Dear Fitness Expert,
I'm 26 years old and 6 months pregnant with my first child. I have gained 25 pounds in the past 6 months. I'm 5'9 and approximately 230 pounds.
I was a bit overweight before I got pregnant and I am having so much trouble trying to exercise. I can't keep up, I get tired too quickly, and can't breath. I used to belly dance and Irish dance for 12 years before I got pregnant so I'm used to being fit, though I've never been "tiny."
I am really concerned that I'm not going to bounce back after pregnancy.
My doctor tells me I have no restrictions and that I am healthy, but I am gaining a little too much too quickly. I haven't eaten any more then I did before I got pregnant, I'm just not as active.
Do you have any suggestions for me?
Yes. Stop worrying.
Here's why. First, you have already spoken to your doctor. Good for you! And, you have an athletic/dance background. Excellent! This tells me that you have good muscle memory and have a strong core.
We have a book, Entering the Mother Zone, I would love for you to read but I will give you the highlights. I cannot tell you how many athletes I interviewed from skating, skiing, running, swimming, track, gymnastic, dance, rodeo, karate/martial arts backgrounds who while all elite athletes, gained weight differently. Some just had a basketball under their shirt while other hard core athletes with amazing work ethic just seem to pack on the pounds.
As for me, I had three pregnancies. My first, I did basically nothing and gained some 50 pounds. With my second pregnancy, I trained like a beast, was named Athlete of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee and had my workout routine used by the International Olympic Committee as a gauge for what athletes could do while pregnant. I gained about 50 pounds. In my third pregnancy, retired from bobsledding and not touching the heavy weights or sprinting, I earned my black belt -- low impact, low weights and gained about 50 pounds.
Genetically, you are going to do what you are going to do. Now ... is this an excuse to eat everything in sight and not train? No way.
I can also tell you that childbirth and delivery for the athletes who worked out have faster, easier deliveries on the average. They recover faster, return to the gym more quickly, have healthier pregnancies and are reportedly happier. What and how you eat WILL determine how easily you get back to your old belly dancing self!
And how you work out will make a huge difference in the labor room and what follows.
Drink lots of water. Take your prenatal. Continue a cardio workout with light weights and I promise, it will greatly benefit you. But stay busy, stay active. Keep away from soda pop and fast foods as those foods will retain water and fat. If you have specific questions about how to train, let me know. Good luck!
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!