As I enter the last week of my pregnancy I have been able to reflect on where I started to where I am now, and that my expectation of pregnancy was wildly different to my reality. Coming from a very fit lifestyle, I knew that a lot of what I did would need to be adjusted as I progressed through my pregnancy but I thought I had the knowledge and dedication to not find it a problem. The reality is that pregnancy is not predicable and most certainly not the same of any woman. So this post isn't about when, what or how you should workout, but the stuff that no one seems to tell you - the key stratergies and mindsets that I have learnt along the way which will set you up and empower you to feel good inside and out during your pregnancy regardless of how your pregnancy journey unfolds.
1. Compare yourself to no one - ever!
Ok, so this has to be the first big thing that is going to help you love yourself and your body during pregnancy. I know it sounds obvious and easy but it really isn't. Its only natural to look up how much weight you should gain, see how much or little other people are doing during their pregnancy, people you know giving you advise on what you should and shouldn't be doing, seeing pictures online of what other pregnant people are doing and how they look. For me, all of this gave me a preconceived idea of how I would be during pregnancy - and that wasn't helpful. I found there were two types of people, those that seemed to effortlessly be amazing during pregnancy - looking great, either keeping really active without any missteps or those that were not working out at all but looking and feeling fantastic. The thing is generally you are getting a half story from this group of people. They have insecurities, have down days, may not be feeling as well as they portray, most definitely slip up in their routine and healthy lifestyle more than you have chosen to believe. People who want a certain image out there are not going to bring up the tough days, the hard things, the areas where they feel they have failed. The second group I noticed were the 'Debby downers' these are the people at the opposite end of the spectrum constantly complaining, telling you horror stories and how bad everything is going to be. They use pregnancy as an excuse or crutch as to why they are in a mood or why they are not going to do something. This group can really put the fear of god into you at times! Its important to understand that these people sometimes just like the drama and attention or are just generally the type of people who find it hard to look at the positives in their experiences, so again you aren't really getting their full picture.
Where does this leave you? Well its important to know that everyone's body will respond differently to pregnancy, just as everyone who isn't pregnant has different body types, different every levels, different metabolisms, different things that work for them, different outlooks, difference experiences, I could go on and on! Some women will barely put on any weight during pregnancy regardless of how little they do or how well they eat, others will put of heaps of weight regardless of how well they eat and how much they workout. Some people get big bellies some don't, some will feel sick only at the beginning of pregnancy some the whole way through, some will be able to be crazy fit and active through most of their pregnancy, some will struggle to do basic movements. How your body behaves before pregnancy isn't necessary how your body will behave during pregnancy, so drop the comparisons and expectations of what you are like to everyone else and just focus on you. Listen to how you feel and accept how your body is responding rather than trying to force it to be a certain way or getting upset or defeated that its not like other people.
2. It's all about trial and error
I believed that I had a really great understanding of how my body functions, what exercises made it feel good, what didn't, what got me results and what didn't, what I liked doing and what I didn't. What I have since learnt is that this all goes out the window when you become pregnant! So be prepared for starting fitness and working out while pregnant like you did the first time you got into exercising - a newbie that needs to find what works and doesn't work piece by piece, day by day. Get ready of trial and error, get ready to make adjustments, be prepared for change. Listen to your body and adjust your routine to what makes you feel good afterwards and ditch the things that leave you with joint pain or getting your heart rate up higher that you should.
2. Accept the goal posts are forever changing
Once you have done some trial and error and found what works for you, be prepared that it can all change again! As your pregnancy progresses so will your routine. Some things you couldn't stand to do earlier might now be your favourite, things you found comfortable before may now not be. You might have gotten into walking and loving it then hit a point where it gives you a lot of back and hip pain so you can't, but it doesn't mean you couldn't try getting on a bike or swimming in its place. So long as you are prepared for change its easy to accept how you are now and find a new alternative activity or adjust your time or effort level in an activity.
3. How you feel today is no guarantee for how you will feel tomorrow
Besides your general ability and fitness changing throughout your pregnancy its also important to understand that your health will also takes ups and downs. I have experienced feeling amazing one day and total pain and exhaustion the next, only to return back to good health as quickly as I lost it! While you can only ever make choices and plans based of how you feel at a point of time, its good to just know that it doesn't mean tomorrow will be the same. So don't try to over commit or lock yourself into too many things that won't allow you to not show up or miss it. There are endless pregnancy symptoms and just because you haven't had one yet doesn't mean you won't experience it before your journey is over. Wake up and take each day as it comes, if you are not feeling great ditch your plans and listen to your body, if you suddenly lose a symptom and feel great, get out there and move your body!
4. Take the scales with a big grain of salt
Your weight does not equal the state of your health or fitness during pregnancy just like it doesn't when your not pregnant. You know within yourself if you are eating well and moving enough, you know if you are treating your body well or not. If you are, the scales really don't matter. Your body is responding to your pregnancy they way it wants to and repsonding to these new hormones you have in its own individual way. And yes, this may mean you are storing more fat or have a slower metabolism, it may mean you are barely gaining weight, whatever is happening you have to remember what you have control over. You have control over how you treat your body, how you move it and what you feed it - so focus on these areas. Your healthcare provider is also there to make sure you are little Bub is progressing well and measuring right. My midwife never weighed me and never asked my weight, I told her I was concerned I was putting on too much weight and she told me to stay away from the scales, she made a very good point - she said "I know what your eating and I know how much you are exercising so what does it matter?" I said "well I am putting on more than I should, isn't that a problem?" She asked me "well what can you do about it?" - and before I could answer she said "nothing!" She continued "I don't want you dieting and I don't want you doing more, so there is nothing to do about it and it doesn't matter. I know your healthy and your feeling great, that’s all that matters." She gave me that perspective that I needed, my baby's health and my health comes first and that isn't dictated by weight. I have known women who have put on 8kgs and others up to 40kgs during pregnancy and that number didn't collarate with their health, their babies health or how they bounced back to pre-pregnancy bodies - so it really is not the best tool to be focused on.
5. Learn the difference between when you should workout and when you shouldn't
You hear a lot during pregnancy to 'listen to your body' and while you most definitely should, its important to know what that really means. Are you really listening to your body or are you listening to your mind? Does your body need rest or is it those lazy thoughts in your head telling you your tried when really your body isn't? Will you actually feel better if you did something rather than just staying on the couch? If you don't know, give it a go! I would get very sore hips and think that I needed to rest, but when I actually did some swimming I found I felt so much better - pain was reduced by being more active in a certain way. This most defiantly goes both ways, sometimes you think getting up and doing something will help and you actually end up feeling worse - this also happened to me a couple of times. So again with the trail and error, take mental notes of how you feel before and after doing various activities and learn from it. If you pay close attention you will really begin to hone into listening correctly to your body and learning what means 'stop and give me a rest' and what means 'I need you to move me more'.
6. Stay focused on what is important and what your goals should be
Lastly and most importantly, always come back to why you are choosing to be active during pregnancy and why you created the goals you have - to look after your mind and body, to grow a healthy baby, and to best prepare yourself physically for birth. Its easy to get caught up in how fit you feeling, how your body looks, what you want to look after you have your baby, and all those other pressures you and sociality have put on you. So when you find yourself obsessing over these things just remind yourself what is really important here, where your true priorities sit and this will help you bring everything back into prospective to focus on that really matters. Also on the flip side of this, if you find yourself demotivated and giving up on staying active, think about why you wanted to be active during pregnancy in the first place and waiting until after the birth to look after yourself is really silly when you can start right now.
The fact that you are thinking about how to have an active pregnancy means you have made the first and hardest step! I hope these things I have learnt along the way also help you to navigate your own path through your pregnancy journey.