Staying in Shape Through Pregnancy

The cold, hard truth is this: I approach pregnancy and childbirth the same way I approach training for a big race. That may sound odd, but hear me out: racing and birthing really do have a lot in common.

  • They are both very physically demanding.
  • They can both make you want to vomit. Or, they can both make you vomit even if you don’t want to.
  • They are both much more comfortable if I am in better shape.
  • They both end in an all out effort with a really great endorphin rush at the end PLUS(!) a fun prize: either a baby or a medal/t-shirt/goodie bag/PR/job well done.
  • When they end, I have additional pain to look forward to: stitches/shrinking uterus/engorgement or blisters/sore legs/dead toenails. (Boo.)

Pregnancy and childbirth are a little bit less predictable than a race, I’ll grant you that. I have no idea when this baby will actually come (Manchild was 2 weeks early, Squish was a few days late). I could labor for 3 hours or 30 (20ish for Manchild, 5ish for Squish). I may or may not have back labor. Or, perhaps, the baby will be breech or there will be some other complication and I’ll end up having her surgically removed from my body. (This was a concern early in Squish’s pregnancy as I had placenta previa, but the placenta was out of the way by 20 weeks.) When I run a race, even if it goes badly I know approximately how long it will take me to finish. I can slow down or walk if I need to. If I’m in too much pain I can pull out of the race entirely and take a DNF (did not finish). Not so much when I get into the throes of labor.

But no matter what happens, I feel a genuine responsibility to take care of myself and my baby as well as I can, and that means staying active and eating well. I have run and cross-trained (mostly yoga) 3-4 times a week through 2 1/2 pregnancies. While I am pregnant I am more conscious of what I eat and make an effort to eat more vegetables and fruits and to exercise some self-control in other areas. I feel much more calm and at peace as my due date approaches knowing that my body is strong and I have done my best to look after my baby and myself throughout the pregnancy. That responsibility weighs on me more during pregnancy than it does in training for a race because it is not just me who is affected by my choices. I know the baby will take what she needs from my body no matter what, but I can provide necessary nutrients for both of us by choosing good, wholesome foods. I know that my baby will develop just fine even if I am unable to get off the couch for 9 months, but I consider it a blessing to be able to run or walk or swim or do yoga and I take advantage of that as much as I can knowing that the exercise I get is beneficial to her as well as to me (see here and here).

Over the next 16 weeks, give or take, I’ll share some of the things I’ve done and do that have helped me to stay motivated, to be comfortable, to make healthy choices, and to feel as good as I can — physically, mentally, and emotionally — for when the baby is born. If you have any questions or comments or thoughts about this topic, I would love to hear from you! I have several things I want to share, but it always helps to know what you would like to hear about. Plus I would love to do a post with readers’ tips and ideas. Leave a comment or drop me an e-mail: lizzie (at) motherrunner.com.

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5 Comments

  1. I felt terrible that I wasn’t better about exercise with Robby. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe next time. The only redeeming factor was that I have a large dog that I HAD to walk at least 2 miles a day.

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    Having a dog sounds like a great way to stay active through pregnancy. Two miles a day is nothing to scoff at. Good work.

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  2. You are so much better than me. I was really determined to continue working out through this pregnancy but I haven’t been as faithful as I’d like. I would try to do a jog/walk but the whole next day and half I would be so exhausted I could barely do anything. I’ve settled for going on walks. I think I like the idea of yoga though, to help keep my muscles toned. I do not want to turn into the same flubby marshmallow that I did the first time. Do you have any yoga video recommendations?

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    That’s interesting. I have felt a lot more energetic after I’ve been out for a run. But I can definitely understand that it is super tiring too. I will be posting some video recommendations next week . . . I hope you can wait that long! 🙂

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  3. I love this topic! It’s so hard to keep exercising, but I also feel so much better when I do. I intended to run much more this pregnancy than the last, as I moved to a higher elevation midway through last time and that killed my running. However, I’ve found that balance of finding a time to go minus the toddler is harder than I expected and I don’t always feel like pushing a stroller. So alas, I’m only going about once a week and doing workout videos most every other day. I still feel like it really helps though. Here’s to being strong when it’s time to deliver that baby! I’m hoping for your Oliver experience on length of labor. Spencer was 14 hours for me. I could go for 5. That would be nice. 🙂

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    I’m going to do a post on workout videos this week. Do you have any that you recommend?

    I definitely hope for a 5 hour labor for you, too. The only downside of it was that it was preceded by more than 2 weeks of Braxton-Hicks contractions that I kept hoping and praying would turn into the real thing . . . but didn’t. It wasn’t until my water broke that the contractions started for real. So annoying.

    [Reply]

    Jolena Reply:

    Hmm, let’s see. I have a bunch of Jillian Michaels dvds that I like. I still use some of them, though I have to take it easy a bit the further along I get. But the 30-day shred ones are good for a super short workout and the Banish Fat Boost Metabolism one works for a longer, more aerobic workout. I like No More Trouble Zones too. It’s got lots of squats and lunges, which are great for pregnancy, and the upper body weight stuff will help build some muscle to carry that baby after it arrives. Oh, and I did the 6-week six-pack one my whole first trimester and just recently stopped doing it. It made a world of a difference for what my pregnant belly looks like.

    As for actual pregnancy dvds, I picked up one from Summer Sanders that I thought was yoga but isn’t, but is still good. I just tried a Prenatal Yoga with Shiva Rea one today and it was excellent for me as big as I am now, though it would have been pretty tame as yoga goes in my first trimester. I have a Gaiam one with Rodney Yee and another by Jillian Michaels that would have worked before when I could still actually lean forward without feeling like I was going to squish my stomach to pieces.

    Hope that helps. And I am totally with you on those Braxton-Hicks. So stinkin’ annoying. Here’s hoping though. 🙂

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  4. I also feel that exercise is crucial during pregnancy. I ran through all 5 of my pregnancies, and I know that this aided in keeping sickness at bay, as well as helped me with deliveries and recovery. Great post!

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    So true. This pregnancy has been my hardest so far — lots more morning sickness — but I always feel better and more energetic when I go running. I bet you have some great tips for how to keep running through pregnancy . . . maybe I’ll e-mail you.

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  5. I love this topic. I have no doubt that running through my pregnancy saved me. I always feel better when I’m doing my best to stay active. Right now my motivation is in preparing for the next one. I want to be ready to run through the whole nine months ank know that I can’t be slacking right now. I know that I’m much better at eating well during pregnancy, but I’d like to hear more from you on diet. 🙂

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    It definitely makes a difference to stay active. I was tired all day today, then went for a run with Micah and the boys and feel so much better.
    I’ll see if I can cook up some good food posts. 🙂

    [Reply]

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