At 16 weeks pregnant with my third baby, I’m no stranger to the ever present I-could-sleep-for-days-exhaustion, strange cravings (more eggs please), mood swings, and crazy dreams. Truth be told, I actually really enjoy being pregnant. I mean, when I sit down and think about exactly what my body is doing, it’s pretty freaking amazing. I’m making a baby human. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
Although this isn’t my first rodeo, this is my first pregnancy as a certified trainer and powerlifter. In the time between my last pregnancy and this one, I’ve also spent time rubbing shoulders with some of the leading pre/postnatal trainers and women’s health physical therapists which has led to gaining a mind blowing amount of information on the importance of proper pre/postnatal movement.
After detailed discussions with my go-to-everything-pre/postnatal-fitness-girl, and co-coach at Healthy Habits Happy Moms, Jennifer, together we’ve made some adjustments to my training during pregnancy that most likely will include dropping the weights (even more so than I had done already).
It’s not the recommendation I wanted to hear.
To be honest, I was irritated and sad at the thought of reducing the load on the bar. I love Jennifer, but I wanted to give her the big double bird and explain that I’ve survived two pregnancies just fine without her advice thankyouverymuch. I wanted to shove photos of girls A, B, and C moving (what seemed like relatively) heavy weight in Jen’s face and say, “See! SEE! They’re doing it and they’re just fine!”. And finally, what about the age old advice that every pregnant woman seems to know, “If you did it before pregnancy, it’s fine to continue.”?
Gurl, please. I’m too advanced for this stuff.
I’ve spent just enough time in the postpartum world to know that re-entry into the fitness world is something that should be handled with care.
I am mentally and emotionally prepared for making modifications as my belly grows and taking steps back after delivery to rebuild core strength and working to ensure the integrity of my pelvic floor, but changes already in the second trimester? Not so much.
In Jennifer’s defense, she just made a few recommendations of how to change up my lifting, not to quit lifting all together. She’s an advocate for women strength training. I’m just in a fragile, hormonal state right now. So BACK OFF. *Please see mood swings in first paragraph. More specifically, Jen isn’t crazy about me “setting my air” or holding my breath during lifts. The internal pressure has to go somewhere and more often than not, your core/pelvic floor take the hit putting me at higher risk for diastasis recti and/or pelvic floor issues- types of issues that can lead to back pain, incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and more. While the jury is still debating about when and how breath holding should be used during pregnancy, for a lifter who often sets her air for most compound lifts, it was a tough pill to swallow.
Since returning to lifting three years ago, I’ve squat, benched, and deadlifted three to four times a week. Clearly I’m a creature of habit. I’ve worked really hard to join the 300+ club in the squat and deadlift and pre-pregnancy was nearing the highly sought after by females, body weight bench press. So I’m sure you can understand, as vain as it may sound, watching the weights on the bar go lower and lower hurts my heart. The gains! The gains!
On top of that, it’s not uncommon for media to celebrate pregnant women achieving impressive feats. Pregnant powerlifting, pregnant marathoners, pregnant crossfitters, pregnant handstanding yogis. If they can do it, I can too, right? As much as I’d love to join them and stun people with heavy deadlifts at 30+ weeks pregnant, together with my prenatal health care team,
I have to make the best decision for my pregnant body.
Remembering, what’s right for one woman, isn’t right for me.
You know how sometimes you look back on choices you’ve made and cringe a little? Stirrup pants and geometrical rugby’s aside, that’s exactly how I feel when I reflect back on my exercise selection during and after my second pregnancy.
I remember engaging in full on sprints and plyometrics at eight plus months pregnant and despite feeling like my vagina was going to fall out, I pressed on. I remember going for a jog at about 5 weeks postpartum to test the waters and experienced incontinence. I thought to myself, “It will get better. Just keep going”.
That was my ego talking: I’m too fit to take the recommended time off. I don’t need modifications. I’ll work through it. Push past the pain and discomfort, it will get better. All women experience this, JUST DEAL WITH IT.
At the time I didn’t see any women standing up and saying, “Hey! I love lifting weights and exercising but I’m making adjustments to my pre/postnatal exercise routine to accommodate the needs of my ever changing body.” And if I’m really being honest, I’m sure there were those women. But if I had seen them, I probably rolled my eyes and chalked it up to women looking for an excuse to take it easy.
(Ugh, that last sentence makes my stomach churn now. Please don’t judge me, I used to be a bit of a fitness jerk.)
I just didn’t know any different. But as the old saying goes, I feel as though “what’s been seen cannot be unseen”.
I have a better understanding of how pelvic floor health, core function, breathing, and alignment all play an integral role in proper pre/post natal programming.
Fast forward to today, although it’s a little scary (I get it), I’m more than happy to be one of the (what seems like many) girls that stands up and proclaims, “My body has other priorities right now and it’s important to me to honor that in a way that feels good to my body.” If this resonates with you, I’m here for you girl. No shame in changing up your game.
If I am certain about one thing it’s that every woman and pregnancy is highly unique. Because of this I’m going to leave the specific prenatal recommendations to
professionals like Jennifer Campbell, the Healthy Habits Happy Moms community, and Julie Wiebe. Mom to be, new mom, or veteran mom, I implore you to give them a follow. Thanks to their work, and many others, I have more than enough encouragement and knowledge to feel fully supported in any modifications I should chose (or not choose) to make during and after pregnancy.
So while I'm hanging up the lifting belt and breath holding techniques for now, I will most certainly continue to lift for two...with a few modifications.