I’m a certified personal trainer and have always been active. I lifted weights and ran regularly. Weekends were spent hiking, skiing, and biking. HIIT, barre, and spin class made me feel incredible. I was fit.
Then, I got pregnant.
At first, I felt okay but as time marched on, I slowly became more tired, less motivated, and more uncomfortable. I had to start changing my workouts and make modifications. As my belly grew, my confidence in my “fit” status shrank. I felt like I was getting out of shape.
It’s a reality for many pregnant women. We can’t exercise at the same intensity levels as before and it feels like a step backward. But that thinking is wrong. We need to change our mindset about fitness and pregnancy.
I thought “fitness” meant looking and being able to perform in a certain way. But this is a very narrow and specific point of view. Sure, that’s one type of fitness but there are so many other kinds, including the strength and athleticism it takes to create, nourish, and birth a child.
Pregnant women are strong and fit in a way that no other human is on earth. You’re growing a human from microscopic cells to a living, breathing baby. Your body is working tirelessly to form life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn’t get more fit than that.
If someone says you are somehow “less than fit” because you’ve modified what you used to do, don’t listen. Whether it’s a voice in your head, a comment from a friend or family member, or something you see in the media, those words don’t determine your reality.
As a personal trainer, I know how to work out safely while pregnant, but I still thought I was becoming weaker. Yes, my back felt stiffer, my balance felt unsteady, and my energy levels tanked but this didn’t mean I was weak or out of shape. It meant I was adjusting to the changing needs of my body.
It’s not just Tour de France champions, sports stars, marathoners, or those who summit Mt. Everest who have the market cornered on strength. Our culture places athletes on pedestals, but you’re on a pedestal of your own.
Yes, you’ll slow down. Yes, you won’t feel like moving at the same intensity. But that doesn't mean you’re not fit. You’re tired and sore and achy because you’re already working incredibly hard to build a life. You’re already working out every second of the day. Your body is feeding, creating, and preparing a little human to breathe and eat and think and move in the world.
If THAT doesn’t deserve a pedestal and a trophy of its own, I don’t know what does.
Pregnancy is not an easy, quick activity. It’s long and challenging. Think of it like a marathon, not a sprint. Even your uterus is a workhorse. The force of your uterus pushing with a contraction during labor is equal to about 2.8 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Need more convincing? Here are some more stats that show the power of a pregnant woman’s body:
Your blood volume increases by 50%, so your heart must pump 50% more blood. (Talk about some serious cardio!)
You burn twice as much energy during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as the average human. (That’s why you’re so hungry all the time.)
Your ligaments soften (due to the hormone, relaxin) to allow your baby to grow and to be delivered. This helps your pelvis relax and let your baby be born. (AKA: your body literally changes shape to accommodate your growing human and birth them into the world.)
You make more estrogen during pregnancy than a nonpregnant woman does in her entire lifetime.
Being “fit” comes in many forms, and pregnancy is certainly one of them. Creating and carrying another life is the epitome of strength and vitality, which are key elements of fitness. Also, let’s not forget that in addition to growing a full human with its own organs, ligaments, and bones, pregnancy women grow a whole other organ too—the placenta.
By the end of my pregnancy, my definition of an active day went from a 45-minute run to a gentle, 20-minute walk. And guess what? I felt amazing because my perspective had shifted. Once I confronted the mistruths and overpowered them with the actual truth, that being pregnant IS a special kind of fitness, I felt stronger. This newfound confidence helped me make it to the finish line; to birth my child.
Doubts will creep in but you can learn to shut them out. And when those doubts do pop to the forefront of your mind, remind yourself of all your body is doing.
Whether you’re pregnant for the first, second, third, or fourth time, at this moment in your life, your strength and fitness will change while you create that little baby.
But make no mistake, you’re working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.