Fit Pregnancy Interview Series Part 2
Christa the day before she delivered
In Part 2 of this interview series, we're highlighting my good friend and fellow bootcamp owner, Christa Doran.
Christa encourages all her clients to keep exercising through their pregnancies to their own capacity (everyone is different).
Christa herself worked out the entire time she was pregnant in her first pregnancy and is now 17 weeks along in her second and still going strong.
ON TO THE INTERVIEW!:
Christa, this interview is for you to share your fit pregnancy experience with other women. Unfortunately so many women are scared to exercise while pregnant for fear it is harmful for their unborn babies. How do you feel about this now that you’ve had your own fit pregnancy (and are actually in the midst of your second)?
During both my last pregnancy and this current pregnancy (I am 17 weeks) I never once though I would harm my baby with exercise. I always thought of all the good I was doing for my baby by keeping fit and healthy. Not only would I have an easier time during labor and delivery, but so would my baby! What so many women don’t realize is when you workout, so does your baby. Your baby’s cardiovascular system gets stronger, resulting in a quicker heart rate recovery during labor contractions. And the recovery is much easier when your muscles are conditioned as well. Muscles have memory, so when you hit the gym after your baby is born, they will go back to their original form quicker.
How hard were you exercising before you became pregnant? What were you doing?
When I exercise I work hard, or not at all. I was strength training with weights three times per week, and I would mix in interval training to at least 2 of those workouts. Lots of core work, pushups, pull ups, squats lunges, jump rope, etc.. done in an intense interval format.
When you found out your were pregnant, did you modify your workout routine? How & Why?
I did not modify my routine at all when I found out I was pregnant. As I got further along in months, my routine needed to me modified, but your body does a really great job of telling you when. If you really listen to your body, it will tell you when you are working too hard, when you need a break, or when you need to modify an exercise. I think I was also more comfortable pushing myself physically while pregnant because I am a trainer, and I do have additional training in pre-natal exercise, so I was not worried at all about putting my baby in danger.
When you first found out you were pregnant what was your primary concern with respect to your exercise routine?
Not being able to exercise enough! I battled with nausea morning, noon and night, and frankly, just did not want to work out. But like I always say, the only workout you regret is the one you don’t do, so there were many forced gym visits that resulted in me feeling great when it was over.
Overall, during your pregnancy, describe what did you do for exercise?
I really kept the same routine and just modified it as I got further along.
For example, abdominal exercises and advanced pushups became difficult around 5/6 months, so I would do them on my knees. When I started to get dizzy lying on my back, that told me I could no longer do any exercises on my back. But that wasn’t until month 5 or 6 for me, not in the first trimester like doctors will tell you. Towards the very end, jumping became very uncomfortable, so I started swimming and modifying exercises with no jumping. Swimming felt amazing pregnant!
I continued to strength train with free weighs until month 9. During month 9 my balance started to go so I would either use a machine (which I never use, and really don’t recommend) or perform exercises seated on bench.
I did yoga once per week, as well as lots of stretching on my own focusing on my back and hip muscles.
How did other people around you react to your fit pregnancy? Was it positive or negative?
It was very interesting. Some were “worried” for me, asking if it was ok for me to be lifting, others would jokingly tell me they are a nurse or paramedic, “just in case,” and others would tell me how awesome it was that I was “still” working out. As if to suggest doing a pull down would cause me to go into labor, and pregnancy means workouts should stop.
I will never forget this one time. It was the week before Livia was born. I was 40 weeks and very uncomfortable, but waddled to the gym anyways, knowing it might be my last time for a workout for a while. I was doing lat pull downs. My belly was hidden while I was working, but as soon as I stood up you could see my gigantic belly. The looks were so funny! One woman actually came up to me and asked “should you be doing that!?” I assured her I was fine, I was a trainer and I knew what I was doing.
What was the most supportive thing someone told you about your fit pregnancy? The most unsupportive?
I guess women (especially my clients) would say “if you can do it I can do it! I have no excuses next to you!” I think people think you are sick or injured during pregnancy. Quite the opposite! Your body is an amazing, baby growing machine!
I remember talking to a client who was an OB-GYN and she said it was a good thing I wasn’t her patient because she would never let me work, out, train and teach like I was. I was so taken back. I thought to myself, if you tell your patients not to exercise, I would NEVER be a patient of yours! How ignorant. So many doctors just don’t want to be held liable. They are so fearful of being sued. I think that coupled with the fact that they are just not aware of all the benefits to mom and baby, many of them discourage hard work while pregnant.
How was your first trimester, with respect to exercise?
I was very nauseous, so my workouts were less frequent, but still intense when I made it to the gym.
Second trimester was great. I was able to do pretty much all my same routines as before I was pregnant, with some modified abs towards the end.
This was probably the hardest for me to deal with. My mind wanted to rock a reptile pushup, then do some speed rope, then some jumping lunges, then single leg deadlifts, but my body said no way! So, I thought of my baby and modified. I started using machines, doing seated exercises, and swimming. I did mostly low/no impact during the final 2 months as my joints would get so sore after a high impact workout. That was my body telling me to modify, and so I did.
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?
No, I never doubted my decisions to train and train hard. I know my body, and I listed to it very closely. If I felt fine, I kept pushing. As soon as I felt anything out of the ordinary, I scaled back, slowed down, or stopped.
During your pregnancy, did you have any complications such as hypertension or extreme water retention? Please describe why/why not?
No, I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy with no complications. I had some bad back pain towards the end, but this was from all the driving I was doing at the time as a travelling trainer.
If you could do things differently for your fit pregnancy, what would that be?
Nothing. I feel I did everything I could, and everything my body allowed me to do to stay fit and healthy for me, and my baby.
How much total weight did you gain during your pregnancy?
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 prevent them?
No stretch marks at all. I think keeping weight gain down is the best prevention for stretch marks. Also, staying hydrated is key. I did use creams and oils, but I think this was mostly for peace of mind, as I know they have not been proven to prevent stretch marks.
How was your labor and delivery? -- Natural or Assisted? – Long or short?
I had a unmedicated birth. 15 hours of hard labor (by hard I mean intense!) and I pushed for 1.5 hours. My water broke at 6PM, 2 hours later intense contractions started. I arrived at the Birth Center at 2AM and was 5 cm dilated. From 5 to 10 cm was long, but Livia was finally born via waterbirth at 11:30AM. No complications, no tearing, healthy placenta and thick chord (another benefit to healthy diet and exercise) delivered within 10 minutes of her.
What was the weight/height of baby? APGAR scores?
Livia was 7 pounds 10 ounces, and her scores were perfect. I was able to breastfeed immediately and had a very quick and easy recovery, walking around feeling like a rockstar immediately after.
How healthy is your baby now?
NOW Liv is an excellent sleeper and napper. She was a bit finicky (not colic) in her first few months, but 100% healthy, no sickness, allergies, asthma, etc..
VERY health child, very rarely sick, great appetite for healthy foods, eats well, sleeps soundly 14 hours/day, happy, active, STRONG :) and joyful little girl.
Walked early, fine motor sills and gross motor skills above average at a young age. Age appropriate for language. Very social and friendly.
Nursed well, gained well as an infant and toddler, and ROCKS pushups, planks, squats, mountain climbers and high knees better than most guys at the gym LOL! :)
How much of your weight gain have you lost since having your baby? How long did it take?
I lost my weight very quickly. By the time she was 12 weeks old I was back down to pre-pregnancy weight BUT my body looked very very different! Re-shaping my body was very hard, but so worth it. I have never worked harder in my life! I remember working abs like I never have before, I could finally see my abs by the time she was 5 months old, and proudly wore a bikini that summer (she was born in January).
How do you feel about your body now?
I have a totally new found respect for my body. I look at it so differently. I know how strong I am, mentally and physically, and truly feel there is nothing I can’t do.
My goal after I have this baby in May is to complete my first mini-triathlon in September. I set a goal with Livia as well. I really think this is important to help you get back into fitness quickly and prevent all those excuses that keep you out of shape and unhealthy.
What advice would you give other women who want to have a fit pregnancy?
Trust your body, trust your instincts and listen to what your body is telling you. I would make sure they are staying very hydrated, keeping intense workouts under 60 minutes, and lastly, make fitness an important part of your pregnancy. It benefits you and your baby, now, during labor and delivery, and also during recovery.
Thank you for your time, Christa!!
Christa Doran MSOT, NSCA-CPT is Trainer & Creator of Tuff Girl Fitness and Owner of Bodyology Fitness Studio. Her website is www.tuffgirlfitnessct.com