Exercise During Pregnancy: Let’s Do Some Mythbusting

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(Or Don’t Presume To Tell Me What I Will And Will Not Do With My Body)

When I first got pregnant, I had to go through this registration appointment to be able to see the on-base OB. It involved a two-hour education session with about twenty other newly-pregnant women, followed by weighing and twelve vials of blood. (I’m convinced there’s a coven of vampires somewhere in the hospital basement. Please someone find Prof. Van Helsing and bring him to me.)

At that long, long education session, we were all told by the very well-meaning education lady that we shouldn’t let our heart rates get above 140 bpm. “Cuts off the blood supply to the placenta,” she said. “Not good for the baby.”

Except.

That’s a myth.

Which is really frustrating, because that lady essentially scared twenty women (well, nineteen because I knew better) into not doing much more than walking for the next nine months.

This is not to say that walking isn’t a good thing to do, but to force yourself to step down from exercise altogether because the world’s started treating you like an invalid isn’t helpful. Exercise is good for baby, and it’s good for mom. Babies come out slimmer (but not underweight by any means) and, if you believe the studies, are more likely to be both smart and athletically coordinated. Exercising during pregnancy can help alleviate everything from morning sickness to constipation to fluid retention. And heck, it might even shorten labor. I’m willing to take that payoff for a bit of hard work.

Another myth? That lifting thing. It irritates me to no end when I’m prevented from doing simple things like lifting my own suitcase off the conveyor belt at the airport. Again — just because there is a fetus inside my rapidly-expanding belly does not mean I’m handicapped. In the words of three-year-old Em, “I do it aself.”

(And okay, here’s where I insert the disclaimer that of course you need to be careful about lifting stuff if you’re at risk for preterm labor, etc. But like, I’m talking normally. I go to the gym. I lift weights. I’m active. Let me lift my own gosh darned bag.)

So what am I doing for fitness this pregnancy? Oh boy, personal story time!

As soon as I got my positive test, I began taking classes at my local Kaia Fit gym. I was determined to gain the right amount of weight and have one of those exceedingly cute, modelesque baby bumps.

Kaia sucks in general, but it’s the good kind of suck. And so far, it’s been great to me — even if I have not, in fact, been able to completely control my weight gain (I guess this baby just wants to keep everything I eat for itself) and my bump is anything but cute and modelesque. (Guess what, guys? Maternity models are models just the same! Sigh.) The instructors all knew I was pregnant from day one, and they don’t push me to do anything I’m not comfortable with or go too hard. If anything, going too hard is my own personal issue, but I try to stick to the much more reasonable “talk test” (or, as I recently heard, “whistle test”), which essentially means that if I can’t talk without gasping, I need to slow down.

Another great thing? One of my good friends here is a certified prenatal instructor at Kaia. Unfortunately I like to go to the 5:30 a.m. classes, so I’m not actually under her direction that often, but she’s been a great fountain of knowledge for all my petty questions. (Can I jump? Are situps really that bad? What about planks?)

If there’s one thing I’m making sure to monitor myself for, besides taking my workouts too hard, it’s diastasis recti. Or, in laywoman’s terms, “ab separation.” Ab separation ain’t no joke — in extreme situations, it can lead to abdominal pain and pelvic problems. (In non-extreme situations, I guess, it can lead to that post-baby belly pooch that just doesn’t go away. AND WE CAN’T HAVE THAT NOW, CAN WE?) It is a pretty common thing to get — the uterus sort of gets ginormous during pregnancy, and those abs do have to go somewhere, right? — but I’d rather not exacerbate it if there are warning signs.

I dunno. I’m not an expert. I’m not an expert on any of this, really. All I know is that I’m going to do the best I can to keep myself healthy, if only because I want to see if I can shave a couple hours off active labor. Wouldn’t that just be swell?

I’m also doing it because I want a healthy baby, yada yada. Fitness is good. And I’m not going to take nine months off just because I’m doing the hard work of growing a human.

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