Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Exercise and My First Trimester of Pregnancy

Now that I'm almost at the end of my first trimester (I'm at week 14 right now), and everything looks pretty good with my developing baby, I felt like it was time to start sharing with you all my experiences in the weight room during these first three months.

Many of you probably already guessed I was pregnant by the nature of some of my recent posts, but before I was ready to start telling my own story, I wanted to make sure everything was going well (and so far, so good).

First off, this pregnancy was completely unplanned and unexpected. In fact, I was told most of my life that I'd likely never be able to have children due to issues I had with my cycle (more on that later, but in short, I was amenorrheic for 5+ years with no completely clear explanation.... no, I wasn't too skinny, I didn't undereat, blah, blah, blah.... I had chronic yeast and bladder infections in my teens, and I was recently on bio-identical hormones for 15 months). So, it was to my utter and total surprise when I randomly decided to take a pregnancy test at home when my period following cessation of my bio-identical hormones didn't come as expected and I saw two lines instead of one!

I'm guessing I became pregnant at the end of June/beginning of July, RIGHT AFTER I had graduated from my 1 year dietetic internship AND just completed my 5 year PhD. Pregnancy was the last thing on my mind. All I really wanted to do was to start a normal, non-student life for the first time EVER, and get my body back, as I had lost it along the way while writing my PhD dissertation and doing my internship at the same time this past year.

The first signs I was pregnant were about 7 days after implantation: I started feeling uncontrollably tired any time I set foot in the gym (any time I started exerting myself physically). My training partner even made fun of me and thought I was just trying to be a wimp. But, I honestly couldn't even do what I wanted to even though I set up a great training program to get me in awesome bikini-shape.

Then, it was about a week later that I took the pregnancy test and almost passed out in shock: "Me? Pregnant? Never! Ahhh!!!!!"

It took awhile for me to adjust to what was happening, but then I decided that it was all good and that I'd now work on building a 'super baby'. For nutrition, I turned to all the recent pregnancy nutrition research for guidance (such as choline supplementation, which isn't widely known about), and tried to maintain a good diet. I'll talk more about diet in another post though (I had a few weeks of extreme sugar cravings... yuck).

For training: I didn't really know what I was supposed to do and not do for exercise, especially for strength training. I was confused by the older pregnancy and exercise advice to keep heart rate low during exercise (less than 140 bpm to keep body temp below 38C). But this advise was then revised due to new research showing that women who trained at higher body temps and heart rates had no ill effects on their babies.
The book, Women in Sport by Barbara Drinkwater, and The Pregnant Athlete Chapter has some good information about strength-training exercise for pregnant women and basically says that if a woman exercises strenuously prior to pregnancy, she can do almost that during pregnancy, up to a certain extent. According to the authors, there are risks to the fetus of overly strenuous strength exercises such as:
  • decreased maternal blood glucose values, especially later in pregnancy (it's more common for pregnant women to develop hypoglycemia during exercise as the baby grow larger due to the baby's increased demand for glucose);
  • reduced uterine blood flow which would be an issue for both the mother and fetus - however, the baby is protected from this more than the mother because the placenta has a high oxygen extraction rate
  • increased maternal body temperature in response to exercise - however, research on this shows that women become more efficient at dissipating heat as pregnancy progresses
Overall (from Women in Sport), women who exercise during pregnancy are advised to:
  1. Avoid prolonged or strenuous exercise during the first trimester (I can attest to that because you're so darn tired and nauseous in the 1st trimester)
  2. Avoid isometric exercise or straining while holding your breath
  3. Avoid exercising in warm/humid environments (I had to have a fan on me in the gym almost every time I trained...)
  4. Avoid the supine position after the 4th month (I've been bench pressing as much as I can now...)
  5. Avoid activities that involve physical contact or danger of falling (mountain biking is contradicted, to my demise... even though I still mtn biked up until a few weeks ago).

My experiences
1) Oh, the Fatigue:
For me, I wanted to continue weight training with the same intensity that I had been doing before, but that just wasn't happening. As I said, I was extremely fatigued in these first three months. I made it my goal to go to the gym everyday after work, but on some days I was just too tired, and opted to go home and simply walk with my dogs outside. Then, other days, I'd get to the gym (with my eyes closing on my way there) and have to take a power-nap in the parking lot before I started working out. One time, in the gym where I train clients out of, I got there a bit earlier than my appointments, and took a George Costanza Nap - I put my gym bag on the floor under a desk and completely passed out for 20 mins; it felt great.

Also, about 1 month into the pregnancy, was my husband and I's one year anniversary. We got married in Vermont last year and so planned on returning there to do a long weekend of hiking in the Green Mountains. This was all fine and dandy (I love camping), but my body had a really hard time getting up those mountains... I just had no energy at all. My husband even had to get behind me when the mountain was steeper and help push me up. It was pathetic.... but understandable.

2) Recovery: Another issue I was having after I did get in a good workout (this involved exercises like heavy front squats, med ball slams, chip-ups, bench press, ropes) was that it was taking me a lot longer to recover both between sets and after the session was over. I'd be sore for 2-4 days, where I only used to feel like that if I'd take a long time off the gym. And, between sets, I'd have to rest for much more than 2 minutes sometimes just to catch my breath.

3) Strength & Stamina: In this first month, my strength stayed relatively the same, but my stamina suffered. I often cut a workout short because I just didn't have the energy for it.

4) Nausea: I was extremely nauseated from about week 5 to week 10 (I know that's not that bad as some women have it for many more weeks with even worse symptoms). As such, sometimes it was really hard to get in a good lift because all I wanted to do was eat something to ease my upset tummy. Thankfully I never vomited, and thankfully, I found some great remedies that really helped ease the nausea such as Sea Bands and a few different homeopathics.

5) Back & hip pain: I was diagnosed with a Grade 1 spondylolithesis (basically a broken spine) at L5/S1 when I was 15 years old as a result of my gymnastics training. At the time, my back doctor told me that if I got pregnant, I'd have really hard time with the pain I normally experience, especially as I got bigger. Well, I experienced my first bout of really bad back pain at about week 8 after my husband and I flew to MN to visit family. All the sitting and the lack of good shoes totally threw my back and hips out of place. My physical therapist has now recommended that I start wearing a SI belt on a chronic basis to help with my hip and back instability that's progressively becoming worse through the pregnancy.

6) Core Strength and Kegels: Also because of my increased demand for a strong core, pelvis and glutes (due to my back issues in combo with pregnancy), I've really kicked up my core and glute training. Additionally, I'm finally learning how to correctly use my kegel muscles which I think is a department I was sorely lacking in before. Some of the key core exercises I'm focusing on are: bird-dogs, prone and side bridges, staggered kneeling cable chops and rows, swiss ball jacknives, and front body-loaded exercises such as Zercher squats and front squats.

Now that I'm nearing my second trimester I'm starting to kick my intensity back up. For the past two weeks I've been training pretty hard 3 days a week. On the other days, my training is light or it's outdoors with my dogs or on my bike.

I'm looking forward to these next 6 months and will share with you what's going on. Thank you to all the women that shared their pregnancy & exercise experiences. I am still working on this for an article, but need to collect some interviews from gynecologists and researchers.

Ok - now I'm off to teach boot camp tonight.... doing all the work I can while I'm still functioning normally.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Celebrity Interview on Ready to Launch Fitness

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Casey Roberts of Ready to Launch Fitness. He called it a "celebrity interview" although I wouldn't exactly classify myself as one [just yet, that is ;) ].

He's also interviewed popular fitness trainers and advocates such as Dan John, Adam Glass and Forest Vance. Check out what they have to say about dieting, training and living healthy.

To read my interview by Casey and see what my thoughts are on these topics, click here.

Thanks, Casey!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Great post by Coach Dos

This morning I read an enlightening blog post by Coach Robert Dos Remedios about the popular TV show, "The Biggest Loser" and I wanted to share it all with you.

The Real Biggest Losers.....the viewers

I absolutely LOVE what Coach Dos wrote here for this post. In summary, although "The Biggest Loser" is one of the most popular TV reality weight loss show, it really has a lot of flaws.

I'll let you read what Coach Dos wrote to get the whole picture. Thanks, Coach.

In other news, my 12-week ultrasound on Monday went VERY well. My baby is progressing along nicely: no signs of any NTDs, all his/her parts in the right place, and it's circulation is doing what its supposed to do. I was a bit disappointed because the quality of the scan wasn't so great (the machine looked pretty old), and so we (my husband and I) didn't get the best look at our new creation. However, the doctor was very pleased with the baby's development and said the baby looked "beautiful".

So, now that it looks like everything is going the way it should, I'll start blogging about my pregnancy experiences. My due date is March 23 (or so...) and right now I'm about 14 weeks. My weight for the first trimester really hasn't increased a lot, only about 1-2 lbs depending on when I weight myself, but my body fat is a lot higher. This could be because I've lost muscle and gained fat, or it just could be because fat really doesn't weigh that much and when I put on fat, it's mostly right under my skin (subQ). My tummy is starting to buldge, my chest has grown a full size and my recovery in the gym is a lot longer than it used to be (I'm sore a lot longer after I lift than I ever have been before).

OK - more on that tomorrow. Today I have to study a few hours for my RD exam, which I'm taking on October 5th, then I'm helping my training partner move our gym to a new location (we're moving the gym to a place 3times bigger, so I'm going to have a lot more room to work with my clients and teach my boot camp classes which I plan to teach as long as I possibly can and have 2 morning and 2 evening classes lined up until the end of November for sure).

I hope everyone else has a great Friday and weekend - today's my day off from the clinic, so I'm using it to get as much done as I possibly can (which includes also planning the next two nutrition classes that I teach at Univ of Conn. , studying for my RD exam, getting some much needed housework done, working on an article, etc...and of course, getting in at least 3 solid workouts.... busy, busy)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Get to know your neighborhood while improving your fitness.

One of my most favorite things to do is ride my bike outside.

Now, I'm not a fast road biker in fancy spandex - I tried that sport, but unfortunately, because of my back (I have a grade 2 unstable spondylolithesis at L5/S1 with a herniation at L4), I can't tolerate the flexion position of a road bike, no matter how I adjust the frame.

The bike I ride sits me more like the picture above; mostly upright. And this is a very comfortable position for me to enjoy the beauty of the world around me, while on my bike.

Today was my day off of lifting in the gym and, just my luck, it was a gorgeous one. My husband and I spent the morning at the Hebron Harvest Fair watching the Dock Dogs, Extreme Motocross, and checking out the cute barn yard animals (my favorite are the goats). We returned home at about 2pm (It was getting hot and I wasn't doing so well in the heat), and then spent time with our neighbors celebrating their daughter's 7th birthday.

With my day off, I also enjoyed some "treats" - a slice of birthday cake and an oatmeal raisin cookie - and boy, they were good ;) So, my planned evening hour ride (about 10 miles for me on my Granny bike) was well worth it.

But, what I love the most about riding outside, is, unlike spin class, where you're stuck indoors praying that the air conditioning will work, you get to enjoy the secrets of your own neighborhood and discover new places and people.

For example, I live in a pretty rural part of Connecticut (and I love it). My house is surrounded by a few different farms including tobacco, corn, berry, apple, and peach, and each time I go out for a ride from my house I find either a new farmer's market or a new farm.

Tonight I found a new peach farm just up the road, a new farmers market (Juknis Farms) and then discovered a beautiful field of sunflowers (and I'm a total sunflower fanatic - so I had to stop and say hello to all of them). I also had the opportunity to admire some of the nice homes in my area and fantasize what my future dream home would look like - I don't want anything large or obnoxious, just something open and spacious (minimal walls), with plently of land around it and LOTS of sunflowers.

My whole point of this blog post is just to share with you how wonderful the world can really be when you take the time to admire what you have around you. At the same time too, you can burn some calories, build some cardiovascular endurance and challenge your muscles (especially if you find some great hills to attack... which I did).

You don't have to bike, you can run, or hike, or roller blade, or snowshoe or cross-country ski,.... you get the idea. Just do something that gets you outside and gets your heart working and muscle fibers contracting. No matter if you live in the city or the country, there's always something new to explore and appreciate right in your own neighborhood while you work up a good sweat. Plus, when the weather's co-operative, it helps you open up your mind and take away any unwanted stress.

After my ride, I fired up the stove to boil some local corn-on-the-cob, some East coast mussels and steamed green beans with butter. It was a perfect conclusion to a perfect ride and a great way to end my weekend. I'm looking forward to this upcoming week as tomorrow I'm having my week 12 ultrasound and will get to see how my baby is progressing, and then on Wednesday I'm teaching my third night class at UConn on the topic of carbohydrates and can't wait to share new research with the students on how lower-carb diets are very effective for certain health conditions.

I hope all of you get to enjoy a wonderful week ahead, and if you can, will soak up the beauty in the world around you.

In health and fitness,


Monday, September 7, 2009

Guest Blog: 7 Excellent Blogs for Wellness Tips

Today's blog comes from Mary Ward, a freelance writer who blogs about various job issues in the health care field, including how to study to obtain a MHA online.

7 Excellent Blogs for Wellness Tips

As people search for ways to improve upon their overall wellness, they look to the top blogs out there as one source of information. Though there are a number of blogs out there that focus on health specifically, these blogs will help you to pull out some general wellness tips as you get to better health in the process.

1. Dr. Weil – The nice part about this blog is that it offers a wide array of topics and some very common questions that one may have about wellness and health. No topic is off limits as this doctor goes in depth on everything from sexual health and well being to Vitamin D deficiencies, measuring all along the way just how important these factors are to your wellness. A very comprehensive blog indeed!

2. Wako Wa Salon: Everyday Wellness – This is one blog that appeals to the people and tells you that from the start. This is a blog that focuses around healthy living and wellness overall, with a strong focus on alternative medicine. Rather than throwing out traditional recommendations or going with the general public on all issues, this blog asks for content and contributions from those who know. The content is captivating and you are sure to learn something about wellness on here.

3. Deepest Health – Though the focus of this blog is on Chinese medicine and alternative approaches such as acupuncture, it also incorporates a deep understanding of wellness. You can learn some rather unconventional practices from the mainstream, but get a deeper understanding of how wellness pertains to your life and overall well being.

4. Medicine World – This isn’t what you would expect as it is overseen by a practicing physician, but focuses on your overall well being. The news stories are interceded by personal postings to give a fresh point of view. This is nice as it strays from the mainstream in that it focuses on well being rather than just how to get to better health alone from a very real and informed perspective.

5. Workin on My Fitness – Though the main focus is initially on diet and exercise, it encompasses healthy living and wellness overall. This blog offers a fresh and interesting perspective from a real person with a real point of view. She is down to earth and focuses on why good health equals overall wellness as part of the equation.

6. Balanced Health and Nutrition – What makes this an interesting blog is the fact that it calls out misconceptions and possible misinformation in the media and helps you to understand how to decipher all of it. That’s only one aspect of how this blog focuses on your wellness and how to achieve the results through healthy living and a good positive attitude overall.

7. Onibasu – As this blog focus is on alternative living and health practices, you can gain some excellent insight into wellness. You can learn everything about eating for your health to how to center yourself for proper mental health, making it a very comprehensive and easy to understand blog.

Good wellness tips are hard to come by, but these blogs make finding the good stuff easy. Follow along and be well!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

From Science Daily: Discovery of new gene that controls fat cell development

I just read this article today on ScienceDaily.com and thought it was pretty interesting. Apparently, researchers at University of Central Florida have discovered a new gene that regulates fat cell formation. This new information might have important applications for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.

To read more, click the link below. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pregorexia: scary, but very real

Pregorexia: some of you may have heard of this term, some of you may have not.

This term didn't even exist until up to a few years ago and was coined to describe the plethora of pregnant women out there who do everything they can to prevent the natural weight gain of pregnancy. From over-exercising, to over-dieting, this phenomenon is more than real, and it's very, very sad.

Where did this new trend for pregorexia come from? Well, we can't really point fingers, but with the Hollywood obsession our society has, and the recent trend for pregnancy among female actresses, we can't help but notice how thin these women stay while carrying their next child.

For example, stars like Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman both looked unnaturally thin during their pregnancies, leading all women to believe this is the norm.

Now, I'm not saying that women need to stuff their faces silly during their pregnancies, or abandone their exercise routine. Not all all. But, restricting calories and pushing exercise even when your body is yelling at you to back off, is totally wrong.

To define pregorexia, it's a term often used to describe preoccupation with weight control through extreme dieting and exercising while pregnant. Physicians are concerned that more women than ever are experiencing this condition, without ever realizing the health effects they're having on their unborn.

I found this story by a woman named Maggie Baumann, who experienced pregorexia during both her pregnancies. Her story is very sad. Due to her restrictive eating, after birth, one of her daughters eveloped seizures and attention deficit problems, which her doctor suggested may have been linked with poor fetal nutrition. Now, Maggie is a family therapist who is trying to help women avoid this condition. Here's some of her story below with a link to the remainder.

Pregorexia: Starving for Two
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pregnancy is a time for most women to embrace the wonders of pending motherhood. Picking the baby's name, speculating about the sex of the baby, and often, enjoying the freedom to "eat for two" make up some of the traditions expecting mothers experience.

However, for me, pregnancy was a nine-month battle in which I lived in a dissociated state from my body-- horrified by my expanding "self" that protested every ounce of weight I gained.

I did not experience the freedom to eat for two; rather, I experienced the restriction of starving for two.

Here are some other good reads on pregorexia:

(It's very interesting to read the comments below these articles).

Also, on a personal level, one of my physician friends told me her experience with one of her clinic patients while in Ob/Gyn residency: "This thin woman, of 36 years, tried for 14 months to get pregnant. When she finally did, she didn't give up on her intense exercise and dieting regimine, but kept this quiet to us. Until the day she came in for extreme bleeding. She miscarried at 10 weeks. Since she was at the age of genetic abnormalities in a fetus, we did complete genetic testing on the unborn. Nothing was found. When we did a complete history, all we could identify was her intense exercise and dieting as the cause, supported by her very thin and lean build."

Overall, if you know you struggle with food and your body prior to becoming pregnant, and you would like to produce a healthy child, please address these issues with someone who can help you (your therapist, etc).

Remember, you're creating a new life. You wouldn't be here unless your mother took the care to create you, and the same holds true for your unborn child. You don't have to gain more weight than recommended, but you should at least aim for those recommendations (between 20 and 40 lbs depending on your height and prior weight). And, remember, after your hormone levels balance back out, your body will quickly revert back to normal, especially if you were fit before pregnancy, and if you breastfeed. So don't fear pregnancy, ebrace it, and look forward to the new friend and family member you're about to meet.