It was all going so well. Seven good (considering) months of preggo training under my belt and I was feeling strong. Then the niggles started. Pretty subtle at first, slight muscle tightness and joint pain when walking which I generally ignored (not advised), then after a few weeks a simple lap of Victoria Park (5km) would leave me hobbling like I’d just run a marathon. Pleasing.
Lower body workouts didn’t feel comfortable and even bodyweight exercises were causing issues with my knees, hips and glutes. Far from ideal.
Pretty annoying as it was the start of the November lockdown and walking was helping hold together my sanity and the remnants of my social life, but alas it wasn’t to be. I had to give in, hitting my 10,000 steps a day was suddenly very ambitious and with very few lower body exercises still an option I had no choice but to allow myself some proper time to recover.
So what’s the cause?
This latest preggo fail was down to a hormone called relaxin, which is responsible for keeping our joints moving freely. The body releases more of this during pregnancy to make room for the baby and then you get a further increase when it starts preparing you for labour to make birth…..easier (apparently).
As relaxin becomes more prevalent during the third trimester you’ll feel your ligaments loosen up around the hips and pelvis. As a result, it's easier to cause injury if you overstretch, go beyond a safe range of motion when working out, or in my case just walk a bit too hard. How things change.
So it’s not ideal, but without it, pregnancy and birth would be a whole lot harder which doesn't really bear thinking about. You just have to embrace it for what it is, adjust your workouts and keep going where you can.
In my case this looked like the following:
Warm-up – Taking longer to warm up before a session and if something doesn’t feel good, removing that movement from the main workout. If you experience pain during a bodyweight squat, adding weight is only going to exacerbate things. Not worth it.
Stretching – If I’m honest regular stretching took a back seat for a while whilst I was still smashing (in the loosest sense of the word), cardio and strength workouts. My Bad. More recently I’ve started to include gentle daily stretching and yoga. Just remember to be super careful of your newfound flexibility which can do you more harm than good. Take it easy.
Cardio – Acceptance was key here. Unfortunately, I am getting less mobile and my activity levels are going to drop so finding something that doesn’t cause an issue or resting is necessary. I’ve been doing what I can but if something doesn’t feel right it’s really not worth pushing it at this stage. Spending the last month of pregnancy on bed rest was not an appealing prospect – lockdown or not.
Strength – Reducing your range of motion will help prevent overstretching and injury particularly where weight is involved. Squatting to a box, performing half squats and lunges, using machines where you can set a specific range of motion (gym permitting), and changing your initial set-up to take tension away from sore muscles, will all help keep you moving, albeit maybe not quite as effectively as you’d like!
Rest – If you’re feeling the effects of a workout (or walk) switch it up, do something different, or take complete rest to let everything fully recover before you go again. Remember you are pregnant - additional rest is essential!
Focus on what you can do - To be honest, anything really is a bonus at this stage. My own expectations of what a ‘workout’ is have reduced significantly and I’m really just grateful when I do have a good walk or cycle or workout. It does take some adjustment but learn to lower your expectations and accept where you're at.
I’m experiencing some spectacular runner envy right now whilst waddling my way around the park. One thing is for sure, the longer I have to reign things in, the more fired up I am to get back to it when the time is right.