Pregnancy as a Professional Athlete
10 Ways to Stay Strong and Healthy During Pregnancy
After Brad and I were married last December, we began talking about the possibility of having children. Our dreams became a reality earlier this year, and we are expecting our first child in January 2018! When I found out, I was immediately excited about this new adventure in our lives, but on the other hand, I couldn’t help think about the sport I love, the racing I love, and how our triathlon lifestyle – traveling, training and spending time with our friends – might change. What about my shape, my race-ready fitness and the great support I have from my sponsors? I also had the whole 2017 season planned and was really looking forward to all these great races coming up.
But then I realized there would never be the perfect time in our lives to have a baby. We have always had a full schedule and calendar of races and events to look forward to and could have kept saying, “maybe next year,” forever – until it was too late. I certainly didn’t want to wait and regret it for the rest of my life.
I don’t feel like I have had my last word in the sport of triathlon – I know I want to come back after the baby.
I know it will take dedication, but I am motivated by several friends who have not only come back to their professional triathlon careers after pregnancy, they have come back stronger! With tips from these inspirational women and a few things I have figured out on my own, here are 10 ways to stay strong, fit and healthy during pregnancy:
1. Everyone’s pregnancy is completely different, and everyone handles the crazy pregnancy hormones in a different way, so I’ve learned to never compare myself with the other ladies. Always fully focus on your feelings, don’t be too hard on yourself. All you do during your pregnancy is focused on a healthy baby and you.
2. Don’t diet! Eat what your body asks you. In the last 4 years, I have been eating a gluten low diet just because I have felt it is good for my performance, but the pregnancy changed it all. At one point I could eat only pasta with tomato sauce or sandwiches.
3. Exercise regularly. Because my body was used to cycling, running and swimming every day, keeping my body moving has been the key to feeling good and staying fit during my pregnancy (my pregnancy is also non-risk, so keeping my exercise program was cleared by my doctor). I learned pregnant women need more oxygen, so aerobic activities are good for you and your baby as long as you don’t overheat and stay hydrated. From about 12 weeks, I made sure to wear my heart rate monitor during exercise to make sure my heart rate doesn’t get too high. If you can have a conversation while exercising, your heart rate is likely at a safe level!
4. Go to the gym. I’m still going to the gym, but my routine has changed a bit. I work on my glutes, quads etc. but skip the abdominal muscles.
5. Sleep a lot! Before I was pregnant, I would have a coffee to stay awake if I felt tired. Now if I feel tired, I take a nap!
6. Wear comfortable clothes for sport. Until 20 weeks, I was able to wear my normal cycling bib and jersey, but now I feel like I need to go one size up. Also, I’ve discovered having cycling shorts without the bib is necessary because I have to stop on my rides for a wee and it saves a lot of time!
7. Adjust your bike for comfort. At 20 weeks I also felt like it was time to adjust my bike so I was no longer in the time trial position. In the forward position on my Liv Avow Advanced, I began to feel pressure on my belly with each pedal stroke. I have the option to move to my road bike and also ride my Liv Pique Mountain Bike, but if you only have one bike adjustments can be made to make it more comfortable and upright (like adding spacers and moving the stem higher as well as adjusting the handlebars). I have noticed that I am taking more care to ride carefully, especially on the road and descents. Still, there are so many options to ride and stay safe on bike paths and non-technical trails!
8. Swim! Swimming has been the best solution for staying fit, relaxing and getting rid of swollen feet.
9. Always carry a snack. Especially during my first trimester, having a snack on me at all times was essential. I didn’t eat big meals, but I felt like I had to eat every hour or so or I would get sick. I would even have snacks by the bed to eat in the middle of the night or before I got out of bed in the morning!
10. Find some good friends and make exercise dates. There have definitely been mornings when I wake up and don’t feel like doing anything, but once I get out the door I feel so much better. Having someone there to ride, run or swim with will give me the motivation to get outside to exercise and breathe fresh air.