Who knew being pregnant was such a scary thing?! At any time you could fall down and your baby could die. Don’t ride a bike, you could fall off your bike and your baby could die. Don’t go jogging, you could trip, fall down and your baby could die. Don’t do a sit-up, you could cause early contractions, get the baby to fall out and your baby could die. Knowing how easy it is for a baby to die, why do we even have the abortion debate? If women don’t want a baby, seems like all they’d have to do is exercise more.
The quest to learn how much a woman can work out when pregnant is pretty frustrating. There doesn’t seem to be just one answer. I figured exercise is always a good thing so I kept doing my Boot Camp classes and other routines until I met with a nurse on the day I got tested at the doctor’s office. Suddenly I was made to feel as if working out was not only wrong but cruel and eeeeeeevil. “You need to stop doing that,” she told me. What part? “Anything that could hurt the baby.” Like what? “You can’t do sit-ups.” Like crunches? “Especially crunches–nothing that engages your stomach muscles. That can cause early contractions.” Okay so jogging? She seemed uneasy then said, “Mmmm, walking’s better.” But I run all the time. “Walking’s better.” Okay how about squats. “Mmmm…they’re okay. But not too much.” How about cycling class? By this time she seemed annoyed with my questions and didn’t even respond. She gave me a look like, “Are you kidding me? Don’t you know? If you really want this kid then don’t be selfish. Let yourself go to waste, be happy you’re gonna be a mom and stop wanting to kill your baby since it’s obvious that’s what you want to do.” It was a long silent stare. I finally replied, “What? I’m asking because I thought cycling just affects the legs.” She then told me that cycling uses your stomach muscles as well. I thanked her for informing me of everything it turned out I didn’t know and left insanely depressed.
For a week I didn’t work out very hard, resulting in the most tiring time of my first trimester. After moping around not feeling free to move as I was used to, I decided to ask around for a second opinion. Of course I first went online, but only found a mishmash of views on the subject. I then turned to my Boot Camp instructor. Turns out one of his focuses when studying human health was on pregnant women and exercise, so I figured he’d be one to listen to. He told me to be very careful since he knew of other fit women at our gym who continued working out as they always had and lost their baby in the first trimester. Then he offered to show me some exercises that would be safe for my state so I took him up on his offer. He had me join a friend and old workout partner of mine he was training who sprained her ankle. I guess he figured we were both equally debilitated–soon I learned that in his mind I was worse off.
The entire workout he checked on me after every rep, “Are you okay?” Yes I’m okay. He gave my friend and I the same exercises but mine were the baby version. So while she sweated I just did enough to move. “How you feelin’?” Fine. I went to pick up a weight, but he picked it up before I could and placed it in my hands. “Are you okay? How are you feeling?” It hadn’t even been five minutes into our session. Good, good. He took the weight from me as I was about to put it down. “Okay, take a sec. Are you okay’?” I’m fine, thanks. I looked at my friend with the sprained ankle who was huffing and puffing and looking as if she was about to die. Why wasn’t he asking her how she felt? She was obviously worse off than I was, but he had her doing the workouts full-out PLUS she got to pick up AND put down her own weights! “How you feelin’? You okay.” Yes! Why don’t you ask her?! “I just want to make sure.” I’ll let you know if I feel funny or if anything’s too much–don’t worry. I tried to put my weight down but he took it from me. “You okay?”
Finally I spoke to a doctor who said I could do everything as I had, just don’t let my heart rate go over 140. So I bought a heart rate monitor and went back to the gym. I went running and as soon as I got a little huffy puffy I noticed I hit 140. Okay, fine, I’m not going as strong as I had before but at least I know how far I can go. It was definitely frustrating–a sort of gym rat blue balls experience. I could workout, but only so far. Still it was something–even if pathetic and not completely satisfying.
All in all, something about this whole workout situation seemed too caged and unnatural. I mean, aren’t there women all over the world who don’t have the luxury of changing their over 140 heart rate lifestyles when pregnant? I went in for my official first visit with an OBGYN. I told her about my workout issue and finally I got the answer I was looking for, “Of course you can keep working out! I was jogging until my 9th month with both of my kids.” But with the heart rate under 140, right? “Forget the heart rate. If you’ve been working out hard before you got pregnant you can pretty much keep doing what you always did, just listen to your body and stop doing whatever you’re doing if you get light-headed or feel overworked. If you’ve been working out as much as you say you have, you’ll know.” Sweet! “All those warnings are for women who never worked out before they got pregnant .” My energy level quickly came back. Yes! I can go back to doing as I always had before!
“Just don’t do crunches, sit-ups or deep twists.”