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Highs and Lows of Pregnancy: a Trainer’s Perspective
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS
Make no mistake about it, the thought of going through nine months of weight-gain and nausea despair frankly held little appeal for me. But the thought of missing out on the rich life experiences of nurturing our own family was even more of a turn-off. So in August 2003 my husband and I embarked on the fantastic first stages of parenthood: pregnancy. We both wanted the same thing: a healthy and happy child to add to our household and enrich our lives, to teach, nurture, and love. I don’t think I ever quite realized that the joys (and not-so-joyous moments) of parenthood start as early as the first nine months of life, during pregnancy itself.
Highlights: Favorite Five
- Playing heel tag with my daughter in utero – when I was first able to feel her wiggles during the second trimester, it made me a little uncomfortable to say the least, thinking about an alien being writhing away inside my abdomen, jabbing and poking at my belly button and then ribs as she got bigger. But during the last few weeks as I grew accustomed to her rhythms and could see her angular heels tap dancing under my ribs, it comforted me to see how active and healthy she was; I would try to “tag” her heels as a way of letting her know that there is life outside of the womb anxiously waiting for her to decide to join us.
- High levels of energy and optimism during the second and third trimesters – I had increasing, boundless energy, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning. I also experienced a euphoric high most days from the increased pregnancy hormones (if only someone could bottle and sell that!!) For a morning person like myself, there’s nothing better than having 24-7 access to my own in-home studio so I could work out at any time of day that the mood struck. Remaining super active during the pregnancy resulted in minimal weight gain, an optimistic attitude, and a healthy positive outlook on the whole experience despite the discomforts that inevitably come with late stages of pregnancy.
- Wonderful feeling of hope and anticipation that anything is possible–going through pregnancy is like having a brand new blank notebook in front of you, waiting for you to have and write about new experiences. Let’s face it: waiting for labor to start is admittedly a frustrating and sometimes downright boring part of the whole nine months. I tend to be a person who likes to have some control over timing of events, such as scheduling climbs, trips, or races, and knowing when final exams are going to be so I can prepare well ahead of time. The fact that I may have gained insights into a new sense of “laissez-faire” or “go with the flow” that may eventually help me increase my patience and “wing-it” sensibilities that are so important in life, especially when you factor in a new child who has a mind of her own.
- Improved nutrition habits and increased self-confidence that I can handle whatever comes along physically, no matter what the circumstances. Pregnancy gives a woman a great excuse to take wonderful care of herself in order to provide a safe and healthy haven for her developing baby. You can chart the nutrition you get from your pre-natal vitamin and also chart intake of folic acid, calcium, and protein using www.fitday.com, online software that is particularly beneficial during pregnancy to be sure that I was getting the right amount of nutrients. It may help to keep in mind that “eating for two” only means 300 calories additional per day during the third trimester – NOT to double your caloric intake! My very modest weight gain would end up being far easier to remove within weeks of delivery by not gaining too much in the first place.
- Dancing baby in response to my voice, singing, or favorite music – while working with clients at certain times of the day, or talking on the phone, singing along to a favorite CD, or exercising, I delighted in her increased movements that showed she was “alive and kicking” and in some small way enjoying my favorite activities right along with me.
Five Experiences I Don’t Miss One Bit
- Baby hiccups in utero – the most frustrating part of the whole pregnancy for me, believe it or not, was the frequency of my baby’s hiccups, perhaps because I literally had no control over when they struck or how long they lasted. At least if you encounter other people who are hiccupping, you can leave the room if they bother you, or if you have them yourself you can usually find a way to stop them. But attempting to scare baby did not seem to work (totally protected as she was by comforting amniotic fluid); she could not hold her breath--and you can imagine the futility of even attempting to somehow communicate that to her; besides, she had oxygen coursing through her via umbilical cord, not her developing lungs! Finally, she was already standing on her head during the last month in the womb – so the best thing I could do was just move around myself in order to mask the steady “hic hic hic” of her immature diaphragm’s rhythmic spasms.
- Frequent trips to the loo – probably one of the most universal complaints of all pregnant women, and certainly for me, though as a camel myself I probably did not have as tough a time with this as most women. The trips to the restrooms seemed to coincide with my daughter’s 3 a.m. hiccup/squirm sessions, leading me to believe that perhaps the two were linked in some way?
- Uncomfortable stretching sensations -- both in the pelvis and round ligaments of the abdomen. This really became more an issue in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy as the relaxin hormone starts to kick in and loosen the circular or round ligaments of the abdomen and those holding the pelvis snugly, to eventually allow baby’s head and shoulders to make their way out of the woman’s body. Any sudden twisting motions would remind me with a start that my body was continuing on its own path toward labor and delivery. Fortunately my doctor assured me that pain would go away within a few weeks after delivery.
- Heartburn – while every woman’s experience with cravings and food avoidance will differ greatly, for me, I had to stay away from tomatoes or other acidic foods, chocolate, carbonated beverages, and citrus fruits. What was fascinating to me is I actually noticed a decrease in cravings for these foods, almost as though my body instinctively knew what would cause it problems. The exception, of course, was chocolate; but as long as I stayed away from anything containing chocolate or caffeine beyond 2 p.m. I was okay.
- Physical limitations – While training all my clients for their high altitude and technical climbing trips for the season I found myself yearning to join them, to go up Mt. St. Helens in a day, or journey up to Muir for a conditioning trip, or scramble around unencumbered by a pregnant belly. Again, patience became an important characteristic to try to develop – “this, too, shall come to pass.” Pregnancy is temporary. And while certain exercises and activities were no longer safe to pursue in the late stages of pregnancy, I maintained my very active schedule of modified workouts, looking forward to the days when I could once again resume more rigorous workouts and high-altitude excursions.
I’m now a convert. Every woman who is even considering becoming a mom should embrace the opportunity to experience pregnancy and motherhood. Going through an uncomplicated pregnancy and medication-free labor and delivery (pushing only took 27 minutes) was one of the hardest but best experiences of my life. The most important piece of advice I could give any woman considering this beautiful stage of life: BE AS FIT AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN BE, BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER conception, pregnancy, and post-partum. It makes all the difference in the world as to how you experience early pregnancy, labor, delivery, and most importantly, recovery.