Pregnancy – what a complex, yet beautiful adventure many women get to experience. For some, it could be a memory you’d rather suppress with battles of sickness and complications…and for others it can take less of a physical toll on the body. As I write this, I am 27 weeks along in my first pregnancy. I wouldn’t call myself an expert at pregnancy by any means, but like many active women out there, I too was searching for the right exercise recipe that would keep me active but not overdo it.
Upon searching for questions about staying active or riding a bike – the many answers out there have been very vague, including from healthcare professionals. When I found out I was pregnant and at the time, riding about 16 hours a week, I asked the doctor, “Is it ok if I ride my bike, and how much?” The answer was just, “No problem, just keep your HR under 150 BPM, and don’t fall.” Not sure how they came up with the HR data and did they know what type of rider they were talking to?! I have read many articles from various sources that all conclude close to the same thing – keep the HR down under 140-150BPM, listen to your body, don’t exceed the activity level you were doing before you were pregnant, and exercise 20-30 minutes per day. Contrary to what some people may believe, exercise is actually very healthy and important during pregnancy! Especially when you are already an active person!
So, I have written this blog in hopes that my experiences may help you to devise your own plan – give you some tips on what workouts you can try, how often to exercise, and know when to take it easy. Again, consult your doctor or midwife on what’s best for you as every woman has a different and unique experience with pregnancy.
First Trimester – Figuring it All Out, Learning How to Deal with Fatigue
The first trimester for me was probably the hardest. I have heard this is true for many other women too as your body is transforming all of these systems to grow a baby! One of the first things I started to notice besides feeling lethargic to my favorite drinks (coffee and wine!), was I was extremely tired. I had been training for a 24 Hour solo event, so my long bike rides usually ranged from 6-9 hours. After a 2-3 hour ride, I was exhausted. I knew something was up. Once my pregnancy test came back positive, I knew my training was out the window and now the focus would turn to supporting my body for a healthy momma, healthy baby, and healthy birth.
During the first trimester I started to ease back my riding times. I would still go on mountain bike rides with athletes, just trying not to push my HR up, but still even the slow easy rides I found myself needing long or several naps to recover (thank goodness I work from home!) All of the napping sure made it tough to get anything done!
Until I started moving into the 2nd trimester, most of my workouts were either riding, some hiking, or taking the day to just rest. The 2nd trimester is where I gained a little more energy and was able to fully get into a better exercise routine.
During the second trimester I had already had plenty of time to determine what type of activities wore me out more, and what activities I could do more regularly to keep my body from getting so stiff, minimize leg cramps, and still enjoy the outdoors.
As my body begins to grow, I have found cycling to be more challenging. My new routine involves riding 2 days a week from 30 minutes – 1 hour. I keep my rides on my mountain bike on gravel roads to minimize raising my heart rate and feeling strain in my abdomen from pushing more power on the pedals. Most of this time is shared with my dog Scotch. Sometimes I’ll get out with my athletes too as long as it’s a really slow and easy ride.
Bike Fit –
Due to a growing belly, my bars have been raised to help give me more room so my legs don’t hit my belly. Friends have noticed that I tend to pedal more bow-legged though!
This has become my go-to exercise and partially due to the fact I have 2 border collies that need exercise! I usually take a morning walk ranging from 20-45 minutes and an evening walk around 20 minutes. Because your body’s ligaments and tendons become loose, preparing you for child birth, I have found my right hip to be a source of pain. To help keep my hip and sacrum in alignment, I see a chiropractor and massage therapist on a regular basis and also use a sacrum belt. This belt supports my sacrum and hips when I’m active and rests comfortably under my belly.
As it is heating up here in Phoenix, I am really enjoying swimming as a means for exercise. I try to swim 1-2 days a week with one day being open water swimming. Because the water has zero gravity, it takes all the weight off of the spine and is quite refreshing!
To keep up with a changing body, I try to do yoga and a core/flow routine 3-4 days a week. For yoga, I use an app yogadownload.com and use their pregnancy yoga videos. For my core/flow routine, I have a series of exercises I flow through. I first set a timer for 10, 15, or 20 minutes, then I flow through the series of exercises until the timer goes off. It’s basically like doing a circuit, just with more flow!
Listen to your Body –
Everyone is very different when it comes to pregnancy and for each person, every day can be a different day. For myself, some days I have lots of energy and can be very productive, while other days I have to cut my hike or bike short as I feel out of breath, light headed, or sensitive to the heat. Sometimes I just need to nap. Always err on the side of caution and don’t worry if you don’t have the same energy or fitness you had before getting pregnant! You’ll get that back after the baby’s born!
Eating for Two –
Nutrition has HUGE importance when it comes to pregnancy! I like to think of it as if I were planting a garden – I would provide the best soil, water, and nutrients to that seed so it could grow to its full potential. I have actually become more health conscious through pregnancy, thinking about all of the developing systems in my baby’s body and wanting to nourish that development. With all of this activity, I find myself feeling hungry at a moment’s notice so I always carry snacks with me such as: fresh or dried fruit, nuts, a baggie of fresh veggies, or a smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to get in extra fruits, veggies, and nutrients so be sure to check out Julie’s Smoothie Recipe HERE.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 as we head into the third trimester!
About Melissa Ross:
Melissa Ross is Co-Founder and Cycling Coach of Potential Energy Training and Nutrition. Melissa’s 12+years in the sport as an athlete and 6+ years as a coach has taken her all over the world from touring Italy, racing across Europe and the US as a professional road cyclist, to becoming a pro mountain biker, exploring the trails across Arizona and even recently finishing 13th in the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa and making the podium 2 years in a row in the Leadville Trail 100! Currently Melissa is expecting her first child in September so can be found taking casual rides and hiking with her 2 border collies. Melissa has an incredible desire to help other people reach their full potential and bring the passion of having a healthy lifestyle into their lives.