Yesterday was the start of the 34th week in my pregnancy. It’s hard to believe that my due date is fast approaching in just six weeks. As look back on the past 34 weeks, I don’t only feel grateful, but incredibly proud of myself. I’ve met many women along the way who commended me in keeping up with exercise and told me they did nothing during their pregnancy because they were “afraid to move.” As I’ve mentioned in several of my pregnancy blogs, I’ve been quite the opposite maintaining a workout regime that is undoubtedly keeping me fit and healthy. Beyond keeping fit with workouts is my diet. Pregnant or not, your overall health and weight is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. You are what you eat and you cannot out-workout a bad diet unless you’re a pro-endurance athlete literally burning thousands of calories a day.
Last Monday, after completing 45 minutes on the elliptical, some light weight lifting – 10lb dumbbells being the heaviest, and stretching, a woman came up to me and said I make pregnancy look easy. I graciously thanked her and told her while I didn’t think it was all easy, I was certain that keeping up with exercise has helped me greatly. The next day, a friend in my barre class told me when she wanted to take a break she looked at me and saw that I was still going and thought to herself, “If the pregnant girl in class can do it, so can I.” I can’t help but to feel proud when women tell me I’ve inspired them, because many of my friends and even strangers have inspired me too. So knowing I can provide some of the same motivation feels like I’m giving back.
I’ve had several friends recently announce their pregnancy, which is always exciting news and I love knowing our little lady has a lot of friends in the making. My friends are also reaching out to me asking for my advice, mainly regarding pregnancy workouts and what is “safe” to continue doing. I’m absolutely no expert nor am I a doctor, but I have gladly offered my best advice in what has helped me thus far, so I decided to dedicate a blog solely to keeping fit and maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy.
My first piece of advice and most crucial, is to always listen to your body. Whether your doctor approves it or every pregnancy article you read says it’s safe, if it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. I told a friend just a few days ago exactly this, “You will know what’s best because your body will tell you.” If something hurts, feels like it’s pulling or simply doesn’t make you comfortable, then opt for a modification or different workout. Of course, consulting with your doctor and keeping him/her up-to-speed on your activity level and diet is important. At every appointment I tell my OB exactly what I’m doing for exercise, I explain what my diet consists of and I make sure to go armed with a list of questions so I don’t forget to ask anything.
At my very first prenatal appointment, at just seven weeks pregnant, my doctor told me keeping up with exercise was absolutely recommended and that anything I was doing prior to becoming pregnant was fine. Although, there were some restrictions such as downhill skiing, skating or anything where I would be at risk for falling. I made sure to go through a list of exercises that I enjoy doing to make sure he was OK with it and he approved everything.
The list of what I have kept up with thus far is as follows:
1. Trainer rides. Some people don’t know what a “trainer ride” is so allow me to briefly explain. A bike trainer allows you to ride a road bike stationary. I am still working on becoming comfortable riding my bike on the road with traffic. Typically I prefer bike paths, but being pregnant, the last thing I want to worry about is falling. A lot of my friends have asked me about it and my best recommendation for a good trainer is the Kurt Kinetic. It’s a bit pricey but it’s one of the better trainers. Riding my bike on the trainer my entire pregnancy has allowed me to keep my legs and endurance strong and fit. The trainer is also a great option during the winter months for any cyclist or cyclist enthusiast. My husband was a semi-pro cyclist and mountain biker and sponsored athlete for many years and every winter he continued his workouts on the trainer.
2. Barre classes. I discovered barre classes about a month and a half before becoming pregnant. I remember walking into my first class thinking it was going to be a breeze, but 10 minutes into the workout I was proven wrong. These classes have been crucial to keeping me tone, fit, strong and maintaining very good balance during my pregnancy. I’m still able to plie on my tippy toes without having to hold on. Barre is a no impact workout that focuses on strengthening and toning your entire body with the use of lights hand weights, bands and your own body weight.
3. Walking and hiking. My doctor told me walking was one of the best things I could do being pregnant because it was low impact cardio that got my heart and blood pumping, but isn’t over strenuous. I love walking, but I tend to get a bit bored on just a paved road if I’m not running so I have continued to do hikes as well. My hikes have included easy to moderate terrain on trails in our backyard to hiking in Vermont and New Hampshire. Now that it’s winter I’ve also done a few snow hikes with my husband. Just today we went out for an hour and a half and did about 2.75 miles in two feet of snow. We hiked through woods and up and over many hills. Today was the first time I used my ski poles which definitely helped me truck through all the snow and up the big hills. Side note, I have many friends who continued running throughout their entire pregnancy. While I was a runner before, it was not something I felt totally comfortable with therefor chose to stick with walks and hikes instead. Like I said, just listen your body and instincts.
4. The gym. For a while I sort of warded off a “regular gym”, but as the weather became colder in New England, I decided I wanted access to other cardio equipment other than just my bike in the basement on days that I wasn’t up for being outside. So I joined a “regular gym” two miles from house and typically go two to three days a week doing the elliptical, the treadmill and lifting light weights. At this point in my pregnancy, the elliptical is probably my favorite form of indoor cardio.
5. Yoga. This helps me sleep and alleviates back pain. There are several studios that offer prenatal yoga classes, but I’ve simply done it on my own at home as I find doing about 20 to 30 minutes of yoga and stretching help me before I go to bed.
In terms of my diet, eating healthy has also been crucial to how I feel both physically and mentally. Not just during pregnancy, but all the time. I eat and drink so many veggies on a daily basis that when I do have a “cheat day”, I honestly cannot believe the difference in how I feel. I pretty much feel like total crap, have less energy and feel bloated when I have a day that I don’t eat well – you truly are what you eat. Eating healthier also helps eliminate a lot of the constant cravings I used to have for things like ice cream, brownies and “junk food.” I crave bad food a lot less. My primary care physician told me a while back that “blood doesn’t lie.” I bring this up because since becoming pregnant my husband and I got life insurance and in the process had to have a bunch of bloodwork done in order to qualify. One of the things they tested was our cholesterol. I’ve always had very good, low cholesterol (146 being my overall number back in 2012), but the nurse drawing our blood informed me that during pregnancy, your overall cholesterol and triglycerides rise significantly because you need more cholesterol in your blood to maintain a healthy placenta. They also didn’t ask us to fast so she said that would affect all my numbers. So, when I got my results back I wasn’t sure what to expect; however, ended up being incredibly surprised and happy. My HDL aka “good cholesterol” was 92 and my LDL aka “bad cholesterol” was 84. My doctor told me an LDL lower than HDL is very rare to see and proves I have a healthy lifestyle and diet. Typically, a woman my age should shoot for an HDL of 35-100 and an LDL of anything under 129. I’m considered to be in the “optimal” for both. My bloodwork results were added proof that I’m doing everything right during my pregnancy, and that I need to be much more forgiving when I look in the mirror at my pregnant body. At the end of the day, I feel good, I feel strong and I feel healthy.
Now that I’m officially submerged into the final weeks of my pregnancy, the only thing I’d do differently is not stress over my weight gain which is still in the norm, or how my pregnant body looks. The important thing is the health of my baby and how I feel. Exercise and a healthy diet continues to help me feel energized, strong, fit and sane and I truly believe both have helped me greatly during my pregnancy. It also helps ease my mind knowing that I’m giving my growing baby girl everything she needs to be strong and healthy. I hope that everything I’m doing during my pregnancy and continue to do postpartum will help her achieve the same healthy lifestyle as she grows up. I truly want nothing more than a healthy baby girl and I’m confident that I’ve done everything right so far to make that happen. So, here’s to putting my faith and trust in God, myself and all that’s good in the world that when she arrives, she is in fact a happy healthy baby!