So, about two weeks before the New York City Triathlon, I found out I was pregnant. I kept training for the next week with the intention of competing, but at my appointment on the week of the Tri, my doctor said “No triathlon! No running for the next two weeks!” She also said that had it been later in the pregnancy (at the time I was about 7 weeks) she wouldn’t necessarily be against it. She has also continuously said how important exercise is while pregnant. So I skipped the Tri, but vowed to keep training for the Wineglass half marathon in October.
Skipping the Tri was both a hard and an easy choice. Hard because I was basically done with my training at that point. I was really hoping that this was the year that I would beat my fear of open water and have a calm fast swim. I also had the added problem of having to drop the race without really telling any of my friends or teammates why. It was awkward because I wanted to let them know it was for a happy reason, not an injury, but we had decided not to tell anyone until we were out of the first trimester, so I told everyone, “I had to drop because I have a medical thing.” Wicked shady, Sirrah.
It was also an easy choice, because I trust my doctor. I knew she wouldn’t say no unless she felt it was a real risk, and to me it just wasn’t worth it.
While I (spoiler alert) did complete the Wineglass half, training was not as easy as I thought it would be back in week 6. I had always fantasized about being a super fit, cute, healthy eating prego who wouldn’t let pregnancy slow her down. Not so much.
My first reality check hit when “morning” sickness really started. Basically, from week 6-14, I found it very difficult to wake up in the morning, move around the world of smells (gym! Ew!!!), and eat anything healthy or unhealthy. I didn’t have the energy to work out, and I was eating whatever didn’t make me want to hurl ,which were often not the healthiest meals.
My second reality check was my almost immediate loss of stamina. Working out during the week was almost impossible for me (which led to a lot of self-judgment), but I tried to get out for a long run each week (once my Dr. said it was cool for me to run again – around week 9). I knew my fitness would suffer a little so I decided to train and do the half as a run/walk, I wasn’t prepared though for how slow and tired I would be. My pace has dropped from about 9:30 for a six mile run to 11:30. When it was hot out, there were multiple runs I only finished because Ryan ran with me and kept me motivated.
Mentally there is also a new component: I’m used to pushing through discomfort, and now my job is to listen to my body and obey any signs of discomfort (including getting out of breath) as signs that I need to stop or slow down. Ryan is getting faster right at a time when I am trying to take it easy, and it is hard for me to hold myself back when he’s feeling good and ready to push the pace. I’m not usually that competitive, but I definitely find it hard to fight the urge to race my boyfriend now that he is faster than me.
There are a lot of new feelings so far and I’m sure they’ll only grow as I do. I lose my breath faster now because I’m sharing my oxygen and blood with a little freeloader. I have pressure in my lower abdomen that causes me to feel like I have to pee almost immediately when I start running (so far the record is 3 times in 9 miles). I get round ligament pain which forces me to slow down when I feel like I’m already walking. Hydration is even more important than normal because I seem to get dehydrated much faster. Finally, I’m way more tired. My 9 mile run left me second-sleeping on the couch like I was in marathon training.
About a month ago I was at the gym with Ryan and we overheard the front desk folks talking about a pregnant lady who was running on the treadmill. The guy behind the desk was saying, “I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem safe to me.” This coming from the staff that don’t raise an eyebrow about the old lady who puts the treadmill on the highest speed, holds on to the front, and lets her legs fly out behind her like a flag flapping in the wind.
It’s true there are a lot of opinions out there about exercise and racing while prego. I have read a lot of different pieces about it ranging from “Don’t let your heart rate go above 140!!” to “My Pregnant Marathon!” Now it seems the conventional wisdom is that it depends on your previous fitness level and what your body feedback is giving you. I think the decision of how much to work out is personal and unique to your fitness and health circumstances. I’m not about to do an Ironman or probably even another half marathon, but I am going to keep up my training and exercise at the levels my body allow. It will probably get harder and involve more pee breaks, but as my body keeps changing(getting larger) I want to try to keep feeling positive about myself, and I think staying active and strong is the best way for me. Also, this baby wants doughnuts, so I can’t start slacking now!