Training in pregnancy

Karen Pregnant

Written by Olivier Salmon

December 24, 2020

Thank you to Karen who shares with us (mainly the mums to be) her experience of training while being pregnant. Something that is still possible. And huge congratulations to Karen and Andy from the BTS.

In May this year, Andy and I found out the good news that I was pregnant.  One of the immediate questions I had was – could I still train?

Some research on the internet and chats with BTS mums, made me realise very quickly that I could carry on training.  Brilliant, I thought.  However, I didn’t find it as simple as that, earlier than I was expecting.
 
For the first three months, I felt really queasy, constantly.  To be honest, I felt like I had a 3-month hangover (I couldn’t even stand the smell of wine if Andy was having a glass; slight fear that I would never get over this – thankfully, that phase has passed and I am looking forward to a glass in 2021!). The impact of this was that running took a real hit – I just couldn’t do it.  I became frustrated and made the decision to just stop.  Andy then suggested nordic walking.  This was a game-changer.  I found a 9-mile route that I could do over the summer and could time it to perfection so that I ended at the spot where Andy rowed on a Saturday, so he could then drive me home.
 
Swimming was a life-saver.  It helped with the sickness and I didn’t feel completely incompetent! Some people at work were very sceptical about whether it was safe for me to swim in the lake, but given I had done it for so long, my doctor said it was fine.  I just had to ignore the noise!
 
Cycling was comfortable, but I decided after my 12-week scan that I would use the turbo instead, just in case anything happened whilst I was on the road.  My key advice would be doing what you want to do – there are many people who made me feel guilty for cycling before this, but you need to balance your wellbeing, your own knowledge of what you can do, with what is right for you.
 
The biggest learning curve I had was ‘listen to your body’.  I was able to keep long spinning and Zwift sessions going until quite recently.  I fell short when I stopped listening to my body and tried to ‘push myself’ (like we all do when training!). A couple of hard hill walks, pushing that bit further on the bike resulted in some near-collapse moments, which in turn, made me realise that this isn’t like training for a race. If your body is saying no, then stop!  At 32 weeks, I can just about do 30 minutes on Zwift, at about 100 watts – and I am tired!  This is drastically different from where I was in May!
 
Regular walks are really good though and I am still doing some hills (slowly) to try and keep my strength up. Investing in a pregnancy ball also enables me to follow some YouTube videos for 20-30 minutes each day, which also helps with the various pains in my hips, wrists, everywhere that you don’t expect it!
One of my main aims was to make sure that I stayed healthy; all the advice says that exercise is really good for mum and baby.  Therefore my top tips for any expectant mums would be:
  • Listen to your body; when it is saying stop, you really need to
  • There are a ridiculous amount of hormones that mess with you! Relaxin plays havoc with hips especially, so don’t overdo stretching; switch to a pregnancy focused yoga/stretch class to get the best support and advice
  • Don’t give up on the sports you love, find ways to adapt them (e.g. swapping running for nordic walking/hill walks)
  • Remember a healthy lifestyle has so many benefits
  • DO NOT be made to feel guilty for continuing sport – ignore the noise and do what is right for you
And for the expectant dads:
  • Do not underestimate the support you can offer.  Andy was fundamental in helping me to adapt to all the sports; changing the seat and handlebars on my bike as I got heavier (and heavier), walking with me on my first ‘Nordic walk’.  Often just being told ‘you’ve done so well’ after a 30-minute Zwift at glacial speed, has a big impact on how you can be made to feel
With just a few weeks to go, I will see how things progress, but hopefully, some of the lessons I have learnt can be shared with any other sporty mums-to-be who are wondering how much they can do, should do and want to do.

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