fitness training through pregnancy first trimester

2018 was intentionally a big year for me. Squeezing in an ultra marathon (and 2 half marathons and a marathon), a middle distance triathlon, a few cycling events, and a mountain race as part of a climbing and adventure holiday in Italy before the end of September.

The reason? My partner and I had decided we wanted to embark on one of life’s ultimate adventures: having a child. So, I became pregnant in September 2018. Here are a few of the things I've learnt and reflections from the first trimester.

Sleep

I like getting an early night as it is, but I was falling asleep at 9pm and could sleep for over 10 hours every night. I had to come to terms with the fact I could rarely get up early enough to get to the pool for a pre-work swim, but I realised I could fit in a 5km run. So that’s what I did. The fatigue was like no other I felt. It wasn't just lack of sleep or physical exhaustion, it was a whole new kind of fatigue. I hadn't really appreciated how much it affected me until I was over it, and I probably could have cut myself a bit more slack.

Fatigue

I had read that my blood pressure would drop and I would feel tired in the first trimester, but when my running speed hit an all-time low I really thought that might be the start of the downward slide for the rest of the pregnancy. However, when I got past 12 weeks, my body adjusted and there was enough blood in my veins to adequately deliver oxygen to where it’s needed, so I got the spring in my step back and my speed went back up! Workouts felt mentally and physically less of a chore too, but I am so glad I stuck with it in those early weeks as I benefited further down the line.

Risk vs Reward

Cycling: I continued to cycle to work every day for the first 12 weeks (28km round trip to central London). It was hard at times when it was dark and I was tired, but I knew I would miss cycling when it came a time I wouldn't feel so comfortable doing it, so I tried to continue to appreciate the fact that I could cycle to work. After 12 weeks, the weather became very wet and cold, so I’d cycle when it wasn’t so wet and slippy.

Mentally, cycling keeps me happy which is good for the baby, but I also had to weigh up the risks of cycling through London. I stopped cycling when work broke for Christmas; I was 16 weeks pregnant.

Climbing: I was bouldering and climbing throughout the first trimester and just doing easier routes and used it as socialising time with friends. My fatigue was really tough on some of those days. After a day at work and commuting to the climbing centre sometimes I would spend a lot of time sitting on the mats! But for me, as long as I got enough sleep, it was better to be there with friends than be at home on my own.

Variety is the spice of life

It was a real bonus that I have several different activities that I enjoy: swimming, cycling, running, yoga, Pilates, climbing, outdoor boot camps, and using the gym. It meant that there was always something I could do depending on my energy levels, the weather, work/life demands, and my mood. It helped me keep my fitness up, reduce stress, and cope with the many changes I was going through physically and mentally.

Symptoms and side effects

I’ve only written about the fatigue as something that affected my training as this really was the one big thing I had to work through. I was very lucky in that I didn't feel nauseous and do feel for those women that do! Being active throughout the first trimester probably helped (or I am just very lucky!) Nevertheless, it helped me feel a little more in control of myself and my thoughts.

The big secret

I didn't tell family or work until I had my 12-week scan which was tough but I’m glad I waited. I had to make up a reason to my boss as to why I couldn't attend a Les Mills trainers’ course (the course leader said it wasn't suitable for pregnancy), and I would get caught out when someone asked what my next fitness goal was or invited me on a ski trip! But you get used to the little untruths you have to say in those 12 weeks. It was worth it and it felt like such a big relief after that 12 week scan and when I could announce the happy news!

First trimester pregnancy training routine

  • 5-12km run x 1-2
  • Outdoor bootcamp x 1
  • Climbing x 1-2
  • 5-2km Swim x 1
  • Strength based gym session x 2-3
  • Cycling to work 28km x 5
  • Occasional spin class

Pregnancy fitness tips

  1. Everyone is different and everyone has different pregnancies, share experiences with friends but don't compare.
  2. As long as your GP says there are no reasons why you can't exercise, you can keep doing what you've been doing before you got pregnant in your first trimester. However, you may feel like you want to make adjustments and you may feel you can't deal with the intensity. Listen to your body and take each session by session if you need. There are some very risky activities to avoid such as scuba diving.
  3. Knowledge up! Begin to think about arming yourself with some knowledge about training in pregnancy. Talk to someone with a Pre and Post Natal Exercise qualification. I have this qualification myself and it gave me confidence to keep training. Or read up, I have the book The Pregnant Athlete by Brandi Dion and Steven Dion.
  4. Find the right balance between: a) cutting yourself some slack and being kind to yourself as you deal with some big changes and emotions Vs b) not wasting those 12 weeks in bed or on the sofa, losing fitness and strength that you'll be thankful for towards the end of your pregnancy, birth and beyond, and losing out on all the mental and physical bonuses that exercise offers.
  5. Try to enjoy it, you won’t get this time back and you never know if/when you will be pregnant again. Take each day and add in manageable things that you enjoy. Remind yourself that your body is doing the most incredible thing!

About the author: Sophie Kennedy is a Sundried ambassador.