On Jan 16, Andrea Wright performed a strenuous strength training workout at Trufit Fitness Studios in South Lyon, Mich. A mere two days later, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Bella.
Wright, a high school English teacher, has been a conditioned athlete for many years. She has competed in CrossFit competitions and has always held herself to a high athletic standard. Like most expectant mothers, she consulted with her doctors before she continued with a rigorous exercise routine. All three doctors provided different advice but came to a comparable conclusion, working out while pregnant is completely safe and suggested.
“One said that my workouts were fine and I could keep doing them, but if I had difficulty breathing I should stop and rest. Another said I was fine with doing anything. The last doctor said not to lift anything over 65 pounds,” she laughed as she shared a video of her with a baby bump pressing 95 pounds above her head. “All of them said to never start a new workout program if I wasn’t doing it before pregnancy.”
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women with healthy pregnancies are encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises throughout their pregnancy like swimming, indoor cycling, walking and light strength training. Pregnant women should avoid exercises that have a risk of falling like skiing and horseback riding or sports like softball or volleyball. Doing approved exercises during pregnancy has few risks and can benefit most women by preventing gestational diabetes, reducing backaches and improving sleep, just to name a few.
Ashley Voss, an attorney at law, is another Trufit Fitness Studio member who gave birth to her first child, a beautiful baby girl named Quinn, only three weeks after ending her workout routine. “My doctor encouraged me to continue my workout routine as much as possible, even if it was at a lower level of intensity,” she said. “It gives you the strength and endurance you need to withstand labor and decreases the chance of a c-section.”
And post-pregnancy weight loss can be easier if a workout routine is maintained during pregnancy. Voss was lucky to lose a majority of her baby weight just six weeks postpartum. “I gained 30 pounds by the end of my pregnancy but by six weeks postpartum I had lost 25 pounds all without working out. Only 8 pounds of that was the baby,” she joked.
The National Academy of Medicine recommends that women who are of normal weight should gain no more than 35 pounds, overweight women should gain no more than 25 pounds, and obese women should gain no more than 20 pounds.
Although there are inherent benefits, their decisions to continue an exercise plan while pregnant was a hard pill for their support systems to swallow. Especially their family and friends from older generations, whose childbearing years were laden with excessive rest and an ample amount of food to feed two.
“They thought I was crazy and that I was harming the baby,” Wright said. “It’s a generational thing, the older people think that pregnant women should sit around at home doing nothing.”
Voss’ family warmed up to the idea after the doctors reassured them that it was safe and healthy for both her and the baby. “At first they thought it might be dangerous for the baby, especially CrossFit, but after I told them the doctors encouraged it they supported the decision,” Voss explained.
Fortunately for these women, gone are the days of these old-fashioned recommendations. In this day and age, expectant mothers have traded in outdated advice for a healthier, active alternative by continuing their exercise routines and healthy diets through pregnancy.
“We no longer live in an age where women should be sitting around during their entire pregnancy. Being pregnant is not a disability,” Wright explained.
Wright said that eating for two isn’t exactly the best advice either. At the very least, it is important to continue eating nutrient-rich foods to promote a healthy pregnancy, uncomplicated delivery, and effortless recovery.
“Eating well is important. So many women let their diets get out of control because they think they should be eating for two,” Wright said.
Despite the apprehensive attitudes from their older relatives who were set in their ways, both women had a notable support system from their younger family, friends, husbands, fellow gym-goers and each other for their decision to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout nine important, but difficult, months of their lives.
“One of the most surprising things I encounter during the pregnancy while at Trufit was how many people encouraged me and supported me throughout the journey,” Voss said. “The support definitely helped me stay at the gym longer.”
Even though Wright’s husband, Ryan, is not a member of Trufit Fitness Studios he joined her at their in-home gym to help motivate and encourage her. “Having a supportive partner is a lifesaver,” Wright said. “And talking to people that have gone through it definitely does help.”
But the difficulty of working out while carrying a baby caught Voss off guard. She didn’t expect the level of discomfort that accompanied physical activity during pregnancy and found it difficult to stay motivated.
“I didn’t realize how out of breath I would be! It was also hard to stay motivated when you weigh 25 to 30 pounds more than normal and just moving your body in your daily life was uncomfortable and tiresome, ” Voss said.
Wright had similar issues with physical discomfort and personal motivation. “I didn’t expect cardio to be an issue. I would have issues breathing at times due to the position of the baby,” Wright explained.
But Wright didn’t only experience physical struggle. She wrestled with her inner mental voice and grappled with maintaining a positive self-image.
“I had a lot of mental struggles because I could no longer perform and compete at the level I could prior to pregnancy,” Wright said. “Also, body image is an issue and it gets magnified when pregnant. I struggle with it every day, but it was much worse when I was pregnant.”
It is crucial that women take note of changes in their bodies and understand when physical exertion is too much for the baby and themselves to handle. “Women know their bodies and need to trust what they can and cannot handle,” Wright said. “Being safe and healthy is key.”
But through all the discomfort and struggle, Voss and Wright said they would do it all over again because of the benefits during and long after pregnancy.
“Working out is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby during the pregnancy,” Voss said. “You’ll bounce back faster, which is what every mom wants.”