Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Exercise in Pregnancy

During my pregnancy with Skye I ceased all forms of exercise with the exception of walking, as instructed by my then doctor, who was of the opinion that despite my existing level of fitness, I was to take part in nothing more than gentle walking in my "delicate condition". As it was my first pregnancy I was happy to follow her advice and did my utmost to ensure that I did nothing strenuous (well except for that one time when I simply had to move a sofa bed at about 37 weeks), but I did find it frustrating, especially as my doctor actually participated in many of the classes with me and was well aware of what I could handle.

At Boot Camp in between pregnancies

The combination of not being able to have a beer when I felt like it, the unavoidable loss of my waistline, having to suddenly examine every bite I ate and not having the release I so enjoyed from working out made pregnancy a pretty big shock to my system and it took some time before I began to feel like myself again. Skye was actually 6 months old before I even set foot back in the gym, but that was because I made the choice to take things slowly.

Getting back into it at Mums and Bubs class when Skye was 1 year old
Despite the complete lack of regular exercise, my body recovered quickly after having Skye which told me that an overall healthy lifestyle prior to falling pregnant (and some favourable genes) were key. 

3 days before Skye was born
It was the emotional rather than the physical benefits that had the greatest impact on my well being. Something I was mindful of when planning for my next pregnancy.

5 months after having Skye (I still wasn't making the bed)
When I went to visit my new GP to confirm this pregnancy, one of the first things that I asked him about was how safe my current exercise program would be now that I am exercising for 2. This time it wasn't a matter of vanity or anxiety about the changes my body would need to make in order to grow a healthy baby to term. My goal was to maintain a reasonable level of fitness in order to make the pregnancy, labour and recovery process easier on myself and Baby Bond and continue enjoying an activity that I loved doing for my mental health. 

He assured me that anything my body was used to doing would be fine to continue with. I then clarified that my normal program included a mixture of kick-boxing, boot camp, spinning and Pilates which he once again said would be fine. I must admit I was a little apprehensive about going into my first Ki-Max (kick-boxing) class after that, I was so mindful of my heart rate jumping too quickly it ended up being a pretty half-assed effort. I was too worried about putting myself or Baby Bond at risk to enjoy the class and considered the classes that weren't so intense, after all, I was doing this to relieve stress, not add to it.

A week later my concerns were a distant memory as I was rendered totally useless by Morning Sickness, or more accurately All Day and All Night Nausea. I did little more than lay on a mattress on the floor attempting to eat dry, cold vegemite toast until I was roughly 11 weeks along then suddenly I started to feel normal and the desire to return to the land of the living returned.

Just make it STOP
Since then my program has changed. I never went back to the kick-boxing classes because  I felt that the intensity and constant change of rhythm would be too much and since boot camp closes down for the winter, I have focussed on Pilates and spin classes as well as walking. I have been lucky to find an excellent fitness instructor (who runs both the Pilates and spin classes) who has always made a point of ensuring that anything I do is at a safe level as my pregnancy progresses. My instructor only recently brought in some new equipment in order for me to continue safely participating in the class. 

Surprisingly, there are often days when I find being on the bike easier than the Pilates sequences although that may not last now that the weather is warming up.

It's impossible to take a selfie in a gym class without looking like a knob
Now that I am in my third trimester and Spring is upon us I will probably have to adjust my routine again. I am not sure how long I will continue with the classes, but I am taking it week by week and only doing as much as I feel comfortable with, when I am up to it. 

My key advice to anyone wishing to exercise during pregnancy would be this:
  • Don't use my experiences as a guide, check with your doctor about what they recommend is safe for your individual circumstances
  • Inform your fitness instructor as early as possible of your pregnancy so they can (discreetly) make adjustments to your activities
  • Listen to your body. The biggest thing for me has been changing my focus from exercising primarily for physical appearance, to exercising to feel good. If the weather is unusually warm, or you are feeling tired, or uncomfortable STOP, you are supposed to be having fun
  • Don't rush to get back your pre-pregnancy body. There is so much talk and comparison and celebrity madness on the topic it can take away from the most important part of becoming a mother - you have a gorgeous little bundle in your arms that your body carried and nurtured for 9 long months, take the time to soak it all in and take care of both of you
Please share your own experiences of exercise during and after pregnancy, I am so sick of only being able to find information showing heavily pregnant women jogging along the beach in crop tops and tights - who ARE these people?!?!
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