“Pregnancy is not the time to start a new vigorous training program, but it is possible to continue the activities you were doing pre-pregnancy through your pregnancy, while observing your body’s changes and new limitations,” says Dr. Cindy Lewis-Caballero, (pictured). Lewis-Caballero continued distance running and cycled regularly to the office, but paid greater attention to not exceeding a Zone 2 heart rate effort and respected that as her body changed, so did her balance and reaction time. Her pre-pregnancy marathon time was 3:14. At 18 weeks pregnant, her marathon time was 4:23.
Here are her tips for staying fit during pregnancy and getting back to training afterwards.
- Recognize that this is only for a short time – but a lot will be happening during that time. Respect that your body needs to give priority to building a new human.
- Knowledge is everything to help anticipate and understand the changes your body will go through during the pregnancy and afterwards. Read books about pregnancy and specifically about pregnant athletes. You are presumably starting out much fitter than the average woman and will want to maintain a higher level of activity, so learning about what is safe for you and your developing baby is important.
- Ask to work with an OB or midwife that is familiar with the unique needs of a female athlete. Seek information, understand what is happening and treat yourself accordingly. For example, as your pelvis and joints relax in preparation for delivery, your back may hurt more. Change what you do to stay fit while taking the pressure off. Pool running or swimming may be more comfortable than running.
- Gaining weight is natural and necessary.
- Look to the appropriate experts post-partum. Your OB Gyn’s priority is to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Your pediatrician’s priority is a healthy baby. Your GP’s priority is to support your general physical and mental health. Look to your coach, chiropractor and physiotherapists to help you regain your identity and abilities as an athlete, safely.
- Remember that you just went through a very big body change – respect that and realize that you’re not in the same body as you were before. You’re starting from a different place and it’s important that you rebuild this time with care.
- Take the time to heal after the birth then start back gradually under the guidance of a professional – especially if you had a C-section or episiotomy. Remember there are many layers to healing – what you see on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect the healing in the deeper layers.
- It is so important that you work with an appropriate physical therapist in this rehab and take their direction on how and when to get back into activity. Re-entry into your sport at the level you want to be will be slower than you will want – but it’s important that you listen to their guidance in order to ensure that you can continue in your sport and not be sidelined by associated pain or injury.
- Be persistent, even if you can’t be consistent – do what you can, when you can, and forgive yourself for not being perfect.
- Line up support that is supportive of your goals. You will need to include personal time in your new schedule for your own wellness and training – and be able to give it appropriate priority.
- Don’t give up – muscle memory is strong – your body will remember how it was – you simply need to give it time.
- Diet and strength training will help get you back on track.
- You will be tired – a lot. That state will last for a number of years as your child grows. Learn to re-prioritize things that can wait and prioritize rest to help keep you both healthy and sane.
- Allow yourself not to be perfect when it comes to your workouts. Do your best but don’t overrun yourself. Remember, life is different now and although you will be able to do a lot just because of who you are and the sports you come from, you still have a whole lot of new responsibilities on your plate. Take pride in what you can do and forgive yourself for not being perfect when it comes to executing your planned workouts.
- This will take work – and so will being a Mom. There is a lot to learn about your body, your baby, who you have become and your potential. Treat it as a lifelong commitment for yourself and to set an example for your family.
- If you feel unsure, get support or find out instead of letting uncertainty get in your way.
- Learn how to leave the Mom guilt behind…you will be better for building a stronger and healthier you for everyone.
- Pressure to be perfect and do it all is unrealistic. Pick what means most to you, and let the rest go.
Sandie Orlando and Dr. Cindy Lewis-Caballero are athletes/coaches with CL Performance Training and moms of two kids (each)