Before I got pregnant, and even during the first trimester, my goal was always to have a “fit” pregnancy. To me, this meant working out 5-6 days a week and doing so at a moderate level. If I could regularly do really hard, intense workouts and run a marathon (and BQ!) a few weeks before I got pregnant, I should be able to continue with moderate efforts and a routine training schedule during pregnancy, right?
HA! How naïve I was. Exercise during the second trimester has been anything but easy and I underestimated how the changes in my body would affect performance, motivation, and effort. The one lesson I had to learn during my second trimester is that you have to be flexible and ultimately listen to your body.
Let’s just say that as the bump continues to get bigger, I get significantly slower and more fatigued. I’m guessing this is true for most women. Regardless of slowing down, I was still able to maintain a level of fitness that I was comfortable with and continued to engage in the activities that make me feel alive and fulfilled. Here is a peek at what exercises worked (and what didn’t) for me during the second trimester.
As long as running feels manageable, I refuse to part ways with the sport I love. Up until my half marathon at week 20, I didn’t experience a lot of issues with running. It wasn’t until the bump started to emerge that I started to feel changes in my energy output, lungs, and ligaments. After taking a week off to recover after the half marathon, I noticed that running was gradually becoming more difficult. As I grew larger in weeks 21-27 running became slower and I became more out of sync with my body.
I base a lot of my effort off my heart rate, trying to maintain a 140-150 bpm average. While at week 20 I was able to run a 8:30-9:00min/mile pace in this zone, now at week 27 I barely start running and my heart rate shoots immediately to 140 with very little effort. I can now run a 10-11 min/mile pace in this zone. It baffles my mind that a pace of 11 min/mile will have the same effect on my body as a pace that 7:30 min/mile once had before pregnancy.
Needless to say, running while pregnant has NOT been easy. I’m not doing it because it physically feels good or easy. I’m slower, heavier, and experience minor bouts of discomfort both during and after ALL of my runs. I wouldn’t describe running as painful, but there is a lot of discomfort to be expected at times. I have a lot of extra weight in places that I’m just not used to, which completely changes my running form and throws off my balance. Plus, I never know what kind of “day” I’m going to have. One day I might not make it 2 miles, the next I’m cruising for 6. You have to learn to go with the flow and do what you can. These days, I always carry my phone, water, and food, no matter the distance.
I am also starting to experience a lot more Braxton-Hicks contractions during my runs (this started around week 24). While this is completely normal, it’s awkward at the same time. Usually if I stop for a moment and take a couple deep breaths, they go away immediately. I was told that if they hurt or don’t stop after exercise has stopped, to call my doctor.
All this being said, I still NEED to run. I love it because it gives me energy and a post-workout natural high. Mentally it makes me feel good and emotionally it keeps me positive and level headed. It’s my preggo drug of choice. Plus, there is comfort in knowing that if I am ever alone out there and am having “one of those days” I can always stop, walk, and talk to the baby. It’s amazing how soothing talking out loud to your unborn child can be while enjoying the scenery.
Moving forward, I plan to continue running as long as I can, likely 3 times per week averaging 3-6 miles per run. I had plans to run a 10K this upcoming weekend, but will likely defer due to the heat (it is supposed to be 102 degrees!). My hope is to run one more 10K and maybe a 5K in the midst summer, but nothing is set in stone. That’s the way it should be at this point in my pregnancy.
I’ve officially retired my tri bike for the summer and am loaning my road bike to a friend who is new to triathlon and training for her first. My doctor recommended that I avoid the trails and not ride in clipless pedals on the roads, because one fall could be detrimental. I’m not willing to take any risk.
I did make a decision that I would still ride my mountain bike, since it has regular pedals (a lot safer than the clipless), but only on flatter roads and easy terrain. Hard efforts on the bike definitely take a toll on my pelvis and lower belly muscles, so I prefer easy spins and moderate bursts of effort. I will likely continue riding my mountain bike for the next couple of months if my body allows.
Nothing like waiting until the end of the second trimester to start swimming, eh? I did my first lap swim since January last week and it was HARD! Everyone continues to remind me how good swimming is during pregnancy and how important it is to build those base miles while I can (before my next tri season). I couldn’t agree more, yet somehow have managed to go 6 months of my pregnancy without a single swim. Sigh.
My first time back in the water was a struggle. My breathing was off and I had a hard time settling into my stroke. Everyone told me that I would probably be more buoyant in the water because of the baby bump and extra weight, but I didn’t notice that at all. I just felt like I was tugging along an extra 20lbs in the water. My doctor said that I have very little fat around my belly and am all baby, which is probably why I didn’t float like I envisioned I would. Hopefully it gets a little easier.
Another issue I had were cramps in my legs and feet. I have already been experiencing more general cramping on a day-to-day basis, but being in the water only seemed to magnify this. I learned that as your uterus continues to grow, it puts pressure on the blood vessels that return blood from your legs. This can result in a lot of cramping and there’s not much I can do right now about my uterus size! In the future, I plan to use the pull buoy more and just let my legs tag along for the ride.
Hiking has been my favorite activity during the second trimester and my husband and I have been spending a lot of time in the mountains (you probably already noticed if you have been reading my weekly updates). It has been my happy medium between running and walking, because it provides a better workout than walking and is less strenuous than running.
The only issue I have had with hiking is falling. I have fallen during two of the last three hikes Justin and I have been on, and for careless “preggo brain” moments in which I was just trying to do too much or wasn’t paying attention. Last week when Justin and I hiked up to Moraine Lake, I feel within the first 50ft of the hike by stepping into a small crack in the ground when I clearly could have walked right over it. All I could do was laugh at the fact that I would have two bloody knees for the reminder of the hike. Don’t worry, when I fall I am really good about protecting the baby.
The thing to be mindful of when hiking is the extra relaxin hormone that the body produces to loosen joints in prep for a growing baby, labor, and delivery. Loose joints during hiking can increase the risk for sprains and tripping more easily. Not to mention the changes in your center of gravity that naturally occur with weight gain and belly bump size. I learned this the hard way and now have to put my ego aside and be extra cautious when out on the trails, and will likely start taking trekking poles along for extra balance and support. Hiking is something I will continue to do well into the third trimester.
I only did this once during the second trimester, but really enjoyed it. Part of me was nervous to try it because it requires a good amount of core strength and balance, but once I was on the board I was fine. I am hoping to do more SUP during the third trimester.
The most important lessons I learned about exercise and fitness during the second trimester, many of which can be incorporated into our non-pregnant lives as well, include:
- Recovery between workouts is critical. I give myself extra time to relax and recover, without exerting my body too much or too quickly.
- Give yourself permission to say no. If you can’t do something because of the heat, discomfort, pain, or other circumstances, then don’t.
- Something is better than nothing. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, I find that getting outside and breathing in the fresh air helps me to relax and enjoy this time.
- Not every activity has to involve a sweat-fest. Just being outside and moving is enough to make me feel good.
- Surround yourself with people who encourage you to stay active and engaged in the things you love to do.
Moms, what was your favorite way to stay active during pregnancy?
Does anyone else experience cramping while swimming? How do you handle it?
What is something (anything) in life that you thought would be easier than it actually was?