First Trimester Training Tips from a Professional Triathlete – Part 1 of a 3 part series

First Trimester TrainingJust took a positive pregnancy test? Congratulations! With the many emotions flooding through your mind (and hormones beginning to flood through your body), this is the start of a miraculous journey over the next nine months.

One of the special characteristics of the human race is that we are all unique. The same goes for each woman’s pregnancy. Upon finding out you are pregnant; you will hear all different stories of how one friend felt verses another. Just like one human is not quite like the other; each woman’s pregnancy can be experienced very differently.

When it comes to training while pregnant; it’s very important to talk openly with your doctors about your exercise plans during pregnancy. Beyond that, it’s important to understand that we’re all different and our bodies are going to react in very different ways to the pregnancy. The best piece of advice I would give a women is that there is not a more crucial time to listen to that inner voice and be intuitive with your own body about your training limits during pregnancy. As athletes we really learn to become in tune with our bodies. This skill is so crucial during pregnancy, as we can adjust day to day depending on how we are feeling. Because each woman has such a unique experience, listening to her own body will be the best guide in approaching training that is appropriate.

As an endurance athlete, you may begin to question just what your daily workout schedule should be. Should I cut back on training volume or intensity or both? Much of what you can continue during early pregnancy will depend on what your typical training schedule was before you were pregnant. Pregnancy is not a time to begin training for a half marathon! However; if you were a regular runner before pregnancy, it’s perfectly safe to continue while pregnant.

First  Trimester TrainingIn early pregnancy, it’s always important to ask your doctor many questions during those first few visits about what you can do for training. I would advise finding a doctor who you are comfortable communicating with and has a good understanding of listening to you as a person.

At the very beginning of pregnancy, most women don’t even feel pregnant and normal work-out routines are barely interrupted. But, those weeks are short lived. By as early as the sixth week into pregnancy, hormones begin taking over and along with that begins some of the pregnancy symptoms making it difficult to motivate your otherwise cooperative body.

When you sleep nine hours a night; yet you still wake up feeling exhausted; a workout may be the last thing on your mind. In my experience, even on the days I was feeling tired; I often felt better getting the blood pumping and moving my body. I didn’t experience too much sickness (thank goodness), but the mornings I woke up feeling nauseous; I felt much better getting in a workout. Remember, as athletes, our bodies are so used to movement that we crave familiarity. While pregnant, getting the stimulus our body is used to pre pregnant is not only going to make us feel better physically; but feel better mentally. The mental and physical connection to well-being is tighter than we realize. Remember if your mind is in a positive state, then the body will follow.

We all have high exceptions that we will be able to continue working out as we did prior to becoming pregnant. But some may have complications, prohibiting certain kinds of exercise. Barring any restrictions from your doctors, if you are having a normal pregnancy you should be able to enjoy the working out you did prior to pregnancy. Always consult your physicians at regular intervals regarding your ability to exercise at various levels.

Growing a baby takes a toll on the body and requires a lot of energy. Don’t expect to have the same swim speeds or same running times you did pre-pregnancy. Keep the working out in the aerobic zone as you want to avoid doing any long bouts of training with a really high heart rate. One of the first signs of pregnancy for me was a skyrocketing resting heart rate (and it seemed to be higher than normal while swimming and running). Immediately after conception; your body is already beginning to build more blood volume, which puts extra stress on your heart and body. Be aware that backing down on intensity is okay! Do what feels comfortable for you and know that continuing to exercise will be beneficial for you and your baby.

First Trimester  TrainingEarly in my pregnancy, I could continue 75% of my normal volume prior to pregnancy; however, my intensity was cut back. I was most surprised how difficult early on in the pregnancy it was to hold my pre-pregnancy swim paces in the pool. Just six weeks into pregnancy, I was slowing down five seconds per 100 meters in the pool (which may not sound like much, but it felt significant!). Around eight weeks, I had to cut back on my intensity and cut back to 50% of training volume throughout the rest of the first trimester. How did I know to cut back? If I did too much training the day before, the next day I felt like a truck had hit me. At that point, I knew that I needed to back down even more in my workouts. Very early on in my pregnancy; I changed my vocabulary when it came to swim/bike/run from “training” to “exercise” as I did not follow a planned or written training cycle, just listened to what my body could do day to day and enjoy the movement.

It’s amazing what the human body can do and as a woman, creating a life inside of us is one of the greatest miracles. Respect your body and mind and your baby and body will be thanking you.

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