by Britta Martin
My training, or I would probably more call it exercising, has obviously changed dramatically during the last half a year. I used to train on average between 25 and 35 hours a week for my Ironman races, depending on what training phase I was in. I trained full time, 2-3 sessions a day. When I was between training sessions I would concentrate on doing what was necessary to get the best possible recover, basically eating and sleeping.
One of the biggest and probably most challenging changes for me was the mental approach for exercising in this stage of my life. Being a professional athlete for so many years, my training was very goal orientated. I always had a race coming up and this really motivated me to give my absolute best in training. Every session I did, I tried to achieve something. I got fitter and mini steps working closer to my main goals of the season.
Being pregnant, this whole aspect suddenly changes. You obviously just get bigger and bigger and less able to do your normal exercise. You feel like your fitness is declining day by day. So how do you keep yourself motivated every single day, when you are feeling heavy, tired, and a bit unwell? The couch looks a lot more inviting than the thought of getting yourself out of the door.
I had to change my approach completely. It’s not about improving and getting fitter anymore, but to keep moving, enjoying myself, getting the blood flowing and maintaining a bit of fitness. On top of this, it is so much better for your health to keep exercising while you are pregnant. You reduce the risk of so many side effects that many pregnant women have to deal with, like swelling of your limbs, backache, constipation, nausea, excessive weight gain…..and so on.
I believe that regular exercise helps with all of these problems.
I will describe in the following, what my training/exercise program looks like at the moment and what I have changed throughout my pregnancy. Keep in mind that I am coming from almost 10 years as a full time athlete and I am not advising women to suddenly go out an become fitness fanatics if they don’ have a history of doing heavy exercise. The best advice I can probably give, and what I had to learn in the last months myself, is to listen to your body. Every woman is different and I believe every single body reacts completely different to being pregnant. You have to be honest to yourself and try to get up and get motivated. Take it easy when you’re tired or kick yourself in the butt when you are just being a bit lazy and giving in to the great excuse of being pregnant.
I would love to get back into training once I have had my baby. For me, maintaining as much fitness and strength as possible is my overall goal. I try to go out every single day, but I have had to change the type of exercise that I have been doing as my pregnancy has progressed. I am six months pregnant now, which means I will start my third trimester next week. I am not running anymore because the extra weight in my abdomen gives me a lot of pain in my groin and ligaments in this part of my body. I am doing lots of uphill hiking in the hills and mountains instead. I can really recommend this. It builds a lot of strength in your legs and gets your cardiovascular system going, and unlike running, it is low impact. You are out in the fresh air and get sun on your skin and it just gives you an overall good feeling. On days when you feel more energised, you can push it a bit harder uphill, otherwise just go slow and steady. Coming back down the hill gives you extra strength for your leg and butt muscles but otherwise is nice and easy and can be very relaxing. My hikes are from 1 hour up to 3.5hrs, depending on how I feel. I just make sure I take enough water and one or two of my yummy USANA bars.
I try to get out on my bike twice a week as well. My rides used to be up to 6 hours long, when I was still training, but I had to shorten them more and more. At the moment I am happy to ride for 90 minutes – 2.5 hours. My pace is of course a lot slower than before. I can really feel the extra weight and the reduced lung capacity, but just being out and turning my legs over is great.
The other very good thing to do during pregnancy is to go to the gym. Again, it is not about being able to lift heavy weights, but maintaining some strength in your muscles. It will help you with every day activities and being able to cope with the extra weight you’ve got and it will help during labour. I do safe exercises and avoid too much core, especially your abdominal muscles (rectus abdominals).
What I will probably do the most over the next weeks is swimming. As you can read in every book about pregnancy, it is great for your body and the weightless feeling in the pool makes you feel normal again and not like an elephant. The water pressure helps your blood flow in the placenta and I believe your baby will love it as well. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, but just get in the water and start moving. My sessions are still up to 4km long at the moment, but I will see how much longer I can keep it up, and will likely reduce the distance soon. Being pregnant doesn’t mean that you can’t do exercise. You still have plenty of possibilities. You just have to adopt a routine that suits and adapt it along the way as your body changes throughout your pregnancy. Out of the choices of swimming, hiking, biking and gym, I normally choose one or two options a day, depending on how my body feels and how much time I have got. As I have mentioned at the beginning, the most important thing is to listen to your body, and sometimes, when I am just too tired, I take it easy and start over the following day.
I believe that the longer I can keep up a certain amount of training, the easier it will be to get my fitness back afterwards and the better I will feel during my pregnancy and hopefully during labour. I have read heaps of research and studies and they all confirm that you will not harm your baby when you keep active as long as you are sensible. Obviously, high impact sports like boxing etc. or sports where you are in danger of having a high impact fall are not ideal, but swimming, hiking and doing safe exercises in the gym are ideal and recommended. Happy training/ exercising to everyone! 🙂