For me, pregnancy has been a time of growth, mindset shift, understanding, and much more. It’s not easy growing a human, having your hormones go completely haywire, preparing for the unknown, all while going about your normal life, continuing to work stressful jobs, keeping healthy and fit. It’s really hard, actually. Some people have easy and smooth pregnancies while others have extremely complicated ones. I am very grateful that I have had healthy and pretty much-uncomplicated pregnancies. That being said, I am in no way totally at ease being pregnant. I struggle with the physical and mental aspects of it.
There are many things that I have learned during both of my pregnancies. I don’t think one could not learn anything, as our body and mind are going through so many changes in a short span of time. Delving into training, I feel the notions that stand out to me in pregnancy translate over to many other issues that people deal with in the everyday gym session.
As most people do, we tend to have aches, pains, injuries, issues, complications rise up from time to time. This happens a lot in pregnancy! Every day is different. The same goes for people who are not pregnant. But what do we do with those issues?
Throughout my two pregnancies, I have really focused on the following to help me, mentally and physically, in training and in life. And they are:
- Educate yourself
- Be your own advocate
- Take inventory
- Listen to your body
- Embrace the season you are in
One of the most common things that people do when feeling a certain way (injured back, stressed out, exhausted, nagging knee) is just stopped. They stop going to the gym, they stop taking care of themselves, and they just stop doing things for themselves. Most people don’t reach out for help. As trainers, we are not physicians or therapists. We do have a lot of experience though, especially when we put all of our individual experiences together. We want to help you; we want to get you feeling better! At the same time, you need to educate yourself! What is it that you are going through? Are you pregnant, dealing with IBS, not coping with work, etc?
Educate yourself on what you might be going through (if you have a concrete issue). What exacerbates the issue, what makes it better? For me, and pregnancy, that means reading. A lot! Not everything I read pertains to me but I can expand my knowledge on the subject so I have a better understanding of what’s going on. Educating yourself means gathering information. It doesn’t mean you know everything and are a top expert on the subject. It just gives you some understanding of what’s going on (if possible).
After you’ve done some research, time for you to be an advocate for yourself. It’s easy to just give up but know what you can and cannot do. Or at least try. For example, if you’ve been dealing with shoulder pain for a while now, I’m hoping that you have taken the steps to educate yourself. Research a bit on shoulder pain, reach out to your trainers, see what they are saying, if it’s not going away then what steps should you take? Have you gotten a massage, gone to get manual manipulation done, gotten an MRI, etc?
If you know that pushups hurt your shoulder, then STOP doing them. (But also, are you doing them incorrectly?) Stop TRYING to push through every single workout. Be an advocate for yourself. You only get one body, take care of it! I find that a lot of people who deal with injuries don’t advocate for themselves, and haven’t educated themselves. They may be dealing with an ongoing issue but still continue doing the things that hurt them or get irritated because they’re in the programming. It’s ultimately up to YOU to decide what you can and cannot do.
One of the next things I have learned during pregnancies is that not every day I feel the exact same. Some days I can do walking lunges and bird dogs, other days that cause me a lot of pain. So regardless of being pregnant or not, take an inventory of how your body is doing. If you are stressed out, been up all night with a toddler, have worked out 4 days straight, maybe you need to take it easy on the 5×5 trap bar deadlift today. Maybe 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps may be more beneficial for you.
There is something to be said for lifting heavy and hard when you are stressed but there’s also a time to pull back and understand that we cannot always perform our best when we are not in the best circumstances. Taking an inventory of how we are feeling gives you permission to focus the workout on what you need, instead of feeling defeated because you are not up to your standards.
Although we may take an inventory of our body, do we really listen to it? I really find that pregnancy has taught me to listen to my body. Yes, there are days where my mind is telling me to skip a workout, eat all the pizza, or whatever it may be, but what I’m saying is that I try to focus on what my body is telling me. This tends to be a trial and error situation. Those days where you tell your body to be quiet and you end up going really hard in your workout then you feel like garbage afterward and don’t recover well. Maybe (probably) you should’ve listened to your body and rode the AirDyne for a leisure 5 minutes instead of going all out with Wall Ball Shots and burpee for the finisher. It’s not “cheating”. You’re not getting ripped. You are honoring your body and mind.
The last, and I feel the most important, concept that I have learned during my two pregnancies is to embrace the season you are in. We can get down on ourselves because we are currently not what we used to be. We aren’t using the same weights that we did a year ago for bench press, we don’t fit into the same jeans, our hair is getting grayer, etc. Maybe you’ve had family troubles, you’re in menopause now, your kids have left the nest, you’re pregnant (!); these are all things that take a toll on us and at times “change” us. It does us no good to dwell on the fact that we are not what we used to be. THIS is the season of your life. Embrace it. Go with it. I am not saying to lie down and give up. But give yourself understanding and grace in this new territory. This concept is really challenging and I struggled with it a lot during my first pregnancy.
I had many anxiety attacks because it was all so unknown and I am a creature of habit and routine. I hated feeling like I wasn’t in control. But once I gave myself compassion to just embrace the season of life I was in, I could see things from a different perspective. This season was not going to last forever. I may not ever go back to “where I was before” but I also was not going to be the “person I was before”. I would be a completely new person: a mom.
There are many more concepts and new ideas that I have learned during pregnancy but these 5 are the ones that stick out to me most. We all have stressors in this life, especially in our current world (coronavirus epidemic for those reading in the future), and we need to remember that this will not last forever. We will get back to a routine. It may not be the routine we were used to in the past but we will adapt. Take time to educate yourself, be your own advocate, take inventory of your physical and mental state, listen to your body, and embrace the season you are in. Seasons change and so do we.