September 12, 2009

Saturday's Workout and Thoughts on Exercising While Pregnant

Happy Saturday Everyone :)

Just got home a little bit ago from an awesome CrossFit workout and have been reading about exercising during pregnancy ever since. The workout today had a lot of movements involved that really got my heart rate going quickly (running, wall ball and thrusters) without even doing very many repetitions, which is pretty normal given the movements. This is the first workout that I have done since becoming pregnant that has been like this for me and it got me thinking. From everything that we hear about taking it easy during pregnancy, not to overheat, no heart rate above 140 and basically just don't do anything too difficult it is very easy for me to become frustrated and to feel torn between the two sides. Despite that I take it at a good but moderate pace and make sure to take breaks I still find myself becoming nervous and feeling guilty/selfish when I start breathing hard. It just becomes tough because I want my baby to be healthy more than anything, I love CrossFit, I love how I feel when I workout/run but feel very torn about what is good for the baby and what is not. I just don't see how something (in moderation) that is good for me could at some point, despite how hard I am breathing be bad for the baby. Sorry if that's a long vent... with Dan at WLC I have no one to ramble to at the moment :) I'm sure he's sad to be missing out on my rambles hehe. I am just tired of being torn I guess between something that feel so natural and good to be doing - but at the same time having that little voice in the back on my mind telling me that I am doing the wrong thing and that it could be hurting the baby.

So I went online and started looking around and ended up finding a few articles that I feel really good about! With both of these book/articles though it is important to take into consideration your activity level before pregnancy. For me I was very active with both CrossFit and running before I became pregnant, so that's where I'm coming from. It makes me realize that you can't throw all pregnant women into one box and have the same guidelines for all of them. Each woman is different and each will need to exercise differently during pregnancy based on what they were doing before. So here are some excerpts from these two books:

The ACOG guidelines are certainly safe for everyone, including the general, rather sedentary population; however, those women who are used to more aggressive exercise programs need not do away with their programs simply because they’re pregnant. Each and every pregnancy is different, and each woman needs to work closely with her obstetrician to find an exercise plan that will work for her, for her favorite exercise, and for her lifestyle. To limit an athlete, runner, or climber who can easily and safely get her heart rate up to 165 beats per minute or higher to shift her training downwards, for nine months, below 140 bpm would probably cause more harm to the woman’s long-term health and mental psyche than good!

According to Clapp: “A heart rate of 180 or more – a racing heart – during high-impact aerobics in early pregnancy is normal for most women but would be unusual in a fit woman late in pregnancy; likewise an exercise heart rate of 130 to 140 during late pregnancy in a fit woman who trains 5 to 7 hours a week is not uncommon when she is working in excess of 70 percent of her maximum capacity.” Women will find that their heart rate changes significantly depending on the trimester. While the body is adapting to the new life inside, the circulatory system is more challenged, so the heart rate tends to be higher both at rest and during workouts in the first trimester. During the second trimester, the heart rate returns more closely to “normal”, and in the third, it may be increasingly difficult to get the heart rate up high enough, doing the same work load (Clapp, pp. 18-25.)

If you are at all concerned at any time during your pregna
ncy, consider monitoring fetal heart rate and recovery; if the fetus remains quiet and motionless beyond 30 minutes following exercise (beyond the first trimester), or the fetal heart rate falls too low or remains too high, then you will want to adjust subsequent workouts and monitor the fetal response regularly. Clapp insists that “Regular exercise during pregnancy has positive effects on the growth and function of the placenta that help to protect the fetus from oxygen deprivation…By developing more quickly, more oxygen and nutrients can reach the fetus, better protecting it (than the non-exercising woman under similar circumstances) in those times when the mother may be under stress (such as during heavy exercise).” (Clapp p. 32)

Actually, the pregnant female becomes very efficient at dispelling heat through the lungs (increased blood volume, better circulation, and higher rate of breathing means more heat lost through respiration) and skin (the “pink glow” from lowered temperature required to start sweating, and increased surface area from which to lose heat) due to adaptations from pregnancy (Clapp, pp 34-36.) As long as the woman is not exercising at extremely high exertion, stays well hydrated, and pays close attention to her training environment (i.e. avoiding really humid or hot conditions) heat affecting the fetus should not be a concern.

“The woman who continues regular, sustained exercise until the onset of labor usually delivers five to seven days earlier than a woman with an active lifestyle who does not exercise regularly” and furthermore, those women who exercise for the duration of the pregnancy have leaner, lighter (but just as healthy) babies than those who either don’t exercise at all or who stop midway through the pregnancy. Clapp also found in studies of babies 1 and 5 years after birth that those babies whose mothers remained active throughout their pregnancy were generally more alert, leaner, and performed better on various tests; whether that was a factor of exceptional fitness conditions in the womb, or life choices of the parents before and after the pregnancy, could not fully be tested. But most women would probably opt for providing the safest, healthiest womb possible in order to have a lean, smart, and healthy baby. Safe exercise during pregnancy may very well be the key!

- Based on a summary of Dr. James Clapp's book Exercising Through Pregnancy

I loved everything about this article and feel very good that it has been backed with research. In the first paragraph where it says "to limit an athlete, runner, or climber who can easily and safely get her heart rate up to 165 beats per minute or higher to shift her training downwards, for nine months, below 140 bpm would probably cause more harm to the woman’s long-term health and mental psyche than good" - that is definitely me. I don't want to justify working out harder by any means and I don't plan on working out more intensely then I have been since becoming pregnant but just want to feel good that what I am doing is not only ok but healthy for the baby and for me. I definitely feel that this article has settled my nerves about this and I can now continue with my workouts as I have been :)

Another book that I highly recommend checking out is called Atta Girl: A Celebration of Women In Sports. It goes into detail about how being athletic not only during pregnancy but during motherhood is not only healthy for the mother but for the whole family. It also talks about balancing family and athletics. It really hit home for me based on our lifestyle and made me feel good about being an athletic mom!

Sorry this post is so long... it's a topic that is very important for me and that I wanted to not only clear up for myself but anyone else that might be interested!

Workout For Today:

Run To MLK Bridge
25 Wall Ball
10 Thrusters

Run To Drug Store
20 Wall Ball
10 Thursters

Run To MLK Bridge
15 Wall Ball
10 Thrusters

Run To Drug Store
10 Wall Ball
10 Thursters

My time was approx. 35:30
Wall Ball - 12 lb Ball
Thrusters - 20 lb DBs

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