1. You continued to strength train during pregnancy, what were your reasons?
To maintain my existing fitness level, for my mental well being, and for a healthy pregnancy.
2. Did you ever feel like it was too much, or there wasn’t a way to modify what your bodies ability was at the time?
Not really. This was my second pregnancy so I felt like I knew what to do and how to modify. I am lucky to have fairly easy pregnancies and can do quite a bit even up until the end. There were a few activities that towards the end of my second trimester I found I couldn’t or shouldn’t do, mostly core related, as I was developing a slight diastasis recti and didn’t want to exacerbate it.
3.How long did you continue to do it? ex. Right up till birth, about a month before… and what were your reasons for stopping, if you did?
I did some strength training right up until the birth. I mostly just did body weight strength training towards the end and mountain biked on smoother trails.
4. Was it enjoyable… you looked forward to it, or it was more an act of will to get you there. But afterwards you were always happy you did?
It mostly felt good just to be out and function and move my body. I’m a competitive person so enjoyed a period of time where I didn’t set lofty goals or have to push for PR’s, etc. The last weeks I didn’t feel great, but I don’t think anybody really does at that point. I was super grateful that I was able to strength train and be active until the end.
6. What would you say strength training did most for you during that time?
I think it helped me maintain my preexisting fitness level and helped my body support and adapt better to the extra load of pregnancy. It was also great for my psyche as I really rely on being active for my overall happiness.
7. Do you feel like it helped you recover postpartum?
1. Your mental strength
Yes! It made me more confident to know that I could start being active again fairly quickly (and within reason), which plays a lot in to my own personal mental health. This was also my second pregnancy, so I was able to trust the process and didn’t stress over small things as much this time, which really helped with the stress of having a newborn and a new postpartum body.
2. Your physical recovery
Yes, definitely. No matter what it always feels like a process to recover, but I felt like I was able to jump back in to activities a bit sooner (and with the guidance of at PT), which allowed a much easier/faster physical recovery than after my first child. Having a strength foundation that I didn’t completely lose during pregnancy definitely made the physical recovery after go more smoothly.
3. Your overall balance and well being
Overall, yes. It can be difficult to balance the desire to get back to normal quickly and the limitations your body is telling you to abide by. Having recovered well from my first pregnancy despite a slow initial start I knew that I could trust my body to do it, so was able to feel less pressure to push myself too hard (which could and often does lead to setbacks for many women). I knew I had a foundation of strength that I was able to hold on to through the pregnancy by continuing to be active and train which gave me a lot of peace of mind and allowed me to feel better once I did start being active again. I derive a lot of joy from biking, skiing, climbing, etc, so being able to move my body in those ways fairly soon after the birth really helped me feel like myself.
8. Do you feel it helped you during the labor process?
Yes and no. Both of my labors were a bit of a struggle. The first was very long with limited progress and the second had a very long and difficult pushing phase. I learned I actually have some pelvic floor dysfunction with a pelvic floor that is hypertonic (too tense), which is probably related to the types of activities I have done most of my life and just the mechanics of my own body. This probably made my labors a little rough. I don’t think being active/strength training during pregnancy made this worse, but some of the things I did probably didn’t help. A hypertonic pelvic floor is actually a very common issue among athletes and can lead to some intense/especially difficult labors for some. In hindsight I would have seen a pelvic floor pt to work more on learning to relax a stiff pelvic floor and altered some of my activities. That being said, I had my second baby at home, powered through another tough labor, and have had a smooth recovery. Certainly having a strong body and having maintained a lot of fitness during pregnancy helped me make this happen.
9. Was there a favorite exercise you enjoyed… that you felt helped you the most… keeping pain away from your back, strong enough core to push during labor, kept up your endurance to make it through labor…
Body weight squats and lunges. Step ups. Dead hangs. Planks. I really enjoyed mountain biking for cardio. I was diligent to watch for “coning” with my stomach as I got farther into the 2nd trimester, and noticed it even when doing things like rowing. I did have a small diastasis, but it resolved within about 10 weeks postpartum thanks to cautious core work at Wright’s and PT.
10. Was there something you wished you worked on more… stronger pushups, pull-ups, squats, pelvic tilts or leg focus.
I think I would have benefitted from more upper body, arms, and back strengthening. I tend to focus on my legs more in general, but would have benefitted from putting more effort in to my upper body. I had a very smooth recovery after this pregnancy so feel like what I did during pregnancy and postpartum was quite effective though.
11. Overall, would you recommend women to follow in your footsteps and why?
I think women should listen to their bodies and do what feels right to them. I think society places a lot of pressure on women to behave like they aren’t pregnant and to recover almost immediately after, and I don’t think this is right for everyone. I am extremely grateful that I have had easy/uncomplicated pregnancies and that movement mostly feels good to my pregnant body. For sure if you feel up to it I highly recommend continuing to strength train and be active as it certainly helps with the labor process and postpartum recovery. But I would advise against setting really lofty expectations or pushing yourself to hard as this can lead to exacerbations of things like diastasis recti or pelvic floor dysfunction, which ultimately make recovery longer and more uncomfortable. Wright’s classes were very friendly to my pregnant and postpartum body, combined with great guidance from a PT. I would highly recommend this if your body allows!
On a side note, I have felt so good since 3 or 4 months postpartum that I have been super active, which has unfortunately led to my milk supply dropping precipitously. I am pretty committed to breast feeding for 1 year, but have had to do a lot of supplementation since around 7 or 8 months, which I didn’t have to do with my first baby. I wish I had paid a bit closer attention and made sure to increase my calorie/fluid intake even more than I already was on big days/pumped or nursed extra during those times. I haven’t calorie restricted at all, but despite that have still struggled to keep up while being active. Of course there’s nothing wrong with supplementing, but it’s something to keep in mind.