Thursday, December 27, 2007

Swimming and Early Pregnancy

Photos of maternity swimsuits available at There isn't a single suit in their maternity section could be used for actual swimming.

Almost as soon as the Dr. confirmed my pregnancy she began to discuss exercise and pregnancy. I think that with the obesity problem in this country there are good doctors who feel inclined to impress upon pregnant women that this is not a free pass to Fat Land. I'm pretty sure that my Dr. does not know I am a triathlete, she is an OB/GYN and I had no reason to tell her this fascinating tidbit about myself so when she said, "Swimming is great for pregnant women!" I said, "Great! I already swim with my husband in master's swim 3 times a week." She paused and said, "Wait a minute, do you race swim in this class?" to which I replied, "Yes, it is a competitive class." She pointed her finger at me and said, "No racing. You should not get out of breath or overheat while swimming."

I was relieved we had this conversation because I think the majority of doctors who tell pregnant women to swim are envisioning a slow front crawl with some side stroking or easy back stroke mixed in. I would bet 98% of these doctors have never seen a master's swim class let alone participated in one so their advice on swimming has to be taken with a big dose of caution for competitive swimmers. Good swimmers swim hard, that's how they got good, and it is nothing for a competitive swimmer to hold a hard pace for an hour or more with little rest and intense intervals throughout the workout. I am a wanna-be competitive swimmer and I do know how to hold a slow pace but I also enjoy pushing myself and doing a mix of easy and interval training. In a class of competitive swimmers it is difficult for me to watch my peers swim away from me when on a good day I would give them a reason to push the pace to stay ahead of me.

Since I am still in early pregnancy (the first 3 months) it has not been easy for me to pace myself or even get to the pool as much as I used to. I'm tired (I took 3 naps yesterday), I feel like I have the flu, some days I have cramps (hooray uterus expansion!) and my core muscles aren't as available for flip turns and kicking. I have had a few days where I felt good and swam a strong set only to find myself exhausted and feeling sick afterward.

Soon I will be in the 2nd trimester where it is rumored that I will feel better and have incredible amounts of energy. The temptation will be there again to swim hard so I will have to continue with self discipline and enjoy the journey of pregnancy. The journey will not be an easy one, look at these hideous swim suits, there isn't one you can lap swim in. The ladies in my master's swim class have offered their old suits so I can look forward to wearing see-through, baggy suits very soon. Some other joyful things about swimming and pregnancy:

-People stare at you. At first they are looking to see if you are getting fat and then they appear to be fascinated by any change in your body. If you see a pregnant woman or someone you think might be pregnant, please, do not stare at her in a swimsuit or coming out of the shower. I don't mind my friends looking at me but men especially, mind your own business, this isn't a biology tutorial. You want to see a pregnant woman, get someone pregnant and see if she'll let you look (I doubt it!)
-Hair grows faster when you are pregnant so you get to shave and then shave again.
-Hot showers make me nauseating so the treat I used to enjoy after the swim is not a treat anymore.
-Your tendons are more pliable to prepare for birth so there is increased risk for injury from overdoing it.

I know there are women out there who stay very active throughout their pregnancies and have no trouble at all. The risk for miscarriage is low once you get past those first vulnerable months so I think some active women push through the early sick time and keep up the pace as much as possible throughout their pregnancies. I admire their tenacity and resolve but this is not the path for me. Moderation is my key, I would never forgive myself for doing too much and having the Dr. prescribe bed rest or even worse, harming our baby. Hopefully, I will have many years to lead an active lifestyle, now is not the time to be superwoman. Hopefully it will feel good to let my competitive edge go now soon.

My plan to is continue to swim, walk, do yoga (at home), aqua jog, and snow shoe on occasion. That's enough for me. No two workouts per day or bike riding and running for me. For me, that's about right and sadly, it's probably way more than the huge majority of pregnant women out there. Who can blame them though, have you seen these swimsuits?