Exercising While Pregnant: Movement is the Goal, Not Gains

Background on me: I am a long-distance runner who is addicted to high-intensity workouts. If there’s a new Shaun T workout, I’m completing it while I attempt the latest crossfit WOD on my Instagram feed. I enjoy hard workouts.

Enter pregnancy.

During my first pregnancy, I assumed my workouts would stay relatively unchanged. I had read of marathoners crossing the finish line the day before giving birth, and had friends Olympic power lifting well into their third trimester. I planned to follow suit.

Six months into pregnancy, I started to feel sharp pains shooting throughout my pelvis any time I ran. Being the self-proclaimed, “No pain, no gain” workout junkie, I pushed through the pain and assumed I would be back to my routine within days. Only, that’s not what happened.

I awoke the next morning to debilitating hip pain shooting through my thighs and spine any time I rolled on my side. Desperate to return to my workouts, I consulted my chiropractor and midwife, both of which gave me the following advice:

“Listen to your body. Take a break.”

I hated this, but knowing that I was responsible for another human, I acquiesced. Once my pain subsided, I attempted a short jog, only to find myself limping home in excruciating pain.

No running for me.

It turns out I was experiencing Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. My running days were over, as well as any high intensity workouts that impacted my pelvis. I finally adhered to the advice of the professionals, and transitioned to walking, the elliptical, and light weight lifting (making sure to modify squats and lunges).

Now that I am on my fourth pregnancy, I have learned quite a bit about my body and exercise during pregnancy. Here are a few of my rules:

  • Listen to MY body. Not the body of the marathoner crossing the finish line at 39 weeks pregnant. My body can’t run after about 24 weeks. And that’s what’s best for me and my baby.
  • Movement is enough. I don’t need to compete with anyone. I just need to move my body.
  • “Pushing myself” isn’t the goal during pregnancy. If my heart starts to beat too quickly or I feel out of breath, it’s okay to take a break and get a drink of water.

All in all, pregnancy isn’t a time for personal bests or winning. It’s a time for prioritizing your health and the health of your baby. For some women, that means intense exercise right up until labor and delivery. And, for others, that means bed rest for the last ten weeks of pregnancy. We are all unique, and that doesn’t change during pregnancy.

Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.

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