Friday, January 1, 2010

Second Trimester Exercise Experiences

The third trimester is here! And, boy, my second trimester was a great one! Yep, I'm now at 28 weeks and a few days and am definitely looking pregnant (instead of just chubby...haha). However, for the most part, I wouldn't even know I was pregnant except for when I look in the mirror - I feel great!

My second trimester was just awesome. I taught boot camps 8 times a week (three on Tuesdays and Thursdays, one on Friday and one on Saturday) and for the most part, actually physically did teach them and had no issues what-so-ever! My classes consisted of everything from high intensity Tabata training, to battle ropes and prowler pushes (as seen in the you tube video above), to weight lifting circuits and kettlebell intervals. So, pretty serious and nothing pink and fluffy.

The second trimester started in the month of October (I became pregnant pretty much exactly on July 1st). By this time all my nausea had left and my energy came back. My strength was also very similar to pre-pregnancy except for a few things, which I'll outline below.

In summary, here's how my second trimester was in terms of exercise and training:

1) Energy
As I said, my energy came back at about the 10 to 12 week mark and I took that as a sign to start kicking up the intensity. Which I did. My first few days of teaching Tabata classes were a bit rough, but once my endurance improved in a few weeks, I was doing better than some of my class participants.

2) Strength
I'm amazed at how strong I've stayed, other than for many body weight exercises. Because of my increasing body weight (I've gained about 14 lbs to date), exercises such as pull-ups, inverted rows, and now, even pushups, are a lot more difficult. I definitely am unable to do an pure unassisted pull-up, and lately, my pushups have been lame. However, my lower body and back strength in lifts like the deadlift and squat are pretty awesome. Even my bench press still rocks at a max of 135 lbs (yes, I'm still doing supine work because it doesn't bother me at all - my OBGYN even approves).

3) Endurance
I will have to say that my endurance now is better than it was pre-pregnancy. But, that wasn't hard to improve: prior to becoming pregnant I was both finishing my PhD dissertation and RD internship, so rarely had time to workout hard at all. Now, with all my HIIT training in my classes, my endurance is excellent.

4) Body Heat Regulation
Thankfully I'm progressing through my pregnancy in the winter, so keeping my body temp in a safe range while exercising is not an issue. When it's been hot outside or when I have too many layers on, I do definitely feel uncomfortable.

5) Recovery
My recovery still leaves a bit to be desired. Whenever I lift heavy, I pay for it for a few days. I've tried a few different nutritional tactics to try and improve this, but I'm pretty sure it's just the fact that I'm growing another human that my recovery isn't so great. But, I still push myself hard and just make sure to take more time to relax after.

6) Body Composition
Interestingly, my belly is definitely growing, but I haven't gained a pound in the last 4 weeks (during my 6th month I've stayed at 150lbs). My husband has told me that he noticed that my body is looking leaner, especially in my butt and thighs. He said it's because I'm finally eating better - in my first four months, I was craving sugar and food like I'd just come back from a hard outdoor excursion. Now, my cravings and appetite are so much more manageable. This combined with my exercise routine probably is leading to some fat loss (yes, fat loss during pregnancy is possible!).
One of my girlfriends who just had her baby this past February 2009 told me that she didn't gain anything in the last 3 months and her arms, thighs and butt shrank. Her baby was born at a healthy 8lbs and had no issues at all. So, I'm hoping I'll have something similar happen because I did pile some fat on my legs in the first trimester from my outta control sugar binges.

7) Aches and Pains
With my back issues (spondylolithesis), I thought I was going to be in much more pain by this point in my pregnancy. But, with all the core strengthening work I do and the absence of exercises that hurt my back (like back squats and ultra-heavy deadlifts), I've been pretty much pain-free. There were a few weeks where I had sciatica pain, but I think that was due to the baby, because it just magically disappeared one day. Now, I'm experiencing rib pain from my expanding rib cage, but, unfortunately, there's not much I can do about it. I just try to ignore it and working out actually helps me forget about it.

8) Goals for the next three months:
Well, given that I feel great and have almost no issues doing what I'm doing now, I'll continue to train hard for as long as my body will let me. A lot of people ask if I'm going to lighten up, but I've told them that I'll only do that if I have to (i.e., I hurt, I'm feeling sick, etc). Other than that, why do I have to reduce my intensity if everything is progressing in a healthy direction? My baby and belly are growing at the proper rate, my health is great (yes, I am fighting off a slight cold right now, but it is the winter and I was bound to get a bit sick at some point), and my energy is wonderful. What else could I ask for?

Now, just keep in mind: every woman is different, and every woman has to listen to her own body and make the best decisions for her and her baby. Just because I'm staying really active doesn't mean every woman has that luxury. Be smart, listen if your body says stop and ensure you fuel it with the best foods possible.


Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing some insight into your experience. As a male, I am often overly cautious when working with any female client who happens to be pregnant.

While I do ask for direct feedback and make some adjustments accordingly, I tend to automatically scale the intensity back so that any pregnant client is going at about a 7 out of 10 on any given effort...........basically a level where I feel there is still plenty of benefit but certainly not pushing the envelope.

I also tend to cut out bench pressing toward the beginning or middle of the second trimester and opt for elevated push-ups or even standing cable presses on the functional trainer at my gym. Based upon your mentioning that you keep bench pressing in right now, I am guessing that there is not the increased risk I may have associated with that movement. I had previously been under the notion that supine exercises might cause an issue with bloodflow to the fetus (although I suppose this struck me as odd since a woman would likely still be lying supine (at least to some degree) when sleeping.

Do you think I just received some poor info in that area and that, based upon feedback from any pregnant women I work with (as well as their conversations with their OB), I should reconsider the use of bench pressing toward the middle of the pregnancy?

Best wishes for a great 2010 and the seamless arrival of your first child!

~Rick Haberman

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Hi Rick

For supine exercise: there is data by Dr James Clapp that shows blood flow is minimally if at all impeeded during supine exercise. But, for relaxing, blood flow is reduced. I find this in myself - I'm fine in the gym, but get nauseous at night if I end up on my back while sleeping.

Overall, the risk of supine exercise to blood flow is minimal, but again, each woman has to gauge that herself - If she feels sick during exercise on her back, she should discontinue it.

You did receive info that is outdated - but the ACOG still does not recognize the work Dr James Clapp has done unfortunately....

Thanks for your note!

janelle said...

Hi! I just found your blog and I think it's great. I just had a baby 7 weeks ago and I look at this post and get all emotional. Honestly I miss being pregnant. I miss feeling the baby move inside me. The birth came too quickly.

The third trimester got difficult for me around 34 weeks when I got a huge aversion to eating healthy and working out. Now that he's here and it's time to workout again I have a newfound desire to eat right and exercise. Anyway, I'm happy to have found your blog and I look forward to your postpartum posts as well.

Jen said...

Glad to hear that your pregnancy is going so well.

I was also active well into my two pregnancies (not as active as you, but I have a desk-bound career), and I'm always glad to hear about other moms who choose to stay strong if they can instead of taking a break.

One point I'm curious about, is whether being active during pregnancy affects the baby in a way I'd consider positive. Both my kids seem to enjoy being active more than I did -- endorphin junkies from birth? :) I wasn't an active kid, so I wouldn't consider their tendencies to be genetic, although some of it could be "nurture". Do you know of any research about this kind of thing?

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Janelle: thank you for your comments! Interesting that you only felt an aversion to eating healthy and working out at 34 weeks. Some women start that avoidance at conception! Good for you!

Jen: Dr James Clapp has observed many very fit pregnancies and the babies for several years after. His work suggests there are many health and psychological benefits to the child. However, I don't know if he's observed that the children are all very active or not. But, it's great that yours are! I hope my baby girl is like that too!