You just discovered that you're pregnant. Congratulations, Sweat Gangsta Mama! Whether it's your first child or your fourth, there's really nothing quite like growing a human.
“But Coach, I've been so dedicated to the Sweat Life. Can I still ride through it all?”
The short answer: "Yes, you can." The long answer … well, I'll tell you what I've learned.
I recently fielded questions from some of our lady Sweat Gangstas about riding in The Hot Room with a bun in the oven. Having taught classes on the bike through Week 29 of my own pregnancy, it seemed fitting to publish some advice. PLEASE NOTE: I am neither a doctor nor an expert on human anatomy, but I do have experience as a pregnant athlete. Here are a few tips.
First things first: Consult your OB/GYN immediately before you continue riding. I can't stress this enough. Most doctors will tell you that if you have a regular workout regimen, the best bet is to stick to it. It will keep your body in tip-top shape and may even ease some of the plagues that come with pregnancy (morning sickness, swelling, fatigue, etc.) Regular training also can facilitate the birth process by maintaining and further strengthening your core muscles. However, if you have any underlying conditions that may put too much stress on your body, please heed your doctor's recommendation, as disappointing as that may be.
Be sure to alert your OB/GYN that you ride in a heated environment, between 80–84 degrees. This may scare them, but assure them this heat is not akin to lounging in a hot tub or taking a Bikram yoga class. While you may often feel like you're burning up from the inside, rest assured that your core temperature does not usually rise all that much while riding. I confirmed this for myself by taking my temperature at least once a week after class. You should be fine if your temperature stays around 99 degrees, but again, confirm with your doctor.
In terms of where to ride to stay … well … not as hot, you want to shoot for the edge of the room closest to the aisle: bikes 1, 16, 26, 36, 46, and anywhere close to a fan. You could also consider getting a small clip-on fan for your handlebars. If you have had adverse reactions to the heat in the past, be vigilant and listen to your body. You know best what you can handle. And if you can't get one of those bikes when booking, do not hesitate to ask the staff about switching with someone. More often than not, they can accommodate your request, given your condition. Also, let your instructor know (if you haven't taken their class before) that you're pregnant, so we don't try to push you to an unsafe level of intensity.
Be sure to eat something before class. Even if you ride at 6 a.m. and usually ride on an empty stomach, take time to eat something small. A banana, toast with nut butter, a small piece of fruit. You may worry that this will upset your stomach, but it will actually assist your endurance by giving your body something to burn. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants (a general rule of pregnancy) before classes because they can elevate your heart rate to an unsafe level when coupled with intense training.
Most importantly, get a heart-rate monitor with a chest strap and wear it every single time you ride. I recommend Polar brand. They are affordable, comfortable, and accurate (and the wristwatch is convenient and cute). If you have something like a Fit Bit or an Apple Watch, find a chest strap that will sync with it. When a monitor is directly over your heart, it will give you a more accurate read of your heart rate than monitoring the pulse at the wrist. Ideally, you want to keep your heart rate at or below 70% of your max. The Mayo Clinic recommends using this math: Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate. See the full article here.
As you get further into your pregnancy, things are going to get bigger: your belly, your hips, even your feet. If you are very swollen (I can show you pictures of my ankles in the 3rd trimester), take a rest day. Your joints and ligaments will feel significantly looser than you're used to, and swelling on top of that is a formula for injury. It's okay to take days off; no one is going to fault you for it. Come on, you're doing some of the hardest work a woman can do, so cut yourself some slack.
Also, as your belly grows, it can get in the way, so check with your instructor about adjusting your bike settings accordingly. For example, raising handlebars and sliding your seat further forward can help.
Lastly, sit when you need to sit. Slow down when you need to slow down. And STAY HYDRATED. However much water you're drinking now, try to double it. You're going to have to pee all the time anyway; you might as well make those late night bathroom waddles worth the trouble. You can do this, Mom! You just have to believe it and be smart about it.
On a personal note: I found out I was pregnant with my daughter about 4 months after I completed the Teacher Training program at The Shoppe, and it was unexpected. I had worked so hard to get to that point, and the thought of having to give up riding was terrifying. I was teaching 3 classes per week at the time, and riding at least 3 other times regularly. At 20 weeks, I got to the point where I could only do the classes I was teaching. Don't be discouraged if you need to scale back your workouts or eventually stop them completely. I carried very low, so my belly was in the way by week 25. Then I started having slight pain in my upper belly at week 29. My cue to stop and get some much needed rest was a bout with preeclampsia. And that's what I did for the next 8 weeks.
That said, we have seen women ride right up until they are ready to deliver, making the necessary modifications for their bodies, so if you can stick with it, you should try to. Consider trying our Express classes — 10 minutes less could make a difference. But once your body is done, you get to look forward to an epic return. Try to give yourself 6 weeks before you come back, so your body can recover sufficiently from the delivery (and so you can truly enjoy being a mom). Then ease yourself back into the routine. Team Sweat Shoppe will be ready and waiting for you.
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