Once the positive pregnancy test comes back, most of us know the drill: Visit the OB? Check. Pop prenatal vitamins? Check. Avoid booze, soft cheese and deli meat like the plague? Check.
But one question unexpectedly threw me for a total loop: What will happen with my workouts?!
In my un-pregnant state, I’d always just assumed it’d be business as usual, especially since you’re technically able to safely maintain the level of activity you were at pre-pregnancy. Right??
Well, my pregnant body had something else in mind entirely.
Here’s what I learned about being active during those first 13 weeks with a bun in the oven.
1. Run your own “race” rings true. Sure, you’ll be hyper-aware of all the changes happening (hello, boobs!), but it took me a while to translate what that actually meant when it came to working out and being competitive, even if it’s just with myself.
For example, my expanding abdomen felt like I’d pulled a groin muscle, so my usual MO of “powering through” was no longer an option. I learned quickly that everyone’s experience is different, and what’s right for one person may not work for another, so listen to your body — not anyone else’s.
2. Eat, sleep, repeat. In the early weeks, I wondered if what felt more like a severe case of narcolepsy was misdiagnosed as pregnancy. Early morning workouts were off the table, so I adjusted my schedule and worked earlier hours to allow for a mid-morning break to get the blood pumping.
Although I was fortunate enough to avoid morning sickness, I did find myself straddling that fine line between I-think-I’m-getting-nauseous and get-out-of-my-way-I-NEED-food more often than not. My husband promptly nicknamed me “Velociraptor” for the voraciousness with which I ate meals, so I learned to eat smaller portions more frequently to stay out of the danger zone.
3. Check your ego at the door. There’s nothing more disheartening to a runner than watching your pace-per-mile creep up. And up. Workouts feel like max effort yet are half the speed, and it takes you twice as long to recover.
My first trail race this summer very quickly put me in check when I completely lost control of my heart rate and breathing during a long, steep ascent. There was nothing to do but pull over, let people pass, collect myself and find some equilibrium before proceeding more carefully. Lesson learned!
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And then hydrate some more. Again, I learned this the hard way during the first few weeks of pregnancy when I’d forget to drink at regular intervals and would develop nagging headaches.
My wise sister sent me a 40-ounce insulated water bottle and recommended I carry it with me throughout the day. Problem solved! Not only does my water stay nice and cold (Hydro Flasks are the best!), but I make it a goal to finish the bottle by dinnertime to ensure I’m taking in enough liquids.
5. Seek a support system. Whether it’s fellow female athletes who are in the same boat or a fabulous coach of some sort to help you navigate the murky pregnancy fitness waters, finding your little tribe is an invaluable thing during this journey.
I’m fortunate enough to have a handful of friends from the triathlon, running and strength training worlds who are all due within a few months of each other, so I’ve been especially appreciative of having people with which I can swap advice. Several of us are even taking pre-natal movement classes together, which I’ll go into in an upcoming post because it’s been such a fantastic experience!