Fit Pregnacy Interview Part 10
Beautiful Alison and her baby
Hello Fit Pregnancy Readers!
It’s been almost 6 months since I posted my last Fit Pregnancy Interview. But, in that time, several more fit mothers have come forth with their fit pregnancy experiences.
To start out again on the right foot, I have here a friend of mine from Canada, named Allison.
Alison is a Speech-Language Pathologist and a National and World Level Fitness and Figure competitor (check out some of her trophies in the pictures below - and which, all of the pictures were taken at 36- 40 weeks in pregnancy 1 and 2). She’s also one of the nicest and sweetest people I have ever come across.
Today, she is the proud mother of two adorable little girls, and during both her pregnancies, she trained hard and with purpose – of course she gave herself a break with she needed it, but for the most part, she had a super fit pregnancy that many women can look up to for support in their own fit pregnancy journeys. In fact, she was one of my inspirations during my own fit pregnancy; at first I wasn’t sure if exercising as hard as I was doing was a good thing, but after seeing Allison and feeling great during the process, I knew it was right.
Anyways, without further adieu, here is my awesome interview with Allison. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Thanks Allison! Enjoy those babies!
(PS American readers, just to note, since Allison is in Canada, she spells labor with an “ou”, so it’s correct!)
Allison, this interview is for you to share your fit pregnancy experience with other women to both help inspire them and ensure them that exercising hard during pregnancy is not only safe, but good for baby AND you.
Unfortunately, so many women are scared to exercise while pregnant for fear it is harmful for their unborn babies (and doctors will discourage them from doing so). How do you feel about this now that you’ve had your own fit pregnancy? Please tell us a bit about your first pregnancy and your current pregnancy.
I do not encourage women to initiate a new or more vigorous exercise program when they are pregnant if they were not exercising prior to becoming pregnant. With that being said, however, the key is to ensure that you are fit and exercising regularly prior to becoming pregnant. Because of the strong connection between physical and mental wellness, I believe that exercise was fundamental to the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant … both times!
During my first pregnancy, I was ridiculously busy juggling 3 jobs as a speech-language pathologist … then, of course, pregnancy itself adds to the exhaustion! I am confident that my workout regime allowed me time to unwind, de-stress, and certainly boosted my energy levels.
During my second pregnancy, although it was even tougher to make it the gym given the tight schedule between work, family, and attending to a very busy toddler, I realized the importance of making the time for my workouts. Taking the time to workout not only gave me the boost of energy that I needed, but it helped to make me a better and more patient parent.
Pregnancy is an amazing journey. Much like the process of training for fitness competitions that I have known well over the last 9 years, it is amazing to watch the transition in your body as you create a new life. Unfortunately, with these changes, many women struggle with self-esteem issues that may come with unnecessary weight-gain (and difficulty losing it after) during pregnancy.
By exercising and staying fit during pregnancy, I managed happy and healthy pregnancies with minimal weight gain. I was also able to return to pre-baby weight quickly, resulting in my overall mental well-being that left me better equipped for some of the inevitable challenges that come with parenting!
How hard were you exercising before you became pregnant? First time? Second time? What were you doing?
My husband and I decided to think about family planning in 2007 after I won the title of Canadian Bodybuilding Federation (CBBF) National Fitness Short Division Champion. At this time, I was following a very intensive training routine that resulted in very irregular menstrual cycles.
Between August 2007 and September 2008 I struggled to commit entirely to either competitions or family planning. When I was not having success becoming pregnant, it was tough not to get the itch to continue to compete. As a result, my competition season was not my best, and I knew that I would have to commit a whole-hearted effort to becoming pregnant.
I dropped my training split from 5 days to 3 days a week and adopted a more “typical” but healthy diet that included more fruits, milk products and healthy fats. In September 2008, I made a trip to Las Vegas to attend one of the biggest fitness exhibitions (the Olympia Weekend) with a good friend. My plan was to relax, unwind, indulge, and then come home to “make a baby!” The funny thing is that it worked! Although I had only had one menstrual cycle over the past couple of years, an early ultrasound revealed that I conceived within one month of returning from Vegas!
Following the birth of my first daughter, I continued with the same exercise regime which included 3 days a week weight-training coupled with various cardio activities including walks, runs, as well as teaching baby boot camp!
In addition, because I breast fed for a year, when it came time to think about planning for the second, I had only had one menstrual cycle (again, making it tough to plan a baby). That’s when I thought it wouldn’t hurt to plan a return trip to the Olympia … and, once again, conceived upon my return (even quicker this time around as my daughters are 23 months apart)!
My husband and I laugh when we say that the Olympia weekend is our good luck charm … although he’s not so sure that he wants me to go again in 2 years time!
If you attend the Olympic weekend, you might come home and get pregnant... At least that's what happened for Allison!
When you found out you were pregnant, did you modify your workout routine? How & Why?
I only made subtle modifications to my routine once I discovered I was pregnant as I had already modified the intensity of my workouts in order to regulate my menstrual cycles (following an intensive program for my competition preparation). By weight-training 3 days a week I felt that I was able to maintain the muscle mass that I had worked so hard over the years to achieve.
I did drop the weight that I was lifting by about 25%, and did not perform exercises flat on my back after the first trimester.
I was happy to continue with cardiovascular and plyometric exercises that complemented my program, and also added pre-natal yoga during both pregnancies. I found that the yoga class was wonderful to ensure that I took the time to keep the flexibility that seemed to be diminishing with each month of pregnancy.
Overall, during your pregnancy, briefly describe what you did for exercise?
During both pregnancies, I followed a 3 day weight-training routine with plyometric exercises incorporated:
Day 1: back, biceps, hamstrings
Day 2: chest, triceps
Day 3: shoulders, quads, calves
In addition, I did 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity 3 times a week as well as pre-natal yoga once a week.
During my second pregnancy, my workouts were considerably faster and creative, as I had to be super quick (my daughter would come to the gym with me and was not a huge fan of the child care centre on account of separation anxiety)! My workouts were always intense and efficient -incorporating a lot of interval training.
Alison 40 weeks pregnant and looking super fit!
How did other people around you react to your fit pregnancy? Was it positive or negative?
Mostly positive – see below
What was the most supportive thing that someone told you about your fit pregnancy? The most unsupportive?
Trainers at the gym frequently reported that their clients would comment that they hope that they will be as fit as me when they are pregnant! The trainers then told me that this was great ammunition to encourage their clients to work hard at getting fit NOW first!
Following the delivery of my second daughter, Zoe, the nurses commented on my level of fitness and asked for nutrition and training tips … I was just so happy that it was still apparent that I actually worked out!
During both pregnancies, I attended a fitness camp with IFBB pro Jennifer Hendershott (PHAT Camp). Jen has been a friend and mentor in the sport to me for many years, and I wouldn’t miss her camp for the world (I have attended for 7 years now). The camp is intended for women of all ages, shapes and sizes to challenge themselves both physically and mentally over the course of the weekend … and the workouts are intense!
Alison 34 weeks pregnant at the Phat Fit Camp!
During my first pregnancy I was only 7 months pregnant, and was able to participate entirely. During my second pregnancy I was 8 ½ months pregnant, and although I modified some of the exercises and performed them at my own pace, it was so reinforcing and validating to put my body to the challenge. I received such positive feedback from all of the women around me – many of them inspired to work even harder themselves (recognizing that they had “no excuses”)!
Since I try to surround myself with positive and supportive people that know me well, I was pretty fortunate not receive much in the way of negative comments.
I suppose the toughest thing was when strangers would comment about how “small” I was carrying, and sometimes even went so far as to ask if everything was alright or whether I was eating enough (if they only knew how much I eat)!
Because my first daughter was only 5 lbs. 11 ounces, many people attributed her small size to my exercise routine … the doctors and those who know me attributed it to the fact that I was only 5 lbs. 13 ounces at birth and both me and my husband are very small people (my husband is not much more than 5 foot 6)!
How was your first trimester, with respect to exercise and how you feel overall?
During both pregnancies, I was fortunate enough not to experience any morning sickness. I do remember being a little tired, but I attributed that mostly to the fact that I kept a very busy work schedule (and my first trimester also fell over the Christmas season). I found that my trips to the gym helped to rejuvenate me!
During the second trimester of my first pregnancy I experienced horrible and debilitating sciatica (between 24-30 weeks). The doctors speculated that this was a combination of my body resisting the initial stretching (especially since I had worked so hard to keep my muscles so tight over the past few years), as well as the possibility of baby’s positioning (I have a history of lower back/protruding disc issues at L5 which was baby’s approximate location).
As a result, I was quite debilitated (no chance of exercising) and regretfully had to resort to taking pain medication to continue with even general activities of daily life. Swimming seemed the only exercise that I could endure in comfort.
My husband and I feared that latter part of my pregnancy if this was any indication of things to come … but thankfully after 6 weeks (and a restful trip to Maui), I was relieved of all pain as my belly “popped out!”
The remainder of the pregnancy was amazing, and I comfortably continued with my original exercise regime right up until 5 days past my due date when I delivered my first baby girl! I was a little worried that the sciatica may be an issue during my 2nd pregnancy, but it was smooth sailing the entire way!
During both pregnancies, I felt busy, but fantastic during my third trimester! I think the only thing that limited my workouts was frequent trips to the bathroom with all the pressure on my bladder as I carried very low!
36 weeks pumping up!
How did you know what you were doing for exercise during your pregnancy was ok/safe? Did you ever doubt your decisions? Were you worried during your pregnancy that you were exercising too hard?
My only worry during my pregnancies was that there was a possibility that I was not allowing myself enough rest/down time! With regards to exercising, I truly believe that my regular exercise and good nutrition contributed only in positive ways, and was never given any indication otherwise by any health professionals. I know my body very well, and feel that the best indicator of whether you are exerting too much is to listen to your body and trust what it is telling you.
During your pregnancy, did you have any complications such as hypertension or extreme water retention? Please describe why/why not?
No … I think it is safe to say that I retained very little water (even after having an epidural during labour). It is important to stay hydrated during pregnancy (and afterwards, especially if nursing). I probably drink close to 4 litres of water daily, which I imagine would have contributed to the fact that I did not retain water. Of course, a healthy diet free from unnecessary amounts of sodium will have also helped!
If you could do things differently for your fit pregnancy, what would it be?
No … each of my pregnancies were very different (I think mostly because I was in a different stage of my life), but I cherished them both! In fact, I would do it over and over again … if only I can convince my husband!
40 weeks flexing!
How much total weight did you gain during your pregnancy?
1st pregnancy – 15 pounds
2nd pregnancy – 16-17 pounds (although I started out 5 pounds lighter prior to my second pregnancy so I was actually smaller at 40 weeks … probably from juggling life with a busy toddler)
Did you get any stretch marks? If you didn’t, why do you think this happened? If you did, do you think they could have been prevented? Do you think creams or oils stop them?
I feel thankful to not have any stretch marks. I believe that there is certainly a strong genetic factor (elasticity of the skin) that contributes (neither my mother nor sisters have stretch marks either). Of course it also helps to limit weight gain.
I actually have gained more weight in an off-season for competitions than I have during my pregnancy so my body easily responds to the changes in weight. I can’t really say whether I believe that creams or oils work to prevent stretch marks … I used an elasticity oil (Belli Products) during my first pregnancy as it was given to me as a gift, but nothing during my second pregnancy!
How were your labors and delivery? Natural or assisted? Long or short? Briefly describe your birth stories?
I will admit that my labours were not exactly what I would have wanted, but then again, I delivered healthy and happy babies so it all worked out for the best! I think it is best not to have too many expectations so as to prevent any disappointment.
Although I would have wanted to have more active labours, both of my daughters were in quite a lot of distress during labour (with Mya, I was having 4 minute long contractions so her heart rate was dropping abnormally) so they required continued fetal monitoring. This meant that my movement was limited and I was required to stay in bed. At the same time, it felt reassuring to know that I was in such good hands.
My first labour was approximately 12 hours, and my second around 9. My first daughter, Mya, was assisted with forceps, but arrived safely with less than 10 minutes pushing. I was just happy to avoid a c-section as my obstetrician did not want to give me longer than 10 minutes on account of the distress. I remember the nurses cheering me on: “Come on Miss Canada … push!”
My second daughter, Zoe, came with ease after less than 5 minutes of pushing unassisted! My husband and I were shocked as I progressed from 7 to 10 centimeters in what seemed like no time at all! The process was much smoother overall, and with no tearing/stitches, I was pleasantly surprised with how well I felt after Zoe arrived!
What was the weight/height of you babies? APGAR scores (if you know them)?
Mya was 5 pounds 11 ounces, 19 inches.
Zoe was 6 pounds 10 ounces, 19 ¼ inches.
Although I do not know the APGAR scores, both girls were extremely healthy!
How is the health of your babies now?
We are so thankful that both girls are thriving and healthy, but this is not to say that I have not some health scares and bumps along the way over the past 2 years.
Although I did not realize it initially, Mya had considerable difficulties with nursing, and as a result, she was a very unhappy/hungry baby! I also got mastitis (a painful breast infection due to over-production coupled with Mya’s poor latch) repetitively over the first 6 weeks. Once we received the attention we needed from a good lactation consultant, her fussiness continued, and although I hate the term, I am pretty sure we had a “colicky” child on our hands!
The first 4 months were a bit of a blur with sleep deprivation and midnight drives as a last ditch attempt to soothe her, but we loved her unconditionally. At 5 months old, the crying suddenly stopped and we got to know Mya for the beautiful and social little girl that she is to this day!
After about 2 months, I realized that Mya’s range of motion in her neck was extremely limited. I was happy to get the care we needed and discovered that she was born with a head and neck condition called congenital torticollis. Specifically, she had some weak muscles in her neck and limited range of motion, which resulted her head becoming flat on one side. Mya was casted for a helmet to correct her head shape at 6 months of age (which she wore from 6-10 months), and continued to do physical and occupational therapy until 20 months of age. Recently, we have undergone numerous tests (including that for cystic fibrosis) on account of her small size … the results were just as we thought – she’s just small (but big in personality)!
With Zoe very recently, we had an alarming trip to the emergency when she was only 11 days old. She had a crazy eye infection that progressed at an alarming rate, and was admitted to the Stollery Hospital for 3 long and scary nights! She recovered quickly after 2 days on IV antibiotics when we were happy to bring our little girl home again. Being in the Stollery (world class children’s hospital) really put things in perspective … we knew that our concerns were so minimal in comparison to some of the children who were staying there.
I know that there will be many more scares and challenges of parenthood down the road, but I truthfully feel that by maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, I am better preparing myself to cope with the trials and stresses of parenthood.
How much of your weight gain have you lost since having your baby? How long did it take?
I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight two weeks following the birth of my first daughter, Mya.
It took approximately 2 months (and returning to the gym) to see the definition (especially abdominals) that I missed! Once I returned to training, my muscles responded quickly, and may have even grown (as a result of the hormones)!
Because I was burning so many calories with nursing, I was pleased to maintain a very lean body mass with very little effort and while continuing to indulge in the goodies that go along with Mom’s group play dates and socializing while on maternity leave!
My second daughter, Zoe, was born June 22, 2011. Once again, I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight exactly 2 weeks following her delivery! I feel as though my uterus shrunk quicker following my first pregnancy, but I really can’t complain!
36 weeks at the gym
How do you feel about your body now?
It has been exactly one month since Zoe Claire arrived, and I am very pleased with my body and overall wellness! Since it is the midst of the summer season, I am happy to be wearing all of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and continue to get compliments on my muscles! I feel as though I am very lean already with the exception of a tiny bit of extra weight around my middle!
I will wait to return to the gym until after my 6 week appointment with my obstetrician (I like to do things “by the book” so as to prevent any unnecessary damage), but I know that it will only be a matter of time before I am in great, if not even better shape than before! I have heard that one of the best times to put on muscle is immediately following children, so I am determined to give it a shot!
With the 2011 CBBF National Championships occurring this weekend, it is hard not to think about the possibility of competing again. The best part is that because of my 2007 class win, as well as my overall Provincial Titles in both the fitness and figure divisions, I have a lifetime bi in both sports … that means that the National stage will always be there for me!
I know that I will return to strive for that elusive professional status some time down the road, but in the mean time, I will continue to stay fit just for the fun of it and for ME! It seems that my first daughter, Mya, has grown up so quickly, so now is the time to thoroughly enjoy my girls while they are small! I am looking forward to being a positive role model as my girls grow up and encouraging them to lead fit and active lifestyles as well!
What advice would you give other women who want to have a fit pregnancy?
Keeping fit during your pregnancy is perhaps the best gift you can give to yourself and to your family … the rewards are endless (during pregnancy, stress management/coping mechanisms, labour and recovery)!
Make a plan, and commit to it! For some this may just mean penciling in the time to exercise, and for others it may mean registering in a class or training with a friend so that you are accountable! Remember to listen to your body and honor the fact that you may have to reduce your intensity a little, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of this very special time!