Is it possible to have a fit pregnancy? If so, is it something you should strive for and why?
Easter 2015 I started a journey to reclaim my health. At the time I just felt awful. I was heavy, uncomfortable, out of shape (man that one flight of stairs in our house KILLED me), had no energy, and HATED the way I looked. Finally, I realized that it was time I did something about it, so I started the 21 Day Fix program and had fantastic results. My muscle tone and flexibility improved and I even lost 20 pounds!
I was just a few pounds shy of my goal weight when we found out that we are expecting our fifth baby! Our beautiful blessing, Isabelle, will be joining us some time in May. As wonderfully excited as I was, I was a bit nervous about undoing everything I had worked so hard to accomplish with getting in shape. Instead of just giving up and going back to my old ways, though, I have determined to have a healthy and fit pregnancy.
Why Have a Fit Pregnancy
There are SO many reasons to have a Fit pregnancy. First of all, there is the basic reason that staying fit and healthy is always good for you. Our bodies operate better when we stay active and eat well.
It helps with insomnia
I can attest to this from personal experience. We all know how elusive sleep can be during pregnancy. For some it is only a problem in the last trimester, for others (like me), insomnia kicks in right from the start. Research shows that women who exercise while pregnant have less of a struggle with this.
It helps with constipation
Yeah, I know, it’s a pregnancy side effect that none of us like to talk about but most of us end up dealing with. For people in general, exercise is known to combat constipation. This is especially true when you are pregnant. The hormones your body releases during pregnancy tend to cause increased constipation by slowing down the digestive process. Exercise can help ‘move things along’ so to speak. This is especially effective when exercise is combined with other aspects of a fit pregnancy including a healthy diet and lots of water.
It helps with weight gain
You’re going to gain weight during pregnancy, and that’s okay. What I know from my own past pregnancies, though, is that it is far too easy to let that weight gain get a bit out of control. Exercising regularly and eating healthy (at least more healthy foods than unhealthy ones, even if you do occasionally indulge) is going to help with that.
It helps prevent pregnancy complications
Research shows that maintaining a fit pregnancy can lower your risk of several pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and premature delivery. Could you still develop these complications in spite of having a fit pregnancy? Most certainly yes! This is not saying that if you had any of these issues that you didn’t take good care of yourself. It simply means that you have reduced your risk, and that is a good thing.
It help prevent labor & delivery complications
The statistics show that exercising throughout pregnancy reduce your odds of needing various interventions. This can include induction, augmentation, forceps, and a c-section. This is due to several factors including increased stamina and muscle tone.
How to Have a Fit Pregnancy
Before discussing HOW to have a fit pregnancy, lets get a few cautions out of the way.
First, if you have currently or have a history of any of the following issues, PLEASE check with your doctor or midwife before exercising:
- incompetent cervix
- premature birth or premature labor
- severe high blood pressure (pre-existing or pregnancy induced)
- heart condition
- severe asthma
Second, avoid exercises that have a high risk of injury such as kickboxing, downhill skiing, and mountain biking.
Now onto how to have a fit pregnancy.
Start with your current fitness level
You do NOT have to be in good shape to have a fit pregnancy. The key to doing this in a safe and healthy way is to start where you are at and build from there. If you are accustomed to running a 10k, go ahead and keep it up. If walking around the block is what you are used to, trying to jump right into running a 5k isn’t wise. Instead, walk a mile for a few days, then push to 1.5 miles, then to 2, and so on. As your pregnancy progresses you may well have built up to running that 5k! This can easily be a time to get into shape when you aren’t already there.
If you want to achieve something, you need to set a goal. Whether it is running a blog or maintaining a fit pregnancy, you need to make a plan for how you will do it. One important note here is to set REASONABLE goals. Just like step one, start with where you are at. If walking a mile or two is hard for you right now, setting a goal of running a marathon by the end of your pregnancy isn’t a realistic goal.
If you don’t exercise at all, setting a goal of exercising 7 days a week right from the start probably isn’t going to happen. Instead, start with smaller goals that build toward a larger one. Set a goal to work out one more day a week each week until you build till every day. Set a goal to work out more days than you don’t. If you’re already working out most days, set a goal to maintain your current workout schedule at least 75% of the time.
Find a support network
Find people to support you in having a healthy and fit pregnancy. Whether it is a pregnancy exercise class at your local gym or hospital, friends and family, or an online community, seek out people who will support you in your efforts to remain fit and healthy while pregnant. Finding people who will support you and hold you accountable to your goals is key to being successful, whatever they are.
Listen to your body
Pregnancy is a special time in your life. There are going to be times where your body just isn’t working the same and you need to listen to it and respect it. This step is particularly hard for people who are already in very good shape. If you’re body is telling you it has had enough, it’s time to stop. Wooziness and/or pain (not normal exercise soreness, but actual pain) mean it’s time to stop for the day. If you’re having contractions, it’s time to stop for the day. Take a day off if you’re just plain exhausted. Remember that you are also more prone to injury while pregnant because of the relaxin that your body releases to loosen your tendons, so be careful not to push too hard. If something, even something you normally do, feels like you are stretching or pushing too far, take a step back.
Focus on nutrition, too
Exercise is fabulous, but it is only half of maintaining a healthy and fit pregnancy. It’s equally important to focus on what you are putting into your body. This is especially true because our bodies are designed to meet the baby’s needs before ours. So, if you aren’t getting in enough nutrients from your food, your body will simply take it from your stored nutrients (like taking the calcium from your bones) to give to baby. There are a few things that are extra important to focus on during pregnancy.
- Calcium- because babies need a lot of it to build their skeletons, so you are at risk for bone density loss if you don’t consume enough.
- Protein- protein is used for building cells, and obviously there is a lot of that going on during pregnancy. Additionally, protein is especially vital for your baby’s brain development during your last trimester.
- Fiber- this is another thing that helps with that ‘slowed digestive system’. Enough said.
- Dark leafy greens- these foods pack quite the nutritional punch! They include vital pregnancy nutrients such as folate (think folic acid, important for preventing various birth defects), calcium, and iron.
** If you’re not sure how much of what to eat, check out the 21 Day Fix program. Don’t try to lose weight now. You will want to calculate your food container needs based on the ‘maintenance’ formula at the back of the guide, and be sure to add an extra 300-500 calories to whatever you get from the formula to compensate for the additional needs of pregnancy. This is an incredibly healthy way to eat because it teaches you to focus on putting ALL of the nutrients and components your body needs into your daily diet.**
Make this a fit pregnancy!
I’m working hard to have a healthy and fit pregnancy this time. I even managed to walk my first official 5k race at 4 months along. Am I doing a perfect job? Nope, I haven’t exercised in a week and have eaten badly at the same time due to all of the Christmas craziness. Perfection isn’t the goal, though, progress is. Find friends to help encourage you to stick to your goals, but be sure to show yourself some grace. Don’t feel bad about indulging in those pregnancy cravings from time to time, just keep everything in balance!