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October 28, 2016

Part 2: How I Stayed Fit in My 1st Trimester

by Paden Hughes

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

As a little girl I dreamed of being a mom one day. I even practiced how to sleep on my side so that one day when I was pregnant I wouldn’t struggle with falling asleep. I laugh at that now, as sleeping on my side has caused me much neck and shoulder pain, but that’s a different story. Perhaps to my Grandmother’s chagrin, who joked she may never live to see me married, I chose to cultivate my inner career woman and remained childless through my 20’s. A classic millennial, I was in no hurry to rush into motherhood.

However, upon turning 30, motherhood seemed like the natural next role or milestone to embrace in my life journey. I’m the kind of person who creates plans and then contingency plans for all big decisions. So growing up I paid keen attention to stories my mom would tell about pregnancy. Since all five of hers were seemingly devoid of negative side affects, I was encouraged! I believed I hailed from a long line of pregnancy goddesses who would rather stay pregnant for the love of the miraculous journey than get back to normal. This was reinforced in the last 12 months when my little sister got pregnant with her first baby and continued the family tradition of having a great pregnancy experience.

It shouldn’t be any surprised that when I found out I was pregnant last May, I too believed I was destined for a glorious experience.

Perhaps it was glorious until on week 6 when like clockwork my pregnancy apps (Bump and Nurture) started to alert me that I may experience the first key symptom: morning sickness. The next day, I instantly started to feel what my prior life experiences could only chalk up to as an extreme 24/7 hangover, the kind where even glancing at a bottle of tequila would send you to the bathroom. I probably should stop reading these weekly warnings of crazy pregnancy symptoms because so far as if on a schedule, I have experienced every single symptom you could in your first trimester, except for two: weight gain and hyperemesis gravidarum or severe morning sickness that requires you to take medication to stop throwing up. Thankfully I have been spared that.

1st Trimester Symptoms I Experienced that Impacted My Workouts:

  • 24/7 “morning” sickness from week 6-18 (well into my 2nd trimester)
  • Constipation, the kind where you look like you’ve gained 10 pounds and are highly uncomfortable even walking
  • Fatigue, resulting in needing 2 hours naps daily to feel like a human again
  • Frequent urination (especially during cardio workouts)
  • Heartburn and it’s lovely side kick acid reflux

My Activity Level During the 1 st Trimester

Throughout the first 12 weeks I averaged working out 3 times per week, which is a little less then normal, but I was happy it was consistent. In Gymnazo we have three levels of fitness training called G1, G2 and G3. G3 is our more elite program for fitness, requiring athletes to pass an assessment to participate.

I had primarily been working out at the G3 level pre-pregnancy and was interested to know whether I could keep it up. I ended up being able to stay in the G3 program the whole trimester. Thankfully because our coaches knew I was pregnant from weeks 8-12 they could give me modifications if I needed them to help me stay away from potentially risky movement patterns or weights that were too much for me.

Perhaps I’m most proud of the fact that I completed a Tough Mudder, while 7 weeks pregnant with acute morning sickness, in Tahoe where it was cold, windy and at high altitude. That was probably the hardest physical exertion I have done while pregnant.

Nutritional Impact of the 1st Trimester:

It may seem weird to discuss nutrition when the series is about fitness, but a key to staying fit in pregnancy has to do with your nutrition. So I thought I’d share my experience on that front as well.

My food aversions included:

  • Truffle Oil
  • Vegetables of every kind
  • Salads became a four letter word to me the entire trimester
  • A month of not wanting to touch anything sweet, from honey to chocolate to jam to fruit
  • Coffee, I avoided because of the correlation between caffeine intake and increased risk of miscarriage.
  • Healthy food portions, I ate like a pigeon

My food intake/cravings included:

  • All carbs like pizza, pasta and I always wished for Mac-n-Cheese
  • Beef jerky, so long as there was no syrup or brown sugar included. For about a month I ate a package a day.
  • Cereal, mainly whole grain cereals to try to get some fiber
  • Milk, I have always been a Whole Milk girl and was probably consuming 2 glasses per day

I think one of the elements of pregnancy that is hard not to obsess about is weight gain. In the 1st Trimester, I was curious if I would experience weight gain. But throughout the 1st Trimester I was only keep down about 800-1000 calories per day and so I lost 6 pounds overall at the end of the 1 st trimester.

What changed in my workouts and active lifestyle:

In the first trimester there were just three notable changes I made to my overall activity level:

1. I no longer did any sports or activities where the speed I gained was faster than my own limbs could take me. For example, I still would run wind sprints in cardio workouts, but I stopped wake boarding and tubing.

2. I reduced my weight when performing Olympic lifts by about 25-40%. I realized early on that I didn’t care about hitting new PR’s but that I cared more about burning calories, maintaining fitness and enjoying the range of motion I still had. It was a perspective shift.

3. Pre workout nutrition was critical, as I was not eating very much or often. I started to bring pre-workout Fluid Performance with me to each workout to help give me some electrolytes during my workouts. If I didn’t I would experience lightheadedness and dizziness.

The irony about the 1 st trimester is that you can’t really tell anyone that you’re experiencing such a bizarre combination of symptoms. By week 8 my husband and I told our team of coaches, but my fellow athletes and workout partners did not know for the first 12 weeks. I don’t always like this about myself, but I always feel better when I can eternally process the challenges in my life with others. My husband, Michael, is a champ for being one of maybe four people I shared my frustrations with during the initial trimester. The rest I had to keep bottled up inside and when anyone asked me how I was doing, in the gym, I always tried to smile and say, “Great, how about you?”

Looking back I would say that I hardly adjusted my fitness during the first trimester, which surprised me because just looking at the list of ongoing symptoms I experienced was overwhelming. More than anything I learned how powerful your willpower can be to get through physical hurdles. Each day I had to remind myself why I wanted to workout, that it would be worth it later.

My most effective personal pep talks were:

  • “One hour of fitness will buy you 2 hours of no nausea. It’s worth it!”
  • “No one knows your pregnant, keep moving or they’ll start to wonder why you’re slowing down.”
  • “You’ll never get to do this G3 workout ever again, and who knows how long it will be until you get back to this level of training, push it while you still can!”
  • “You’re walking your talk, even if it’s harder than normal.”
  • “You’re a gym owner, quitting this isn’t an option for you!”


My encouragement to those in your first trimester is to keep going. Don’t stop what you had been doing before. If you’re like me you are dealing with terrible side effects, but the first 15 minutes of each workout is the worst. After that your body kicks in gear and mentally you’ve committed to it so you will push through.

Each workout is a success and gives you an hour to spend on yourself doing something beneficial for your pregnancy and your baby.

To continue reading more blogs in this series, click the links below.

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