Alternative Exercise – I’ve rediscovered some energy

I'm moving so fast my dog is standing still!

I’m now 21 weeks pregnant – just over half-way through my 40week pregnancy adventure! Fun facts: I have gained 12 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight, and I now register at 132 pounds – a number combination I’ve never before seen on the scale! As my waist has vanished, replaced by the novel curves of my belly,  my stretchy-top jeans are a must.

John and I found out the baby “appears to be female,” so we’re looking forward to a daughter! I can now feel the baby moving day and night; the movements started by feeling like pre-race nervous jitters in my low abdomen, but now they’re stronger, more like I’ve swallowed a fish that is thrashing around in my stomach, and if I put my hand on my stomach, I can actually feel her moving. The movements are strong enough to keep me awake at night; I’m sure her exercise will only continue to help me get my beauty rest as she grows bigger and stronger.

I had a bout of pneumonia which was frightening both in the fact that it was pneumonia (!) and that it landed me in the maternity emergency room (thankfully, all recovered now), combined with the phenomenally low humidity (2% or less) and winds (60mph!) we’ve been experiencing here in Albuquerque, has kept me mostly inside and inactive for the past few weeks.  However, with coughs and congestion behind me and since I’ve been feeling much more energetic, I’ve venturing back into exercise, both inside and outside.

Exercise (not “running”).  As my belly has gotten bigger, my bladder more and more squashed, and my fatigue threshold increasingly humbling, I’m now serious about alternatives to running: some way to get my body moving, get out some energy and pick my mood up, in ways that are comfortable for my pregnant self.  Some of my favorites so far include, but aren’t limited to, “wogging,” hiking and walking, rock climbing, weight/strength training, swimming and yoga. (Remember, always, always discuss your physical condition and planned activity routine with your physician or midwife before launching into any activity! What works for one woman doesn’t necessarily fit for the next.)

Running! or, the "fast" part of wogging.

Wogging Whoa – what? “Wogging” is my glam term for walk-jogging, which is about all I’m comfortable doing on the jog-running spectrum. Running presents some serious obstacles for me: growing belly, lack of balance, squished bladder being bounced upon, newly giant breasts.  So far, I’ve managed these awesome physical side effects of being pregnant by choosing wogging routes with ample bathrooms or bushes; getting sturdy new sports bras that have three (not 1, not 2…) hooks on them, which I discovered are seriously a gift from the running gods, despite my initial cringing at having hardware on my sports bra; and by shortening any planned runs to roughly 40 minutes.  I used to scoff at the walk-jog routine, associating it with the painful road back from major injuries; however, as I have been recovering from pneumonia and the aforementioned pregnancy side effects assert themselves, I’ve discovered the walk-jog routine is truly awesome.  The jogging portions allow me to get my heart rate up, pretend I’m graceful, and make me feel good, while the walk breaks allow me to actually keep going, catch my breath, and enjoy the scenery without worrying so much about stumbling.

Walking the dog.

Hiking and walking Albuquerque is blessed with an abundance of hiking options: trails in the foothills

Hiking in the Sandias.

and Sandia Mountains provide rolling and steep trails, while trails along the Bosque of the Rio Grande river are flat, meander through cottonwood groves, and allow my dog to go for her much-loved swims. Walking: I’m lucky enough to live about 2 miles from the University of New Mexico, where I am a grad student, so I walk to and from school nearly every day, and my husband and I also try to get out and take evening walks with our dog. Walking and hiking are low-impact ways to just get out and give your muscles an active massage and get a little work out of them!  You can push as hard or as little as you like, and it still feels great.

Rock climbing While this might be the most nontraditional activity on my list, it’s one of my favorites.  Lately, John and I have been going to the local climbing gym, and while I’ve grown out of my normal harness, I’ve graduated into the full-body pregnancy harness, which allows me to climb safely while not putting pressure on my abdomen. I don’t recommend starting to climb while pregnant, but since I’ve been an active climber for nearly a decade, continuing to climb gives an incredible strength and flexibility workout in a controlled environment –and also keeps me a bit more social! I do climb more conservatively, and will not risk lead climbing, but top-roping and bouldering problems are great.

Weight lifting/strength training Weight lifting is a great way to increase the strength and endurance of your already active body.  While being pregnant has added some complications (e.g., refraining from doing activities lying on your back like bench press and not being able to lie on your stomach or curl forward as completely), in general, I have continued my normal body-weight centric weightlifting routine with only small modifications.  Again, pregnancy is not the time to start an aggressive weightlifting, but it does feel good to continue my strength training routine.

About to swim some laps.

Swimming I grew up swimming, was on the high school swim team, and love it.  This skill has proved to be a lifesaver throughout my injury-prone running career, and now, while flip-turns have become less efficient (and slightly more hilarious), I can still knock out a few thousand yards and feel wonderfully refreshed post-workout.  Aqua jogging is also another option in the pool, but I tend find it hideously tedious (especially alone!). Best of all with swimming: I am weightless!  Apart from the awkwardness of the belly, swimming is the time I feel most like my regular self.  An even bigger swimming perk is yet to come: as I lumber through the 100° Albuquerquean summer, I can only imagine the heavenly escape a dip in the pool will be.

Yoga I attend a prenatal yoga class – it’s a wonderful, easy way to meet other women who are also pregnant, have some peaceful time for reflection, stretching and meditation, and offers opportunity to discuss and prepare for childbirth in a non-clinical forum.  It is basically a “regular” yoga class, sans tricky balance poses or inversions.

Other low-impact exercise options? A non-pregnant, professional runner friend of mine, Lauren Fleshman, is all about her Ellipti-Go.  I’m not lucky enough to have the use of one of these awesome contraptions, but it looks like great fun and good training.  I use the standard elliptical machine at the gym for a low-impact cardio workout, although, like aqua jogging, I associate the elliptical too much with the tedium of injury to enjoy it much.  I’m also not much into cycling, although many pregnant women are avid cyclists.  Any of you all have other activities to suggest? I’d love to hear them!

Another whole discussion to have: How hard can a pregnant woman exercise safely?  What scientific research has been actually done on the topic? And, any interest in a casual women’s-running group here in Albuquerque?

Again: always, always discuss your physical condition and planned activity routine with your physician or midwife before launching into any activity! What works for one woman doesn’t necessarily fit for the next!

6 thoughts on “Alternative Exercise – I’ve rediscovered some energy

  1. Doing great, Mags! You are an inspiration. I remember trying to run down the hall after a student when I was teaching French and about 20weeks pregnant with Eldon. It was a very interesting sensation:). Haha. I remember that pool oh so well! Spent many long hours there!

  2. EXCELLENT exercise choices! And I might add, that along with swimming, the pool running will keep you in tip-top shape for afterwards. I LOVED feeling our LO moving around inside, his little kicks and punches. Sometimes I would gently push back or tap on that side several times to receive some more punches and kicks back. 😛 A little game we liked to play. 😛

  3. magdalenadonahue

    Thanks! yeah, the pool running actually feels great when I can wrap my brain around it – or if I can find a partner to help pass the time. I love the feeling of the baby moving around – it startles me awake at night, in classes, while I’m walking/swimming/wogging/etc….it’s completely other-worldly!

    1. magdalenadonahue

      Actually, I don’t use the floaty belt normally, so it hasn’t been an issue. It takes more work to keep your head above water, but you can still aqua jog with good form without a belt. I’m not sure how you’d clip a belt on with a big belly…maybe I’ll have to try it and see how it works?!

  4. UArunner

    Although not currently pregnant, as an avid and competitive runner myself with dreams of bearing children one day, I am excited to begin following your blog. (Thanks to your sister for pointing it out to me!) Glad you are feeling better and cheers to a healthy rest of your pregnancy!

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