Part 3: How I Stayed Fit in My Second Trimester

By Paden Hughes

By Paden Hughes

Follow the journey of a fitness facility owner during her 1st pregnancy

The single best thing about the second trimester was that we were finally able to announce our pregnancy to our family, friends and ultimately the social media world. It was no longer our best kept secret, which meant I no longer had to suffer in silence. 

I also was able to find out the gender of the baby in the 1st trimester so that was exciting for us, especially as my husband prior to learning the baby’s gender, claimed it was impossible for him to father a daughter because of the long lineage of men producing males in his family. 

Karma of course comes full circle, and I’ll never forget how surprised we both were to learn we were having a little girl. 

For all my reading up on “old wives tales” and online blogs, there seemed to be unison in claiming that the hormones of a little girl can more often mess with the mother’s hormones, causing more prolonged morning sickness and other unsavory symptoms. I was beyond relived to learn I was having a little girl, not only because I always wanted one, but because it seemed to justify for me why the first trimester had been so tough.

When things are hard for me I tend to divert to the use of humor to humanize what I’m going through, so our announcement employed humor to poke fun at both the horrors of morning sickness and our surprise at learning we’d be having the first baby girl on the Hughes’ side of the family in multiple generations.

Enter the second trimester. Once the cat was out of the bag and people knew we were expecting, I started to hear encouragements from my friends who were already moms. They all seemed to say, “Well I’m sorry the first trimester was so bad, but thank goodness you’re past all that in your second trimester. It’s smooth sailing now until the 3rd trimester.” Such hopeful words to look forward to experiencing. 

I hoped through week 13...14...15...16...17...18...19...20... nothing.

It wasn’t until week 21 where I started to feel my weekly exchange of one symptom for another began to feel like an improvement. 

So as I stated, I’ll treat my second trimester in two parts: Weeks 13-20 and Weeks 21-28. 

 

2nd Trimester Symptoms I Experienced in Weeks 13-20: 

  • Morning sickness throughout this time frame. 
  • Belly started to hit the floor before my face when I did push ups 
  • Halfway through this trimester I cut out all jarring impact moves like jumping or running because it started to cause me pain in my low back. 
  • I had to pee in any cardio workout at every single break!  The breaks were only 60 seconds and it would take me 90 seconds to use the bathroom, which frustrated me because I was missing my workouts. Eventually it got to be more manageable, because I stopped running and jumping around week 18.
  • Unattractive swelling of ankles and feet, however, after working out the swelling would always go away. 
  • Leg cramps in the middle of the night. Poor Michael, waking up in the middle of the night to hearing me painfully trying to foam roll out a horrible leg cramp. 
  • Dizziness and light headedness
  • Aches in the lower abdomen, marked by the expanding of my round ligaments as my rounding stomach started to grow. It felt like menstrual cramps in my stomach. 
  • Fatigue- I started to go back to bed for two more hours to feel like I could keep up with my personal standards of work output.

2nd Trimester Symptoms I Experienced in Weeks 21-28:  

  • Thankfully the morning sickness ended for me by Week 21! 
  • Experienced aches and pains in my round ligaments/abs whenever I did AbDolly exercises that placed my hands on an unstable surface and used my core to control my motion. I started to ask coaches to tweak the movement to give me a more stable surface and this worked well. 
  • Started to feel insecure with any overhead, Transverse or Frontal plane weighted reaches. Felt like I could strain my stomach ligaments if I wasn’t careful. I reduced weight and sometimes wouldn’t lift any weight overhead. 
  • Heartburn started around week 24 for me and made it very challenging to workout. It felt like my esophagus was burning whenever I inhaled, making cardio workouts particularly uncomfortable. I also experienced acid reflux and had to pause more to take breaths and drink a little water.  This is the only symptom worse to me than nausea of the 1st trimester.  
  • Started to realize my “pregnancy brain” marked by inability to multi-task and chronic forgetfulness (even mid-sentence) made it hard to track in workouts. 
  • I noticed my first varicose vein, sad day. 

 

The icing on the cake was circumstantial, but my second trimester culminated in a four day bought of food poisoning from Pluto’s in San Luis Obispo. I’d always heard being sick when pregnant it harder than typical and while food poisoning is never pleasant, this was decidedly worse. I’ll spare you the details.

My Activity Level During the 2ND Trimester

I was happy to see an increase in my workouts during the second trimester. During the first trimester I only worked out three times per week but throughout the second trimester I worked out on average four times per week. 

The biggest change for me during the second trimester with my fitness is that I started to realize I needed to cut out the impact of G3/2 workouts and so by week 21 I had permanently chosen G1 as my fitness level, thankful for the little to no impact programmed into the workouts. 

The hardest thing for me mentally in my fitness during this trimester was wrapping my head around my new definition of success. I had limited my movements, modified exercises I used to love and had to accept that I wasn’t trying to make fitness gains. My new normal was simply trying to stay moving and celebrate the benefits of activity. This was a head change that once I accepted made me more content in my fitness. 

What I changed in my workouts and active lifestyle

In the second trimester there were several notable changes I made to my overall activity level:

  1. I had gained 10 pounds by the end of the second trimester and most of it was in my growing belly, so my center of gravity started to throw my balance off. This also threw off my calorie burn and heart rate calculations on my heart rate monitor because I didn't go in and weekly update my weight. 
  2. It became painful to engage in core exercises, so I transitioned from plank work and AdDolly rollouts to TRX leaning core work. It was certainly easier, but with the strain being placed on my abs in my stomach expansion, I started to just enjoy moving my core and paying attention to how my body was changing. 
  3. I was more injury prone, particularly in my hip flexors. I should have stuck to Gymnazo (a workout style I love and crave), but while away at our team retreat in September I tried out Barre Method. I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t branch mid-pregnancy to a new style of workout your body is not used to and perhaps that was the difference. Sadly, the instructor promised me that isolated core work was safe for pregnancy, but I should have known better. I pulled my left hip flexor so badly it hurt to walk or put weight on my left leg for three weeks as I recovered. Thankfully I was still able to keep up with my G1 workouts because the coaches knew how to modify the workouts to not piss off or further injure my hip flexor. 
  4. I think I became overly concerned about re-injury, so I started to reduce the weight of any overhead press matrix, sometimes dropping the weight altogether. I needed to prove to myself as I was going through so many bodily changes that I was in touch with what movements I could do safely and what made me feel achy after the workout. Eventually by week 26 I was adding weight back on and feeling more confident moving weight.
  5. Growing pressure on my bladder made it very hard to get through a workout and not miss 20% of it with bathroom breaks. 
  6. In the beginning of the second trimester nausea was still a tough symptom to stomach during the workouts, but as I said my last post, it seemed to subside within 15 minutes of the workout. 
  7. By the end of the second trimester I exchanged nausea for a much more intense heartburn than I’d experienced. This made cardio day particularly hard because the more I exerted myself the more it hurt to inhale and my esophagus felt like it was on fire. It also seemed linked to acid reflux, where I basically threw up in my mouth throughout the day and workout. 

Overall 2nd Trimester Conclusions

Looking back I would say that I am thankful I’ve chosen fitness as a lifestyle and not a “if I feel up to it” type of activity. If I had had that mindset, the second trimester symptoms and impact on my activity would have likely made me pick a path of least resistance and not workout regularly. But like the first trimester, I honestly can't imagine going through the second trimester without incorporating fitness. It was the healthy distraction I needed to keep going. 

The best thing about the second trimester was that I no longer needed to give myself pep talks in my workouts, I was surrounded by fellow athletes who continually encouraged me. 

Some of the kindest comments were:

  •  “I’m so inspired with how consistent your workouts are!”
  • “Can I workout with you, being next to you still gives me a push to keep up.” 
  • “If I had known you could safely and consistently workout through pregnancy when I was pregnant I would have.”
  • “You’re super mom already!”

It may seem corny to read these comments, but when you have heart burn, your hip flexor is sore and you are dizzy and you hear such encouragements it propels you forward.  Never underestimate the power of positivity and encouragement. It got me through my second trimester and bonded me with my fellow G1 athletes. So thank you all for your kindness during a couple tough months. 

To those reading this who are pregnant, my encouragement to you is to not let the symptoms you are wrestling with dictate to you whether or not you make it to the workout. Showing up is the first win. Don’t beat yourself up for a mind shift into enjoying your movement versus hitting your fitness goals. Each season in life challenges us to adjust to our changing environment and adapt. I suppose this is lesson pregnancy reminds you of, likely as a pre-motherhood training ground. Finally be kind to yourself. Don’t get on the guilt train, I hear it only gets worse as you progress through life as a mom. Don’t guilt yourself into fitness, give yourself the gift of fitness.