming and yoga which generally made me feel better.
For Yoga, I either followed along Yogaglo classes or had a personal trainer come over. I prefered more personalized sessions as I could chose my focus for the day, something you can’t generally ask for in group classes. I also discovered a great app called Belly Beautiful which I highly recommend. The stretching segment from Leah Serago’s Prenatal Physique was also a great 20-minute stretch session I often came back to during my pregnancy.
Another thing I tried and which my body took quite well during the first half of my pregnancy was pre-natal pilates where we used an exercising ball, as well as the reformer and chair for different exercises. Unfortunately my lovely trainer travelled for training early on and I didn’t continue for the rest of my pregnancy.
It is important to stay active during pregnancy but it is also important to listen to your body. This is NOT a time to exhaust yourself! Save your energy for when you’ll need to get that baby out and care for him/her once they bless us with their presence.
If you can’t fit in regular workouts, which personally I couldn’t do myself, just focus on keeping active in other ways, even if it means walking around the mall and running (more like walking) errands, getting things done at home, stretching a little on the couch, etc. Exercise not only helps control weight gain but it also helps you feel better in general, feel more energetic, “lighter” if possible, more regular (yes I said it!), as well as prepares you for labor (don’t forget your squats and hip opening stretches!) and getting back into shape faster postpartum.
This post is just a narration of my first experience. I am not prescribing anything, simply sharing my last nine months with you and hoping it will help give someone out there some direction, inspiration or motivation. Pregnancy is a true blessing, with all its ups and downs. We tend to complain but its a beautiful thing, a truly wonderful experience so cherish every moment, I promise it will pass by faster than you expect it.
I do acknowledge that all pregnancies are different, some harder than others, and if you’d like to share your own experience, we would love to hear from you. I am sure someone out there is going through a similar experience and would benefit from your experience 🙂
Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll try our best to answer them.
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