I knew it instinctively. There were subtle signs: an increased sense of smell and the way I needed to catch my breath earlier and more often when running, biking, or simply climbing up stairs.
I was pregnant.
That weekend we went camping in Fruita, CO for a mountain biking trip and it was there—before ever taking any kind of pregnancy test for confirmation—I experienced for the first time a complicated set of emotions around being active during pregnancy that I would be (and still am) navigating for the next nine months.
Along with the excitement and fear (terror, really) of bringing a new human into the world, there was a deep desire to hold onto my independence and claim that pregnancy wouldn’t change my activity level too much.
And then there was an acute sense of protectiveness that seemed to contradict that desire for independence.
What was too much? When could I push? When should I pull back? What was truly safe? How would I know if I was pushing too much? How would my activities effect this growing and vulnerable being?
Turning to the Internet wasn’t much help. I found some amazing and inspiring articles about mom’s-to-be climbing hard, white water kayaking and running marathons, but I also found plenty of cautionary tales accompanied by advice to slow down and only focus on “moderate” exercise.
Talking with my Doctor helped, but she was also pretty cautious, and I realized that the only person who was in a position to help me wade through my emotions and the realities of what my particular body was going through was me.
I had to be the one to weigh the risks with the benefits; to check in with myself and my body on a regular basis; to make the decisions that felt good to me—and right for both myself and baby.
With the unwavering support of my husband, I began to relax more and more and my trust in myself grew.
I knew a few things for sure:
- I wanted to keep running for as long as possible.
- I wanted to create a goal to hike a fairly strenuous trail once a week throughout the pregnancy for as long as possible.
- I wanted to restart my yoga practice, although this time, it would be a gentle prenatal class.
- I needed to listen to my body and let go of all expectations and judgment.
This last point is by far the most important. Because the truth is (at least for me), that the transition from being really active and pushing myself to the idea of really tuning into your body and paying attention to all the changes happening—and honoring those changes—isn’t an easy one.
More specifically, listening to my body isn’t actually that hard for me (as I tend to be super-sensitive to that), but the letting go of my expectations and judgment? Yeah. That’s tough.
I found I needed to adopt an attitude of curiosity and going into a workout and accepting whatever I’ve got energy-wise on that particular day. Sometimes I couldn’t walk up a hill without feeling short of breath. Other days I was happily running up them.
At the time I’m writing this, I’m just over halfway through my pregnancy. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be roughly 8 months along, so I’m by no means an expert, but I have learned a few things that I thought I’d pass along in hopes that it helps you or someone you love:
- Talk to your Doctor, but also trust yourself. You have been living in your body your whole life, so you know it best. Pay attention to your body and trust yourself.
- The advice on the Internet can be incredibly contradictory and frustrating. The common thread I’ve found there (and from my Doctor), is that if you’re doing something you’ve been doing pre-pregnancy, you can keep doing it, but perhaps don’t train for a big event or increase in speed. I began to think of staying active as being in maintenance-mode.
- Be gentle with yourself. Less is often more.
- Make time not only for the activity but the nap that often comes sometime after it. Remember, you’re working your body in all kinds of new ways. Allow it time to do what it needs to do.
- Listen to your body and pull back when you need to. Trust your instinct. (Yes, I’m mentioning this twice because it’s that important.)
- Be curious and let go of any expectations. Your body is changing daily. Some days are going to be full of energy. Others will be hard. Honor and accept this.
I’d love to hear from you moms and moms-to-be out there about your experiences: what did you find helpful? Go ahead and share in the comments below!
Amy Christensen is a certified life coach with a passion for adventure and helping women discover and tap into their own adventurous spirits. Based in Boulder, CO, her company, Expand Outdoors, focuses on helping women get outside literally and metaphorically: to step outside their comfort zones, take more risks (the healthy kind) and live a richer, more fulfilling, active, adventurous life. If you’re ready to explore new risks in your own life, Amy’s newest online class, Embrace Your Inner Badass, begins tomorrow, October 8. Use the coupon code: T9_BADASS2013 for a 15% discount. You can also subscribe to her newsletter for the latest news and monthly tips.