Finding out you are pregnant is exciting and joyous but also can be nerve-racking and fill many with fear. It took us so long to get pregnant that I was of course overjoyed but also pretty scared. As I have mentioned in some previous blogs, working out during pregnancy can be a little scary as many women might not know or understand the recommendations for exercise (one of the reasons I started this blog…to provide quality, researched information) or you might be scared that certain exercises will hurt the baby or scared to get your heart rate elevated and much more.
Though I love to read and research anything involved with exercise and nutrition, there is only so much you can research, some things need to be experienced. I found this to be very true with pregnancy. Below are 5 things that I changed immediately during my workouts once I found out I was pregnant. Some were based on initial research I had done on exercise and pregnancy for my clients but many of them based on personal experience during my first trimester.
- My Mindset
For me, this was the number one thing I had to change from the get go. I was no longer working out for fat loss or really performance anymore. I was now working out for someone else besides myself. I knew the benefits of exercise for both of us but knew that I could not push as hard as I wanted to, that I would need to modify certain exercises and monitor my workouts and my body more closely.
- Not Going Breathless (on purpose)
I love super hard, breathless workouts, this is one of the reasons I like Crossfit. I liked to be pushed, I like to go all out, and I like to be sore. I have mentioned the myth of the 140 bpm heart rate in this blog Myths of Exercising While Pregnant. There is no particular heart rate that any OBGYN can give to a pregnant women to stay below due to many factors. However, the one thing I recommend to my clients and followed myself was not to go breathless. Going breathless in a workout is usually great! It challenges you, can actually make your heart more efficient, creates beneficial hormonal changes and in some cases can help increase your anaerobic threshold. However, none of these are needed during pregnancy. While you are working out, the fetal heart rate does increase indicating mild stress (which is can actually lead to the baby dealing with the stress of labor better). However, as the intensity increases uterine blood flow can decrease. Though there are studies showing no harm in very fit women working out at 85% of their maximum capacity, working out too hard can cause the fetal heart rate to increase and then drop after exercise (the decrease was shown in unfit pregnant women working out too hard too fast). Regardless, you do not want your baby’s heart rate too high nor too low. There is no need to push that hard during pregnancy.
Yet, I did end up going breathless sometimes in my first trimester but not on purpose. I noticed working out at what would be a moderate pace for me was leaving me breathless. My heart rate was not very high but I felt very out of breath. This feeling of breathlessness is due to a few factors. The hormone progesterone changes the way your body absorbs oxygen in your blood stream through your lungs and therefore you become more sensitive to the levels of carbon dioxide you breathe out. Overall, your body is generally more efficient during pregnancy and it does a better job of processing oxygen and carbon dioxide. Though you are actually breathing at the same rate you did before you were pregnant, you are breathing more deeply which can feel like breathlessness.
Recommendation for pregnant women is to workout at a challenging pace but where you are still able to talk.
- Nutrition before my workout
I do not like eating before I work out as I prefer to workout first thing in the morning. Even if I am working out not super early, I still would prefer to just have coffee before working out. I believe this is a very personal preference and I feel better working out on an empty stomach (there is a HUGE amount of disagreement in the exercise science world if it is better to workout on an empty stomach but that is an entirely different topic). However, when working out while pregnant, I do not want my blood sugar to drop too low. Upon waking, I am already in a fasted state since I have not eaten in at least 8-10 hours. I do not want to go another few hours without eating due to my blood sugar dropping. When I was pregnant, I would eat (sometimes force myself) to eat a little something before working out. This was generally half of a protein or nut/fruit bar. As my pregnancy continued, some mornings I would wake up pretty hungry so it was easier on those days. J
Though I always have my client’s warm-up and cool down, I am guilty of not always cooling down. I always warm up but often when I am done with my workout, I figure my walk to my car is good enough. J However, when I was pregnant, I made sure to cool-down. You do not want to get overheated while working out while pregnant so a cool-down was helpful. I made sure to walk for a few min on the treadmill and let my heart rate and breathing to return to normal.
- More Rest Days and More Forgiveness
I am a pretty religious exerciser and like to workout 6 days a week. I know that this is not doable for many women (remember, exercising and teaching is part of my job). And though I did exercise consistently and frequently throughout my pregnancy, I had to let go of the idea of 6 days a week. As many women know, your energy levels wax and wane throughout pregnancy and I firmly believe in embracing that. On the days I felt good, I exercised. On the days I did not feel well, I gave myself permission either take just a short walk or not exercise at all. I had to learn to forgive myself if every workout was not awesome and productive. I had to be proud in the amount of exercise I was doing and if I needed a few days off, to take it. My job when I was pregnant was fairly physical (even when I stopped teaching) as I was still training clients and realized I had to be forgiving of my body.
Notice that not of these 5 things said ‘lift lighter weights.’ This is something I did not change much throughout my pregnancy. I still tried to lift fairly heavy until I was forced to modify due to my changing body. For example, I would not try to lift super heavy back squats when my low back was already fatigued from the extra baby weight. But I always tried to lift fairly heavy and actually lifting was one of my favorite workouts because I felt I could get a really good, fairly hard workout without getting my heart rate too high or a lot of movement and bouncing.
Remember, the listed above was specific to my pregnancy and you might find that some of these changes were not needed or maybe you had even more. As always I would love to hear from you. What changes did you make? I will follow up with later blogs on 5 things I changed during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
McCormack MC, Wise RA. 2009. Respiratory physiology in pregnancy. In: Bourjeily D, Rosene-Montella K. eds. Pulmonary problems in pregnancy. Springer: Humana Press 19-26http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a219/breathlessness-in-pregnancy#ixzz3KzhdA2AL
Bothamley J, Boyle M. 2009. Medical conditions affecting pregnancy and childbirth. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing, 139-55http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a219/breathlessness-in-pregnancy#ixzz3Kzidi0bW
Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, Dr. James Clapp