Back in August 2011, I had some fantastic news – I discovered I was pregnant!
As well as being overjoyed and extremely excited, I also felt a little scared. What will happen to my training? Will I get fat? Will I lose all my strength? Will I have to stop doing all the things I enjoy?
When I was past 12 weeks and able to tell others my good news, the next question after “when is it due?” was “so when are you going to give up all the exercise?”
The common train of thought amongst people is that pregnant women should be wrapped up in cotton wool and shouldn’t do much more than go for a gentle walk in terms of exercise. I knew that this couldn’t be right – pregnant animals in the wild don’t stop hunting, pregnant women in the olden days continued to work and hunt, and pregnant women now in developing countries continue to do manual work, walk miles and look after their families. Why should it be different here?
When my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby, I wanted to be as prepared as possible for what was about to happen to my body, and the changes I would inevitably have to make. I am fortunate in that I work in the fitness industry and therefore I have a number of experts and resources to go to.
To my surprise however, most trainers and instructors were very cautious about advising me about training during pregnancy. And those that had studied it were men and obviously could not fully understand the changes that occur to a woman during pregnancy.
I could only find articles stating that “you should not lift heavy weights”, “you should not over exert yourself”, “you should not raise your heart rate above a certain level”, “you should not do any balance work” and so on. What about the things I could do?
So I looked overseas for my information. I found a few blogs by fellow female kettlebell instructors in America who had continued to train during pregnancy and had a trouble free pregnancy and gave birth to a happy, healthy baby. This gave me hope, although being a bit of a geek; I still wanted to know the science behind exercising whilst pregnant.
I found a brilliant book by Doctor James F Clapp called 'Exercising Through Your Pregnancy'.
In it he details the research that has been done on the effects of training whilst pregnant (surprisingly little until about 30 years ago when he set up numerous research programmes), he described the physiological changes to the body that happen during pregnancy, and the effects of exercise on the body and the effects of exercise on a pregnant woman. The benefits of continuing to exercise are numerous, and mostly positive additive benefits to those which naturally occur to a pregnant woman.
A lot of the changes that occur during pregnancy make the body extremely efficient – more oxygen intake, more efficient at getting rid of heat, better heart rate regulation. All of these changes also occur to women who regularly exercise. Combining exercising with being pregnant adds positively to these effects; it improves the supply of glucose and oxygen to the baby (provided the mum eats adequately and regularly).
The fitter, stronger and healthier you are, the easier labour may be, the stronger the baby will be, and the easier it will be to get back to pre-pregnancy size and fitness.
there are certain things that need to be said here. My body is used to, and has been used to for years, the types of training that I do. It is not a good idea to start an exercise programme or new types of training when you’re pregnant; and if you feel any pain or have any complications during pregnancy – always consult your doctor or midwife before continuing training.
The most important thing to understand is that it was not the time for pushing myself, or trying to beat personal records; you must listen to your body and if you're feeling tired/exhausted/any pain, then stop or avoid training. When pregnant, you must fuel your body properly – it’s not a case of “eating for two” (you only actually need an extra 300 calories a day, and this is only from 6 months onwards), it’s a case of eating healthy, nutritious foods that will enable the baby to develop and grow, but also sustain me through my training.
I managed to continue enjoying throughout my entire term and gave birth to a very healthy and happy young lady, Heidi Gwynne Wright on 22nd April 2012 weighing 7lbs 6oz. I opted for shorter sessions with frequent recovery periods towards the later stages. I tended to do 20-30 minute circuits alternated with steady runs, intervals or hilly walks.
If I felt too tired – I didn’t train. The only thing I stopped doing was playing hockey due to the physical nature and contact of the sport. I managed to continue running until 39 weeks when it became uncomfortable but oddly, people commented that I never adopted that waddle often associated with pregnancy. I was fortunate and in the absence of medical challenges I continued to do what I love doing. The baby always came first. Nothing was more important to me than being able to give birth to a lovely healthy little boy or girl – that is something no amount of exercise can ever take the place of and now I have a wonderful little Heidi.
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