It’s only now that I look back on my pregnancy, labour, and – perhaps most especially – the ‘fourth trimester’ (three months postpartum) that I truly appreciate how staying fit and healthy helped me along that journey. I’ve had a lot of messages on my personal instagram about ‘bouncing back’ (a term I dislike, as it was so not like that in real life) and also continue to be asked about my journey with F45 while pregnant, as well as the choice to return to exercise just a few weeks after having Teddy.
I should start by saying, I did not experience severe morning sickness during my first trimester, but I was completely and utterly exhausted from the sixth week of pregnancy, right the way through to the 41st. From around the 25th week, I also experienced severe Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain pain and saw a physio once a week. However, I was still able to exercise in some way, almost every day of my pregnancy, and was at F45 right until the day I went into labour.
I recognise that this is due in part to having had a lot of flexibility in my daily routine – I work for myself, but didn’t actually get a lot of work done during my pregnancy – I managed to keep my body active, more than my brain! The one thing I did achieve during that time was to create a detailed, thoughtful and developmentally appropriate pregnancy journal, which has subsequently gone on to be one of my biggest sellers, and I receive really wonderful feedback on it. If it interests you to have a keepsake of your pregnancy, or you’re interested in the benefits of journalling, have a look at made with love.
F45 While Pregnant
I have earlier detailed my first and second trimesters at F45 earlier, so this will focus on the third and ‘fourth’ trimesters. I’m sure a lot of people will say that I did too much, or returned too early (I am sure of this because they message me to tell me…) but I was cleared by a Women’s Health Physio to do so. I know I found it all a lot ‘easier’ than any other article on pregnancy or postpartum fitness would have me believe it was, and so I hope I can inspire others that it isn’t impossible. This is the main reason for sharing my own fitness and F45 pregnancy/postpartum journey online – to dispel the idea (and fear) that it’s impossible.
Honestly, I don’t know why I found it easier – besides possibly the flexibility I had with work, so that I could make it a priority. Every body is different, but I certainly don’t think mine has any super powers over any other. Sometimes, I think those who find it ‘easy’ are afraid to say so, for fear of judgment, being accused of showing off, or making others (those who don’t find it easy) uncomfortable.
Well, I’m willing to take those risks, to continue to be honest about my journey, and I hope it will encourage others to do the same. Fitness has always been part of my life, and in the past I’ve even over-done it, so during my pregnancy and postpartum journey, I was really mindful of my body’s limitations and the health of my baby, while also feeling amazing, fit and strong. If you’re exercising well into your second and third trimester, make sure to also look at Best Maternity Pants and Pregnancy Clothing – it made such a difference to me staying comfortable while exercising.
Third Trimester: F45 Adaptations, and lots and lots of walking…
I think it’s important, no matter what stage of your pregnancy (or postpartum) you are at, to remember the ‘why’ rather than just the ‘how’. In my opinion, it’s not just about how to adapt an F45 workout, or whatever exercise you are doing, to suit your body’s current capabilities, but also why you are making those changes, and of coursewhy you are continuing to exercise at all.
Certainly, during pregnancy, and especially during your third trimester, you’re not likely to be trying to increase your ‘personal best’, get fitter, faster or stronger. You’re not trying to lose weight or even tone up. My mindset had to completely change during pregnancy – I needed to stop being competitive (with myself or others) and completely surrender my body to the changes it needed to make. Instead, I wanted to allow my body to stay as fit and strong as it possibly could, while growing another little person inside it.
In my third trimester, this was especially so, because that little person was no longer feeling so little. My husband is 6’4 and I’m only 5’5, and as our midwife told us all along, we had quite a tall baby on board. I’d already reduced the intensity of my exercise significantly (goodbye box-jumps and burpees!), stopped anything with a falling risk (i.e. assisted pull-ups) and stopped lying on my stomach (obviously!) but the third trimester also saw me slow right down when it came to any cardio exercise. During my second trimester I was still able to do 9 cardio classes and 15 ‘mixed’ strength/cardio classes over the three months. During my third trimester I did almost no cardio classes, and the mixed strength/cardio classes I did do, I adapted so that they were almost completely strength based.
On the mixed days I would substitute exercises such as box jumps for step ups, and jumping lunges for plié lunges. Burpees became burpee walk-outs, and any running or jumping became resistant band lateral walks or wall sits. Late in pregnancy it is also advisable not to spend too long lying on your back, so I would also modify any of those exercises.
Weight wise: during my third trimester, quite honestly I felt so sick eating any more than half of a meal, or eating any fatty food. This, combined with my continued F45 journey actually resulted in me putting on no more weight than I had by the end of the second trimester. I kept asking my midwife whether that was okay and she assured me that it was.
Obviously my baby was going to weigh a lot less than 10 kg, which I had already gained, so she wasn’t at all worried that I wasn’t getting any heavier. The bump did continue to grow a little.
If you did have a look at my story highlight above, you’ll be able to see how big my bump was right at the end, as I pulled up my maternity activewear over the huge sphere. That was almost 41 weeks pregnant. I went into labour later that day.
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As well as continuing to enjoy F45 right until the end of that last week, we also went on lots and lots of walks – especially as I heard that they could help to induce labour when your body was ready. Apparently mine wasn’t, as even five days of acupuncture in the last week seemed to have no effect on my body. However, of course, when Teddy was well and ready he made it known he was ready to come out.
I can’t say for sure whether my level of fitness had any bearing on my birth, but I do like to think that it did help me to maintain the stamina and strength it takes to push a baby out, especially after hours and hours of intense and regular contractions.
The Fourth Trimester
I don’t miss my pregnancy at all… how could I miss having Teddy on the inside when I love him so much on the outside? However, I do already miss the ‘fourth trimester’ and we’re only just out of it. The fourth trimester describes a time when your baby is adjusting to their time outside the womb – and as a Mother you’re still adjusting to that too. I spent most of the fourth trimester holding, carrying or ‘wearing’ my baby, and indulging in letting him feed to sleep, or just fall asleep on me. I risked making a ‘rod for my own back’ by teaching him ‘bad’ habits, but it was worth it to enjoy every moment (and he’s since learned to self-settle and re-settle, so I think we are okay – touch wood).
The only time I actually took away from Teddy was to go to F45. It’s four minutes’ drive from my house, so it was less than an hour away, and usually when he was asleep. Many people (perhaps even many of you) will say that I was in too much of a hurry to return – doing so at four weeks postpartum – but I took professional advice and I know my body was ready.
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Before recommencing exercise I saw a women’s health physio, and also spoke to my midwife, and felt very comfortable with my decision. That didn’t stop the warnings from others (unqualified others, might I add) – telling me I’d wreck my pelvic floor, if not do other damage to my body by returning to exercise. Well… he’s 18 weeks now, I haven’t peed myself yet, and so far everything else is working okay. I could feel a small gap in my abs (diastasis recti), or what was left of my ‘abs’, but that seems to have completely healed.
My current exercise looks like this most weeks:
1 x f45 cardio
2 x f45 strength
1 x f45 mixed (‘Hollywood’)
3-4 x outdoor walks with the dogs
I eased my way into it – I wasn’t doing any box jumps my first week back, that’s for sure, but after about four weeks (so, eight weeks postpartum) I felt totally back to ‘normal’ and was able to participate in all workouts, albeit possibly with a little less gusto than I used to. I definitely started off a lot less fit, but that was totally expected after a year without much cardio exercise. However, it was definitely a lot ‘easier’ than any article on postpartum fitness would have me believe. This was also the case for my pregnancy exercise, and the main reason for sharing my own fitness and F45 pregnancy journey online – to dispel the idea that it’s impossible.
I don’t know why I found it easier. Every body is different, but I certainly don’t think mine has any super powers over any other. Fitness has always been part of my life, and in the past I’ve even over-done it, so during my pregnancy and postpartum journey, I was really mindful of this, and I know I’ve done the right thing for me. I’m writing this to answer questions which are asked of me all the time, but I would never advise anyone to just blindly follow what I did. There are many specialised personal trainers and physiotherapists who can give you specific advice and let you know whether you can follow a similar pregnancy or postpartum fitness regime.
Looking back now, I’m really glad I prioritised exercise, as I believe it did help me with postpartum recovery, and also to retain a sense of independence, as I took a break from the chaos of newborn life to exercise when I could. Wishing you all the best for your pregnancy journey and recovery. We have an amazing wealth of pregnancy articles of the experiences of other women, which I encourage you to read through.