-Describe your training/exercise regime before your pregnancy
Prior to my pregnancy, my training was varied and often intense. I really love HIIT training and plyometrics so did a fair bit of that, plus weights, 5 or 6 days per week. I would meet weekly with my Nike Training Club group for an intense workout at Academy of Lions with Nike Master Trainer Eva Redpath (and of course sometimes with Coach Jenny Thomson!) I also began working as a Pilates instructor in the year prior to becoming pregnant, and I love to work on the reformer for strength and some cardio, so that was a big part of my fitness regime - and I am so grateful for that as it helped me to really strengthen my transversus abdominis and pelvic floor, improve my alignment and have a better awareness of my body. I also would run a couple of times a week, generally about 5K. I would have liked to do more running at times, but was battling an ankle injury and also found that focusing more on strength and intervals was more beneficial to me. Basically - I like to mix things up. I want to make sure I cover strength, speed, flexibility, agility, and endurance week after week.
-Any concerns you had regarding training during pregnancy?
Like a lot of pregnant women, I was told by some people to stop working out during pregnancy. But I felt strong (lucky me) and wasn’t given any reason to stop training. In fact, I was encouraged to by my medical team. I think my biggest fear was that I would end up with a complication that would make me unable to train. As this wasn’t the case, I modified as necessary, and kept up with my workouts. Of course I didn’t feel the same as before, but to be honest, I was impressed by what I could do more than afraid of what I couldn’t.
-Why was it important to you to train during your pregnancy; what were your main goals for your training during your pregnancy?
It was important to me to train during my pregnancy because more than ever before, being healthy was critical. I wanted to maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure and avoid getting gestational diabetes, all of which I achieved. My goal was to stay strong and healthy in every way. The way I saw it, pregnancy and labour were going to be the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding things I would ever endure, so I had better be ready for it. I was right on about how tough it would be, but in the end I think I did a pretty good job.
-How did you train during your pregnancy, how often, how far through your pregnancy did you continue?
I basically did everything I did before I got pregnant, just in a modified way. I still ran, did HIIT, plyo, NTC, Pilates, and yoga….but I tried to be smart about it, and more forgiving with myself. So I would run, but slower. I would jump, but not as high or as fast. Weights weren’t something I had to modify much at all. When I reached the end of my second trimester, I was avoiding exercises that required flexion of the torso (like ab curls) or too much “front-loading” of the abs (like a full pushup or plank). So I worked on my transversus in a more subtle way, elevated my push-ups, and did tons of side plank. Actually by the end of my pregnancy I was kind of a side-plank expert. I stopped running at 7 1/2 months as it just felt like too much pressure on my pelvic floor. But I trained up until the morning I went into labour. I was actually doing an NTC workout the morning I went into labour…..burpees and all.
-How did you work with your trainer/coach/programmer and medical team to organize your training through your pregnancy. If you didn’t work with a trainer, where did you get the information to design your program?
As I had some training in prenatal fitness, I did most of my own research and planning modifications, but was always open to suggestions. I referenced my own studies and researched online. I wish I had known more women personally that had kept up a similar training regime during their pregnancy that I could talk to, but I didn’t. I double checked that everything I was doing was ok with my doctors. I would also listen the trainers that I worked with like Eva, Jenny, and Amber for adjustments that I could make. It helps to have a well-trained professional take a look at your form when you are training to see if alignment can be improved in any way.
-Describe the importance of listening to your own body - any common signs/feelings you experienced that warned you to slow down or back off?
Even though I was determined to keep training, it was also really important to listen to my body, and as I said, be forgiving of the challenges that pregnancy presents physically and emotionally. In the first trimester, I found that I would get nauseous and didn’t have the cardiovascular endurance that I had before, so I had to give into that at times. Though from what I understand, it wasn’t too bad for me. As I mentioned I stopped running around 7 1/2 months because it was just too much pressure on my pelvic floor, just not comfortable. And I had some lower back pain, so there were times I needed to slow down a bit because of that or be very cautious to keep my spine in a neutral alignment to prevent it getting worse. (And that’s another reason a strong core was SO essential!)
-How did your training impact your pregnancy, labour and delivery - physically, mentally and emotionally?
Training made me feel like I was still myself during a time of great change and anticipation. It helped me stay positive, healthy and strong in every way possible. Of course there were times I felt less than my best. But part of being strong was also learning when I had to go easy on myself.
-When did you start training postpartum? How did you know it was time to get started? What were your main considerations when returning to training.
I feel a little weird saying this….because it is definitely not what is usually recommended…..but I slowly started training again at around 2 weeks postpartum. I almost don’t want to tell people that. But again, as I’m a fitness instructor I feel like I had a good understanding of my body and what to look out for. I knew I didn’t have an exaggerated diastasis and that the integrity of my pelvic floor muscles didn’t seem compromised. But by all means PLEASE be sure to check with your doctor and do not start training again until you get the green light. You don’t want to end up peeing yourself every time you go for a run, or sneeze, or laugh! Make sure your pelvic floor muscles have healed and are strong. Start slow. Work on kegels and work on your transversus. And the absolute worst thing you can do postpartum is ab crunches. Just don’t. Build the foundation of your abs back up by concentrating on your transversus. Work with a trainer, pilates instructor, or physiotherapist that understands this!
-Do you have an important message you wish to pass on to other women who are thinking about or are concerned about training through pregnancy?
If you trained before your pregnancy, then you should absolutely train during your pregnancy. Unless there is a medical reason that suggests you or your baby could be harmed in some way, then you should stay physically active. Just be sure to listen to your body and modify to avoid those common complications. You’ll feel better and stay healthier during your pregnancy, and ultimately, it’s better for your baby as well. While pregnancy isn’t a time to push your athletic or physical limits, fitness is as important to you now as it ever will be.