Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Pregnancy Got Me in the Best Shape of My Life

For this Workout Wednesday, we'll revisit something I chat about with friends almost daily: staying fit and healthy while pregnant.  I posted this on another blog in 2011 right after Jordan was born. 

DISCLAIMER TIME: check with a doctor before you being an exercise program, especially if you're expecting.

From December 2011:
Staying in shape while I was going through my first pregnancy wasn’t easy but it was certainly worth it with the payoff being a relatively easy delivery. The lessons I learned while pregnant can certainly carry over to life without a bowling ball in your stomach.

At 34 weeks
I experienced only two solid months of morning sickness, so bad at one point I had to stop an interview with a Texas Rangers outfielder and run to the restroom thinking I was going to hurl. The final seven to eight months were relatively pain-free. I worked and exercised up until October 23rd, the day before I gave birth to Jordan.

Losing Weight While Pregnant
Interestingly, I lost weight those first two months of pregnancy.  Eight pounds to be exact. I joke that pregnancy, divorce and, as I have later found out, having a newborn are the best weight loss strategies around. I attribute the initial pregnancy weight loss to a variety of reasons: no alcohol intake, no coffee drinks and avoiding trans fat-laden baked goods.

The alcohol was a no-brainer. I wasn’t taking in those empty wine or margarita calories but I also wasn’t doing any of that late-night snacking to help avoid a hangover.  You know what I mean: the kind of snacking you think will help sop up the alcohol? It’s rarely broccoli or chicken breast.  It's tacos and french fries.

38 weeks pregnant
Avoiding the hooch wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be but socially it was killer.  Post-game cocktails and networking are part of my job as both afford any reporter opportunities to talk off-the-record with individuals and learn things that would be tough to do so otherwise. I was too tired to go out after a game thanks to the pregnancy itself sucking my energy. I also didn’t want to deal with that boozy smell post-game watering holes tend to have. So for the absolute first time in my career, I didn’t have one post-game cocktail during the NBA playoffs. I didn’t step foot into my favorite post-game watering hole for even a glass of water. Apocalypse! This meant no after-party when the Mavericks won the NBA championship. A concept that 15-year Gina (a rabid Mavs fan) could never imagine.

The coffee thing surprised me. I was (and am once again) a certified coffee addict. I thought I could consume decaffeinated coffee simply to get a mental pickup from the coffee but for whatever reason, during my pregnancy, I just couldn’t stomach coffee. Literally. I would immediately regurgitate it. It repulsed me.

The baked goods thing was interesting. I noticed an increase of muffin and bread consumption during my pregnancy but I couldn’t do those crackers or cookies from the vending machine. You know the kind with the preservatives and trans fats that every nutritionist on the planet says you shouldn’t eat? Yeah, those. Things like animal crackers or Wheat Thins made me queasy.

I actually craved watermelon and broccoli. Both are two foods I love but I couldn’t get enough of them while pregnant, especially during the hotter-than-hell summer months. I was eating about two large watermelons a week and would get cranky if I didn’t get enough broccoli.

My Pregnancy Workout
I really didn’t show until about my fifth or sixth month. Certainly my 5’11 frame and long torso had something to do with it but I credit a relatively easy pregnancy, free of cankles and stretch marks, to exercise. I worked out religiously. It gave me an energy boost that the lack of caffeine couldn’t. It also kept my weight in check and provided an almost therapeutic hour of freedom that no psychologist could.

My routine was a solid five-day-a-week regime. Some weeks I exercised more, others less but for the most part, I was on track. I lifted weights, did pilates until the eighth month and got my heart rate pumping.

I ran until my 6th month. At that point the pounding of a tiny nugget of a baby was too great on my bladder. Instead I turned to the treadmill and cranked up the incline to 15% while going between two and three miles an hours. I called these my treadmill walks, which proved to be just as challenging a workout to me as an 7:30 mile. I was done in 30 minutes and had my heart rate pumping.

I maintained that regime while traveling the country covering the Dallas Mavericks NBA Finals run. This included freezing power walks in Portland, pilates on my hotel room floor in Oklahoma City, hikes in Los Angeles and runs through seriously scary neighborhoods in Miami. Whatever it took, I did it because exercise was vital to keeping my energy at a high level.

The final month of my pregnancy, I dialed it back a bit: less stressful workouts and lighter weights. I wasn’t able to bend over the way I normally did thanks to the belly that finally experienced the big pregnancy “pop”. I was still able to fit the workouts in and when I checked in to deliver Jordan, my weight was only about 25-26 pounds over my standard pre-pregnancy weight.

My friends who have kids hate when I say this but here goes: the payoff was a relatively easy labor. I won’t bore you with the details but I started pushing at 5pm on Monday October 24th and delivered baby Jordan at 5:16pm. My doctors and nurses all credited my strong stomach and pelvic floor for the uncomplicated delivery. It was truly five good pushes and she was out.

Here are some lessons I learned while pregnant that can be applied to postpartum life:
  • When it comes to exercise, more isn’t better. Because I was so busy with work commitments, I was quick and efficient in my workouts. 45 minutes to an hour, tops. I have spent two hours in a gym doing an hour’s worth of cardio followed by another hour of weight lifting and stretching. I have trained for marathons which kept me running three to four hours. The problem with that excessive exercise was that my hunger was insatiable. Run 15 miles? Eat three 400 calorie cookies. Doesn’t quite mesh.
  • Greens are key. I’ve always been a vegetable eater.  Always. But during my pregnancy, I increased my bulky fiber intake to help keep things moving, if you get my drift. This saved me from ballooning and it’s a good lesson postpartum to maintain.
  • Relax, both physically and mentally. That is just as important in a healthy lifestyle as eating right and exercising. Some days I was so exhausted from walking the distance of the parking lot to the entrance of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington that I could barely walk down the stairs to get to the clubhouse. Those nights I would come home and collapse and subsequently sleep a ton the following days. The rest did me good. It also helped with the pregnancy hormones that raged through my body. The physical part of this relax thing is easier for me than the mental part but something tells me raising a tiny nugget will teach me that in due time.
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