I have made a lot of questionable choices in my 33 years of life. Choices including, but not limited to, wearing color block rugby’s everyday from 1993 to 1995, chasing the bad boys, over using Sun-In, skipping sunblock, and not bothering to make any modifications to my exercise routine during my first two pregnancies.
At 40 weeks into my third pregnancy, this isn’t my first rodeo, but this is my first pregnancy since becoming a certified strength coach, powerlifter and co-founding Healthy Habits Happy Moms. All of which have led to increased knowledge of movement and much needed time rubbing shoulders with some of the leading pre/postnatal trainers and women’s health physical therapists including HHHM’s own, Jennifer Campbell.
I shared the news of my pregnancy right away as I was eager to get Jennifer’s input on my training plan. Despite no symptoms of pregnancy or visible baby bump present, she immediately made a few recommendations. Including recommendations to ditch the belt, alter my core training and address my breathing.
To be honest, it was not the recommendation I wanted to hear.
Initially I was irritated at the mere thought of making adjustments that would reduce the load on the bar.
I value Jennifer’s expertise, 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!” (Or are they?)
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.”?
Flat out, I wanted to say, “Girl, 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 was 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 first and second trimester? Not so much.
Since returning to lifting four 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.
Unfortunately, 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?
What you don’t see so much is the peeing their pants, separated abs, and pelvic organs prolapsing postpartum.
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.
Remember those questionable decisions I was talking about? Sun-in 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 I now have a better understanding of how pelvic floor health, core function, breathing, and alignment all play an integral role in proper pre/post natal exercise.
I didn’t understand the consequences of high impact activity on the integrity of my core and pelvic floor.
I didn’t understand the importance of substituting specific core stability movements into my training plan for more traditional core exercises.
But I do now.
I’m more than happy today to be one of the girls that stands up and proclaims, “My body has other priorities right now and it’s important to me to honor that.” 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 and our 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.