Is Swimming a Good Option?

QUESTION

Dear Fitness Expert,
I have always been a person who runs at least 6 miles a week. Since I have been pregnant, I have walked every now and then. I have borderline high blood pressure and when I work out, my heart rate reaches up to 160-180. I am now 14 weeks along and was wondering if swimming would be a better option for me. I am not referring to "lounge" swimming but actual breaststroke, swimming back and forth at a slow speed of course. Would this be a good option for me?

ANSWER

I am glad you are staying on top of your blood pressure and trust you are actively talking to your doctor about this. Pregnant or not, you always want to keep an eye on your nutritional and physical activities. Stay strong, eat well should be your modus operundi. Swimming is a wonderful way to work out -- as is fast walking -- but with the heat upon us, I vote for the pool.

Six-time gold medalist U.S. swimmer Angel Martino trained in the pool throughout her pregnancy. When I first spoke to her and her trainer/husband, Mike, they were concerned because even as an Olympic athlete, the conventional thinking was always "stay at 140 beats per minute." Finally, they realized she was happier [and healthier] when she swam at the pace that "felt right."

Because she was already in great shape, holding at 140 beats per minute felt like a warm-up. Instead, they would allow her heart rate to go up to 180 for two laps. Then, she would take a few cool down laps to let her heart rate go back to 140. Again, she would swim hard, repeating the process for an hour-long workout.

While you may have never won gold in breaststroke, swim to the pace that feels right. Swimming in this manner will keep you strong, your muscles lean, heart strong and disposition happier. And when Mamma's happier, baby is happier! But because I am a safety nut, let's do this. Take some laps at the pace your feel most happy with. Stop ¼ through your routine and take your pulse. Again at the mid-point and at the end of your workout. Keep a journal, writing down the time you started, how many laps you did and your what you did.

For that matter, records any other activities (and diet) to share with your OB/GYN. It is also a fun way to track your progress as you move through the pregnancy. You will see the typical peaks and valleys of training -- months five and six you will drag, months seven and early eight you will have renewed energy.

Good luck and keep us posted!

-- Alex

Alexandra Allred

Alexandra Allred is a former member of the US Women's Bobsled team, is an accomplished martial artist, and continues to teach kickboxing while juggling her career as a full-time writer and mother of three. She has interviewed hundreds of athletes, models, actresses, trainers, doctors, and health/fitness experts as she sought to find answers to her own questions about working out while pregnant, arranging breast-feeding around a training schedule, diet when pregnant and breastfeeding, and encouraging her whole family.

Alex is the author of ten books, including Atta Girl! A Celebration of Women in Sports and Entering the Mother Zone: Balancing Self, Health & Family. We're excited to have her on board!