staying nimble + fit physically + mentally while pregnant!
Posted on January 03 2016
Today (3 January 2015), my baby Asha is 22 days old. Time flies! It is surreal that my tummy no longer looks like I stuffed a basketball under my shirt, the discomfort in my pelvis and back is no longer there, and I have a daughter: a situation in life that can't be reversed - not like a job you can quit, a business you can sell, or an item you can exchange or return (there's no way she can fit back in my tummy right now!)
This basically sums up my 2015 - and I hope what little I've learnt and experienced may help you on your fit pregnancy journey too!
Christmas Eve 2015 - when it finally sunk in that I'm a mother!
Discovering I was pregnant
(40 weeks count down starts from date of last period)
Blue Mountains Trek @ 3 weeks - Our last little adventure which could probably count as a babymoon was to Sydney in April 2015. Visited old friends and family and made a long overdue trip to the Blue Mountains. We stayed in a lovely AirBnb cottage hosted by an old couple right at the edge of Blackheath which was 5 minutes drive to Govetts Leap & Bridal Veil falls trekking start points. We covered about 30km in 2 days on our own - such bliss!
Blue Mountain Govetts Leap Trail - April 2015
Bali Spirit Festival @ 4 weeks - was straight after Sydney where I set up stall for ash be nimble at this yearly yoga & holistic wellness festival. I cycled to and fro the festival every day for 5 days and was probably 1 week pregnant at this point without realising it.
our first Bali Stockist - Power of Now Oasis - April 2015
My last race: Kemensah Krazy 45km @ 5 weeks - upon coming back from Bali on a Monday, I experienced the worst 'food poisoning' the next day where I threw up at least 6 times and could barely keep any water down. It died down overnight but I was left feeling weak for the next week, leading up to our 45km trail race at Kemensah. I thought my body was breaking down as I cramped throughout the race from KM 10 - 35, and didn't have salts with me as I NEVER cramp during my races. Post-race I had an intense headache and was feeling slightly giddy; happy but annoyed I came in 4th - probably good 8 hours worth of training for all the pain I was about to experience during labour
In pain, at Kemensah Krazy 45km April 2015 - my last race!
April 22, 2015: The Wednesday after the race was when we found out we were pregnant. Immediate reaction: oh no we just signed up for the Ultra Thai Chiang Mai 150km staged race first weekend of December 2015!!! (we got a refund in the end, & the race ended up being canceled)
At Xterra Langkawi race - which I sat out of in May 2015 as I was in my first trimester!
Learning how to stay healthy physically & mentally while pregnant
With Vlad & Silke hosting ash be nimble Trail Running Clinic in August 2015
Staying safe & smart while working out:
3 things to look out for when working out: overheating, dehydrating and getting your heart rate above 140 / 160 - the more fit you were prior to pregnancy the higher of 160 you can get to, but listen to your body and for signs of dizziness and discomfort. Read article here. I found it useful using a heart rate monitor and making sure I always carried my phone and water on me when hiking or trail running at Kiara MTB Trails. As it is shaded I wasn't too worried about overheating.
Sharing on Astro VBuzz Channel how I've tried to stay fit during pregnancy - @ 39 weeks!
It's ok to slow down: I stopped running in the 2 months prior to delivery as I didn't want to risk tripping and falling as belly felt very big and heavy! In my first trimester I also didn't run as much as there is a 20% chance of a miscarriage and I didn't want to ever wonder whether any physical activity was a cause for concern.
Never go alone: I always made sure I had one or more people with me on my treks and runs, and that Ashish knew where I was and what time I'd expect to finish. It was also a good opportunity to introduce friends to Kiara trails who wanted a nice stroll in the jungle! :)
Yoga & stretching till week 37: I continued weekly yoga including inversions right up until week 37 - but of course was always under my dear instructor Chin Lai's supervision, and had alternative options for anything involving compression to my belly. The breathing and stretching was definitely a HUGE help during the labour process - just being conscious of your breath
Morning sickness & swelling? I was lucky not to have any swelling in my feet or morning sickness, which I'd like to attribute to staying active, but every pregnancy is different.
Can't imagine doing radio interview with morning sickness - this was week 30 something - as you can see - work was still in full swing!
Nutrition & cravings: A little disappointed to learn I only needed an extra 300 calories in the 2nd tri and ~500 in the 3rd tri, which is equivalent to an extra healthy sandwich, or 2 glasses of skim milk + a bowl if oats. Watched what I ate more from a health perspective, what I wouldn't feed a child I didn't eat e.g. Coke Zero, alcohol, MSG, junk food - although I did have the occasional McDonald's Quarter Pounder meal and dark chocolate bars. My challenge most of the time was not having much of an appetite so I made sure I always had good fruit like avocados, berries, bananas and healthy snack bars on hand that were easier to eat. Was hoping I'd discover some quirky cravings so I could send hubby out on a midnight mission but sadly (and to his relief) that never happened.
One more reason to stress less while pregnant: I was reminded by an article that this was actually one of the most important things to manage. If I stress out to much, the hormone Cortisol is produced and can affect the baby's development and increase their stress reaction levels in the future. Read article here. With a crazy work and travel schedule, building and training a team to ensure my business could run smoothly while I'm away, remembering to eat well, remembering not to eat sushi, drink alcohol or soft cheeses, there were multiple opportunities to stress out - I did have at least 2 moments where I cried myself to sleep when things got overwhelming but reminded myself to just do what I can, rest and eat well and do it for baby's health! So if it stresses you out that you want ice cream but your superstitious aunt says don't, just get that triple scoop and feel AWESOME about it! :)
Weight gain: Healthy weight gain is between 10-15kg, don't worry about your weight as long as you are eating and resting well. I gained a total of 10kg from my initial 54.9kg. Some people commented that I looked small and didn't put on enough but my baby was born at 3.24kg which is a little above an Asian baby's average. Even doctors' scan is +/-200g accuracy, as we were expecting baby to be approximately 2.8kg.
Back ache in 2nd trimester: even with all my running and workouts, my lower back suffered in my 2nd trimester with my spine and posture arching back more to make room for my growing belly. The pain got to a point where it was difficult to move and drive without grimacing so I booked in an appointment with my trusty sports physio Physiowerks so that Valerie could take a look and apply some manual massage. We worked on a few stretches and she got me to be more aware of my posture and to consciously arch back less. After 3-4 sessions I was 'discharged' and my back pain never returned. Nip it in the bud early and go get professional advice, massage and help!
Helped SHAPE Magazine with technical trail support & guiding for their charity hike for Kinabalu guides
Week 36 getaway to Cameron Highlands: Highly recommend a long weekend getaway to get some rest and reflect. Went with Ashish and my in laws for 2 nights where we caught up on sleep and did a nice little hike near Robinson Falls in the nice, cool and damp trails. Also made time to finish the ONE book I read cover to cover to prepare for taking care of baby: Baby Whisperer by Trace Hogg. Highly recommend this as a few friends had said they spent too much time reading about labour which is usually over in less than 24 hours, but post-delivery the journey is much longer and tougher as you will need to kick into mother-mode immediately; learning how to breastfeed, change diapers, read baby's cries WHILE trying to recover physically and emotionally.
At Robinson Falls Trail with my amazing husband Ashish @ 36 weeks pregnant
Early inducement: Placenta showing premature signs of ageing - ultrasound showed small white dots of calcification appearing earlier than expected, so doctor advised us that he may want to induce on the 10th, 7 days earlier than our original due date. The concern was that baby may not be getting sufficient nutrients and blood flow from placenta.
When contractions got unbearable Ashish helped me visualise each centimeter worth of dilation as race checkpoint - which mentally calmed me down and focused my thoughts as I got fairly delirious with the pain by the 5-6cm point.
8am CP1: Water bag broken by doctor & Oxytocin drip to induce contractions. Didn't time them, but just practiced my breathing with deep inhales and a loud 'Ahhhhh' on the exhale
12pm+ CP7: Pethidine injection as local painkiller & oxygen gas mask. As contractions got quite unbearable I was delirious and drifting to sleep at times. On the exhale I would say the number '10' loudly as I was trying to tell my body to get to that dilation in my delirious state. The nurses, my mum and Ashish thought I was trying to count down from 10 to 0 and were laughing when I was repeating 10 over and over again. When the pain was unbearable I told myself that by this time tomorrow it will all be over - quite similar to the mindset during our long ultra races where you always ask yourself HOW DID I ROPE MYSELF INTO THIS???
2pm THE PUSH(ES): Doctor enters the room to start with the pushing process. Found this more bearable as I could engage my legs and arms (and lungs so much so everyone outside could hear me yelling). My legs felt like jelly and were wobbling all over the place! Doc was calm and gave clear instructions on the number of counts to push for. At this point Ashish said I put game face on as doc scrubbed up, nurses hoisted the bars around and below the bed and put the little curtain up around my legs. At this point was quite glad I didn't get epidural as I would not have been able to feel my feet. The motion of pushing engages the same muscles you use to do a huge No.2 - it felt incredible to be pushing life out of me into the world.
2:45pm THE FINISH LINE: After about 8-9 rounds of pushing, our baby Asha was delivered. She was handed to me and we had a beautiful few minutes where she stared into my eyes, and according to family - remained quite alert for the next hour as she was passed around and looked intently at every person carrying her. Nurses gave her a quick clean and then I held her to get her to latch on.
With Ashish at the finishing line of The Magnificent Merapoh Trail 30km race in Taman Negara, our beautiful national park - another raced I missed but thoroughly enjoyed just taking photos!
12 midnight: wheeled up to my room with baby Asha cradled in my right arm - due to twice the normal amount of blood loss, doctor kept us in for 5 days. As my haemoglobin count was half the normal count of 12 I could barely sit up on Saturday night without feeling like blacking out - seeing stars and having my ears ringing. I had to be assisted to move around until Tuesday.
Post delivery recovery
Been taking it easy, only started some light strengthening exercises and walking on Day 21 post delivery. More importantly, I'm having a balanced diet, continuing my supplements plus extra iron tablets for my low haemoglobin count. The first few days in hospital were quite rough - coping with the immense blood loss meant I was dizzy and nauseous at times, barely had an appetite, drew a fever on the monday, all the while attempting to breastfeed (and deal with painful nipples) and manage the discomfort of sore stitches from the episiotomy. I've got at least half my energy back now, and am in no rush to start exercising or working out. It has been a full on schedule just mustering enough energy to feed, clean, care and communicate to this new little life - something so special.
What I would do differently
Lots more rest pre-delivery, as it is QUITE an exhausting experience and you do put your body through so much. On a more practical note, along with the usual packing list I would prepare these in advance: nipple cream, nursing bras, set up electric breast pump (didn't expect to have to stay in the hospital for so long!) with milk storage bags.
I'm glad I was as fit as my schedule could manage when I fell pregnant - so the challenge now is to rest well, and get as fit as I can just in case next pregnancy creeps up on me again! :) I'm thoroughly grateful that my husband Ashish has been so supportive, challenging and encouraging at the same time - he allows me to experiment, make my own mistakes, chart my own path, but is also the voice of caution and reason and my best trail running and race buddy :)