On Fear of Exercising

by tinysneakers

I was so excited the day I called the doctor to schedule my first appointment. “Hi, I’m pregnant! When can I come in and learn everything I need to know?!”

The receptionist immediately scheduled me for a series of 4 appointments, stretching all the way from June to August. She started throwing out questions right and left: do you want to do the first trimester screen? What about the anatomy scan? Are you going to…?

appointments calendar

Woah, back up lady. I’m all of 3 days pregnant- I haven’t even begun to make a single decision. I don’t even know what you’re talking about with half of these things.

But regardless, I couldn’t wait for that 6 week appointment. I was itching to know everything and anything about pregnancy and the prenatal care process. Patience wasn’t my thing. When I switched to a new practice and had to wait another week for my first appointment, my anticipation level soared out the window. I couldn’t believe I’d have to wait more than a month and half to start learning about being pregnant!

Sure, I could read all the books I wanted, but there are so many opinions and so many mixed sources of information. I just wanted to hear it from my medical professionals. Plus, every practice approaches prenatal care differently, so reading would only get me so far.

pregnancy books

Well that appointment finally came…and went. I barely learned anything. No instructions, no lectures, no “what to expect”, no brochures or handouts… Just, “see ya next time”.

I was floored. I knew I did research, but plenty of people didn’t- what if there were pregnant people out there not taking prenatal vitamins or still eating sushi or who knows what. The first real appointment isn’t until the first trimester is just about over, when it’s pretty late for a lot of things.

So there I am, upset by the lack of information and insight given, when I finally start getting some. Tiny bits of it were unsolicited; most of it came from a barrage of questions on my part.

But instead of feeling better, that’s when I got scared. They told me so few things that I assumed what they did tell me was really important. And most of the stuff they told me was what not to do; specifically not to lift anything heavier than 25 pounds, not to lie on my back and for goodness sakes don’t do sit ups.

Hmm. I could understand not doing sit ups, but were all abdominal exercises out? Even doing a bicep curl could engage your abs- was that dangerous? And what was with the 25 pounds rule? 25 pounds to someone who’d never lifted a weight might be pretty heavy, but it could be pretty light to someone else. And lifting 25 pounds using your legs is a lot different than using your arms- and certainly different than using one arm.

I was left completely baffled, and when I asked for clarification at my next appointment, I was told I shouldn’t be asking these things because I was being stupid by endangering my baby anyways. *enter exercise plummet here*

I immediately stopped doing Pilates- more than half the class is spent lying on your back, and it’s all core work. I quit going to my Body Pump-like weight class, since you do a lot of the barbell work on your back {and the classroom was really far away from the bathroom- a 1st trimester necessity!}.

pilates exercises

The only thing I continued doing was ride my bike. I’d gotten permission early on from my OB/GYN to continue training for and to ride {with precautions} in the 24 hour charity ride that I’d been preparing for. He said I could only do it because I’d still be in my first trimester- after that I’d lose my center of gravity and my risk for falling was high and I shouldn’t ride.

24 hours of booty with mom

The bike ride came and went, and then I was terrified to get back on my bike. He said I’d fall, and falling was dangerous for the baby.

The only thing left was running, and that was out. I injured my IT band last June- I was just starting to recover, but pregnancy is known for messing with your IT band, so it was best to put that on the back burner- I wasn’t interested in permanent injury.

So that left none of my usual activities. Aside from a once a week prenatal yoga class and some walks, I was terrified to do anything else. Let me point out I did my graduate capstone on exercise in pregnancy- I clearly knew what the recommendations were. I knew the benefits of exercise during pregnancy, and I knew what precautions to look out for. Yet I was still too scared to do any of it because of what the nurses and doctors had said.

It’s taken me this long –6 months- to realize that I’m not going to do anything to hurt my baby. I imagine it’s kind of like having a second pregnancy- you’re much more confident in how to be pregnant and what you can do because you’ve done it before. I’ve been pregnant for 6 months; I’m finally getting it.

It may have taken a lot longer than I liked, but I finally have the confidence to exercise and take care of myself without worrying so much. Asking countless questions of my midwifes and yoga teacher have made me realize just how precautionary all those tales are.

From here on out, and next time around, I’ll know that it’s up to me to decide when I lose my balance and biking isn’t safe anymore; it’s up to me to know when I’m too big to lie on my back; and it’s up to me to know what doesn’t feel good and what I shouldn’t do. Our bodies were made to let us know when things are wrong- if you’re lying on your back and it’s uncomfortable or you get short of breath, it’s not a good idea. If you feel fine, it’s ok. You just have to trust your body.

So me and my newly confident self are off to lift some weights- gotta prepare to tote around a baby all day!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Brigid October 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

Thank you for sharing! I saw a group of 3 (very) pregnant women at the gym early Monday morning lifting weights and I thought “good for them!”. I can only hope that I have the energy to fit appropriate energy in at that point. My view is long as you listen to your body, you’re not going to harm yourself or your baby. You’ll only do good. A happy, healthy mamma = a healthy baby. Keep it up!
*sigh* all these pregnancies makes me want to join the club 😉

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tinysneakers October 16, 2011 at 9:21 am

Energy’s hard to come by at the beginning, but it gets better (and you get used to it!). I’m with you on the healthy mamma = healthy baby front. 🙂

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Anna @ On Anna's Plate October 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

I know exactly what you mean– when I asked my doctor in my first appointment if I could still do some weight-lifting, she looked at me like I was crazy. I think some doctors think that women are going to *want* to do the whole “take it easy” thing to the highest degree– and so then when someone comes in who still wants to do any sort of exercise other than walking (I swear, if I hear one more doctor say that walking is the best (ie, only) exercise for pregnant women, I’m going to scream), they’re kind of floored– and I think they take you to be some sort of exercised-obsessed freak who would rather put the baby at risk than skip a workout.

ANYWAY– I think you’re exactly right. We just have to trust our bodies– your body will tell you if something you’re going is too much. They don’t call it women’s intuition for nothing 😉

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tinysneakers October 16, 2011 at 9:24 am

I completely agree! I decided after that first midwife appointment that she must’ve just thought I was obsessed and crazy, not just trying to be healthy.

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shelly October 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

What terrible health care! I’m so sorry your doctor didn’t do more to educate you on the things that you wanted to know.
The first trimester is an important one for the baby and the most vulerable one however, many women live their lives normally unaware of the baby’s presence until late in the first tri and mommy and baby are fine.
You statement to listen to your body is a great one! It’s just that the ears need to be tuned in a little bit closer than we’d usually listen since it’s not just you to listen for and the baby doesn’t speak very loudly just yet.
Enjoy being more active and relish this all too brief joyous time in your life!

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tinysneakers October 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

I absolute love this: “it’s not just you to listen for and the baby doesn’t speak very loudly just yet.”

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Robin | Farewell, Stranger October 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

How awful that you didn’t get good info and then got scare tactics! I stopped running when I got pregnant, partly because I was scared to but mostly because I needed a break. I kept exercising though, even if it was just cardio videos in my living room. Cheesy (Go Denise Austin!) but it kept me going.

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tinysneakers October 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

Sometimes you do just need a break! I love that you dug out some Denise Austin 😉

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Jen October 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Listening to your body is so important. From weeks 4-7, I did nothing but walk because I was petrified! My RE begged me to run again for my sanity. Oddly enough, she wouldn’t allow me to bike at all. I took this to mean no spinning, too. I guess we’ll know better next time. 🙂 So happy to hear you’re working out again!

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tinysneakers October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am

I love that she encouraged you to run- she “gets” it. 😉 That’s funny about not biking though- I’ve heard that spinning isn’t a great idea because it tends to be so intense, but who knows. At least I understood the reasoning behind biking- falling off would be a bad idea!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun October 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I hate how so many people make working out during pregnancy so taboo! There are really only a few things to keep in mind (like not laying on your back) and then the rest really is just listening to your body. Also, I truly think women can keep doing activities they did pre-pregnancy but at lower intensities. glad you’re feeling better about it all. 🙂

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Andrea October 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm

It’s hard to get the right info when it’s not widely known. I remember seeing the no HR above 140 rule in 2005 when it was changed already in 2002. Come join us for a chat about #womensrunning and pregnancy starting 10/20 from 6-7 PST if you are interested.

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tinysneakers October 16, 2011 at 9:33 am

I still see that rule- it’s insane. And thanks for letting me know about the chat! 🙂

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Maria @ a life to Bragg about October 15, 2011 at 12:31 am

Good for you for realizing this! I’ve been working out this entire pregnancy and though I’ve gotten judgmental looks and comments along the way, I know what my body is capable of and so far I still have a healthy baby on the way. Only you know whats right for your body and I’m glad your listening to it! We’re pregnant, not handicapped.

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sarah (the SHU box) October 15, 2011 at 7:42 am

i feel so bad b/c i feel like your caregivers contributed so much to your anxiety! i am so happy that my doctors gave me the okay to run without any hesitation whatsoever — even the slightest “well . . .” might have caused me to doubt myself. but when i asked, i was reassured with “absolutely — you can keep up whatever routine you were doing before, other than contact sports.” (do i LOOK like someone who plays contact sports!?)

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Lisa (bakebikeblog) October 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I have experienced a very similar thing during this pregnancy. I was PETRIFIED during the first trimester re exercise. It was only around 14 weeks that I started to calm down…. and even then I have only stuck to walking / yoga. I think I will do things a little differently next time 🙂

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