Monday, November 30, 2009

Exercising Through Your Pregnancy

Wow. First of all, thank you all for your support. I really wasn't sure how that last post was going to go over- knowing that there are so many people who struggle with fertility having the opposite problem as me- I thought it was entirely possible that I was going to end up with a gang of haters. Who knows, maybe you're out there, secretly hating me, but overwhelmingly I felt amazed at how awesome you guys (um, gals) are in encouraging me to let myself feel how I feel and even express it 'out loud' here on my blog. It really does help to get it out there instead of burying it. I would suggest it as therapy for everyone. ;)

Moving on.

This book has been recommended to me several times and I finally went out and bought it. And all I have to say is, awesome! James Clapp, MD does a great job in working through the myths and fears associated with exercising while you're pregnant, and explains many physical things that I've always wondered about. If you're an athlete and pregnant already or looking to get pregnant, it is a must read.

When I found out I was pregnant with Moana, I immediately set a bunch of arbitrary limits on myself concerning exercise. I hadn't started blogging yet and didn't know anyone who ran while pregnant, so I sort of assumed that it might be ok to keep running for a while, but had no expectations for continuing all the way through. I was amazed when I found so many bloggers who ran (a lot!) when pregnant. For whatever reason, I decided that 4.5 miles was as much as I should ever run while growing a baby. I stopped biking immediately (though I do admit I rode like twice for about an hour really slow during the first trimester), and limited my swims to 2500M. Later on during my pregnancy when I felt completely fine, I did do some 4000M swims and upped my regular swims to 3000M 5x/week. But my point is, I had no basis for these limitations other than my own estimated guess at what the limits were for pregnant women.

Dr. Clapp does a great job of explaining so many positive benefits for mom and baby when mom exercises throughout her pregnancy. I now feel justified in continuing to do whatever exercise feels good, including running and weight lifting the whole time. He says that the arbitrary HR limit of 140 is not reasonable- that in fact, early on in pregnancy, HR is no longer a good measure of how hard mom is working... This is due to the fact that our vascular system has relaxed and expanded in order to make room for all that extra blood volume that we don't yet have, so our hearts actually have to work harder for a while pumping the less than adequate blood supply and our heart rates might be higher than usual even while exercising easily. I am totally experiencing this right now.

Anyway, the key points Dr. Clapp makes about keeping it safe while exercising during pregnancy include the following:
1. Make sure your body temperature does not go above 102 degrees. You know what is interesting about this? In studying pregnant women who exercise, Dr. Clapp found that our bodies, in an effort to protect the fetus, actually regulate our temperatures even better when pregnant- our bodies direct blood flow to the skin more readily to help cool us off while exercising. So we sweat more and stay cooler. This makes me wonder if this is why I've been so much colder than my training partners in the ocean lately? I think it is.
2. Make sure you don't get dehydrated. Got it. I'm good at drinking a lot. :)
3. Make sure you don't let your blood sugar go low. This was really interesting to me too b/c I have felt like I've had lower blood sugar more often when working out when I'm pregnant. The physiology behind it (that I just learned from Dr. Clapp) is that while your body would normally release glycogen stored in your liver when your blood sugar starts to dip during exercise, when you're pregnant, your brain sends a signal to your liver to keep that glycogen for the baby rather than releasing it to mom. After 45 minutes or so is when your liver would normally kick in and start providing back-up glucose, but this mechanism is turned off when you're pregnant. So you have to take in your own carbohydrates more often rather than depending on your liver. Interesting, no?
4. Finally, avoid physical injury. This may be more important later in pregnancy when your balance may be thrown off due to the weight changes from that big baby.

Anyway, I'm not putting any arbitrary limits on myself this time around. I'm doing whatever feels right at the time. That means riding my bike until I can't sit on it anymore and not necessarily avoiding all hills. That means running 35 miles/week if I feel like it (and yes, I have felt like it), and keeping my long run up at 10 miles as long as I can. And it means swimming as much and as fast as feels comfortable. Exercising now is more about keeping my own sanity rather than gaining any fitness, but given Dr. Clapp's advice, I think I can do a pretty good job of staying sane. :)

19 comments:

Angela and David Kidd said...

I loved that book as well and recommended it to everyone I knew who got pregnant who wanted to stay active. And it was hugely helpful for David to read because I'm sure he would have been of the opinion that I shouldn't do anything during my pregnancy but luckily there was a reasonable doctor out there to convince him he was wrong.

Running and living said...

Loved that book. Plus my OB was great and did not put any limits on me.

kat.asman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kat said...

(first time commenting, been reading for a while)
Thank you for the review of the book - it is now on my list of things to read, however, I should have read it weeks ago! I'm pregnant w/my first, and while I don't consider myself an athlete, I do like to work out. I did cut back quite a bit on my workouts (duration/intensity) when I found out I was pregnant - and now I wish I hadn't (and continued training for a half marathon). So now I'm a little scared to ramp it back up. My goal now is to stay as active as possible through these next few months.

And as others have said, thank you for sharing all that you've been going through.

Mary IronMatron said...

I think it will be neat to see how far you can go before cutting back on the running/biking! Hopefully you won't get there for a long while!~
I'm still working on doing that one pull-up, btw. I want to know that you can still do one right up until the end.

Kathy said...

I loved that book too, like the others said. Do what's comfortable. It is great that you still have so much energy.

When I didn't fit on my tri bike anymore, we outfitted a mountain bike with slicks and I rode on bike paths through about the 7th month. I am sure I got some stares, but I loved it.

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

Yeah!!!!!

DC Running Mama said...

I managed to run up to 50 miles a week at week 35, so you can do it! I probably could have run longer than 7-10 miles, which was my highest miles post week 25, but I just didn't have the time b/c I was running so slowly! We can do more than we think.

E.L.F. said...

There's a pretty good chapter in the book, The Woman Triathlete, that covers this too.

Clare said...

i am surprised you didn't read that book last time...guess i didn't realize you had cut back as much as you did while pregnant with moana. hopefully this will make you feel better about pregnancy this time around! i rode my bike til almost 7 months (i just had to stop and pee in the woods every 45 minutes or so, being bent over squeezed my bladder i guess!) and kept up my running (much more than i am currently doing, sigh) as normal til about 4 months, at which point i did a slow half and then gradually cut down. i lifted A LOT and did tons of ab work too, everything felt great and that was my gauge...if it felt right, it WAS right. keep going mama!!!!

marathon mommy said...

I did the "do what you feel" plan for both my pregnancies which meant running and spinning until the day I delivered. If I felt bad, I slowed down. If I felt good, I speedup.

It worked for me and helped me bounce back from both babies very quickly. Go for it!

Rebecca DeWire said...

Thanks for mentioning that book. I never read it when I was pregnant with Elena. I knew about the temperature issue and was terrified of running outside in the NC summer heat so I was pretty conservative and definitely set limits on myself.

The Salty One said...

This is so great. I totally agree about going on feel. Seriously, if baby was mad at you, you'd know! Keep on keepin' on!

PS I SOOOOOO wish I felt like running 35 miles per week AND cross-training! I can barely keep it over 20 right now. I'm chalking it up to my heart working overtime :)

Katie said...

Good for you! For what it's worth, I continued with about 70-80 mi/week on the bike, 25 mi/week running (including up to 12 mi runs on long days) and several miles of swimming a week, through the first half of my second trimester. I have gradually cut back since then, but based on feel. Now I've got a week to my due date and that little girl is kicking like a maniac, so she seems to be doing ok!

The Chapples said...

I definitely did the "do what feels good" plan when I was pregnant. That meant stopping running in my third trimester because of pelvic pain, but not because I thought it was going to hurt the baby. I think as athletes, we are pretty attuned to what is too much, you know?? Trust your gut (literally ;) ).

Katie A. said...

Thanks for the book advice... One question for you. Although I am not pregnant yet, we are planning on starting early next year.
I have talked to my OB about my distance running and she says that distance runners tend to have lower weight babies because blood is directed to the mother's needs for longer period's of time while running then to the babe. Hence the lower weight babes. Does Dr. Clapp (love the name btw) talk about this at all? My OB told me they monitor the babies weight and progress more often with runners. Does this come up or sound familiar to you? Thanks for sharing as always! :)

Ordinarylife said...

The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was order that book. I loved it and have now just handed over to another friend.

It is amazing how many people will tell you you should not be running or something when pregnant. The first thing one of my husbands friends said to me what that now I had to stop "all that nonsense" (running, swimming cycling). NOT!!!

TMB said...

I just found your blog! It's fantastic. I ran through my entire pregnancy with my third. I kept my mileage right where it was pre-pregnancy, but did get progressively slower as I got bigger. It was a great experience. I raced until 35 weeks and did 8 miles three days before delivery and while I did have my smallest baby (6lb 14oz), she grew quickly and is now in the 90% at 10 months. Trust your body and it will be fine!

Prenatal Fitness said...

FYI-"Exercising Through Your Pregnancy" was updated in June 2012, so there's new information and training tips in the revised edition. Thanks so much for your recommendation of Dr. Clapp's book-his research has been some of the most important findings in this field.
Co-author: Catherine Cram, MS