by Linda Purves in Training Tips

Alternative exercises during pregnancy

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A running friend of mine popped out her first baby as if it was just another station in her circuit class:
…station three: step ups, station four: wide squats, station five: give birth…
She had continued to run all through her pregnancy and seemed to take the challenges of each new trimester in her stride – literally. Even having to nip behind a bush every hundred metres as her expanding bump left her with a bladder the size of a pea didn’t seem to slow her down and her enthusiasm for running never once dipped.

A running friend of mine popped out her first baby as if it was just another station in her circuit class!

So, imagine my disappointment when it was my turn. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t disappointed to be pregnant, no! I was disappointed that I had to stop running at only three months. I too had looked upon pregnancy as just another added extra in my training schedule and hadn’t once considered the possibility of running not being an option. As it was, my body had other ideas and soon found its own way of telling me it was time to hang up my running shoes for a while.

The decision to stop running was based on definite physical symptoms but the effects of the decision were every bit as much psychological at the time. It wasn’t very long ago that pregnancy was looked upon as some sort of illness and the inflicted were practically advised to hide themselves in a hole in the ground until it was all over.

Attitudes have changed these days and continuing to lead a normal lifestyle is encouraged with the benefits of exercising well documented, including the following:

  • Continuing to exercise during pregnancy helps to keep your body fit in preparation for the potential stresses of labour
  • Less excess weight, other than baby weight, is likely to be gained although this largely depends on whether you find yourself craving chocolate and whipped cream sandwiches at regular intervals!
  • You will feel more positive about yourself and your body image
  • Your recovery after childbirth will be quicker

The devastation I felt on discovering my body no longer felt comfortable with the idea of running was soon remedied by simply remembering that I could still exercise. I think many runners, myself included, sometimes become a little blinkered to other forms of exercise and feel the world will end if anything threatens to interrupt their training schedule!

Suitable alternative methods of exercising during pregnancy are:

Walking

I remember once reading an article written by a runner who described his feelings on walking as part of a marathon training programme with the lines, “ Previously, I’d rather have chewed through my own Achilles than walk when I was supposed to be running.” I must admit, as a life-long runner I found the prospect of going for a walk really uninspiring but I found a solution – I borrowed my friends dogs. Going for a walk just felt too weird but when I took a dog for a walk, it all made perfect sense!

Swimming

A really great form of all-round exercise without any high-impact stresses being placed on the body. Swimming can normally be continued right through pregnancy and the only down-side is that you might have to invest in a slightly larger swimsuit – or at least a really stretchy one!

Cycling

This wouldn’t be the ideal time to learn how to ride a bike so assuming you already can, cycling creates another low-impact alternative to running. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can access safe cycle-paths or park trails, cycling really can provide many of the elements you may miss from running such as the wind in your hair or the rain on your face! However, it’s worth remembering that as your body shape changes, your centre of gravity also changes and balance will be affected so take care not to allow any cycle adjustments made to accommodate your bump lead to you falling off into a ditch.

Being active, albeit not running, gave me a much needed psychological boost and the key to remaining active throughout pregnancy is simply to be sensible. General medical opinion is that there is no reason not to continue with activities you normally do but it’s always advisable to check with your doctor before doing anything new.

This is one time when listening to your body really matters – let’s face it, runners are renowned for their tendency to carry on running through the odd ache and pain! But, it’s important to pay attention to Mother Nature in this case. Any activity that begins to cause discomfort or pain should be stopped – mother knows best!




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