There is nothing quite like the look on peoples faces when I tell them I am 5 months pregnant and still running 10km twice a week. The reactions are mixed. Some are reactions of support and encouragement, while others looked a little shocked. Some even come right out and say it ‘should you be doing that’?
There is a lot of stigma out there, or we could just call it ignorance, around exercise and pregnancy, and I can see it written all over some peoples faces when they see me out running with my growing bump. Be it shock, judgement, or disapproval, it’s a reaction which I want to address as it really frustrates me!
Here is a statement from ACOG: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
“The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American College of Sports Medicine recommendation for exercise, aimed at improving the health and well-being of nonpregnant individuals, suggests that an accumulation of 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day should occur on most, if not all, days of the week (1). In the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, pregnant women also can adopt this recommendation.”
One of the first things my amazing midwife Leni Smack said to me in my first meeting with her was ‘ pregnancy is not an illness or a sickness Arna’ and she was so right. I am not sick, I am not injured. I am fit. I workout 6 times a week, and my body is used to running, weights, yoga and HIIT workouts. So why is it that society still feels that pregnant woman should be wrapped up in cotton wool?
Now for those of you that follow our blog, you know how much we like to move (yes me a little too much at times but my body is in control now, my mind has no choice). So when I found out I was pregnant I spent countless hours researching what levels of exercise would be safe for my baby. I consulted a personal trainer and spent my spare time investigating what would be good for me as well as support the growth and development of this little human.
"Do you think our ancestors stayed in their cave while pregnant? No, they still had to hunt for food right!?"
So what are the benefits of exercising when pregnant? Well there are quite a few so I have listed them here: Read them here >
Quite a few reasons to stay active during pregnancy right? And do you know what is actually really cool? All of the beautiful endorphins and emotions that make me happy when I am running and that are coursing through me, I get to share that with my budding baby. How cool is that?
I also have the mind set in that I have 9 months to prepare my body for the biggest workout of it’s life. Birth. To me, this is something that I needed to prepare for (over organised Type A personality coming out here).
Here is a breakdown of my week at 5 months:
- Monday - Weight Training
- Tuesday - Run - 8-10km or Yoga (depends how my body is feeling)
- Wednesday - Weight Training
- Thursday - Rest Day
- Friday - Weight Training or Yoga (depends how my body is feeling)
- Saturday - Run - 8-10km
- Sunday - Yoga
Once I had done my research I set myself some goals:
- I wanted to still be able to run up Mt Iron at 4 months if my body would let me - Check (And I did one last night at 5 months and 3 weeks)
- I wanted to still be able to run 10kms at 5 months if my body would let me - Check
- I wanted to enter the Wanaka 10kms and complete it in under and hour if my body would let me - Check (And I did it in 49 minutes and 25 seconds)
Can you see a common occurrence here?
"In all my research there are two common themes:
1. Whatever your level of exercise prior to falling pregnant, you can continue exercising at the level your body is used to it.
2. as long as you listen to your body."
So, You can continue what you are doing? Really? How? Your pregnant! Let me please make one thing here very very clear - The absolute most important thing is listening to your body, and boy, will your body tell you how much you can do. If you are already fit and are looking to continue your exercise programme during pregnancy, then you will need to adapt what you are doing as you move through each week.
There are also some very important considerations to bare in mind and I don’t want to miss them out as they are just as important and my points one and two and should be considered at all times when exercising.
Do not begin a vigorous exercise program shortly before or during pregnancy.
If you have been previously active, continue current program during the first trimester to a maximum of 30 to 40 minutes per day as tolerated. With no previous activity, begin slowly with 15 minutes of low-intensity exercise and gradually increase to 30 minutes. During the second and third trimester, the intensity and duration should be gradually reduced.
Monitor your breathing: Use the RPE scale rather than heart-rate monitoring. The RPE scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise. The RPE scale runs from 0 – 10. The numbers relate to phrases used to rate how easy or difficult you find an activity. For example, 0 (nothing at all) would be how you feel when sitting in a chair; 10 (very, very heavy) is how you feel at the end of an exercise stress test or after a very difficult activity. You should really stick to around 7 max!
Stay off your back: Avoid exercise in the supine position after the first trimester. Lying on your back puts pressure on your vena cava which can limit blood supply to you and your baby.
Stay Cool: Avoid exercise in high temperatures and/or high humidity.
H2O: Up your water intake to avoid dehydration
"Wear a good bra!"
Fuel Up: Some pregnant women may benefit from a small snack prior to exercise to help avoid hypoglycaemia (low blood pressure)
It's about keeping fit, not loosing weight! Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial, and you must never exercise in order to lose weight whilst pregnant, as this may harm your baby.
Relaxin: You are more prone to injury because of the ‘relaxin’ in your body. Relaxin is a hormone which is released into the body to accommodate for a growing baby. It makes ligaments more supple and allows more movements of the joints.
And what you need to watch out for: Warning Signs your are pushing it:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath) prior to exertion
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling (need to rule out thrombophlebitis)
- Preterm labor
- Decreased fetal movement
- Amniotic fluid leakage
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some amazing people for whom fitness is ingrained in their lives. They understand the importance of keeping active during pregnancy and have been a huge support and sounding board for me and my fitness routine.
So what are your thoughts? I would love to know.
Disclaimer: The physiologic and morphologic changes of pregnancy may interfere with the ability to engage safely in some forms of physical activity. A woman's overall health, including obstetric and medical risks, should be evaluated before prescribing an exercise program and I recommend speaking to a health professional for further advice.