Fit and pregnant

A fit pregnancy used to be an oxymoron. Not anymore. This year, after tracking three different women here at Club Emerald, it seems that there is a new sheriff in town when it comes to modern pregnancy. Gone are the days of 50-plus pounds of weight gain. Gone are the days of doctors saying sit down and take it easy for the next nine months. Thoughts like don’t lift anything, let me get that for you, don’t jump around and, whatever happens, do not exercise, are all distant memories provided that the pregnancy follows a normal progression.

Michelle Renati, Crystal Moller and my wife, Katie Welch, all spent an extensive amount of time here at the club lifting weights, taking spinning or yoga classes, using treadmills, stepmills and elliptical trainers. They generally tried to maintain their respective levels of fitness throughout their pregnancy terms.

Dr. Hal Zimmer, an obstetrician/gynecologist with a thriving practice in Bellevue, sees all shapes, sizes and health histories when it comes to expectant moms. His prudent advice when it comes to working out is to try and maintain your level of fitness once you are pregnant, and not to start a new, expansive program to ward off the impending weight gain. If you generally run outdoors two times a week, stay with it but be prepared to switch surfaces to a safer platform such as a treadmill (no bumps, holes or debris in the road to step over).

Physiological constraints should include monitoring your blood pressure and being aware of joint laxity as you progress further into your term. Blood pressure could gradually build over the course of the pregnancy as tissues and joints begin to retain fluid. A sudden spike in blood pressure could be cause for alarm, and instant notification of your doctor is recommended. Neither Michelle, Crystal or Katie had any blood pressure issues, and in fact Katie’s nurse double-checked her blood pressure numbers to confirm the 110 over 72 result a few hours into labor (normal is considered to be 120/80).

As the body increases its production of red blood cells, sometimes a euphoric sensation follows those who are regular cardiovascular athletes, and they feel as if no distance is too great to be covered during a workout. Once again, caution rules the day as repetitive stress injuries could be in your future. Set a time or distance limit and stick to it.

The body’s preparation for birth also includes a relaxation of the cartilage around the joints to help widen the birth canal, and some women feel as if they’ve been given the gift of Olympic gymnasts and can suddenly jump into the splits. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The muscles do not magically gain indefinite elasticity, and this gift could actually lead to serious injury.

All three fit, pregnant women felt these were unique problems to have after comparing stories with other friends who either didn’t feel well enough to follow an exercise routine, or who were advised to discontinue their exercise routine. All three carried their babies to full term, with a weight gain of between 17 and 25 pounds. All three chose epidurals during delivery, and none regret that choice. Michelle felt more nauseated during the first term than either Katie or Crystal, but brushed away thoughts of it actually being problematic.

Full-time career women, each began scaling back their work hours around the sixth month, but continuing to work through the ninth month. Michelle returned to work on a full-time basis as a licensed massage practitioner at four weeks post-delivery; Katie resumed her work as a personal trainer/group exercise instructor on a part-time basis at exactly one month post-delivery; and Crystal has chosen to remain at home for now (she is a real estate agent) while her husband, Wade, has plunged into ownership in a new Italian restaurant named Cantinetta in Wallingford.

The point of all this is that the rules have changed. A healthy pregnancy will be uniquely determined by each woman, obviously in conjunction with prudent advice from a reputable doctor. Current post-delivery workout advice is to do as little as possible initially following delivery. The birthing process is a relatively traumatic event. Healing can take days or weeks, depending on the individual’s experience. Walking before running, indeed baby steps, is the way to safely regain your health.

Katie was back in the gym a few days after the birth of our son, Braydon, and complained of a little low back pain early on as her joints began realigning themselves. Modifications including adjusting the tempo and surfaces for cardiovascular work, and a selective weight training scheme to minimize joint trauma for a couple of weeks. Within a few days, all was well. Michelle began easing back in about two weeks after the birth of her daughter, Kherington; a little sleepless, but otherwise feeling quite good. Crystal also returned to exercise in a few days by walking her baby girl, Remington, around town, and then taking the occasional exercise class within five weeks. By six or seven weeks, the ‘three amigos’ felt their energy returning to normal, their strength on the rise, and their cardiovascular health intact. Perhaps most significantly, all three children were safely ensconced in the very capable, very powerful arms of their mothers. It’s a new day, and a new way.

Islander Bryan Welch is the co-owner of Club Emerald.

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