I have always loved cardio. In high school, I played field hockey and lacrosse, and in college, I picked up running. After college, I started running races, eventually graduating from 10Ks to half-marathons. This past spring, I ran my first full marathon.
My Pre-Pregnancy Fitness Routine
Before I got pregnant, my workouts consisted of sweaty runs around my neighborhood or indoor cycling classes.
I would wake up on weekends to jog long loops around the city, make weekends out of traveling for road races, and feel genuinely better—both mentally and physically—after a good sweat.
It’s not that I only did cardio. As a health journalist, I knew the importance of strength training. I worked it into my routine—typically by way of bodyweight exercises or yoga classes—when I could.
Thing is, I’d grown so accustomed to the good sweat of cardio that strength training never felt quite as satisfying.
Workout Routine, Meet Pregnancy
This past fall, I found out I was pregnant. At first, not much changed. In fact, I’d run my fastest half-marathon ever just a few days prior to learning the news.
However, just a few weeks later, I started to experience some of the not-so-lovely side effects of the first trimester of pregnancy. Overwhelming nausea and absolute exhaustion (the kind that makes you want to sleep all day) hit me hard.
Not only did it really crush my desire to work out, but it also made my go-to forms of fitness (read: runs and indoor cycling classes) particularly difficult.
In addition to these symptoms, my boobs also grew a lot (seemingly overnight), making running downright uncomfortable. Even after buying a slew of new sports bras better constructed for high-impact work, running felt weird. After just a few steps, I found myself winded; by the time I hit a mile, I was maxed out. It was like I was running in a body that wasn’t my own—and it was incredibly frustrating.
Switching Things Up
Finally, I accepted that I had to broaden my fitness horizons if I wanted to stay active throughout my pregnancy.
I’d heard that one of my go-to cycling studios here in Boston (B/SPOKE Studios) offered an off-the-bike, mat-based strength-training class, and signed up.
A mix of bodyweight and weighted moves (think squats, planks, and more), the class actually left me sweaty—and a little relieved. I’d gotten in a solid workout that didn’t require me to wear an uncomfortable sports bra or bounce around.
Since the workout agreed with my body, I kept going back—and seeking out other forms of strength training that could fit into my pregnancy workout routine.
Soon, I was regularly attending B/SPOKE’s strength-training class and yoga classes—and doing their at-home strength workouts instead of running or cycling.
At first, I was bummed about turning down invites to go on long runs with buddies. I missed a crew of familiar faces at certain studios and felt envious of people I saw out jogging on Saturday mornings. But my change in strategy came with its own perks.
For one, I started to feel seriously stronger doing day-to-day tasks—something I knew would come in handy once I had a baby to carry all the time. When we moved apartments, the work didn’t tax my body as much as I expected. I also found myself boldly going for heavier and heavier weights—score!
Plus, strength work also allowed me to target areas specifically important for pregnancy, such as the pelvic floor. The workouts felt truly tailored for this time in my life.
Not only did I feel stronger, but I also started to look stronger and more toned. In a time when I often felt that there was so much I couldn’t do, this made me feel confident.
I also noticed that, even on days I didn’t feel well, strength work provided me the opportunity to do something. Often, even a short arms workout in my apartment lifted my spirits.
Though it took some trial and error to find the workouts that really worked for me, my new fitness routine helped me feel strong and accomplished in a constantly-changing body.
Strength For The Long Run
Now, as I start my third trimester, I spend significantly more time strength training than doing cardio. (I still try to get out for a short run or spin class when I feel up to it.)
Hitting the weights or setting aside an hour for yoga helps me feel healthy and confident, and builds strength I’d been lacking but will certainly need in the months to come.
Working through the unexpected changes of pregnancy has taught me the importance of adapting—and made me more comfortable doing so. Knowing that I have no idea what to expect in the days, weeks, and months after having my baby, I’m confident I’ll be able to roll with the punches.
Maybe I’ll be able to go out and go for a walk or a run. Maybe I’ll turn to one of my at-home strength workouts, or maybe I’ll have to find something entirely new.
I feel more equipped to handle these unknowns now—and more prepared for the physical work of being a mom.
I’m not going to lie: I’m excited for the day I can lace up and head out on a long, sweaty run. Ultimately, though, I’m glad I was forced to explore other forms of fitness. In the end, my stronger glutes, quads, and hamstrings will only make me a better runner.