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January 30, 2017

Part 4: How I Stayed Fit In My Third Trimester

by Paden Hughes

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

You know you’re in the third trimester when you can’t get into your sedan without groaning, you think twice about whether to walk downtown for brunch or drive, you’re rolling yourself off of the bed like a slug hoping your feet hit the floor before your face does, you can’t zip your winter jacket over your belly so you layer…. and the list goes on.

What I can say about the third trimester is that so far of all my trimesters, this was the only one that seemed less intense. To be more specific, there were less surprises for me. I still related all too well to 90% of the list of symptoms common to this trimester, but these were ones I expected all along.

I knew I’d get a waddle, I’d provide comic relief to my husband watching me try to get dressed in the morning, I’d get stuck at the grocery store trying to shimmy between the conveyor belt and my cart and get a ton of attention for being pregnant.

But so far, this has been the best trimester. It’s been the most rewarding because the changes in your body become more and more noticeable and people are kinder, acknowledging that you’re going through an incredible transformation.

You’re on the brink of a life changing experience, and there was a sense of awareness to embrace the small things because life was about to change. Even if for the better, Michael and I would be decades away from our simple life just the two of us. Suddenly working out together meant more, walking downtown to get brunch after sleeping in on a Sunday was sweeter, going to a movie on a whim was special and even just being able to sleep for seven straight hours was something we have been appreciating.

3rd Trimester Symptoms I Experienced:

This was the light at the end of the tunnel for me… I enjoyed the third trimester, even though it was not devoid of unpleasant symptoms. So looking back, the final twelve weeks (months 7-10 for those who still think like normal people, in months not weeks), here are the symptoms I experienced that impacted me.

Symptoms I experienced in my 3rd Trimester:

  • Acid reflux- better known as throwing up in your mouth
  • Heart burn almost around the clock. I felt like a fire breathing dragon with an annoying sensation that my esophagus was burning.
  • Back pain, that actually got worse post Chiropractic visits, so I focused on what did help ease it: underbelly support band, sleeping with my U-shaped “boyfriend pillow” and avoiding sitting for more than 30 minutes.
  • Frequent urination
  • Curse of the cankles – my poor ankles, feet and calves were daily so swollen I could push on my skin and it would stay indented. The only way to ease this was actually to workout and get my circulation back on track.
  • Braxton-Hicks, a contraction that stops you in your tracks and you can’t carry on a conversation without socially letting the person you’re speaking to know that you’ve suddenly started to focus on something else, much like a constipated toddler who suddenly looks fiercely focused on their bodily function.
  • Reduced immune system
  • Shortness of breath, even in a gentle stroll downtown
  • Forgetfulness – Attack of Pregnancy Brain
  • Cramping and whole body aches
  • Diastasis (aka. Separation of your abdominal muscles, causing pain)

Thankfully I did not get too tired, experience any dramatic horror-like dreams, or have any complications during this trimester.

My Activity Level During the 3rd Trimester

Perhaps in part due to the holidays, but I did see a drop in my average workouts per week. I went back to an average of three workouts per week. I believe this was more because of the pressure I put on myself to finish all my projects before my maternity leave, than it was due to not feeling up to working out. The list of work related projects was daunting and I completed it at the beginning of my third trimester and started to work aggressively throughout it to bring it back down.

The biggest change for me during the second trimester with my fitness is that I experienced diastasis, which is the separation of your abdominal muscles. This sounds perhaps a bit worse than it feelings, but I noticed that every time I did an exercise that was prone or pushed a heavy weight overhead, my stomach started to cone, pushing the weight of the baby to the middle of my stomach. It is pretty common in pregnancies, but I was disappointed because it made certain exercises particularly painful.

The hardest thing for me mentally in my fitness during this trimester was once again adjusting to a new mindset. I no longer felt that I could get a hard workout, I felt that I could get better circulation, feel my heart rate rise and move my tight muscles. But I noticed it was harder to break a sweat and any jumping, running, shuffle move was uncomfortable, as my stomach started to weigh heavy on my pelvic bone.

In the third trimester, similar to the first one, simply showing up for the workout was 50% of the “win” I gave myself. No one ever regrets a workout, and this was certainly the case with me.


What I Noticed in my Workouts and Active Lifestyle

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

1. I had gained 27 pounds by the end of the third trimester, but during my whole pregnancy was still picking up the same vipr and handbell weights for any load bearing, lower extremity exercises. So it occurred to me that I wasn’t considering my extra weight gain in the weight I was picking up, which essentially served to almost double my weight during these exercises. I’ve concluded that my legs undoubtedly got stronger through this trimester.

2. It became almost painful to engage in core exercises, so I asked for modifications from our coaches to assist me in changing any prone (planking or on your hands/knees) exercises to upright and getting transverse (rotational) movement without causing abdominal pain.

3. I was more flexible! This was the one highlight of my fitness in the third trimester! The cool downs post workouts felt amazing and I could certainly get into deeper stretches than before. I had to be cautious to not push myself too deep into stretches, but stop when I felt any tension.

4. The hardest thing was acid reflux. There is nothing worse to me than throwing up in your mouth, swallowing and feeling heart burn, all while trying to workout hard and get a sweat going. It was just gross and I look forward to not having that in future post-partum workouts.

5. Upper body strength moves I could still lift decently heavy, so long as it was not overhead and or causing abdominal pain. I was thankful for that!

6. Locomotion drills (jogging, shuffling and skipping warm ups) were increasingly less comfortable and eventually I down tweaked my “runs” to “quick steps.” My stomach started to feel so heavy half the time I wanted to pick it up and carry it with me as I moved across the turf, but decided against it.

Overall 3rd Trimester Activity

The Third Trimester was more exciting than prior trimesters because you truly looked pregnant at this point and just moving felt so good and continued to be one of the best ways to reduce unpleasant symptoms. I truly do not know how women stop working out when they find out they are pregnant. Unless there are complications requiring this, I would encourage women to embrace movement, continue to move and prioritize themselves as their body goes through so many intense changes in a relatively short time.

The encouragement of those around me, from the coaching staff to my fellow athletes continued to be truly motivating to me.

Some of the kindest comments were:

  • “You look fabulous! I’m so impressed you are still working out!”
  • “You’re super mom!”
  • “Your baby is going to come out so athletic!” (Not that I truly believed this, but it was a nice sentiment.)

The thing about fitness and making the choice to do something good for you that can feel uncomfortable in the moment is that is bonds you to your fellow athletes. Why is it that going through something hard is so strengthening? The relationships and bonds between my fellow athletes and me ultimately brought members with me through this pregnancy journey. My biggest takeaway is that when people around us know we’re going through something out of the usual, or our physical capabilities are hindered, it provides many opportunities for us to take time to encourage and lend positivity to the situation. I love that about the human spirit. When we know someone is going through something challenging, even if it’s exciting like a new baby, it surrounds you with love and encouragement. I’ve very thankful to have had such a supportive fitness community lifting me up during the last few months. It’s a powerful thing to feel a part of something so big.

My encouragement to those reading this who may be experiencing something less visible than being in your final months pregnant, is to open up and share what is going on with those around you. Let the community surround you too and it’s okay to appear weaker than usual as you go through something trying. There is power in those around us and opening yourself up to the love those around you have to share is pretty special.

As I close this blog series and await the arrival of my daughter, I’m blessed to know that she will be welcomed into such a positive and supportive community of men and women. It takes a village and Michael and I are very thankful for the village that engulfs us each day. Thank you to each one who partnered with me in workouts, who coached me, who encouraged me and who shared with me the anticipation of a new life entering this world. You all made the journey that started with many challenges turn out to be beautiful.

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

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