The Preggo Athlete, Take 1

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Disclaimer: I am now days away from being 6 months pregnant. It's obviously a huge part of my life. I am fortunate to have a group of girlfriends who are willing to share this stuff openly. If you don't want to read about what happens to physically fit women once they're pregnant, you may want to stop back in a few months. I have found it really helpful, though when my fellow bloggy friends offered their experiences during this whole process, so here it is for those who will someday find this useful.

Disclaimer #2: Every woman is different. I have heard of women running marathons 3 days before giving birth, and I've had many people tell me that they had to stop early because they were two nauseous/sore/tired/in pain to keep at it. This is my experience. Take that for what it's worth.

Today's post will start from the beginning...

Steve and I were fortunate to only have to "try" for a few months. I think trying to get pregnant is like tapering for a big race - with every little thing that feels/seems just a little off of "normal," you're wondering if it's the big I - injury, or in this case impregnation :) We as athletes are so in-tune with our bodies that we can usually tell when something's up. After a few months of false alarms, I really did think something was different just before the Twin Cities Marathon, but it was too early to tell. Some of my friends said that their gums started to bleed. Others were constipated before they took the test. Some noticed their run times slip. For me, I suddenly stopped being able to sleep and was ridiculously hot at night. Oh, and I had HORRIBLE heartburn. The night before the marathon, I really didn't know what to do. It was too early to take a test and know for sure that a negative test was definitively negative, and I had no idea what I'd do if it came back positive, so I just went for it knowing that I'd have to take it easy. As I mentioned in my previous post, I promptly freaked out when the test was positive the next day. Friends, books, and my doctor all reassured me that I was fine.


My teammate Chris's wife Cara had put together a great post a couple of months ago describing books that she has found helpful regarding exercise and pregnancy. For Christmas, Steve got me the book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Dr. James Clapp. I wish I would have read it before we even started this process. Although the pictures in the book are really dated and a little bit hilarious, the info, albeit a little dry sometimes, does a great job of explaining physiologically what's going on before, during, and after pregnancy in athletic women. I had a lot of people who knew we were trying tell me that I exercised too much to get pregnant. My answer was always the same - I'm of a healthy body weight and body fat percentage, and everything else is normal - I think I should be fine. Turns out I was - we conceived a week after I did Cedar Point Half Iron Distance race - with a PR.


I read Exercising Through Your Pregnancy from cover to cover. Like I said, it's a little dry at times, but I found Dr. Clapp's research helpful, reassuring, and interesting. Did you know that an exercising woman's placenta is 20% larger than her non exercising counterpart's? For regular pregnancy info, I have found Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy to be helpful, especially with respect to the week-by-week baby development info and month-by-month mommy development info. It gives the breakdown of average weight gain, where it goes, and how much to expect at what times. While this component freaks out many women, I have actually found it reassuring to know that I'm right on track and completely normal in that department. It's a little strange to step onto the scale and see the numbers go up every day. Knowing what's normal may be helpful, especially on days like yesterday, when I officially surpassed Steve in weight (he only had 10-15 pounds on me to start with. I knew it would come eventually).


As far as allowed workouts, most resources say no contact sports, which is sort of a no-brainer. Many references said that biking is OK until 12 weeks because your uterus is still protected by your pubic bones up until that point. I asked my doctor at my first visit, and she said no outdoor biking. She said the risk is too great if I were to fall, and I agreed, especially since she's pretty liberal allowing for other forms of exercise. I've been on the trainer for all of my bike workouts. I grew out of my tri bike about a month ago and had to switch to riding my old road bike. My belly wasn't huge by any means, but my legs would hit it in aero position, and the hoods on my tri bike are sort of nonexistent. On my road bike, I can sit much more upright, and it was easy to switch out my regular seat to a super wide squishy one that we had on one of our commuter bikes. With my sit bones expanding, all of my regular bike seats have become SUPER uncomfortable. I do wear a HRM on my bike. I'm not as good at judging effort on the bike, and fortunately, 140 is pretty easy to abide by for me. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology did away with the 140 heart rate max a number of years ago and now say to just keep it at a moderate effort, but since the two correlate so well for me, I use a heart rate monitor on my bike. I know I'll miss biking outside in another month or so when it warms up around here. I really love those early spring rides.

Swimming and walking both have the green light and are highly encouraged. Unfortunately, I haven't found swimming to be very enjoyable, which surprised me. I sort of thought that all pregnant women are supposed to love swimming. It's something that I have to work at anyway. It now feels even less natural, and if my breathing gets off, my heart rate goes through the roof. I'll stick with it because I know it's good for me, but it's really not that fun.

Running has been my mainstay workout this winter. I equate running while pregnant to running with an injury. Things don't feel normal. Good is a relative term, but the endorphin rush is the same, if not better. Twinges and weird pressure and all sorts of new sensations are a regular part of a pregnant lady's body. You have to learn what's normal and when to back off. I remember asking my doctor at my first visit what exactly I should be doing. Many of the recs out there are for women who were only moderately or barely active when they got pregnant. There is very little info for people who were working out 10-15 hours a week. She basically just told me to listen to my body and back off if it was telling me to. "So if I feel OK, I can still go out and run 10 miles?" I asked. She told me I was fine but that I may not be able to run 10 miles forever and to be prepared for that day. I've been running at the Metrodome when I can and have actually been running outside a lot too. I usually get out 3 days a week. We've had a ton of snow this winter, and the sidewalks are terrible, but they plow really well down by the Mississippi River, so that's where I've spent all of my miles. My doctor did give me a stern warning that I shouldn't be running on slick surfaces due to the risk of falling, so I haven't strayed much from my safe, plowed route. Of course I use the term "running" pretty loosely these days. When people ask my pace, I tell them I run pregnancy pace. My 9 - 9:30 minute miles have slowed to somewhere between 11:00 and 12:30 minute miles. Most of my old running partners can't keep up with me. It's a little depressing, but I've had so many friends who have come back faster than ever that it really doesn't bother me. I go completely on feel and try to stick with a conversational pace. My friend Sara posted about "pregnancy miles" when she had her daughter, and although I've been sticking with regular miles, it's kind of fun to think about. Basically you just take your total run time and divide it by your pre-pregnancy pace. That suddenly turns an hour-long 5 miler into 6+ miles run for me! Oh, and the frequent trips to the bathroom that pregnant women refer to? They're amplified when running. It's not uncommon for me to have to stop once or twice per run. From my own experiences and from what I've read, the cardinal rules of running (or exercising for that matter) are: don't overheat, wear comfortable clothes and good shoes, drink plenty of fluids, eat food if necessary, and listen to your body. I'm still getting in 15-25 miles a week and just signed up for a half marathon in a month. I'll scrap it if I stop feeling OK while I run, but for now I think it's completely doable as long as I bring plenty of food, keep a comfortable pace, and walk if I need to. I'll keep you posted on how the next few weeks go!

The Preggo Athlete, Take 2 will likely reference workout clothes. I have found this area to be a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.

Happy training, everyone!

12 comments:

SSB

I think it sounds like you have a very healthy outlook on it. Even though I don't want kids I still lover reading about pregnancy changes the body. Congrats again.

Colleen

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I love the honesty of all of this. I have tons of friends with kids, but not a single one started out as an athlete. It's disheartening talking to them about me wanting children at some point and them telling me that I have to stop working out. I know that's not true, but fear that I won't have any place to turn to for information.

Looking forward to your next segment on workout clothes! I'm saving all of this info for the future! :)

Pamela

congratulations. I also read that book and found it very good and informative. I pass it along to all my friends who are thinking of having a baby or who are pregant.

I ran till about 8 weeks, but was then too nauseous. I started again at 14 weeks but by then was over it. I swam the whole time, up until a couple of days before the birth averaging about 2km per session.

I was also told I was probably to fit to fall pregnant, but that was rubbish. I did an Ironman the month before and we had no problems as all. I also ran a 21km with a PR before I knew.

She will be one tomorrow, was and is very healthy, happy and sleeps well. She was born on her due date - and I believe it is because I remained active through out.

Good luck for the next few months.

SteveQ

Now... just who would've told you about a woman running a marathon just days before delivery??? (sorry)

Here's the OCD pregnant runner blog: http://sealegsgirl.blogspot.com/

Pharmie

Steve - thanks for the story, and thanks for the link! Just because I'm not that OCD doesn't mean I won't enjoy reading about her journey. It's just not the right one for me.

A World of Gratitude

Inspiration?

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/pete_mcentegart/05/11/moms-day/index.html

Practicality?

Entering the Mother Zone and

http://www.pregnancy.org/question/soccer-safe-sport-during-pregnancy

I used to vol with one of the mentioned preggo athletes, and was always amazed at the dedication to the balance of life.

Peaceful journies!

Kimberly

You are such a great role model! I am a month behind you in pregnancy, and I am still running - but not the miles. It's nice to read that the pace change and differences in feeling are not just me.

Amber

Hi Pharmie!

I had a baby back in October, and ran through week 34 of pregnancy. I am not the athlete you are, but I blogged it (sometimes/often tmi): redseel.blogspot.com if you are interested. I also found Jess's blog inspirational while preggo running. She is at twentyonedayhabit.blogspot.com, and she is running preggo again, too!

Best of luck to you and Steve, and enjoy your running!

Robyn

As a off-and-on athlete, doctor and mother of two (2 and 4 now), I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for the great references and thoughts on being very active during pregnancy. I remember struggling with the ACOG 140 bpm rule and ultimately giving up on it too! Have you started thinking about how you want the birth to go? I suspect it's easier and faster to recover from a vaginal birth than a C-section. To some degree, you can improve the odds of that happening by choosing a birthplace and providers (doctors and/or nurse midwives) who think vaginal delivery is important.

Pregnancy Miracle

During our pregnancy we should perform the exercise which can make us to feel better and therefore this would be great achievement for all the ladies.

Jennifer P

Long time reader, first time commenter. Clapp's book is awesome - it made a huge difference to me during my pregnancy. I think ALL OB/GYNs should read it, as well as pre-natal trainers. I was given a hard time by the trainer I was working with (it's all on my blog) and finally had to fire her. At the end of the day (pregnancy) I had logged 250K of running, including 4 1/2 marathons, and even went into labour (a successful VBAC) after a brick workout with my triathlon team. Am I bragging? Heck yeah, because a fit preggo is an awesome preggo!

Yup, finding clothes isn't fun, but I managed to find a few that were perfect - FitMaternity was my go to place.

Happy 6 months!

solarsquirrel

THANK YOU FOR YOUR BLOG!!!! I link to Steve's blog and just realized that you have generously chronicled your experiences w/ pregnancy and working out. I'm 19 weeks prego and have really been struggling w/ the fact that I'm running soooooo slow and not capable of even remotely doing what I used to. I'm looking forward to reading about your comeback to racing! Congratulations on your new baby boy!