Ask the Coach #2: Maintaining Fitness Through Pregnancy

We have a new "Ask The Coach" promotion with our friends over at Pinnacle Sales NW, as an opportunity for athletes all over the globe to submit questions on anything regarding training, performance, gear, you name it. Every week we'll answer a new question, and once a month we'll pick a winner to receive a new pair of Darn Tough socks. THEN, every six months we'll pick a winner who'll get a brand spankin' new pair of La Sportiva trail shoes of their choosing! 

To submit a question, go to Pinnacle Sales NW.

Ask the Coach #2: Maintaining Fitness Through Pregnancy

Q: Hey Coach! I'm currently 18 weeks pregnant and pelvic pain is keeping me from getting out for more than a few miles at a time. I want to maintain as much leg and cardio strength as possible so I can get back out on the trails happy and healthy after the bub comes. In addition to Pilates for my hips and core stability, what can I be doing to maintain my climbing leg strength and conditioning over the next few months?

A: Congrats on the new little adventurer! I (Alison) love talking about pregnancy and training, but I should start with the disclaimer that I’m not a PT, so seeing someone who specializes in pelvic pain might be helpful if you haven’t already. Now onto my perhaps long-winded answer.

For aerobic endurance, hiking uphill can still be a great workout. The old recommendation of not elevating your heart rate is exactly that-old. If your body is used to running, steep trails like Cable line, Mailbox peak, Tenerife, and Snoqualmie mountain, are not very long, but offer plenty of challenge, especially as the baby grows and takes up more of your upper body, making it harder to get full lung capacity (thanks, fetus!). I encourage pregnant women I work with to think of it as additional mental training for ultras.

 The author heading up Asgaard pass six months pregnant.

The author heading up Asgaard pass six months pregnant.

In addition to hiking hills, squats are really good bang for your buck in terms of increasing leg strength while also giving you a tool to add to your labor repertoire. Squats strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, and tend to feel really good for pregnant women, easing pressure in the hips and low back. Once labor starts, they can give you a distraction from the otherwise all-consuming experience that is birthing a babe. Twice a week, start with three sets of ten repetitions; if you have access to a gym, you can progress the exercise by adding weight, ten percent at a time, so that the last two reps are challenging but doable. In general, you'll need less weight for goblet squats than back squats, so if you don't have access to a gym, try goblets. A dumb bell, sack of flour, backpack filled with books, or any other creative means, can be used for additional weight.

Beware of Squatting no-nos!

If you find that you’re losing strength and conditioning, remember that your body is going through a gigantic change and while you may be going slower, you very well could be getting the same training effect from it, given the extra work your body is doing. In that way, you may even find that you’re stronger after pregnancy than you were before. I hope you continue to feel good through the remainder of your pregnancy and best wishes for a good labor experience and a healthy, good sleeper!