Run mamma, run

19 Apr

A recent article on the BBC reported that ‘light exercise during pregnancy’ makes for healthier babies. This brought back memories of the big dilemma of my 9 month journey. When I fell pregnant the first book I purchased was ‘Running and pregnancy‘ (oh how priorities have shifted). I was fixated on fitness back then. To some extent I still am, though it’s now more an obsession about my lack of exercise rather than the doing. The biggest question mark for me during my pregnancy was the boundaries of exercise.

At the beginning I refused to believe my body needed a break. In the very early weeks – before I knew about the little peanut – I took part on the Tour of Wessex, a gruelling three day cycling event. The following week, I found out that the queasiness I experienced on the ride was not just about one too many energy gels and over-exertion. This quickly led me to the conclusion that if the baby could survive that, he (or she as it could have been at the time) was quite capable of handling a few turbo training sessions, runs, swims and some 60 mile bike rides. I even left the triathlons I had planned firmly in the calendar and carried on taking part in sportives. I was adamant that all my training was not going to be wasted and each time I spoke to a doctor or midwife I raised the question of exercise.

I received a very mixed response and this was incredibly confusing. One doctor told me to ‘pop the folic acid and run as much as I wanted’. The next week a midwife told me I shouldn’t be breaking a sweat as the baby might get too hot, the following week I was told to keep up the moderate exercise and the week after that I was warned not to raise my heartbeat. I don’t think it would take a genius to work out which seemed to be the fitter of the advice-givers.

The inconsistency in advice was a theme throughout my whole pregnancy and so I decided to just listen to my own body and mind. I managed to keep up the exercise for about 7 months and even continued to cycle to work until 7.5 months, only stopping because I was worried some deranged London van driver would knock me and the growing bump off. However, as the weeks passed, I could feel myself getting heavier and more lethargic. On my final pregnant bike ride, I had to tell my friend to leave me behind, while I sulkily moved up a hill at a snails pace. The enjoyment had gone, so I stopped after that. By the end of pregnancy I could barely walk a mile (and the need for constant pit-stops kept me from bothering).

My view on this BBC article is that next week there will be advice suggesting that doing anything other than sitting on your sofa, eating apples is hugely harmful. The week after that someone will release a report suggesting that the heavier the exercise the more hair the baby has. I have no doubt that the scientists behind these reports are professional and know their stuff, but there are benefits and drawbacks to everything and the only advice (in my very non-medical opinion) that should be handed out is to do what you feel comfortable with and stay healthy. As far as I can tell, Toby turned out healthy (touch lots of wood) and my pregnancy exercise – like my pregnancy hormones – was crazy one minute and totally absent the next. Women need to do what makes them happy… some of the time!

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