My name is Amanda Lim and I am a 36 year-old personal trainer, nutritionist, and soon-to-be first time mum – I’m having a girl in February 2020! I am also a Certified Perinatal Corrective Exercise Specialist and have been working with prenatal and postpartum clients in the gym since 2015. That said, nothing prepares you for the journey of actually BEING a pregnant woman in the gym and I want to share with you the things I've learned over the past seven months.
I always told myself I'd be somewhat of a warrior princess when I got pregnant; nothing would faze me. As I tend to do in my "normal life" (a life that seems so far, far away since growing into this pregnant body), I figured I could just mentally push through whatever symptoms pregnancy threw my way – mind over matter. Luckily, it only took a 16-week bout of persistent nausea, headaches, and generally feeling like I was run over by a bus to remind me that in fact, pregnancy can hijack your body in a way that even the most Zen-focused among us cannot override. It's best to just listen to your body - not fight it - and allow yourself some grace in dealing with the inevitable ups and downs of the process.
Even as an educated perinatal fitness professional, I'll admit it: I trained some of my mums-to-be with a "light touch" to say the least. I encouraged them to sit down when possible, constantly inquired about their comfort levels, monitored their bellies for the slightest sign of "doming" and kept them off their backs entirely from about the 12-week mark. While these are all useful modifications that some pregnant women absolutely DO need (and should always consult their physicians about), the reality of my own experience is that I haven't needed to modify to extreme levels at all, and I maintain a fairly demanding workout schedule. I am still performing Olympic lifts (albeit lighter, due to my shifting center of gravity and core stability) with my doctor's blessing, running (slower, with much more supportive shoes), doing yoga (the regular kind, not always prenatal) and enjoying the adrenaline rush of HIIT classes. I realised that going INTO pregnancy very fit means you don't need to immediately downgrade to slow walking or prenatal classes only; you can simply read your symptoms and observe your growth and gains to make informed decisions about which activities you can safely continue.
Personal trainers are by default motivational speakers – ready to spit off mantras like "Never miss a Monday!" whenever necessary to get our clients' heads in the game. The thing is, when you're pregnant, some of those motivational mantras can feel almost oppressive; to the point where it makes you question whether you're just working out for the sake of routine, or actually doing it for your health and the health of your baby. I went out for a 5K run last week with my husband – it was 3pm, it was during the heat of the day, it was stupid. We got lost, we didn't have enough water, the sun was unbearable, and my feet hurt. Everything pointed to the fact that we should've wrapped it up, hopped on a nice air-conditioned bus, and called it a day but warrior-princess me insisted that we finish. When we got home, I was exhausted, cranky, dehydrated, and swollen from the calves down – not a good look, and certainly not a healthy one. I realised then that listening to your body's signals is absolutely the most important thing you can do when you're preggers.
Before I was pregnant, I could wear any old sports bra (yes, even those old, stretched-out ones that I probably should've thrown away), pull on whatever pair of leggings that were clean, grab a cute crop top, and happily and comfortably hop off to the gym. These days...not so much. I have invested more than I expected in solid, supportive sports bras (in a size larger than I usually wear), maternity leggings and capris, compression socks (a lifesaver for swollen feet and ankles), super supportive (read: granny-style) running shoes, and a mix of looser, flowy workout tops (for those days you just can't stand any pressure around the bump) and fitted, bump-hugging ones (for higher-intensity workouts). I resisted putting money into these purchases at first, but since I live and work in activewear, I finally decided that sinking some cash into my own comfort for 9+ months wasn't so bad. I've already invested in a few higher-quality nursing sports bras for this same reason. No use resisting the inevitable, I say.
It's funny that I considered myself a perinatal fitness "expert" prior to becoming pregnant. The reality is that until you've lived in, slept in, worked in, and exercised in a growing pregnant body, you can't truly understand the myriad ways it changes your game. I'll report back again once I'm deep into my third trimester as I definitely get the sense that the end-of-pregnancy exercise and body changes will be even more profound.