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Last August, we said goodbye to a part of our Kwest family, Kru Jos and his wife Maija, as they left Winnipeg for Maija’s home country of Finland. In December of last year, they welcomed baby Taiga to their new home in Helsinki. Those of you who know Maija know she is one of the most active and fit women around (what I mean is that she is basically a tiny superwoman who left most of the rest of us in awe) and so we were pretty pumped when she offered to share some of her thoughts on working out while pregnant. For those of you who have been, are or plan to someday be in this situation, we hope you find this helpful and ecouraging. Read on for her thoughts, and let Maija know if you have any questions in the comments.

Baby steps — my story of working out for two

My first reaction to the two red lines on that test may not have been the most traditional one. The picture
of a little life growing inside me felt surreal and inconceivable, yet rather exciting. Admittedly, I did not have
much of an idea of what I could and could not do, nor what would happen next. (As a matter of fact, one and
half years, one 24-hour labour and piles of articles and books later, I still do not quite know what happens
next, but the wee dude is certainly not surreal anymore.) The only thing I knew was that if things progressed as
expected, in about nine months a brand new human being would enter into our lives.

At my first visit to the family doctor she noted that I was surely pregnant and inquired in passing whether
this was good or bad news. She then sent me for a suite of blood tests. That was it. While browsing Today’s
Parent in the laboratory waiting room, I had my first epiphany: each journey through a pregnancy is supremely
personal, perhaps even a little lonely. The amount of professional support, instructions, rules and opinions
are without doubt to excess, but despite the plethora of information, I found most of my questions were left
unanswered. I was dubious about everything, since the ambiance around pregnancy seemed so sententious.
Each woman knows to her bones that she is the guardian and gatekeeper for that little baby and that her diet,
health, lifestyle and even mood have an effect on the outcome. There is an overwhelming societal burden to
act accordingly. The pregnant woman should abstain from drinking alcohol, coffee, herbal tea and cola, but
should remember to drink enough water. She should not be eating cheese, liquorice, salmon, flax seeds nor
frozen berries. She needs to sleep enough, but must not travel, stress, sweat, grind away nor get depressed.
And maybe the most confusing of all, she should get in shape and exercise, but not more than 30 minutes
at a time or with a heart rate of over 140 beats per minute. She should take care of her strength but not lift
weights nor carry out plyometrics.

Sounds just a tad too gloomy, eh? So here is to you, women, particularly those expecting and to your
husbands and partners, my story of working out for two! This is not medical advice, obviously, and after all
I went through I would still suggest checking with your doctor. My wish is that my narrative can serve as a
cheerful encouragement to listen to and trust yourself, whether you desire to be reckless or circumspect.
Here is what my weekly workout schedule might have looked like before getting pregnant, while I was having
some knee issues and could not run as often as I tend to.

MON
6-7 am: bootcamp
5:30-7 pm: strenuous yoga

TUE
7-9 am: pilates and 10 km commute by bike
12-1 pm: spin class
6:30 pm: 8 km commute by bike

WED
6-7 am: bootcamp
12-1 pm: 5-10 km run or 2 km swim or rest!

THU
7-9 am: pilates and 10 km commute by bike
12-1:30 pm: track workout:
4X400m, 2X800m, 2X400m, 2X200m at 5 km race pace, plus 10 min warmup and 10 min cooldown, stretching
7 pm: 8 km commute by bike

FRI
6-7 am: bootcamp

SAT
9-11 am: polewalking
afternoon pilates and rehab at home

SUN
6:30-11 am: 100 km road bike ride

Here is how it may have looked like when I was 20 weeks pregnant:

MON
6-7 am: bootcamp
5:30-7 pm: strenuous yoga

TUE
7-9 am: pilates and 10 km commute by bike
6:30-8 pm: trail running clinic (speed, hill and coordination workouts)

WED
6-7 am: bootcamp

12-1 pm: 5-10 km run or 2 km swim or rest!

THU
7-9 am: pilates and 10 km commute by bike
7 pm: 8 km commute by bike

FRI
6-7 am: bootcamp

SAT
6:30-11 am: 100 km road bike ride

SUN
8:00-10 am: long run (12-20 km)

On the face of it, the two workout logs look pretty similar. Analyzing a little closer, it may look like the
only variable that has changed is running. I actually ran more when I was in the second (and third) trimester
of my pregnancy than I did pre-conceiving. This was because I was suffering from a persistent iliotibial
band syndrome (that is: I had pain on the side of my knee) and could only execute sprints and none of the
endurance kilometers I typically enjoy. Analyzing the logs even further, you can note that my pre-pregnant
running entailed a weekly track workout, a real lactic acid burst for the body, whereas at 20 weeks pregnant I
ran slowly up to 20 km in addition to some harder (but not deadly) running. Otherwise, my training remained
pretty similar. Both logs include morning bootcamps, a lot of cycling, yoga and pilates in addition to some
pole walking and swimming here and there.

So, I was doing some minor adjustments to my training depending on my feelings and the fact that I was
indeed with child, but because I love working out, I cycled, jumped, lifted kettlebells and even ran some
orienteering races. Recently, there was a pregnant mother of two who posted pictures of herself on Facebook
lifting weights during her CrossFit workout, and stating that “pregnancy is not an illness but a time to relish
in your body’s capabilities to kick ass.” Everybody did not find her post motivational, but in my opinion, she
was rather inspiring, at least for the fact that she publicly discussed working out while pregnant.

Should you also run to the gym and hit the weights? Perhaps you should not, but probably, you could. The
message is definitely encouraging for those women who feel well, have uncomplicated pregnancies, and want
to work out. For the record, Public Health Agency of Canada recommends physical activity for pregnant
women, because it elevates your mood, improves muscle tone and stamina to help you in labour and speed
up your recovery after delivery (I second that). You may also garbage the rumour that exercise initiates or
causes preterm labour in uncomplicated pregnancies. Instead, working out has been linked to fewer labour
complications and shorter hospital stays. What is most reassuring for us worrying mothers is that current
studies demonstrate that maternal gestational exercise also benefits the fetus. Regular cardiovascular workouts
improve blood flow through the placenta, and infants of exercising women have improved cardiac responses
relative to same age counterparts. In addition, advantageous alterations are seen in fetal breathing movements
and motor activity, and these benefits are carried on to adulthood as reduced risk for obesity and cardiac
disease.

Here it is then, bottom line: You may exercise, and it will be beneficial to you and your baby.
To end with, however, I want to tell a few less cheerful experiences from those nine months I lived through.
Because, the truth is that pregnancy is a huge change to your body, physically and mentally, and some of
those days, there is no hiding that fact. There may be aches, pains, fatigue, nausea, swelling and insomnia.

I spent the first three months of my pregnancy nauseated. I would go to the gym and smell coffee in
someone’s thermos cup from the far back corridor (I smelled everything), hurry to the bathroom to throw
up my breakfast juice. There was one occasion where I could not give a urine sample at my check up because
I was so dehydrated, and I kept drinking water only to continue vomiting. Thankfully, that stage passed and
I went on the typical path to a very energetic second trimester. And while I went crazy exercising, my baby
developed all those organs and little bones, grew big enough to be present to the outside world.

Eventually, I had to adjust my training. I would still lift weights, perform vinyasas and go for those headstands, but I was
no longer able to do forward folds and I did not find it wise to do crunches. I went cross country skiing with
my mom and wondered how come she was in such a good shape, only to realize two months later on our
postpartum ski that I was, indeed, not a very fast skier at 8 months pregnant…

Ladies: listen to yourselves. Be honest, be who you are, do what you feel is right. Enjoy being pregnant, and
enjoy the physical and mental challenge it brings. There are only a limited number of occasions in your life
you will be, or have to be, pregnant.

Sources:

May, L. E. 2012. Physiology of Prenatal Exercise and Fetal Development. SpringerBriefs in Physiology,

Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-3408-5_4.

Minister of Health, Government of Canada, 2008 (revised 2012). A sensible guide to a healthy pregnancy.

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-gs/guide/04_pa-ap-eng.php (accessed September 2013)

Ryan, A., 2013. Pregnant faux-pas? Mother-to-be posts photo of her CrossFit workout. The Globe and Mail,

Sep. 20 2013, 11:37 AM EDT.

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