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How to (Really) Keep Pregnancy Fitness on Track

Before I got pregnant I was fairly certain—cocky, even—that I would be one of those women who ran through the entire nine-month odyssey with ease. Suffice it to say that I didn’t take it well when things took a different turn. Running, which normally feels like the most natural movement in the world to me, suddenly became frustratingly uncomfortable: jarring, heavy, un-fun and just not a consistent option.

After processing the situation, I realized that I’d need to change course on the pregnancy fitness front or risk going a little bonkers. So I formed a new plan of attack. Granted, giving up a workout or activity you love—no matter how temporarily—can be tough. But recalibrating your goals and focusing on what you can control not only helps make a less-than-ideal situation bearable, it can help you become a stronger, fitter athlete on the other side—both physically and mentally.

Here are five strategies I used to reset, stay calm and keep things in all-important perspective.

Pick Up Something New

Most prenatal fitness advice recommends not starting a new workout that wasn’t part of the plan before pregnancy. And while most women will choose to mitigate unnecessary risk by, say, turning down an invitation to skydive, a well-trained person with experience in a variety of disciplines should be able to safely dip into other waters—sometimes literally. I deferred my spot in the 2014 New York City Triathlon (it was held three months before my due date) but I still joined a ten-week triathlon-specific swim class during my first trimester. Pool time turned out to be the only time I didn’t feel nauseous, I was able to take a mental break from pregnancy thoughts to swap war stories with fellow triathletes and the sessions ultimately improved my stroke. But most importantly, I started swimming regularly again and remembered how much joy (and stellar aerobic conditioning) it gives me.

Learn What Needs Tweaking and Tweak It

My mileage had slowed to a trickle but that didn’t mean I couldn’t work on running in general. I hit the elliptical trainer and I also hit the books: Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed and Injury Prevention (Skyhorse Publishing), by Jay Dicharry, a physical therapist and certified coach through the United States Track and Field Association and the United States Cycling Federation, helped me take a closer look at my mechanics to see what was strong and what was weak-city. (Dicharry helped elite runner Lauren Fleshman get back in action after having her son last summer—not a bad inspiration.) The book addresses everything from tight hips to lazy glutes to insolent feet with smart corrective exercises, which I worked into my routine. I see it as an extra investment that will (with any luck) pay off when it’s time to get out and go again.

Focus on Your Comeback...But Keep It Real

Not knowing how my body will feel after our little one emerges, I admittedly had to check myself on this one; some women run a few days after birth, others take months (even years) to get back in the groove. But while I knew I needed to keep my expectations realistic, I also wanted to start thinking ahead. I registered for a running stroller that run-savvy friends recommended. (To say I’m excited to try it out with my new workout buddy is a spectacular understatement.) I started visualizing how training for the triathlon I had put off for a year would go. I zeroed in on one or two short local road races that would be fun re-entry points. Was I getting ahead of myself? Maybe. But it helped give the future some shape, and I did it all with the idea that if none of it happened for reasons unknown, I would simply reschedule the goals and move on.

Look at the Big (Family) Picture

My husband, sensing early on that he needed to step in and help put things in perspective, took to referring to our kid-to-be as my “new teammate”: If I needed to hang back for a while till said newbie got up to speed, so to speak, then so be it. A stretch? Sure. But it helped remind me that our baby was a pretty good reason for taking a slight training pause—and that it wouldn’t last forever.

Abandon the All-Or-Nothing Attitude

I’m a quietly competitive person. I like coming in well above or well below average (depending on the situation) and that tendency didn’t shut off the minute I got pregnant. Which made watching the unpregnant of the world continue to train around me particularly challenging. But at a certain point I stopped bemoaning the fact that a brisk six-miler wasn’t in the cards and refocused. If that meant running four easy lengths of a quarter-mile stretch in Central Park with equivalent walks in between (and a few squats or lunges thrown in for good measure), I’d take it. Even a few minutes of running made me feel better—downright good, even—so don’t underestimate the power of small doses.

Ingrid Skjong is the editor in chief of FitBump and a certified personal trainer. Pregnant with her first child, she is due in November.
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