I need to start by saying this - Sari Anderson is a stud. She is a two-time national mountain bike champion, the 2006 Adventure Race World Champion, a badass trail runner, ski mountaineer and an Xterra Winter World Champ. Somewhere along the way, she also managed to pop out two kiddos! And then to top it off, she got right back on the trails and after being selected as one of Outside Magazine's "Fittest Real Athletes," she was invited at the last minute to join the reigning XPD Adventure Racing World Championship team in Tasmania for this year's event. Yes, she just left a few days ago.
So in other words, Sari Anderson is hard-core. Having kids has not slowed her down one bit. While I cannot claim to have maintained Sari's level of workouts during my pregnancy, my favorite take-away from her story is her insistence that no matter what level of athlete you are, you need to listen to your body.
I thought about this concept for a while. Listen to your body. This is something I have told countless athletes who I've prepped for various events over the years. I have come to lean on this phrase because as an athlete, I understand what it means. It should be simple, right? Don't get injured - Listen to your body. Don't get dehydrated - Listen to your body. Don't bonk - Listen to your body.
What I failed to remember is that the first time you ever try something new, you have no idea what you are listening for! So while I agree 100% with Sari, I am often at a loss during my first-ever pregnancy as to what I should be listening for!
For example, one of the drawbacks to being pregnant is that my immune system is not at its peak. My body is using all of its magic to protect Baby Girl instead of protecting me. So far, I have had 2 common colds, both of which lasted at least twice as long as they normally would. And just last week, I came down with a very bizarre syndrome from which I've suffered 3 times in the last 15 years. It's called parotitis. In my case, it's caused by a blocked salivary duct (the parotid gland) which causes my face to swell painfully. It looks like the mumps.
When I realized this was happening, I prepared for a couple days of pain and swelling, with the knowledge that this would resolve itself after sucking on some lemons, gargling with salt water and using warm compresses. But here's the kicker - nothing is the same during pregnancy.
After 3 days of increasing pain, my midwives suggested that I go to Urgent Care and get a more structured treatment. The first thing that happened is that the nurse who admitted me told me that I didn't even look pregnant. I am now a fan of Urgent Care for life, and we can strike my previous blog about how everyone seems to think I'm much bigger than I should be!
The doctor gave me a prescription for pain med's, antibiotics and steroids, all pregnancy-approved, and said to come back if it doesn't get better. I decided that the steroids scared me and even though the doctor said they were okay, I put that prescription in my back pocket in case the other options didn't help.
So here's the deal. I have no idea if I am doing Baby Girl a favor or if I am putting her in danger by taking medicine. I still don't know if taking antibiotics and pain meds are the right thing to do or if I'm just being a wimp. I've obviously got a bit of a guilt complex with this one. My justification is that I am supposed to be a healthy, safe vessel in which Baby Girl is safely developing. With the pain, sleeplessness and inability to eat properly brought on by parotitis, I felt that I was putting her health in jeopardy by NOT pursuing a more aggressive treatment. But now we're both on drugs! Which is worse? Goodness does it ever get easier?!!!
On that note, I hope you enjoy Sari's Belly Tale, especially her take on listening to your body and enjoying the process, no matter what level of athlete you may be!
Sari's Belly Tale in her own words
Age when pregnant: 28 and 31
Amount of weight gained: 40 pounds for 1st child and 30 for second
Describe your general fitness regimen while pregnant.
Throughout my first pregnancy I continued running on the trail and the road as well as mountain biking and road biking. I did not do very many intense workouts but I maintained the same distances as pre-pregnancy. I was able to trail run for up to 3 hours at a time as well as road ride for 4 or 5 hours. As I reached the third trimester I continued to run and ride however I was only able to run about an hour at a time. The day my water broke I rode 50 miles on the road bike.
Due to time constraints of already having one child, my training sessions while pregnant with my second child were much shorter. I most often ran on the road pushing my daughter in the Chariot for up to an hour and a half. I continued riding my road bike right until the day before my son was born and added in ski mountaineering. Throughout the second pregnancy I felt like I could push myself slightly harder than I had the first time since the sessions were shorter in duration.
For both pregnancies, my guideline was to be able to talk while exercising. I made sure I wasn’t gasping for breath between each word but definitely let my heart rate elevate to a place where I felt like I was getting good exercise. Finally I tried my best to listen to my body which meant that some days I ran almost as fast as pre-pregnancy and other days I took a nap.
How fast did your body "bounce back" after birth? How is your post-baby body different than your pre-baby body, if at all?
I began running and riding two weeks (1st child) and 1 week (2nd child) after delivering. Both of my children were small at birth (4.5 lbs & 6 lbs) so my body did not have much recovering to do. I took it easy to gauge how I felt and relished in having a lot less weight in my belly. I raced in a local mountain bike race and running race at 8 weeks post-delivery after each child. I was much slower than pre-pregnancy but by this time I was very ready to push the pace. Due to breastfeeding I lost most of the baby weight within about 3 months however I did not lose the last 5 or so pounds until I finished nursing. I am still nursing our 18 month old twice a day and look forward to losing those last few pounds once we are both ready to wean.
What other thoughts or advice do you want to share to your fellow athletes?
One of the most important things I reminded myself of daily while pregnant and while regaining my body was that it was all worth it for my children. I ate reasonably well throughout pregnancy while allowing myself some treats every once in a while and now I eat healthy while nursing and training hard. Despite not being back to exactly the same weight as pre-pregnancy, I feel great, fit into all my clothes and most important, my kids are happy and healthy. If you listen to your body, you will gain the amount of weight that is the healthiest for you and your baby. I have friends who have gained up to 50 or 60 pounds and been back to pre-pregnancy weight within a few months of giving birth. That’s just how their bodies handled pregnancy. It is often very difficult for athletes to deal with the change in their bodies but I can only recommend that you constantly remind yourself of why your body is changing and how amazing the end result is.
NOTE: This information is not intended to be a medical guideline for pregnant women. If you are pregnant, it is recommended that you consult your physician to determine a prenatal exercise program that is right for you.