Friday, January 31, 2014

21 Weeks: Exercise During Pregnancy

When I was at Body Pump this morning I noticed the bar was starting to consistently hit the bump on my clean and presses and I realized I'd been incredibly lucky so far with working out during pregnancy. I thought I'd write about how it's gone for the first 21 weeks, knowing it could all change any day now!

This summer, I think I was in the best shape I'd been in since high school. I was also eating plenty, so I don't think I necessarily looked more fit than I had in the past, but I felt strong, I had endurance, I looked forward to working out, and I wasn't injured for the first time in years! (I credit the chiropractor 100%).

Before leaving for Slovenia, I was in a groove of happily working out 4-5 days a week. The mix usually included 1-2 runs, 1-2 Body Pump classes, and/or 1-2 swim workouts. I think the combo of cardio, strength training, and low-impact swimming was a good one for my body, emotionally and physically.

I didn't work out while we were in Slovenia, but we did do lots of walking. The week we got back, I was sick as a dog with laryngitis so I think I went to 1 Body Pump class? The week after that, I could definitely tell that my inactivity was taking a toll emotionally and physically, but I had that positive pregnancy test in the back of my mind and I was a little nervous about messing something up.

After reading in numerous books, though, that exercise was okay-- good for the baby, in fact-- I knew I needed to get back in the routine. The general school of thought is that as long as you were in a routine of working out pre-pregnancy, there's no reason you can't maintain that as long as you feel okay with it in pregnancy. Even the old rule of keeping your heart rate below 140 isn't really applicable anymore. Instead, they recommend going by how you feel: if you're dizzy, lightheaded, or feel like your heart is racing, stop.

Now we know that there are many benefits of exercise during pregnancy, for both mom and baby.  Safe, moderate exercise improves mood/body image, helps maintain a healthy weight gain, strengthens muscles, and prepares the body for childbirth.  Some studies have demonstrated a link between exercise and a lower risk for complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.  Furthermore, “Previous research has indicated that exercise in the first trimester, when the placenta is formed, helps forge extra blood vessels so that there is more opportunity to exchange nutrients between mom and baby” (source). And last, but certainly not least, when the mom exercises, the baby’s heart benefits, too – resulting in a lower and more efficient fetal heart rate (source). 

Sounds good, right? The CDC actually recommends that healthy women get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, during and after their pregnancy. Furthermore, they say that healthy women who already do vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as running, or large amounts of activity can continue doing so during and after their pregnancy provided they stay healthy and discuss with their health care provider how and when activity should be adjusted over time.

I keep reminding myself that if I think it's hard to fit in a workout now, it's going to be infinitely harder to fit one in after the baby is born! For now, it gives me something tangible to do to take care of the baby and to take care of me.

I've been aiming for 3-4 workouts a week, and barring bad work weeks and sickness, I've been fortunate enough to make that happen so far. So far, my workouts have been a mix of running (now elliptical), Body Pump, and Zumba. I have a feeling these will start to transition toward walking, swimming, Body Pump, and yoga as I get farther along.

In the first trimester, it was HARD to drag myself to the gym, but working out got rid of my nausea every single time. I did notice things starting to get harder as my blood volume expanded, but I was able to make small modifications during those workouts to get through without a problem. Now that I'm in the second trimester, I've been reaping the benefits of extra energy without (too much) extra weight holding me back yet. (Although I do tell myself that pregnancy weight gain has been a good way to raise my squat weight without adjusting the bar- ha!) As long as I remember to bring water to the gym and eat right after my workout, I'm good to go. At this point, many workouts are more mental than emotional, and I figure it's good practice for labor... you can't quit because you're tired then, right?!

Sadly, I did have to stop running around 15 weeks when my IT band started to hurt again. I was hoping pregnancy would loosen that sucker up, but I think in loosening my hips, it actually put more stress on my IT band. I started tilting my chest press bench at 18 weeks, and I stopped doing situps at 19 weeks and switched to side planks + a few Pilates moves during the abs portion of class. At 19 weeks I also noticed the bump starting to get in the way of my clean and presses.  It's not affecting my form yet, but it'll be a little bittersweet when it does. The upside is that when we do deadlift rows, I don't have to pull as far to get the bar to my belly button ;-)

If I've learned anything in the last 21 weeks of working out, it's that I'm not in control of my body nearly as much as I think I am. It's been really weird to watch the scale rise when I'm working out and eating more or less the same. But I love that it's something baby and I can do "together" right now that's good for both of us.


Cravings: Vegetables! I have eating way too many grains and way too few vegetables this week. It's hard for me to eat a lot of greens in the winter anyway, but it's also hard because not everything is appealing all the time and sometimes the thought of forcing vegetables down keeps me from even trying. We're going to Cafe Gratitude for dinner tonight and I'm so excited... veggies always seem to taste better when someone else prepares them!

Aversions: I haven't really had any for weeks, but this week the aforementioned vegetables haven't been too appealing. My nausea has also started coming and going, although it's not nearly at first trimester proportions. I think there's been a major hormonal swing and growth spurt going on.

Overall: Last week was EXTREMELY emotional, and this week I've noticed the return of a few first trimester symptoms, telling me that perhaps my growth spurt prediction from last week did indeed happen. The scale jumped up 2 pounds (no doubt because I'm hungry and eating every 1-2 hours), parents at work (who knew I was pregnant) have started commenting that it's visible in scrubs now, and I can feel baby moving more and more-- Ross is even able to feel occasional movement when I lay down in the evening giving the baby the freedom to move around.

I can tell my abs and my skin are stretching. I used to joke that with my IBS, if I ate something that didn't disagree with me, I looked 5 months pregnant thanks to bloating. Now I know that's not quite true. Bloating is really uncomfortable, higher up on my torso, and painful but possible to suck it in and get my jeans on. Now I know that for me, 5 months pregnant ACTUALLY looks like a round but hard lower abdomen that's visible when I lay down at night and I can't suck it in for the life of me. It's looking normal from the front but foreign from the side. It's not minding nearly as much as I thought I would when I hit a new weight bracket on the scale, officially surpassing my highest-ever weight. It's feeling pretty foreign from the ribs down, but looking fairly normal from the ribs up. My OB said this week that she thinks 20-week uteruses (uteri?) are the cutest thing ever and I might have to agree. It's so distinct, but still so tiny! I think I'm finally reaching the point where I'm starting to feel pregnant in a good way, and it makes me so happy!

I'm starting to understand people who say they looove pregnancy. Last week's ultrasound took an awfully long time to sink in, but now I'm starting to believe that that baby boy, the one who has been growing away for 21 weeks, is actually in there. I absolutely love him and we cannot wait to meet him!

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