Week 12 of Bikini Bod Bootcamp | Week 27 of Pregnancy
I recently realized that while I’ve made mention here and there about exercise during pregnancy on the pages of Nourish, I’ve really only shared my full thoughts on the subject in guest posts on other blogs. So, this post will serve as Part 1 of a 3 part series on prenatal fitness.
I’ll start at the beginning. Last Summer, when I found out I was pregnant, I was in a place physically that I was really proud of. I’d wrapped up the first Bikini Bod Bootcamp in the Spring and had really found my groove with regular classes at barre54. Of course, I knew that there was a possibility of my becoming pregnant at that time, so I was even more diligent than normal in my workout routine. I knew that I wanted to start my journey as an expectant mother off on the right foot and, looking back now, I’m SO glad I did!
For the first couple of weeks, I felt great! I did notice small changes in my stamina, like being incredibly winded just after a barre warm up, but overall I still felt strong and like myself. So, at my first doctors appointment, I admit that it came as a bit of a shock when my doctor told me that my only guideline was to keep my heart rate below 140 bpm while exercising throughout the duration of my pregnancy. Excuse me, I thought? My heart rate gets up to 140 in a matter of minutes after starting an intense workout. I questioned him and despite his knowledge of my current fitness and activity level, he stuck to his blanket recommendation and did not waiver.
So, that’s when I took matters into my own hands. I recognize that my doctor had my safety (and that of my unborn child) in mind when he gave me the guidelines that he did. However, I didn’t quite buy that his recommendations were actually what was best for Piper and me. I just couldn’t reconcile how such a decrease in physical activity could be a good thing for someone whose body was conditioned for more. Sure, growing a human takes a TON of energy, but I still wasn’t convinced that there could be a one-size-fits-all prescription for prenatal exercise. And, according to my research, I was right. You see, my doctor had given me a rule of thumb to follow that had been given to him by the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)…in 1989…based on a study conducted on rats.
Needless to say, upon learning this, I concluded that my soon-to-be-mama instincts were correct and that this was one area where my own research was going to trump the outdated recommendation of my doctor. Fortunately, the ACOG has updated their guidelines to fit a broader audience. They now suggest that pregnant women use the “talk test” to determine the level of intensity they’re able to withstand while exercising. In other words, if you’re able to speak a few sentences while exercising, you’re in the safe zone and can continue at that level of intensity for the duration of your workout. What’s more, they even go so far as to acknowledge that that level of intensity is going to be different for every woman. Imagine that!
So, armed with instinct and the medical credibility to back it up, I proceeded to tailor an exercise program for myself and my growing baby that would keep us healthy and strong for the duration of my pregnancy. I lead another 12-week round of bootcamp, the majority of which I participated in. I continued taking barre classes several times per week and I worked out at home using a set of pregnancy workout DVDs. I even used the time during my pregnancy to become a certified personal trainer. I felt great physically and was emotionally empowered knowing that I was doing what was best for my baby by listening to the messages my body was sending on a regular basis.
Much to my disappointment, however, I still received negative, albeit well intentioned, feedback from people regarding my level of physical activity while pregnant. It was hard to believe that I could be criticized for keeping fit, yet encouraged to give into typical pregnancy cravings of cookies, ice cream, and cake. Seems a little off if you ask me. I did my best not to take those criticisms personally, but the bigger issue at hand truly bothered me. It made me realize how fragile we, as a population in general, treat pregnant women. It made me sad to think that we would encourage unhealthy habits simply because pregnancy is hard and we women carrying these little babies “deserve” to indulge. [BIG DISCLAIMER: I definitely gave into my fair share of pregnancy cravings, most of which had to do with Chick-fil-a or Oreos] Instead of treating pregnant women like the life-giving vessels that they are, created by God to protect human life from a cellular level through to a fully developed infant, we’ve chosen to coddle them in ways that would appall should we dare treat a child as such.
So, I’m here to stand up for the pregnant women who want to do things a different way. For the women who feel shameful when they question their doctor’s authority [BIGGER DISCLAIMER: I, in no way, advocate blatantly dismissing medical advice, rather, I encourage every woman to conduct her own well-informed research and, most of all, to listen to her own body in every moment]. For the women who are sneered at because they didn’t inflate to the size of a small cow by the time they gave birth. To those women, I say, “I’m so proud of you for taking charge of your pregnancy in a way that you truly feel is best for your child. You go girl!”
Now that I’m on the other side of pregnancy, with my sweet, perfectly healthy baby asleep on my chest as I write, I can honestly say that I’m beyond grateful that I didn’t listen to the naysayers and the skeptics; that I took cues from my body and not society. I had a long, hard labor and I am certain that the Piper’s speedy delivery is a direct result of my being physically strong when it came time to push. And, despite feeling as if I should hide this fact, I am proud to say that I only gained 18 pounds by the end of my pregnancy, yet gave birth to a perfect, healthy 8lb 9oz baby girl. Finally, now that I’m 3.5 weeks postpartum, I can say that I wouldn’t be feeling as well and have healed as quickly as I have, had I not been intentionally active during my pregnancy.
So, if you’re currently expecting, or hope to be in the future, I encourage you to take the reigns in your pregnancy, do some smart research, and plan a healthy, active 40 weeks!
In the next two segments of this series, we’ll cover general tips for working out during pregnancy as well as some very doable exercises for each trimester. So, stay tuned!
Nourish and Be Nourished::