Navigating Fitness During Pregnancy and Postpartum
First and foremost, congratulations! Second, I will qualify myself in saying that I am not a medical professional. Please always consult your medical professional when it comes to physical activity throughout this journey as he or she knows you and your baby best. Third, the pregnancy and postpartum world is a fascinating and complex place. It has layers upon layers of anticipated and unanticipated life altering changes physically, emotionally, and hormonally. So how do you, through all of this, try to stay fit and active? I can tell you there is no “one size” answer to that question. It would be a gross oversimplification if I told you there was. However, as an official welcome to parenthood (which is home to a surplus of unsolicited advice), here are some tools to help you navigate staying active and healthy through your pregnancy and postpartum journey. Take them in, process them, and apply them as they fit into your experience!
1. Be kind to yourself. One of the biggest challenges I faced was the disconnect between my brain and my body. My brain could vividly remember what it was like to lift a certain weight or complete a particular skill, but my body just couldn’t do it. Learn to recognize the inner dialogue you have during these times and don’t be hard on yourself! Give yourself permission to change your “workout perspective.” Accept fitness is going to look different for a long time, and for good reason. Understand that what you did last week (or, shoot, even yesterday), you maybe cannot do today, and that’s ok.
2. Show up! Pregnant or not, we all know that feeling when you’ve been away from the gym too long; admit it, it gets waaay too easy to stay away. So, just keep showing up. Find a routine that works for you and do your best to stick with it. If you feel pressure to push yourself more than you either want to, or your body will let you, watch for workouts that are AMRAP or EMOM styles, rather than “rounds for time’” style workouts, that way you can go as fast or slow as you need to without the added pressure of finishing the WOD with everyone else. Forty-Five classes are great for that, also. Set goals for yourself that aren't measured in weight or reps; for example, “I just want to sweat today.” Talk to your coach about modifications to the workout that allow you to move safely. There are infinite ways to make your workout productive that doesn’t have to look like what anyone else is doing… and that’s perfectly ok! Check in with yourself about how it feels to log your workout on Wodify. I’ve done it both ways: logged workouts noting how many weeks pregnant or postpartum I was or not logging anything at all. If you want to keep record for your own reference, the former will work well for you; if you know you’ll unfairly compare yourself to others on the whiteboard, then just don’t and release yourself from that unneeded pressure.
3. Stay Connected! If you can’t make it into the gym, find ways to stay connected. Maybe that looks like emailing a coach to check in about your activity outside of the gym, coming to an open gym to do mobility, or attending a TTF event. Maintaining your fitness community through this time will pay future dividends beyond the physical ones.
4. Stick to the basics. After birth, take the needed time to heal. You may be eager to jump right back in the game, but your body just experienced a major (understatement) event. After the ‘go ahead’ from your medical professional, prioritize building your foundational strength before you start getting fancy. Speed and intensity will come and muscle memory is real, so take the time to build strength to avoid future injury and frustration.
5. Be realistic with your life balance. One of the greatest things about TTF, in my opinion, is the prioritization of fitness as a means to enrich your life, for the short and long term. If coming to the gym several times a week leaves you zapped of energy to nurse during night hours, enjoy quality time with your family, get what you need to get done at work, or feel good on general, then re-evaluate. Life is full of stages. Accept that fitness at this stage is going to look different, and that isn't a bad thing… it won’t be forever and your little one is sooo worth it! Find a routine that feels manageable and enriches this stage of your life.
6. Dial in your nutrition. While you will have your fair share of very understandable, “F%@* it, I’m growing a human! I can eat all the ice cream I want!” days, try to make the number of those days manageable so it doesn’t snowball into your new norm. The benefits of a healthy diet to you and baby go without saying, but it will also go a long way in supporting you to feel good about yourself and the efforts you are making to recover postpartum.
7. Trust your body. Go ahead: research, read, talk with friends, nerd out to podcasts and baby tracking apps, but also remember each body, pregnancy, and labor is as unique as the human it produces. Your body knows what it's doing, so listen to it. You’ve got this, Mama!