Staying Strong: Fitness Before & After Pregnancy

Childbirth was probably easier for most women in early cultures, especially in hunter-gatherer societies, where everyone was accustomed to physical labor and fit from daily activity.  
~Suzanne Arms, Pregnancy & Childbirth Author

I was so grateful to have stayed active until the day Thomas was born: yoga, lifting weights, swimming, cycling, elliptical, walking…I did it all, just at a reduced level of intensity. Although a woman’s body is naturally designed for childbirth, I truly believe that staying active contributed to my positive, quick, and enjoyable labour experience. Cardio and weight training helped me to maintain physical stamina for what would be the most difficult “workout” I’d ever endure. Yoga helped me learn to work through challenging and uncomfortable situations via breathing and visualization. Exercise was an amazing outlet to keep me focused, happy, and motivated while waiting for our little Bubs to arrive.

There were definitely a few forms of exercise that I avoided- core work that involved twisting and compression, high intensity interval training, jumping/plyometric exercises, contact sports, and running. I know plenty of girls who run during pregnancy, but after a few unenjoyable attempts, I decided to listen to my body and return to running after our baby was born. 
There are many opinions surrounding the topic of exercise and pregnancy. Personally, I can’t accept the delicacy in which pregnant women are treated (please keep in mind that I am only referring to uncomplicated pregnancies). Yes, we are preparing to bring life into this world and obviously need to be mindful of pushing beyond reasonable limits. However, pregnancy does not equate to sickness or injury. It is not a reason or an excuse to sit on the couch and eat potato chips and ice cream everyday for 9 months. I won’t pretend that I didn’t have my fair share of lazy days and pig-outs over my three trimesters, but realistically it was no different than my life before pregnancy! I simply modified my workouts and food intake accordingly, and let my body do what it needed to do.
A morning hike around Mt. Cootha (3 days before Thomas was born)
When I signed up for baby boot camp at 9 weeks post partum, I was just on the verge of introducing high intensity fitness back into my life. For the first two months, I was pretty easy on my body; I wanted to ensure that I didn’t cause any physical setbacks. But after 9 weeks, I was in a good place, both physically and emotionally; it was time to up the ante. 
I quickly realized that my level of fitness was actually much lower than I’d thought, despite my efforts to stay fit and active. The first day of bootcamp was tough on me; I was dizzy and nauseous and questioned whether or not I was cut out for it. I could only imagine what kind of shape I’d have been in had I not worked out during my pregnancy! 
As the weeks progressed, I began to feel stronger. I was able to run longer. I had higher energy and was able to accomplish more throughout each day. Most of all, it helped me to prioritize my day to day life and get back on track. I think that having a new baby is the best excuse I can think of for ‘not having time’ to exercise, but realistically, staying fit and healthy is probably one of the healthiest things I can do for Thomas and our family. 
On Friday, we had our 6 week evaluations. I’ve outlined a few noteworthy results and sentiments below:
  • Measurements: Lost an overall 20 centimeters, 8 of them from my waist. 
  • Weight Lost: 2 lbs. Haha! Not even a kilogram! Although I would have liked to get back to my ‘pre-pregnancy weight’, I am not at all surprised by this result. As I have mentioned time and time again, muscle weighs more than fat. Therefore, I am definitely more concerned about overall measurements and how my clothes fit. 
  • Best Result From Fitness Test: My 1 km run was almost 2 minutes faster! I knew it had improved, but never to that extent. All of the other physical tests showed improvements by at least 8 reps/minute :)
  • Fitness Test Result That I Want To Improve: My plank time. I was only able to hold the position for 20 seconds longer than my initial recording. My core is still in need of a great deal of stability and strength training.
  • Diet: Okay, so this is probably why I didn’t lose more weight over the past month and a half. I was fairly strict about my food choices for the first two weeks, but became much more lenient as the weeks progressed. To be honest, I found the eating plan was too restrictive for me. Since I am exclusively breastfeeding, it’s very important that I consume adequate calories and food everyday. I’ve never been keen on ‘dieting’, and now is obviously not the time for me to start. Plus, I’ve always been an eater. Sure, I would love to wave a magic wand and have my soft belly to return to its previous state, but I’m afraid that by taking the slow and steady process, I’m going to have to be patient. When it comes down to it, I care much more about providing my baby with nutrients than what I look like in a bathing suit. 
  • Emotional State: I feel happier, more energetic, positive, optimistic, and definitely have an increased confidence. 
So, there you have it. I’ve definitely seen improvements, but nothing earth shattering. If anything, the past 6 weeks have set me up for a healthy routine and a reintroduction to a higher fitness level. I’ve also enjoyed the experience of getting out of the house and spending time with other mothers who are seeking health and happiness as well. It was so much fun that I’ve decided to continue with the program for another six weeks.
A few days ago, I ended up running alongside the head trainer, Kate. She is probably one of the fittest women I know. She slowed down her pace to talk with me about my thoughts and experience with pregnancy, labour, and exercise. I explained that I couldn’t believe how much I’d “lost” (physically) over the past year, despite my efforts to stay active. She replied with encouraging words, let me know I was making huge strides, etc etc. However, one thing she did say really resonated within me. I paraphrase: “Kelly, just remember what your body has gone through over the past year. You are a stronger woman because of this. You are stronger mentally than you’ve ever been, and in turn you’ll come back to be physically stronger as well.” 
This is all the motivation I need at this point. What we have to endure as women sets us up for the utmost physical and emotional success in life, should we choose to put forth the necessary efforts to achieve it. 

10 Thoughts on “Staying Strong: Fitness Before & After Pregnancy

  1. Fantastic entry! Very well said :)

  2. What a terrific recap. I loved reading it! Congratulations on your awesome progress girl!

  3. Congratulations :)u did a really great job!
    I think how u feel is more important than how much u weigh :) I always feel great after workout out:)
    I love reading your blig, please keep blogging on your progress
    Best wish to u and yr family

  4. Thanks, Merry. Still lots of work ahead of me, but it's just great to be back “into it” again. xx

  5. Exactly!!! Thanks for reading :)

  6. Martha on June 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm said:

    Love this post. Love you sister bear. You're an inspiration to mum's and mum's-to-be everywhere :)

  7. Really love this post, Kelly! It's hard post-baby not to push yourself too hard, too fast. I like Kate's wisdom.

  8. Thanks, Mar!!! xo

  9. Thanks, Jenn! Congrats again on little Theo. Xx

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