Tabata HIIT Holiday Workout

TabataHIITHolidayWorkout

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, yes. But it’s also the time of year that can start to undo all the hard work you’ve put in over the past 11 months.

Think the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s aren’t taking a toll on your waistline? Despite media exaggerations, the average person only puts on a measly pound or two.

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not so much the weight gain, but the fact that most people won’t ever lose that weight…so the scale slowly starts to creep up over the years.

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But the good news is that you can do something about it. A lot, actually.

Don’t wait until January 1st to commit to a healthy eating and regular exercise regimen. And being strapped for time over the next few months is no excuse, which is why I put together this quick Tabata High-Intensity-Interval-Training Holiday workout — not only can you do it anywhere, but it also doesn’t require any equipment.

In just 30 minutes, you can get your heart rate up, burn some calories and build muscle — all of which will help you hit those New Year’s goals early. Now that’s something you can toast to on December 31st!

What’s your game plan for avoiding unnecessary holiday weight gain?
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November Goal Check-In

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It’s hard to believe that just a little over a month from now we’ll be talking 2016. But for the time being, I’m focused on closing out the current year on a high note with respect to the goals I’ve been tracking the past 11 months.

Of course, things have been evolving with Baby H on board, but I wanted to use this post to check back in on my original plans for 2015. It’s never too late to shift course — even with 30 days left in this final push — and there’s no time like the present to figure out how to make the most of the upcoming month.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

My original goal here was “quality over quantity” for the year, and I put it into practice this month while doing another round of travel. Long flights, time zone changes and family obligations meant that “training” had to be modified, which I used to view as a setback but now see as an opportunity to rest, recover and challenge by body in new ways (like keeping up with my toddler nephew in the snow!).

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Literally speaking, however, the “balance” theme has also been evolving to include learning how to use my new, ever-changing body. From knocking things off store shelves thanks to new dimensions to resorting to trial and error when it comes to which workouts work, it’s continuing to be a learning experience.

2. Training Smarter

My hope here was to experiment with my training repertoire to build on last season’s lessons rather than run myself into the ground doing things the same old way. I’ve been keeping up my functional fitness and cross training, but oddly enough it took getting pregnant to get me to finally slow my roll when it comes to doing one of my favorite activities: running.

All the massages, foam rolling, stretching, eating healthy and whatever other add-ons I’ve tried in the past weren’t helping to rid me of some lingering issues — namely plantar fasciitis and SI joint pain. So I’m trying to view these next few months of forced rest as something that will help me come back stronger next season.

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But just because regular runs are now off the table doesn’t mean that I can’t keep moving. On the contrary, I’ve been just as active as ever, delving into more baby-body-friendly classes, such as my MYMA Mama prenatal movement class, as well as the Mod-Mama class at Mod Physique, to help build those “mommy muscles” in anticipation of what’s to come this March.

3. Facing Fears

I declared 2014 as the year of #bikelove, but I wasn’t going to go so far as to use that same strong language for 2015 when it came to swimming. However, I’m happy to report that pregnancy has also been helping me out here; after months of talking about it, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have been consistent with weekly swim workouts since week 20 of pregnancy!

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Of course, the purchase of a brand spankin’ new Coeur swimsuit to cover my growing curves helped. As did reading about all the benefits of swimming while pregnant.

Something that temporarily relieves me of the extra weight I’m carrying and can help keep side effects such as swelling and excess weight gain at bay? Sign me up.

4. Pushing Myself

Since I wasn’t in peak training mode going in, I knew that this pregnancy wouldn’t be a time to pursue that duathlon, next ultramarathon or century ride that I’d hoped this year would bring. But it hasn’t completely kept me from being competitive — even if my race-day game plans have gone from “Can I get a new personal record?” to “Can I run the whole way without walking?”

Case in point: Last weeks’ Corvallis Turkey Trot in which I opted to drop down to a 5k from my original 10k. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but I’m happy to report that I was able to jog the whole 3.1 miles, despite having to pull over several times to adjust that darn pregnancy support belt!

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And, yes, although I said I was done with races for the year…I am still toying with the idea of a holiday 5k. Just for fun, of course, and schedule permitting! But we shall see where December takes us; right now, I’m approaching things one day at a time.

5. Giving Back

Technically, this goal was met and exceeded for the year back in October — BOOM! — but since there was a lot of interest, we’ve been holding biweekly LUNA off-season workouts. The lovely Vanessa has graciously offered to lead them in my absence, but I hope to get out there soon to join the ladies and head up a hiking group while they hit the trails for a run.

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We’re also taking applications for next season’s team leaders (just a few spots remain!), so email me at tlcportlandrun (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested. All levels are welcome (walkers, runners), and if you want to see what we’re all about you can check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Portland Fit Fix: Strengthening ‘Mommy’ Muscles at Mod Physique

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Entering into a new phase of fitness has taught me a lot these past few months, not the least of which being that there’s a serious lack of attention paid to prenatal programs for women who want to work out — thoroughly, safely and effectively — while pregnant. From what I’ve seen, most of the options out there seem to fall into one of two camps: Either wing it in your usual classes, trying to modify and keep up where you can, or hit up a prenatal yoga class, which ends up just being a lot of slow stretching.

That feels lovely, yes, but I can’t help but wonder about the functionality beyond learning to control breathing and practicing relaxation techniques. Both are important tools for labor, sure, but what about properly prepping the body and strengthening those special muscles to aid in getting Baby from point A to point B on delivery day?

This is something I’ve been especially focused on during my weekly MYMA Mama prenatal movement classes; both the exercises we do and don’t do come with the specific purpose of helping to ease our bodies into the idea of labor. So when my friend, fellow blogger and LUNA teammate Tiffany mentioned she’d heard about a new series of similar prenatal workouts in the area, we both jumped at the chance to check ’em out.

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Tiffany’s about 19 weeks along, and I’m 24 weeks, so we’ve both hit what I’ve been calling the “sweet spot” of the second trimester where workouts are fun again — and not just an energy suck like those first few months where our bodies were working overtime to turn a tiny ball of cells into something! We both also enjoy a good workout; so when Jessa Freeman, founder and owner of Mod Physique, invited us to her studio last weekend to take a Mod-Mama class, we hoped it’d hit the mark when it came to expectations.

The first thing I noticed when we stepped into the room was a lack of mirrors. This is by design, as Mod Physique prefers that students gain more body awareness by able to “feel the movement” in their bodies versus being distracted by their reflections.

Fair enough, especially now with an expanding belly — once in a while I’ll catch a passing glimpse in a mirror and have to to a double-take because I don’t recognize my shape-shifting self!

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Instructor (and soon-to-be-new-mom!) Kerri Maskol started the class by explaining that we’d be addressing some of the alignment and postural changes that occur during pregnancy. That means strengthening the core to help support the lower back and getting those glutes firing to help balance things out as the pelvis starts its forward tilt.

In layman’s terms, this means ballet barre and Pilates-based mat and resistance training with props — all of which are done with the philosophy that “just because you can’t do crunches doesn’t mean you can’t keep your core strong and your body healthy.” Amen to that. 

After leading us through a gentle, cardio-based warm-up to help loosen up our muscles, Kerri wasted no time in getting us into some of the more advanced (read: challenging!) moves. Think upper body strength work for holding baby, core and pelvic floor work to prepare for pushing and recovery, hip stabilization from fine-tuning surrounding muscles, as well as some soft stretches in between.

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This was no walk-in-the-park prenatal class by any means, though. Both Tiffany and I were laughing as we found ourselves doused in sweat and grunting as we felt the burn of the isometric holds and floundered our way through the stability work while trying to navigate our now-changing centers of balance.

Kerri kept a keen eye on form throughout, slightly adjusting us during each exercise for maximum impact and safety. And at the start of each exercise, she’d remind us to “hug baby in” in order to keep our cores engaged and lower backs out of the equation. This turned out to be a really helpful cue!

We ended class with a 90-second squat at the barre, which she reminded us would be the length of a contraction during the more intense part of labor (Huh?! Cue slight wave of panic). It’s not only a thigh-burner of a stretch now, but it’s also a great position to practice for later when we want to help open up the hips so baby can more easily pass through.

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I appreciated the variety in class, as well as the fact that “prenatal” didn’t translate to “we’ll just sit and stretch.” And I’m even more excited to have found another fitness option to add to my pregnancy repertoire.

The lesson in all of this? It is possible to get an awesome workout that’ll challenge your body, as well as help prepare it for what’s to come in just a few short months.

And despite not getting down on the mat to do traditional ab work, my core was pleasantly sore the next day. They’ve also got a post-natal series, which I’m looking forward to checking out once Baby H makes his/her debut in the spring.

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Oh, and the only responsible thing for two preggos to do after burning a bunch of calories during a weekend workout is to re-fuel, right? At least this was Tiffany’s and my reasoning when we stopped off at Pip’s Original on the way home…

Pips’ has earned the reputation of being one of Portland’s best doughnuts shops; I usually don’t buy into the hype, but after trying them I’d wholeheartedly have to agree. Made-to-order, these mini bites of heaven are perfectly spiced and crispy on the outside with a nice, fluffy cake-like center.

They remind me of my favorite cider mill doughnuts back home in the Midwest. Totally worth the wait (and there usually is one) if you’re in Portland anytime soon!

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Have you found any good ‘prenatal’ workouts? And, more importantly, what’s your favorite way to refuel afterwards?

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? 

October Goal Check-In

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Fall is flying by! It feels like I just wrote September’s update, and I know the next few months will go quickly with the holidays nearly upon us. Can we just hit the pause button for a moment?!

Because I was traveling for a good part of the first half of the month, the second half has been about getting back into a groove here in Portland, getting organized on a few different fronts (work, home) and starting to plan ahead on a few others (kiddo, 2016 schedule).

Meanwhile, Baby H is keeping busy growing and making his/her presence known more and more each day. So I’ve been trying to stay flexible when it comes to my monthly goals; I know the further along I get the more I’ll need to listen to my body, so there’s no time like the present to accept that and put it into practice.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

I mentioned I was home again earlier this month for a childhood friend’s wedding. We did the math one evening and realized we’ve been friends for almost 30 years.

After we got over how old that makes us feel, we had a blast at the weekend’s events — from bachelorette party to rehearsal to wedding. Not only was it great to spend some quality girl time together, but I’m also thrilled for Colleen and Eric to start this next phase of their lives together, surrounded by love!

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I am still struggling with my body’s new definition of “balance,” however, which might be a theme this year. Or maybe it’s just a constant struggle for us all in this day and age?!

Either way, now that my energy has returned in the second trimester I get over-excited to do #allthethings, but if I push too hard I end up getting a headache for a day or two that no amount of Tylenol will kick. So this next month I’m hoping to pace myself better so I can still get stuff accomplished, but not get knocked on my butt afterwards.

2. Training Smarter

Thanks to pregnancy tilting my pelvis forward, along with a dumb move I made in Michigan trying to lift my nephew out of his carseat while leaning over, my SI joint has been flaring up again. I’ve been addressing it with massage and acupuncture and, aside from my twice weekly runs, low-impact activities are my jam (biking, yoga, walking, Pilates, swimming, etc.).

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One tip to help turn that frown upside down when you’re mourning what feels like the loss of your former level of fitness? Metrics, metrics, metrics.

Despite breathlessness on runs, the inability to utilize the majority of my ab muscles and my current distaste for high-impact activities, I managed to hit some good numbers on the bike during a recent ride. There’s nothing like some quantitative proof that your hard work is still paying off when, qualitatively, you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.

3. Facing Fears

Stop the presses — I’m back in the pool! Yes, it sucks because mornings are dark and cold and the last thing I feel like doing is jumping in the water, but once I’m there it’s actually pretty great being a preggo “human submarine,” as Ben puts it.

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My first workout was simple: Go back and forth for 30 minutes. Just keep moving. So I did a little more than 1000 yards of freestyle punctuated with a lap of breaststroke here and there.

Going forward (just to keep myself motivated), I’ll be looking to build up to longer workouts or cover more distance in that 30-minute time-frame. But either way, I want to keep it leisurely and fun — and enjoy the fact that I can get my own lane more often than not because people seem to be leery of getting too close to a pregnant woman bobbing back and forth!

4. Pushing Myself

Because I can neither resist a) running in the fall foliage of the Midwest nor b) registering for a race when I’m traveling back home, I talked my sister into running the Rattlesnake Run 5k with me while in Michigan. Yes, the race went well and I came in second overall for the women and first in my age group, but it was a learning experience.

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I didn’t PR by any means, but I felt good that morning so my plan was to push the threshold of what I could handle (within reason , of course) just to see where that limit now lies. Well, I found it; the breathlessness that comes with pregnancy is unlike any kind of breathlessness I’ve experienced before in a race, even when I’ve been running all-out.

And although I miss that feeling of pushing my body to the limit, it’s just not the same kind of thrill when you’re second-guessing every ache and pain and what impact it has on the little person you’re carrying. So I’ve decided that any races between now and March will be strictly fun runs!

But that’s not to say I can’t look ahead… I’m slowly figuring out my 2016 schedule, and while I’m not planning on tackling any new distances or PR’s, I have signed up for the Portland Marathon as my carrot for getting back into running shape post-baby.

5. Giving Back

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we just wrapped up our first official season with Team LUNA Chix Portland Run, so I’m in the throes of planning for next year. We had such an amazing group of ladies who really embraced us and made the team their own, and for that I’m incredibly appreciative.

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And next year our plan is to come back even bigger and better! We’ll be doing monthly workouts in the off-season, as requested, plus we’ll be taking applications for any open spots for our 10 team leaders. Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for more info if you’d like to join us — the more, the merrier!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Football-Inspired Agility Workout

Source: Competitor.com

Source: Competitor.com

It’s fall racing season, and we’ve got one thing on our minds at Team LUNA Chix Portland Run (well, besides pumpkin spiced lattes and cozy sweaters): Getting faster.

Training to increase your foot turnover and develop explosive power can help increase running speed. Which is why we’ve taken a page from the football coach’s handbook and have been focusing on plyometrics and agility drills in practice lately.

Plus, let’s face it, sometimes it’s fun to add a few “toys” into training. But if you don’t want to invest in an agility ladder or speed hurdles, you can just as easily draw squares on asphalt with chalk and blow up a few balloons to use as hurdles that’ll pop if you happen to land on them the wrong way.

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If you’re not familiar with the drills above (or a shuttle run), King Sports Training is a great resource for both agility ladder (here) and speed hurdle (here) drills. I use it as a reference when planning workouts — not only becasue they demonstrate the moves with videos, but they also explain the benefits of each.

Do you pull tidbits from other sports into your training? 

5 Takeaways From Training in the First Trimester

Source: TheBump.com

Source: TheBump.com

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!

What’s your advice from working out during the first trimester?