Maintaining an Active Lifestyle During Pregnancy
When I was pregnant with Huck, I felt like a (relative) badass. Staying active during my first pregnancy was easy. Sure, I was tired. And I peed a lot more. There were some back aches after working out. And I took a solid break from climbing because I was too cheap to buy a maternity climbing harness. But I literally trail ran the day I went into the hospital to have Huck. Out of social obligation, I’d occasionally acknowledge that I’d been “lucky to have an easy pregnancy”.
This pregnancy has been different. Yes, I’m more tired (An active toddler and the fact that I’m delving deeper into my 30’s isn’t helping.). And yes, my belly got bigger faster. But everything about my body feels different. Despite regularly running, hiking, and lifting weights (both before pregnancy and during the first trimester), my body has felt wrecked after nearly every run partway through my second trimester. This pregnancy I’m learning how to be more intentional about caring for my body. I want to share what HAS helped, and the tips I’ve heard from other mothers, nutritionists, doctors, and physical therapists.
Start Activity Early in Pregnancy, and Stay Regular
There are definitely days in that first trimester that are a no go for activity (cue all the vomit emojis). Acknowledge, accept, and respect your body on those days. But on days that you just feel marginally BLAH, try to get outside and get moving. Yeah, it sucks looking “totally normal” but not being able to feel normal. I remember the frustration of being lapped on the track or passed on the trail and wanting to tell everybody “I’m not usually this slow- I’m just pregnant”. But keep getting out and keep moving as much as you can early on. In the second trimester, you’ll be feeling MUCH better, but will have a more challenging time if your muscles have been totally dormant the previous three months. Keep reminding yourself that every squat/lunge/hike that you do now will pay off later when you start feeling like yourself again, but have a new center of gravity.
We all hear about bizarre or cliche pregnancy cravings. Hell, most of us mothers have given in to them. But if I was susceptible to a sugar crash before my pregnancy, I’m much more sensitive to them when I’m pregnant. Eating foods that are high in protein help my energy levels feel more stable. Salty nuts have been one of my favorite snacks- pistachios particularly. Another reason to opt for pistachios? They’ve been linked to helping pregnant women who are at risk for gestational diabetes. I’ve also been focusing on eating smaller, more frequent meals to help with heartburn and to avoid crashing between big meals. Some of my favorite snacks have been string cheese, nuts, and fruit. And sure- eat the damn chocolate. But don’t go there in a place of desperation (like dumping the rest of the sour patch crumbs into your mouth in the car after you realize it’s been HOURS since you’e last eaten- wait, just me?). Be thoughtful about when you eat, what you eat, and let your self enjoy snacks that leave you satisfied.
This pregnancy I’ve noticed that stretching makes a HUGE difference for the daily aches and pains from hauling a toddler on the trail and constantly picking up toys around the house. Running has still been painful, but I have found SOME relief when I’ve stretched before and after runs. After reaching out to my community on social media about the major pelvic pain I’ve been experiencing, I heard from a Physical Therapist, Emily Bohlen-Carr. She designed the following stretching routine for me to help with my pelvic instability, and hip flexor pain. The past two weeks I’ve been doing the following stretches in the morning and when I’ve been feeling tightness/pain and have noticed a big difference. These stretches have made a HUGE difference for me- thank you Emily!
Invest in comfort
This has never been my forte. But this pregnancy I actually got some new running/hiking shoes, maternity running shorts (sold out, but from Old Navy), and a few good supportive extra long running tanks. After hearing from several mothers, I’ve heard that this supportive belly band works wonders. I’ll post about the results after I try it out!
Adapt, and remember pregnancy is NOT FOREVER
Look, there might have to be some activities you tweak or even temporarily give up. Last week I rode a gravel road on my mountain bike with my big belly and felt like SUCH A SUBURBAN MOM. I had to remind myself- I’ll be riding single track again soon. And at this point, I’m considering taking break from running until after the baby comes- I lose too many days of activity due to pain each time I run. This has been really hard for me to accept, but I know it’s not forever. To help get my “adventure fix” I just started stand up paddling this week. It’s a different pace, but it absolutely fills my soul to be on the water during sunset- and it’s been a fun new challenge. Sure, it’s been a few months since I’ve bagged a peak, but I still love exploring the trails with Huck. Listen to your body, talk to your doctor, and find the best way to stay healthy and inject some joy into your life.