Updated: May 11, 2021
When you first learned that you would become a mother, did you have any concerns about how to balance motherhood with your training profession?
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it would be tough, I just didn’t know in what ways. In the beginning, the challenge was sleep deprivation. Trying to figure out if I should eat, sleep, clean or workout. I found I could usually choose 1-2 of those options.
As my little one began to grow and get older, it became easier to do more. Now that he is older, I find that he just enjoys when I’m around him. So depending on the day and the plans, I’ll either plan a workout in the morning before my husband works or while our baby boy is asleep. And other times, I end up working out with him right by my side. He tries to mimic me when I workout - it’s the cutest thing, and he loves being the weight himself. So when he wants to be held, I’ll incorporate my baby weight into the routines.
There are going to be weeks that are more challenging than others when it comes to finding the time to train. I find it helpful to discuss my needs with my husband so we can figure out and plan that aligns with both of our schedules.
How did you prepare for maintaining your fitness level throughout your pregnancy? Were there any helpful resources you found that you'd like to share?
I am a pre and post natal exercise specialist, so my experience and knowledge with training clients helped me prepare for my pregnancy. I was excited to see what my body would be able to do, while I practiced what I preached and listened to it every day.
During pregnancy each individual and each person is different. So it is important to listen to your body and understand that if you are tired - it is okay to allow yourself to rest. Your body is growing a tiny human - this takes a lot of energy from the mama.
I was able to keep up with my same intensity until the end of my second trimester. I was keeping up with my running and had participated in a few races. During training, there were some days that I would need to stop and walk, while other days I could run all the way through. I always made sure I brought food with me in case I needed the extra energy, and always had water - even on my shorter runs.
For resistance training, my focus was on maintaining the strength that I had. As my belly started to grow, certain exercises needed to be adjusted. And I kept my intensity to lifting for 10-12repetitions rather than 4-6reps. If I was tired, or unsure of the intensity that day, I focused on the talk test. As long as I could have a full conversation or sing a song without huffing and puffing during the movement, then I was in a good place.
Certain exercises that I worked on, Squats, deadlifts, lunges, rows, lat pull downs, bird dogs, etc. As the belly begins to grow it’s important to focus on strengthening the gluteal muscles and upper back muscles. The body’s structure and center of gravity begins to change. So focusing on the muscles to help improve muscular balance, overall balance, core stability, joint stability, and overall strength will help the mama-to-be stay strong during pregnancy.
What is a word of advice you might give a mom-to-be as they are early in pregnancy and hoping to maintain their fitness?
You can absolutely maintain and build strength during your pregnancy, but it’s important to listen to your body. Every pregnancy is different and so is each day in the pregnancy. It’s okay to allow yourself time to rest if you need it. Your body is creating a tiny human - there should be no shame in listening to what your body needs.
Also, if you are maintaining your fitness, be sure to EAT! If you are building your strength, be sure to EAT! If you are resting, be sure to EAT! Hahaha, seriously, I was eating all the time during my pregnancy. Small frequent meals, because I would get full so fast since my little one was taking up all the room in my belly.
Every mama is different, every pregnancy is different, and every person’s fitness level is different. So it is important to focus on yourself and your goals. Don’t worry about what Jane Doe is doing. Understanding your strength is important. And being able to see, feel, and watch yourself get stronger as the baby grows is a beautiful and amazing thing. Always listen to your body. Do what feels right, and don’t push things if you are truly uncomfortable. Getting a trainer for guidance can help tremendously. Especially if you are new to fitness and are unsure of where to begin during your pregnancy.
Were there personal or emotional challenges that you have faced during pregnancy?
Luckily I had an easy pregnancy, and I actually really enjoyed the process. The biggest challenge for me during all this was dealing with the pandemic. I gave birth in the beginning of all the craziness, when everything was shutting down, and there were questions as to whether the hospitals would allow partners in with the birthing women. I already get anxious about hospitals, dealing with doctors, not to mention my fear of needles. Add into the mix that I’m a first time black mom to be planning to give birth naturally, and not knowing what to expect.
My anxiety rose as we started getting closer to birthday. I cried a lot. I found myself doing more yoga and a lot of meditation to try and stay calm. I was constantly checking the hospitals website for any visitor changes. And I am so glad that nothing changed.
The night I went into labor I was completely calm, had my husband by my side, and delivered an amazing baby boy.
How do you feel about the social "norms" or perceptions of motherhood and athletes? Is there anything you'd like to change in terms of the conversation or social support for Mom/Athletes?
“You need to slow down, you’re doing too much.” These comments drove me nuts during my pregnancy. What most people don’t know is that you can actually train at the same intensity or slightly lower than you were doing pre-pregnancy – It depends on your pregnancy stage and your doctors approval & suggestions.
Athletic mama’s train for days and weeks to be at a certain level. During pregnancy, the approval from their doctor will let them know how hard they can push themselves. Each mama is different, each pregnancy is different, and each persons fitness level is different. But one person’s high intensity can be another person’s warm up.
When you decide to prioritize your health and fitness, you usually like to make this you alone time or at least a baby free time. Trust me, I get it. I enjoy having my time for my workouts with no interruptions. But with motherhood, you don’t always get that time. And with some things, you may brush it off and decide to not get it done. But with fitness, this is a part of your health. You are the primary care giver and it’s important to take care of yourself too. When you have to workout with your little one around, your workout can still be effective and efficient all while doing it in a timely manner. You can get creative and use your little one as a baby weight, you can let your little one climb all on you while you do floor exercises to help you utilize your core muscles more, you can put their toys around to keep them occupied while you focus on your lifts and movements. You don’t have to brush the training to the side, you just have to find a way to make it work with you and baby.
Did you craft a progression/training plan with specific post-partum /return to training goals or have more of a less structured approach?
I had to have some sort of structure. If I am going to get anything done, and stay consistent, for me, I need a plan. When I got the okay from my doc at the 6week appointment I started my training up, focusing of building my core first. I was breastfeeding so strengthening the posterior chain (the backside of the body) was another big focus for my return. I had to ease into running, with walk/run intervals. (Even with the recovery, everyone is different. For me, the same discomfort I felt with my groin and hip in my third trimester was still around post pregnancy.) I had to listen to my body with this. Core strengthening, posterior chain work, and focusing on my joint stability really helped me get stronger at running again, and helped me get back on track with a progressive strength training routine.
Any favorite exercises or routines that you have during pregnancy?
I really enjoyed my yoga sessions. My body was feeling so tight in the hip flexors, and at some point in my third trimester I had to stop running because my hips and inner thighs were bothering me. Yoga helped me loosen up the tight muscles. But most importantly it helped me relax. I’m not much of a meditator. The yoga flow helped me calm myself especially if I was feeling anxious.
Have a word of inspiration you'd give an athletic mom-to-be?
Be patient and be kind to yourself. Your body goes through so much. Allow yourself time to grow, heal, and recover. You will get back before you know it, and when you do, take it slow and steady so you can progress in a healthy way. You are amazing Mama!
You may notice a change in your endurance, less fatigue, the ability to complete more reps, or less need to modify the exercises. Seeing and feeling the progress you make is a great feeling, and will help keep you motivated!
Jenna Webster is a Personal Trainer/Fitness Coach who has been working in the fitness industry for about 10 years.
Jenna values mastering her craft as a Pre and Post Natal Exercise Specialist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist through NSCA, a Personal Trainer through ACSM and ACE, and a Corrective Exercise Specialist through NASM.
Jenna has a passion for what she does and wants to see as many people succeed as she can help!
TRAIN WITH JENNA!
Pursue Your Happiness, Pursue Your Health, Pursue Your Life.