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Fit Pregnancy: Exercise in the Third Trimester

Posted Sep 13 2009 10:22pm

32 weeks today! Which means I have 8 weeks left. Unless good karma kicks in - I totally let two people go ahead of me in line at the grocery store as they had way less items than I did; I know, someone saint me - and then I could possibly pop this kid out in 6! I wanted to write something really happy and positive about how continuing to exercise through my whole pregnancy has made this last part a breeze and how I'm still glad I'm Turbokicking butt this late in the game. But. I'm fighting off my third seriously nasty head cold in 6 weeks (and no I don't think it's related to the flu shot I got a week ago but rather I have no immune system when I'm pregnant). I'm tired all the time. I have chronic heartburn.

And I feel huge. Not just huge. Whale-esque. I'm so big and uncomfortable that rolling to my other side at night is such a production that I actually have to wake up to do it and use my arms. The best part of this end stage of pregnancy is what Heidi Klum cutely terms the "exploding" part of pregnancy. She says,
"The last month is unbelievable, how rapidly your stomach goes. It’s huge. The thighs, the butt—everything explodes in the end. But it’s bizarre. Just as it’s a miracle that you can grow a human being in your belly, it’s a miracle that your body goes back to normal again. I don’t think you ever get back to exactly the way you were, but you do get close. And I’m happy with that. Especially when you see your kid for the first time.”
She's 100% correct. They say in the last month or so the baby gains 1/2 to 1 pound a week. You can imagine what that makes the mother gain. Of course she's also right about the miracle of birth and the baby being worth all the trouble. And I'm sure I'll remember that joy. In 6-8 weeks.

Oh right, I'm supposed to be telling you about exercise in the third trimester and not just whining? I'm going to be honest: it's hard. All the trimesters (I say that like there are more than three - whatever, it feels like forever at this point) have their own challenges. The first tri you don't need to make any physical modifications but the exhaustion and nausea certainly take a toll. The second tri you get some energy back but lose most ab work and cardio gets harder as the baby makes more of a demand on your cardiovascular system. The third tri, however, requires the most adjustments. You have to modify nearly every exercise you do.

Me, at 30 weeks.

Cardio
Walking up the stairs carrying a basket of laundry leaves me panting and so breathless I consider it my own version of the biathlon (you know, minus the rifles - although stranger things have happened in this house) so doing any actual aerobic exercise is quite the effort. I still do it but "low and slow" is my new mantra. While I do really enjoy the endorphin rush, it does hurt my pride to not be able to keep up as well in my favorite classes. If I push too hard I end up sacked out on the couch for the rest of the day - not really an option with other kids to care for and a job. Normally exercise gives me more energy but by the end of pregnancy I'm just so tired. The other thing - and I'm not sure at this point if it's a bonus or a problem - is that cardio gives me mad Braxton-Hicks contractions. Not contractions as in "my water's breaking, someone call an ambulance" but just uncomfortable tightenings that kinda take my breath away, not to mention my mind. (It was during one of these contractions that I forgot what I was doing and kicked Gym Buddy Dennis in Turbokick. Thankfully he was gracious enough to wave it off.)

Weights

Thanks to a little condition I like to call Hormone Hell, weight lifting has become its own challenge. The first issue is with the hormone aptly named relaxin. It's responsible for loosening up your ligaments and joints so that the baby can squeeze its huge noggin (like an orange on a toothpick!) through your narrow pelvis. Unfortunately it does its job so well that all your joints get loosey goosey thereby making you less stable and more prone to injury. I'm clumsy enough these days without adding 20-lb dumbbells to the mix!

The other hormone involved is our favorite girl estrogen. In your last trimester of pregnancy your estrogen levels are about 400 times higher than they are at any other time in your life. This megadose of estrogen not only makes it nearly impossible to build muscle (similar to the effect you see when you go on the pill but on a much bigger scale) but also makes it very difficult to maintain the muscle you have. What is estrogen good for? Why storing fat of course! And yes I know the fat is good for the baby - especially if you carry it in your thighs - but it's still frustrating to know that I'm losing muscle and gaining fat, pretty much the opposite of what every exercising woman is trying to do. The net result of all this hormone madness is that weight lifting feels a) really hard and b) futile. But I'm still doing that too - mostly in a last ditch effort to preserve some muscle mass. Plus I get to sit down a lot, something usually frowned upon in other forms of exercise.

Other Exercise

Even my beloved yoga is getting difficult. My gym doesn't offer special prenatal classes and so I just do the regular ones and modify the poses but it seems like I'm spending an inordinate amount of time in down dog these days.

So have I convinced you all to never have children? Or made you glad your husband got that vasectomy five years ago? Or just made you really glad you're a man? Then my work here is done.
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