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Jan 28 2014

Exercising While Pregnant, Pee Breaks and All

By at 9:29 am

pregnant woman lifting weights

I was a little late to the exercise game. When I lived in Boston, I walked nearly everywhere. Between that, my relative youth, and living in graduate student poverty, I stayed fighting trim. After moving to North Haven, a place with no public transportation and vast distances between things, I bought a car and embarked on a sedentary lifestyle. After a few years essentially without a social life, where most evenings were spent on the couch eating cheese and crackers and watching Netflix, I had become downright zaftig.

I’m only 4’10”. I don’t have many places to put excess. Once my expansion had finally sunk in–thanks to an inadvertently exposed midriff in a family photo–I embarked on a lifestyle change. From a hilarious aerobics class to a new found love of yoga, Pilates, and eventually running, I went from couch to half marathon in about as much time as it had taken me to merge with the couch in the first place.

When I became pregnant, I was determined to keep up the good work. For a few weeks after the two blue lines, I took the dog out for runs. While usually we’re good for a few miles (even though his legs are only three inches long), I found myself breaking out in flop sweats after the first half mile. We toned it down to walks pretty quickly. As I entered the doldrums of the first trimester, even walks became slogs. My husband started having to take the dog for his exercise, while I trudged behind.

I tried to keep up with my weight lifting, too. I was surprised one day to find that I could barely hoist a 10-pound dumbbell over my head. I downgraded to fives, a little ashamed. Won’t the baby weigh more than five pounds? Who is this weakling I’ve become?

A muscle spasm in my right butt put an end to any movement for about two weeks. Each step was agony, like the Little Mermaid in the Hans Christian Andersen story. Even the simple pelvic tilts and squats recommended by every prenatal yoga video ever were too much.

Finally, finally, the first trimester ended. My butt returned to its usual self, and I resumed teaching my informal Pilates class, held at the charmingly dilapidated North Haven Y. The class has met for almost four years now with three or so gung-ho students, and I was happy to get back to it.

I got to the gym early before the first class to give myself time to do some cardio. I got on the treadmill and even kicked it up to a slow jog. I could feel my increased blood volume pumping through my system, and it felt phenomenal.

For about 10 minutes. At which point the bouncing of a fetus against my bladder–never large in the best of times–got to me. I hit pause and ran to the locker room. I ran back to the treadmill, which had forgotten all about me in the meantime. I started up again. I lasted another 10 minutes and had to make a break for it.

My students arrived, and we set up for class. I hit the bathroom again before we got started, but as soon as we did roll-overs I had to go. And again before the side kick series. Oh, and once more before weights.

The class has been running pretty regularly since November, and each time it’s a new experience. There’s a pretty established routine–I arrive early to jog/pee, and we get started. I’ve mostly gotten the bathroom breaks down to one. I’ve been modifying the class since the beginning of the session, but each day I discover a move that due to either my shape or the fact that my abdominal muscles have migrated to approximately under my armpits I can no longer do. Push-ups aren’t a possibility anymore, and my legs definitely don’t go over my head. Balancing on one leg is a new and exciting challenge every time I gain weight or change shape.

Luckily, the yoga instructor on North Haven is also pregnant, about two months ahead of me. Whenever I can, I go to her early morning class, where every move is just perfect for a couple of bellies like ours.

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