Monday, January 6, 2014

The 40-Week Training Plan: Phase I

First trimester – week 1 to week 13

From “morning sickness” that can be any time of day to complete exhaustion, the first trimester can be a challenging time for many women to stay active and maintain a normal exercise routine. However, 30 minutes a day is still recommended by obstetricians, and most women find that even some light walking and fresh air do really help with the nausea and give you an added boost of energy during an otherwise really exhausting time during your pregnancy.

From a 1999 Addidas campaign for running, this lady is totally my hero.
She's probably in her second or early third trimester, but I like this photo so much
and find it so inspiring that we're just going to have it on this blog post anyway!
Guidelines for this trimester:
1. 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily; or continue your regular exercise routine but slow to a moderate exertion and be adaptable to slowing down or stopping if you experience warning signs
2. Hydrate!
3. Replenish calories. (The days of putting yourself in calorie deficit are over, for now. Enjoy it.)

The Challenges:

What I learned this trimester:
(I guess it comes as no surprise to most of you that my husband and I are indeed expecting, hence my research on this topic and this series of blogs!)
1. Be forgiving.
2. NAP.
3. A little exercise goes a long way!
4. Moderate is relative! (Listen to your body)

Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different, but by week 6, I had "morning" sickness 24-7, and the ONLY time it went away was when I went for a run. The other issue for me starting out the first trimester was that I wasn't sure how much exercise I could do safely. I was so excited to be pregnant that I was also afraid to train too hard for fear of miscarriage. I’m not sure if there is any medical legitimacy to that, as most early miscarriages are due to chromosomal defects and nothing a pregnant woman does or doesn’t do, but I was worried about it. My first obstetrician said that I seemed like an active person, so I could do 45 minutes a day instead of the recommended 30. Most of what I’ve read since that first obstetric visit shows that you can basically keep going at whatever your regular amount of activity is, within reason. In a way, I wish I had realized this sooner in my pregnancy, but my work hours and being so nauseated and exhausted were hard to tackle with my goals to stay fit, so staying fit ended up being the bare minimum for the baby’s fitness/health, which makes me happy at this point. I think with future pregnancies, I might feel more comfortable to do more.

So, maybe I didn't need to slow down as quickly as I did during the first trimester, but I think pushing your body when you're already exhausted and also when you're carrying another person along with you isn't the best idea. Whatever your starting point, as the pregnancy progresses, and as your body gets bigger, you are going to slow down and you are going to cut mileage. That’s just the way it works. I think it happened sooner for me because I was worried about it and because I had already cut back from my regular amount of training just to get pregnant in the first place. I will say, though, that even when I felt so super exhausted and so nauseated, a short run was the only thing that cured me. I could feel like I was going to vomit and after the first 5-10 minutes of running, I felt amazing. Thank you, exercise endorphins. 

The most important thing that I have realized and started to learn how to do during my focus on staying fit and healthy during my pregnancy is that you really have to listen to your body. Listening to your body when you know you're really exhausted is also a good idea. A short workout when really exhausted can give you an extra pep in your step, and that definitely helped me. But long workouts (by the way, during pregnancy, all my "long workouts" have been 75-80 minutes or less, usually more like 60 minutes) are definitely for those days when you're feeling super well-rested and feel good during the first part of your workout. If you think you're well-rested and you set out for something long, but you don't feel well after the first 10-15 minutes, then slow down or stop; no harm done. This is not the time to be the die-hard athlete you normally are used to being…or at least that’s what I told myself, and it’s helped me stay healthy, function at work during pregnancy, and keep myself going these days. 

I originally wanted to do a 70.3 (half-ironman) during my first trimester, and while this is totally physically and medically possible, it just wasn’t worth it to me to race at 75% of my effort, and keeping up with endurance during my first trimester exhaustion wasn’t the easiest thing. As one of my old college buddies used to say, “If it’s not necessary, you don’t need it,” and believe me, racing wasn’t necessary, so I told myself I didn’t need it. By the way, cutting back to 75% effort is what is recommended for racing triathlon during pregnancy. If you have found other credited info out there, please post to this blog because I would definitely be interested!

Stay tuned for:
-2nd trimester guidelines/challenges/updates
-3rd trimester guidelines/challenges/updates
-gait and running form changes during pregnancy
-post-partum training circa May 2014