I am so happy to be writing this blog 5 + a 1/2 months into my first pregnancy- (and yes pull ups are now that little bit harder with my new weighted vest ;) I finally feel able to share my news with everyone, with a bit more confidence about the way I have taken decisions over my pregnancy fitness, thus far.
I have learnt so much over the past 22 weeks, and I know I have SO much more to learn, and share about this experience, firstly as a female, and secondly as a trainer.
I can honestly say I am growing in many more ways than one!
I will be tracking my pregnancy training as much as is viably possible, and sharing what I find ‘helpful’, and, of course what I have found ‘not so helpful’. My experience must be taken as its written however, that is, one example of pregnancy fitness. I can only write and share, how I found things so far, and am fully aware with the journey of pregnancy that things can change, or may need to be altered, at any moment, on a day to day basis.
As with all things in the world of fitness and females, I have found so many conflicting, unscientific, and scare-mongering pieces of information out there.
Its so hard not to feel overwhelmed, in a state of confusion, guilt, and constant questioning of whether or not you are doing the right thing. 22 weeks in and I now feel much more confident that the decisions I make as a fitter mamma to be, are right for me and my baby. That said, I do still find it frustrating, when others constantly question my decision to remain as fit and healthy as I possibly can be. This is something I am slowly adapting to, but hopefully with more blogs like this, attitudes and responses to pregnancy fitness may eventually change. I have learnt that so many people are driven by fear, their own anxieties, and misinformation, as opposed to the reality of what science evidences to be true.
From the outset I want to make it clear that my pregnancy goals are in many ways entirely different to that from which I had beforehand.
People automatically assume women exercise through a fear of getting fat, or gaining weight (I’ve had some wonderful comments in this area..”you wont be able to do what you normally do- I cant wait for you to get fat”….yes true story)…
This is a message that pre pregnancy I have recently been trying to eradicate as much as I possibly can. Exercise should not be attached to a mental state of anxiety surrounding weight loss or gain. For me it should all be about seeking to gain strength, and resilience, both mentally and physically. Fat loss and body composition change is for me a by product of this success.
Now in my pregnant state, even more so, is the ‘fat loss/weight management assumption’ a ‘damaging’ one to have. If you face exercise in pregnancy as a means to ‘stay thin’, I’m afraid you will only ever feel a constant failure. An appropriate amount of weight gain is part of the process, and part of the sign of a healthy, growing baby, and this will look different for every female.
Here are just some of the adaptations I have made thus far:
-Strength based sessions (so that means lifting to my max capacity in the 1-5 rep range), are now focused around maintenance, and adapted to develop strength in areas of weakness, and changes in the stability of my joints, which will be challenged with my changing body shape, and hormones. This is to try as much as is viably possible to avoid back, shoulder and posture problems, and injuries, both pre and post pregnancy. I am thinking of this as ‘pre habilitation’.
-Strength endurance is getting more of a look in, over strength max-loads. Testing 1 rep maxes is not advisable at this time. Retaining as much muscle mass as I can, is a goal, as this aids a healthy metabolism (great for you and great for baby), and is more helpfully achieved during pregnancy by lower weights at higher reps than I trained before.
-Lower level, cardio based fitness is also being increased around my weight lifting sessions. In fact I think my cardio fitness has improved since becoming pregnant, as I was fairly slack on this before! This is for many reasons. I’ll share the benefits at a later date- but lets just comment on blood flow benefits (for you and baby, I am deemed as higher risk of blood clots so keeping healthy circulation is super important), heart health (for you and baby), mental health (for you and baby) are to name but a few…..
Scouring the internet, chatting to other trainers and doing as much research as I could however, I found a few common themes in the pregnancy fitness world emerged:-
Guidance is hugely varied, inconsistent and out of date in terms of ‘pregnancy fitness’. But for the most part, I have found the main issue with such guidance being, that it excludes ‘individuality’ in relation to the fitness level, and or capability of the female before they became pregnant.
MY TOP TIP?
Adapt -Adapt -Adapt- to your own individual capability. Everything to do with pregnancy fitness DEPENDS on where you started out. People are shocked I swing a 32 kilo kettlebell, or do pull ups, ignoring the fact I lifted much heavier than this, before I became pregnant. Currently I work at a ‘reduction in weight’, but for others this may be a max lift. I am also extremely lucky to have worked with a Trainer for a number of years, and to have a partner who is a pre/post natal PT. Having 2 very watchful eyes on my capabilities (who to be fair probably know my body and movement, better than me on most occasions) is invaluable to helping make the best decisions for my training plan. If in doubt seek ‘someone you trust’ in the fitness world and ask their advice, don’t rely on general guidance. You may be able to push yourself harder than you think, likewise its always good to have an extra view now whether or not you are maxing out too much- it works both ways.
Contradictions exist all over the place, an example - many more traditional approaches to pregnancy fitness, advocate yoga, pilates, running or steady state cardio as ‘safe’, and weightlifting as ‘unsafe’. Opposing views point out the dangers of ‘over-stretching, due to relaxed joints and ligaments, placing classes such as yoga as being a significant risk, ditto running (which is an impact activity, and can easily destabilise weak joints). Weightlifting is low impact and arguably much better for the body in terms of aiding it to stay strong. However most books will tell you not to lift more than a kilo (that’s my handbag out then)! As with point 1- all of the above depends on where you start out. If you have been practicing yoga for years you are much less likely to over stretch than someone starting out in their first yoga class who is inexperienced and pregnant. The same goes for weightlifting.
MY TOP TIP?
Whatever method you choose for you, make it one you are already accustomed to for the most part. This doesn't mean you cant try anything new in pregnancy, but be mindful, as echoed in point 1, that contradictions that exist usually do so because of the mixed abilities of pre pregnant ladies who then try new things, this is ‘more risky’ regardless of the method of training.
Scare Mongering. This is EVERYWHERE in pregnancy. People love to tell you tales of their horror stories, extreme weight gain, their views and opinions on how bad or risky, dangerous, awful, the whole experience is/was for them, and how you ‘wont be able to do x y z. This is more often than not without you ever having asking for such ‘advice’. I find this bit of pregnancy, possibly the most difficult thing I have experienced. Whilst ‘some’ will share this with good intentions, I also find it very questionable as to why individuals, find it helpful to try and place seeds of doubt in a prenatal females mind….at a time when strength of mind and positivity is one of the best things you can try and achieve. I have followed fitness weightlifters on social media who to be quite frank have been mentally abused online for their commitment to staying strong in pregnancy. Newspapers and the media usually do very little to assist this. This is the reason i almost ‘hid my pregnancy’ for as long as I did, through fear of the ‘finger wag’.
But alas this is where the issue of resilience comes in……
MY TOP TIP?
One of the most useful pieces of advice I have been given throughout my pregnancy was from the first anti-natal nurse I ever saw- when asked about my continued weightlifting -(and fully expectant of her to screw her face in fear) - she replied-
“From what I know about weightlifting, it is a skill that develops resilience. If there is one time in life a female should do everything she can to develop her resilience, it is now, during pregnancy- so go ahead- and keep going as much as you viably can. You are not just training you are developing resilience” . If someone tries to bring you down, or make you feel guilty - practice resilience - from what I hear so far, it’ll put you in great stead for whats to come…….
And on that note!!!!!
I am hugely excited to share my news…… and the motivation behind this blog!!!!
That I will be working with the ‘Fitta Mamma’ brand as a very proud ambassador. Whilst scouring my internet for ‘positive + real fitness messages (and pregnancy fitness clothing)-
I came across the Fitta Mamma brand’ - and fell in love with their Pregnant Not Powerless Message. The world needs more companies to embrace and share this to those who may not feel so confident in their approach.
More on that in my next blog post!
*******but for those who want to take a sneaky peak-check out