Resources are slim on exercising and pregnancy. So many women are left wondering what can they do without harming the baby. While every woman is different and every pregnancy is different, former professional triathlete and expectant mother Nicole DeBoom offers a few generalized tips on what to do before and after conception. These tips are not meant to serve as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor before participating in any form of exercise while pregnant.
Working Out In The First Two Trimesters
You have to force yourself to slow down, which DeBoom admits is hard, especially if you are a long-course athlete. “But you have no reason now to do six-hour bike rides,” she said.
Your body will naturally slow down, but you can still swim/bike/run.
However, biking during the second trimester puts pressure on your bladder. “I recommend to keep biking throughout your pregnancy, that way you get used to balancing yourself with the extra weight. I now have to sit more upright. But I go slower and just spend less time on the bike,” said DeBoom. “You also can still run, but you just can’t run as fast.”
“You hear about monitoring your heart rate while you are exercising, such as keeping it under 140 bpm, but I don’t think that’s really true. Someone who is 19 will have a hard time keeping it that low. I think what is more important is monitoring your core body temperature,” said DeBoom.
If you feel yourself overheating, stop. You could cook your body and your baby.
DeBoom recommends the following:
1. Weight loading will stress the body. So you can still do squats, but do them without weights.
2. Stop doing crunches. It will harm your rectus abdominus. You need to allow for major expansion and doing crunches can actually do more damage than good. You don’t want to stress your body any more than necessary.
3. Work more on your lower back and hips. You want to allow your hips to open up to allow for the extra weight.
Pregnant women are burning more calories so they will get hungry more often. “I get what I call the ‘pregnancy bonk,’ which is the worst type of bonk you can imagine. It comes fast and furious and I have to eat anything and everything I can,” said Deboom.
She recommends eating small amounts throughout the day. This helps stave off nausea and that pregnancy bonk.
Staying Mentally Strong
“It’s very hard to stay strong. It can break your heart. You have these goals you are used to achieving and now you don’t. We’re used to this endorphin kick with training, but now that’s really gone,” said DeBoom.
She advises women to step back and look at the bigger picture—turn your attention to activities that are more appropriate, like preparing for the baby.
When you are trying to conceive, many doctors will tell you to lay off the exercise. “Personally, I took a moderate approach. I didn’t train for a marathon during this time—there was no point,” said DeBoom.
She also put on a couple of pounds, which she thinks helped. “If you have regular cycles, it is easier to get pregnant. But for those endurance athletes so lean they have irregular cycles, gaining weight might help,” she said.
There’s a book called Exercising Through Your Pregnancy [by Dr. James F. Clapp III] that demystifies the myths out there. “I’ve heard that there could be problems with exercising when you are pregnant. But exercise has so many benefits. Women who exercise while pregnant will have an easier time.” said DeBoom.
But it is important to remember, she stresses, “No expert can tell you what is best.”