Hard work beckons – Fitness in the final stages of pregnancy
Mary Jennings on part four of our Fitness and Pregnancy Series
“There is no perfect training programme for pregnancy. We are all different. I treated my pregnancy as training for labour and life beyond pregnancy.” Photograph: Eric Luke
By the start of this third and final trimester of pregnancy, I still found it hard to see beyond the bump and imagine the arrival of a new baby in 12 weeks. It was only when I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a baby car seat for the first time that reality hit. The excitement was now starting to build.
In my naivete, I had assumed that by 30 weeks pregnant I would be waddling instead of walking, puffing going up stairs (well that bit was true) and generally feeling swollen, heavy and miserable. Maybe I was lucky or blessed with good genes, but I still felt remarkably comfortable and reasonably mobile and active. Indeed, it was becoming harder to paint my toenails but I could luckily still just about reach them.
It’s not a competition
I certainly felt better when moving than sitting still but this was not true for other expectant mums I encountered. In this third trimester, don’t try and compete with others. Do what makes you feel good, helps build your confidence and reduces your anxiety. Don’t feel guilty for not exercising if your body doesn’t feel able. Yoga, baths, massage or moving on a Swiss ball might be more what the body is now craving than your usual exercise routine. Listen to your body.
Retiring from Running
My running days came to an end in the early part of this trimester. At the first sign of discomfort I stopped and switched to walking. I had nothing to prove by continuing to run. My focus was to protect my body so that my return to fitness after pregnancy could be possible, gradual and pain free. I wanted to keep as mobile, active, positive and healthy as I could throughout pregnancy. The were plenty of other things I could do instead of run.
The weight off my feet
With the running shoes packed away, the swimming pool became my gym. I enjoyed the feeling of weightlessness and plenty breaks between lengths. Water provides great relief for many mums in the third trimester as I found when I attended Aileen’s aqua natal classes (eurekahydrotherapy.com). With swelling, back pain and general discomfort increasing at this point in pregnancy, many mums-to-be in the class enjoyed the feeling of comfort in the water as well as the fun, camaraderie and pregnancy tips the class offered.
The Nesting Workout
The nesting hormones were in full flow and I became a very efficient housewife for a few months. I became obsessed with cleaning, decluttering and reorganising. So strong was my motivation, my husband was afraid to sit still for too long for fear that he too may be decluttered. This type of housework is a form of exercise, so it’s important to recognise when taking a break might be the right thing.
Trying to Rest
Even though rest and relaxation is recommended, for many reasons, be it discomfort, anxiety or generally an inability to sit still, many of us struggle to do nothing. Although I had great intentions, I never prioritised the meditation apps I downloaded, the yoga home-videos or the breathing exercises I promised myself I would do. It’s often easier to keep busy than to take time out. This has always been something I struggled with and now was no different.
Up until the third trimester, I avoided delving into the finer details of labour and delivery. I figured that ignorance was bliss. At 30 weeks pregnant, I took the plunge and finally read those chapters in the books I had avoided so far. My basic knowledge was now enhanced with new vocabulary and an array of advice on episiotomies and epidurals, C-sections and centimetres of dilation. There was enough information to keep any first timer anxious about what might happen next.
Not matter how much time I spent creating lists for hospital bags and organising baby clothes, I couldn’t distract myself from the uncertainty of labour. If I had better discipline to meditate or live in the moment, this might have calmed my nerves. The hospital antenatal classes helped me picture the typical delivery scenario, but I needed something else to remain calm and positive for the months that remained in pregnancy.
Training for the head
I was recommended the Gentle Birth Workshop (GentleBirth.ie) by many of my mum friends. Initially a little sceptical that it might be a bit alternative, we were delighted to see how the principles of sports psychology and event preparation were applied to labour. Becky Durkin’s workshop left me feeling positive, confident and calm. It helped us control what we could but settle into the uncertainly that was inevitable at this point.
The Ultimate Pregnancy Workout
. My approach served me well to date and as my due date drew near, I was now ready to meet the little person behind the bump. The finer details of how we would be introduced would remain a mystery for a little longer, but I felt content I had done all I could to prepare my body and my mind for the next adventure.
Next in Series: Fitness and a newborn
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes – Beginners Get Running, Get Running 10k and Get Running Stay Running.