My Pregnancy Fitness Philosophy and “Training” Plan

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my pregnancy workout routine and how “training” has changed over the course of the past few months, so I figured I’d do a post on the topic. It’s interesting to look back on how things have evolved now that I’m sweating for two, although it’s important to remember that everyone has and/or will have a different experience; this is just what I happen to be going through, so take it for what it’s worth!

Let’s start at the beginning: Pre-pregnancy, I was what I call in “maintenance training mode” — meaning, I’d set a specific training plan for a major event (i.e. last fall’s marathon) but otherwise would try to maintain a level of fitness that’d allow me to not have to start from scratch each time. It’s an approach I highly recommend; building slow and steady means fewer injuries, and maintenance in between allows you to push harder with each cycle.

After lots of racing in 2014 (marathon, Olympic-distance triathlon, ultramarathon and more), I knew 2015 would be a year filled with more reflection, recovery…and, apparently, reproduction! I had dialed back the aggressive goals early on — not only to keep myself from getting sidetracked while adjusting to the first year in a new city, but also to keep from burning out, which I felt close to towards the end of last year.

Fast forward a few months, and we got the big surprise-on-a-stick! And, for better or worse, almost immediately I could tell my body was in the process of changing (I think years of tuning in — and out — during training and racing have honed these skills). I was determined, though, to find my personal form of “pregnancy maintenance mode” where I could challenge myself without causing injury to myself or harm to Baby H.

Little did I know that what I was aiming for would be a moving target!

Here’s one week’s worth of workouts I logged from very early on during my first trimester — while I was still trying to keep up “maintenance mode:”

  • Monday: 45-minute indoor cycling class
  • Tuesday: 30-minute elliptical + yoga class
  • Wednesday: Portland Trail Series 5-mile race
  • Thursday: 30-minute run + barre class
  • Friday: Strength training class + 60 minutes of walking to/from meetings
  • Saturday: 3-mile run + prenatal movement class
  • Sunday: OFF

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As I look back through my logs, I see that during the later weeks of my first trimester (once the pregnancy symptoms really hit) most of my cardio was walking. Running just felt “off;” my bladder was heavy, and I was out of breath about 10 seconds into a run. That, combined with sheer exhaustion, and I knew I was lucky to be able to continue some kind — any kind — of activity, even if it wasn’t at my usual intensity.

Here’s a week from my log during that time — I call it “survival mode:”

  • Monday: 30-minute walk with dogs + Pilates class
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes of walking to/from meetings + yoga class
  • Wednesday: 30-minute elliptical + some bodyweight exercises
  • Thursday: 60 minutes of walking to/from errands
  • Friday: Strength training class
  • Saturday: OFF
  • Sunday: 5-mile run

Around week 17 I hit a sweet spot, though, where running felt great again. I was hitting the pavement (or the trails) two or three times a week, and my goal was to do at least a six-miler each weekend to keep my mileage up.

That lasted for all of maybe six weeks.

Now, as I’m creeping toward the end of the second trimester, running (at least at the moment) isn’t working for me anymore. I ran an awesome six-miler with friends on Nov. 1, but later that afternoon got blindsided with what felt like a strained a ligament in my groin and could barely walk for two days.

Physically, I get it; my body’s got a lot going on, and something’s gotta give. But it’s been much more difficult, mentally and emotionally, to detach from my “happy place.”

With pregnancy comes a lot of uncertainty, and who knows what will feel good a few weeks from now, let along a few months down the road. But it’s an excellent lesson in learning to roll with the punches, look at the bigger picture, get creative and be grateful for what you can do rather than what you cannot.

So here’s where I was as of last week, which I’m calling “the new normal mode:”

  • Monday: 60-minute walk during lunch + prenatal yoga class
  • Tuesday: 30-minute elliptical + barre class
  • Wednesday: 30-minute stair stepper + prenatal movement class
  • Thursday: 30-minute laps in the pool + barre class
  • Friday: 45-minute indoor cycling class
  • Saturday: OFF
  • Sunday: 3-mile run (painful!)

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And in the meantime, I’m keeping things fluid, taking it day-by-day and approaching fitness with a more pregnancy-friendly set of principles:

  1. Listen to my body. I modify like nobody’s business, and if I’m not up for something, I don’t do it. It’s as simple as that!
  2. Keep it a priority. Fitness has always been and always will be important to me. I make it work around other commitments.
  3. Keep it in perspective. Races and PRs will be there waiting for me. Right now, I want to stay in the moment and enjoy this time.
  4. Have fun. Whether it’s meeting up with friends or trying a new class, I love having more freedom to experiment.
  5. Mix things up. Even if my new default is walking, I’m trying to get as much variety as I can to keep my mind and body engaged.
  6. Re-think “training.” As in, my immediate focus is getting through childbirth come March, then being healthy enough to chase a kiddo.
  7. Stay curious. Gone are strict training schedules for the time being, so I’m just enjoying figuring out how to work this “new” body.
  8. Be grateful. I’ll do whatever I can for as long as I’m able. It feels good to move, and I want to honor my body where it’s at as this process progresses.

And, on the bright side, I’m also hoping that if I do have to take a good chunk of time off of running, I might finally heal some nagging injuries (old: SI joint, new: ligaments/groin). For example, my plantar fasciitis is almost a distant memory now that I’ve dialed down the impact activities, which I’ll take as a win.

So where will I go from here? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll keep you posted.

How did your perspective on fitness change during pregnancy? 
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