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What’s My Workout: Katya Meyers

When Katya Meyers completed her first triathlon a dozen years ago, the sport won her over instantly. Now a professional triathlete, specializing in half and Ironman distances, the new mom—we chatted with her days before she had her son on December 11—competes, coaches and has big ideas when it comes to her post-baby fitness goals. “I’d like to explore ultra-distance racing,” says Meyers, who live in San Diego and has raced in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships five times. “I’m signed up for a 50-miler in May, which is about five months out. A little aggressive, but that’s the plan!” From running a half marathon at 8 months along to learning how pleasant pregnancy can be, read on for her story.

Q: How have you felt so far?

A: Awesome! Sure, a bit of early morning—and afternoon and night—sickness early on, but nothing debilitating. Overall, it has been very easy.

Q: Before you got pregnant, what did a typical training week look like?

A: Prior to pregnancy my primary focus was long-distance triathlon racing, primarily half and full Ironmans. Swim, bike, run and strength [training] volume varies depending on where I am in the season, but peak weeks during Ironman prep can easily be 35 hours or more. Then, of course, there is all the stretching, rehabbing and eating that comes along with that training.

Q: When you learned you were pregnant, how did you begin to approach your workouts?

A: This little guy is an IVF baby and, early on, exercise recommendations are slightly more conservative than for a natural, healthy pregnancy—or at least that was the case with my doctor. For the first two weeks I only swam, walked and did easy spins on the bike. Running was not advised until after we heard the heartbeat at six weeks. This was torture because I could have used a stress-relieving endorphin boost, but it was well worth it!

Q: How did you progress things from there?

A: After that initial six-week period, I returned to all of my activities, just at a lower intensity. That has included up to 16-mile runs and 80-mile bike rides on occasion, but at a very conversational, relaxed pace. These are activities that for me were quite normal. I've found that the best way to ensure I'm not tempted to go too hard is to mix up my training partners and train with people that would normally be slower, or join in for my normal training partners’ recovery workouts so I don't feel any pressure to go harder.

Q: And what specific modifications have you made?

A: My current activities are swimming, running, spin class, functional strength training and hiking. In the early stages I was still biking outside, which I know is controversial, but was the right decision for me. At about five and a half months, as I was starting to really show, I moved all of my biking indoors for safety and because my bike position was getting uncomfortable. Spin classes have been a pretty great substitute. It's easy to raise the handlebars as the belly grows, though I am excited to get back out on the road soon. Swimming has been pretty easy to keep up. Heart rates are naturally lower in swimming due to horizontal body position, so it's difficult to overdo it. The only changes I've made is to switch from flip turns to open turns in the last few weeks and a little more time with paddles and a pull buoy for added buoyancy.

Q: How about running?

A: The key has been consistency. Even though my pace has slowed as the months have progressed, the changes day to day have been gradual, allowing my body to adapt. At eight months, I was able to complete a half marathon at a steady 8:30 pace, including bathroom stops. Slower than I would usually run, but because I was trained for it and had no performance expectations or time goals and kept the effort controlled, it was easy. My run training has changed in that overall volume is lower because I need additional rest days, effort is controlled, I carry water for runs I wouldn't have previously and—of course—I make sure to plan routes with plenty of bathroom opportunities!

Q: What has surprised you the most about working out and staying active while pregnant?

A: Honestly, how good I've felt. Beforehand, I thought pregnancy was nine months to be endured for an end result, not enjoyed. It's been a pleasant surprise.

Q: Give us your pregnancy fitness philosophy in three words.

A: You do you.

Q: What advice would you give moms-to-be who want to keep exercising throughout their pregnancy?

A: Be consistent. Your body is going through a lot of changes, so on one hand you certainly want to honor that. Be willing to back off duration and intensity. However, as long as you are healthy and baby is healthy, commit to moving your body six days a week. It is worth overcoming a little initial discomfort to feel strong and healthy throughout the later months.

Q: What plan do you have for the birth?

A: Well, someone is in the breech position, so at this point I am scheduled for a C-section. Doing plenty of pool handstands, acupuncture and everything else anyone has ever suggested in hopes that he turns around, but we'll see. My main focus is getting him out healthy—that is by far the most important thing. But if the possibility opens up, I would love to try for a natural birth.

Q: What have you learned about yourself during this experience that you will take with you into your new mom role?

A: It has given me both strength and patience—two qualities I have no doubt that I’ll need in the coming years.

Q: How important is it for you to know that your child is brought up in a family that values fitness and movement?

A: On a scale of 1 to 10? About a 12. I'm not saying I'll pressure him into being an athlete. My husband and I keep joking that because we like working out so much, he'll probably be a thespian, which is fine. But I do believe that regardless of other interests, healthy eating and movement are essential for kids. I plan to provide plenty of exposure to fitness from the beginning. Fingers crossed he'll love it just as much as we do.

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