Lift Weights Faster. But How?

If you do a lot of reading about strength training, or are familiar with the female strength and conditioning world, you’ve probably heard Jen Sinkler‘s famous line. When asked how she works out, her reply was “I lift weights”. Well what about cardio? “I lift weights faster”.

Steph Deadlift

Weight room and cardio combined? Sign me up. 

“Lift weights faster” has become sort of a creed in the fitness world, and for good reason. It’s not always necessary to spend long, drawn out sessions on the treadmill or elliptical in order to get your cardio in. It’s just as easy to get cardio in by simply “lifting weights faster”, if that’s more your speed (pardon the pun). If you enjoy your time on the treadmill as a way to de-stress, that’s one thing. But if you’re hating every second of it, and doing it just because you think you need to, well, you’re in luck.

But when many people hear this, they don’t quite understand what this  means. Do you literally just lift your weights at lightning speed? Won’t that lead to bad form and maybe injuries? And won’t you look just a little bit ridiculous?

So today, we’re going to get into a few of the ways in which I typically “lift weights faster”. These are great ways to sneak workouts in when I don’t have a ton of time, but you can also stretch them out and get in a nice long, full workout as well.

When I’m doing one of these types of workouts, weights are not at or near my max. I keep the weights to a level where they are challenging for the sets that I will be doing, but remember that you’re generally doing more reps, and that these are not true strength building days.

Ladder Sets

I use ladder sets when I am really strapped for time and have a couple of exercises that I can string together for full body workout in just a few minutes. I’ll also use a ladder set as a finisher at the end of a strength day, doing just one round for speed. For a ladder set, you will start with a higher number of reps — let’s go with 10, for this example. Perform 10 reps of exercise A, 10 reps of exercise B, then 8 of each, then 6 of each, all the way down to 2. After you reach 2 reps of each exercise that you have chosen, start again with 2 and build your way back up to 10.

The beauty of ladder sets is that you have to so much freedom to get creative. For heavier exercises, I would stick with the 10-2 rep scheme. But for more cardio based exercises, such as body weight jump squats, or KB swings, you could go into a larger rep range, doing 20, then 15, 10, and 5 reps before building back up.

Some suggested pairings for ladder sets, although the possibilities are endless:

– Ring assisted pistol squats with ring inverted rows

– Jump squats with skater jumps

-Kettlebell swings

-Burpees

-Bulgarian split squats with elevated push ups.

Super Set Everything

To lift your weights faster, you can also just super set everything, cutting way down on the rest and recovery time in between sets. Remember, this is not done at max weight loads, since you’ll risk injury without the proper recovery between sets/exercises. To superset simply means to do two separate exercises back to back, generally with opposing muscle groups, without resting in between. Say you have 8 exercises that you plan on doing in your lift. You can superset these into 4 sets of exercises, alternating between each set of 2 with little to no rest, instead of resting between each set of each of your 8 exercises. Some common lifts that I superset are:

-Barbell Squat with overhead press

-RDL (romanian deadlift) with bent over dumbbell row

-Barbell reverse lunge with push up

Active Recovery Between Sets

This will vary slightly from supersets, although you’re still completing sets of two separate exercises back to back. However, the difference here is that the “in between” exercise is more of an active recovery than an actual lift. You’ll be keeping your body moving and heart rate up, but this secondary exercise will be more about recovery and mobility than building strength. This is done in the same manner as super sets, in which you complete the active recovery exercise between lift sets instead of resting. Some common active recovery exercises that I use between lifts are:

-Spiderman Lunges

-Medicine ball lunge/twist

-Downdog/Push-up/Up-dog repetitions

-Body weight deep side lunges

You can also check out this post for some additional hip mobility exercises that you could use here as well.

Barbell Complexes

Barbell complexes are probably one of the most common ways to “lift weights faster” in the strength training world. All it takes is a barbell loaded up with relatively light weight, and a string of movements that you’ll do with little to no rest. I usually try to string together about 5 different movements, and will go for 4-5 rounds of a complex. These can be extremely taxing, so go lighter on the weights than you think you might need to — maybe even just the barbell for the first time you try one of these. Especially if you’re stringing together both upper and lower body  movements, you’ll need that weight to be fairly light to get through all of the reps with little to no rest.

A barbell complex will get your heart pumping and breath elevated like no other, so get ready to work!! Below is an example that I’ve posted previously, but as with the other ideas here, there are endless combinations you can do for an effective workout. Just remember to rest thoroughly between each complex, and work with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form for every exercise. If you feel yourself fatiguing to the point where form is compromised, stop and rest in the middle of a complex, and/or lessen your weight/reps. 

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Readers: In what form do you prefer your cardio? Weight room or traditional? 

Forget goals– Try This Instead.  

Last year at work, we had a staff retreat to start the year. You know those “retreats”; the name is misleading as it’s really just a day long meeting? Well needless to say, I wasn’t exactly stoked about the whole experience. But before the retreat, we were told that we were going to be taking part in the One Word program, and we would need to prepare one word on a sheet of paper for that day. The word was supposed to be ours — one word that we would want to embody throughout the year at work. My word for the year was Empathy, and I made a cute little arts and crafts poster to show it.

Now though, I’m not at work anymore. I practice empathy on a daily basis because it’s at the core of who I am as a person — I empathize even when I don’t really want to. But for some reason, I was recently thinking about this exercise and started thinking about what my word would be now. Life is different now, my priorities are different, I’m almost a completely different person than I was just a year and a half ago.

I also realized that at this point in my life, although I have things I want to work on, I don’t always have time to sit down and write down lengthy, specific goals for myself. Some days I’m lucky to just brush my hair, so a list of goals seems to be a little bit out of my wheelhouse right now. But one word? I can do that.

So I got to thinking. What is my one word? One word that encapsulates who I am, who I want to be and what I want to show Izzy as an example. And who knows — maybe my word will change next week, next month, or a few months from now, but at least it gives me something to focus on for the time being.

Presence. 

These are the months when Isabelle is growing and changing at a pace that I never thought imaginable. She changes seemingly overnight, and if I’m not present and aware, I’ll miss these subtle changes happening right before my eyes.

Likewise, little things I love that she does tend to disappear in the blink of an eye, and if I’m not present to notice them, they may disappear and be gone forever. Take, for example, when she was about 4 months old she had a span of about two weeks where she would do these loud, long, dramatic yawns that made me laugh every time. If I wasn’t paying attention and present during that time, I wouldn’t have those as a memory, because they’re gone from her ever changing vocal repertoire now.

But this word is not only important for my relationship with Isabelle right now; it’s important for my relationship with myself. I need to be present in the limited time I get for myself if I want to maintain some sanity and sense of self.

I need to be present during my workouts, because the time I have for them is so limited. If I’m off in La La Land, I’m not going to get done what I need to get done, and in turn, I won’t feel like my best self.

I need to be present during my limited time with Will, because my marriage is equally as important to sustain and flourish right now as my “me” time and my “Izzy” time.

I need to be present when on the phone with my family and friends — a feat that has proven to be very difficult nowadays, but those relationships deserve my time too, when I’m able to give it!

This one word involves so many pieces of my life, and it is equally important in all of them. Rather than make specific goals right now, which I realistically wouldn’t follow, I can easily think about this one word during my day and during my interactions with my loved ones, and my time by myself. I can try to incorporate it into different parts of my day, working on it a little bit more every day until full mental presence becomes my norm, and not something that I have to work on (hopefully, right?).

I’m feeling good about this, this one word. I’m feeling weight off my shoulders, not having specific goals to live up to right now, just letting things come as they will and working on each moment in that very moment.

If you’re feeling stressed or pressed for time, or unsure of what your goals should be right now, give this a try. Do some brainstorming, and figure out what words and themes are important to your life. You may find one common thread between them, and this may become your word! It’s much easier to focus on one word than several small steps, and it may give you something to focus on, which could in turn spur some inspiration or motivation for larger goals. (Along these same lines, my girl Monique recently wrote a great post about just doing something in order to get your inspiration flowing– check it out here!)

So if the thought of specific goals weighs you down more than it motivates you, take a few moments to think about one word. You may just feel lighter and more focused, without the stress of resolutions or deadlines.

What’s your word?

 

Don’t Fall For These Holiday Health Scams

Oh, the holidays. 

The 6 weeks out of the year between Thanksgiving and New Years when health and fitness scams are at an all time high. 

Ate too many Christmas cookies? Lose all the weight and 10 lb more by following this diet! 

Went a little too wild at one too many holiday parties? Detox with this magical tonic and lose 20 lb! Oh, you don’t need to lose 20 lb? YES YOU DO. 

Too much pie and not enough exercise? Just follow my 1000 burpees-a-day plan and you’ll be shredded in no time! 

Exaggeration, yes. But unfortunately, none of these are that far off on what people will try to sell you around this time. So today, we’re talking about those health lies and fitness scams, and how to spot them. 


The first, and most obvious rule is this: 

If it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is. 

Even though that’s a rule that most of us follow in our daily lives, when it comes to health and fitness, many people have a tendency to buy into hype and promises, no matter how far fetched a plan may seem. I think it’s just because we all want to believe that there’s an easy way out there. But trust me, if there was a magic pill, diet, or shake, it wouldn’t be a secret. 

Remember The Cookie Diet? Bingo. 

If they claim extraordinary results with minimal effort, it’s too good to be true. Likewise, if they promise something that makes you think “why doesn’t everyone use this if it works so well?”, it’s too good to be true. And if it comes in pill or powder form, you guessed it, it’s too good to be true.

Other red flags for health scams:

Specific results promised within a specific time frame. 

The truth is, every human body is different and responds differently to fat loss techniques. What works for your best friend may not work for you and vice versa. Just because Joe Schmoe got X results with Y strategy, you are in no way guaranteed the same results. In fact, I can almost guarantee you won’t get the same results.

So any plan or trainer that tells you that if you follow these rules for a specified amount of time, you’ll see these specific results? Yeah, they’re lying. 

Lose 10 lb in 2 weeks with this special diet! This, my friends, is a scam. Run away, and run away fast. 

You must do THIS exact thing to see results.  

Along those same lines, any trainer who tells you that you have to work out at a certain time of day, or eat a specific breakfast every day, or do one particular exercise in order to reach your goals is not worth your time or precious money. There is no one size fits all option when it comes to health and fitness, and if your trainer treats you exactly the same as every other client they have, you’re getting a raw deal. Health and fitness, and especially fat loss, cannot be cookie cutter from person to person. 

A magic pill, shake, supplement, etc without changing anything else in your life. 

Again, there is no magic. If you’re told that you can reach your body goals by taking a pill or mixing up some powder every morning, and that you don’t have to change anything else about your life, don’t even give it a second thought. It does not work, I promise. Even if it’s backed by your favorite celebrity or fitness guru, it Does. Not. Work. Fat loss and body change is hard work, and it’s an all encompassing project. Fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, environment– it all plays a role. And anyone who tells you different, will also probably try to sell you on my next red flag… 

Using the phrase long and lean. 

Want to spot a fitness con artist in one second? Look for someone who promises that their workout plan will make your muscles long and lean. This is impossible, yet it’s a goal sought after by many. You cannot make your muscles (or your arms, legs, or torso) longer. You cannot buy yourself the body of a ballet dancer if you’re not genetically built like one already. This is one of the oldest fitness scams in the book, but unfortunately many women still fall into the long and lean trap. Can we let this one go in 2017, please? 

Detox

The word alone makes me twitch. Anyone who tells you that you need their product to help your body detox from all of the sinful torture you’ve put it through is flat out lying to you. Human bodies have evolved to have a masterful detoxification system– it’s called your liver. You do not need to starve and survive on juice for 3 days in order to take advantage of this wonderful organ of yours, it does its job quite well on its own! Imagine that. To put it quite simply, I’m pretty sure the phrase “juice cleanse” is one of the biggest assaults against the true health and fitness industry. Don’t waste your time, money, or sanity, especially not in the name of health. 

So with all of these scams and lies out there, how can you reach your body and health goals? Good old fashioned hard work. It’s not catchy, it’s not sexy, and there’s certainly not anything to trademark. But there are real life results that you can’t get from a pill or powder. It’s hard, and it takes time, but you can do it. The right way. 

Top Two Tips For A Guilt Free Thanksgiving

So here we are again, huh? 

The Holidays. 

The dreaded food-everywhere-sugar-frenzy-packed-schedule holiday season. Also known as the guiltiest time of the year. 

From pie to cookies, to stuffing and green bean casserole, the upcoming six weeks can be a nightmare of temptation for dieters, riddled with guilt and “shouldn’t”. 

If you ask me though, the holidays are already packed with too much other stuff to be filled with guilt too. With all of the parties, get togethers, family time, gift shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, etc, how does anyone even have time to feel guilty? So here’s a thought: just don’t. 

My top two tips for a guilt free Thanksgiving? 

1. Eat what you really want. 

2. Don’t feel guilty. 

I know, it sounds like I’m being a jerk, because we all know it’s not that easy. And you’re right– it’s not always easy! But making a conscious decision to enjoy the food choices you make, eating them mindfully, and letting yourself actually enjoy them will go a long way towards your holiday sanity. 

What do I mean when I say to eat that pie or stuffing mindfully? It really comes down to 3 things: 

1. Note the flavors, textures, etc. The reasons that you love this food are exactly what you should focus on. 

2. Acknowledge the emotional or mental component. Does this apple pie have a nostalgic pull for you because you used to make it with your grandmother when you were young? That’s ok. Food is often connected to memories both good and bad, and I think it’s important to acknowledge and embrace this rather than shut it out. Whether we like it or not, food has an emotional sider that can add to your enjoyment of it, but it can also take that enjoyment away. Make sure that this food does the former, honor that feeling, so that suppressing it doesn’t lead to over indulging or binging later on. 

3. Make sure every bite still tastes good. You know when you eat too much of a good thing and it just doesn’t taste as good after a while? Even your favorite foods can fall victim to this tastebud paralasys as I like to call it. Stop before you get to that point– what’s the point in eating something if you’re not going to enjoy it? At first, this will take practice. But over time, you’ll begin to recognize this point without even thinking about it. 

And what about this not feeling guilty? How are we supposed to do that after all of the goodies that we come across at each and every holiday event? 

This one also takes practice. It takes patience and self love, and careful thoughtfulness when it comes to the three steps listed above. It’s ok if you eat pie and cookies…and stuffing and candied yams…and a second helping of mashed potatoes. Even if you do go a little bit overboard (let’s face it, most of us will), it’s one day. One meal. One tiny percentage of your time when your focus should be on family and love and laughter, not on the calories on your plate.

The food you eat on one day will not completely derail you from your goals. If you are trying to reach certain body goals though, be aware that going all out for the entire holiday season will probably set you back a bit. If you’re ok with that, own it, and drop the guilt. If you’re not, pick the times/parties/foods that you will indulge with, do so mindfully, and free up some brain space for creating new amazing memories with your family and friends– not calorie guilt. The bottom line is that this time of year doesn’t have to be stressful when it comes to food. This is just another day, another week, another month on your journey. You’ve got this! 

Repeat after me: There is no room for guilt at the Thanksgiving table. 

Especially this year– the political turmoil will take up enough space as it is. And after that awkward family argument, you’re gonna need that pie. Just enjoy it, ok? 

Wellness vs. Fitness: What’s The Difference?

A couple months ago when I completed my Health Coaching certification, I had quite a few questions about what that meant. What is a health/wellness coach? Is that like a personal trainer? Is it a nutritionist? Is it a life coach?

Well, the answer is none of the above, but parts of all of the above. A wellness coach is someone who helps their clients to find optimal mind and body wellness, often helping them with and focusing on inner behavior change. This can differ from a personal trainer or nutritionist who may just “prescribe” a workout or nutrition plan, with change coming from a strictly external source (the plan) rather than being driven by the client (changes in motivation, etc.)

And the truth is, neither of these are better or worse, but one method or the other does tend to work better for different people. Some have no trouble with the motivation or desire to modify their lifestyle, and for those people, a simple plan may be the best bet. But for those who also need a little bit of help finding their motivation, finding their drive towards making those behavior changes, and realizing that all of this lies within themselves, a wellness or health coach could be a wonderful fit.

Another question I get a lot is: So what does wellness mean anyway? Isn’t that just the same thing as fitness? To me, fitness is purely physical. It is the number of reps you can do, the speed at which you can finish a particular distance, or the number of pounds you can lift off the floor. It has to do with specific markers based on your size, gender, body type, training style, and training age. Fitness helps us to compare ourselves and others objectively, with hard numbers and data to back up those comparisons (whether we should be comparing at all is a completely different blog post!).

On the other hand, wellness encompasses so much more than the statistics and numbers that are utilized in fitness. Wellness incorporates certain things within yourself that can’t necessarily be measured in hard numbers or compared objectively to someone else. Your motivation, your past experiences with weight/fat loss, your attitude toward your ability to achieve your goals, your belief in your ability to stick with lifestyle changes in the future, and so on. There is so much that goes into wellness, beyond just how many pounds you can lift or how fast you can run hill repeats. When we’re talking wellness, your mind and your body are not mutually exclusive of each other. Instead, they work together, balancing each other on those inevitable days when you’ll have set backs or less than stellar performances.

what-does-wellness

So as you can see, while I do have my own answer to the wellness vs. fitness question, I also often turn it around on the question-asker. And that’s what I’m going to do today. What I want to know from all of you is what does wellness mean to you? And how does it differ from fitness (if you indeed see a difference?)

I will be taking a short break from all of my offerings on the blog (individual programs, personal training, wellness coaching) since I’m 40+ weeks pregnant at this point, but soon all of these services will be back in action! And during this time, aside from being a sleep deprived mommy monster, I want to reevaluate exactly what you all want to get out of this blog and coaching if you’re so inclined.

So please, in the comments below, let me know!

What does wellness mean to you and how does this differ from fitness exclusively?

What road blocks do you see in reaching optimal wellness for yourself?

What aspect of wellness do you find most difficult?

What aspect of wellness do you find most rewarding in your life?

Thanks so much for taking the time, and enjoy your day everyone! 

Are You As Active As You Think You Are? 4 Ways To Move More

So you go to the gym 3 times per week, like your doctor told you to. You lift some weights and jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes, do some abs, and call it a day.

You had a good workout, so now it’s ok if you just sit at your desk for the next 8 hours, and then in front of your TV for 2 more, right?

Unfortunately, not so much.

Yes, it is important and recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine that we get a certain amount of exercise per week, but those 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise won’t create the change that many of us are looking for. Any movement is better than no movement, but it’s also important to think about the rest of your day when you’re not in the gym.

I’m certainly not saying that you’re entire day needs to be spent on your feet or at a treadmill desk, but it is important to get in regular movement throughout your day, not just a 30 minute block at the beginning or end.

The movement fallacy.

Many people believe that if they get a workout in on a given day, it gives them the freedom to move less for the rest of the day, or to eat whatever they want for the rest of that day. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. A 30 minute moderate workout may only burn about 200-300 calories — the same amount of calories in one medium sized apple. Doesn’t seem so significant when you put it like that, does it? Regular exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, but what I find to be just as important is the amount of low intensity “lifestyle” movements you do throughout the day as well.  In other words, we need to be more understanding of the difference between exercise and simple activity or daily movement, and the necessity of both in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

These daily  movements come in the form of walking, standing, moving from place to place, even just standing for a periodic stretch break if you can’t actually get away from your desk at work. We’ve all been told a thousand times now that those long periods spent sitting are literally killing us, but we’re also told that 30 minutes per day of exercise will counteract that. Breaking up your sitting times at regular intervals throughout the day is a great way to ensure that you’re moving enough to make an impact on your health and your longevity.

So how can we move more throughout the day? It’s more than just picking a parking spot a little bit farther away; sometimes we need to be a little bit more deliberate than that. The following are 4 of the most consistent strategies that I use throughout my day to move a little bit more, a little bit at a time.

  • Pretend the escalators/elevators aren’t even there. Trust me, there are days when I’m exhausted and want someone to just push me home in a wheelchair. But I would say 99% of the time, if I’m coming out of the train station or going to one of my offices, I’m taking the stairs. Even when I’m tired, even when others are hopping on the elevator. Especially when the line for the escalator is long but the stairs are empty. Seriously — you’d be surprised at how often you can get somewhere quicker by using your own two legs rather than the machinery to get there.
  • Take a lap. If you are stuck in an office building all day, like many people are, hopefully you’re not actually chained to your desk (and if you are, you might want to speak to HR about that). Take a lap around the office in between phone calls, deliver a message to someone in person rather than through email, actually walk to the proverbial water cooler and have a conversation. If you are in the depths of a huge project and can’t do any of this, at the very least stand and do some light, unobtrusive stretching at least once every hour. I’m not talking about getting on the floor in butterfly stretch, but bring your arms up, twist your torso, and just move your body, even lightly, for a few moments. The extra blood flow may even give your brain a boost, giving you a bright idea for that meeting you have coming up.
  • Be Ambitious. Sometimes things like this do take some extra effort, and require a little bit of motivation. For some of  you, this may  not be an option at all, but is along the same lines of parking at a farther parking space. For those who are train commuters in a city, try getting off the train one stop sooner than you have to. I started this habit last year, mostly because I actually like that extra walking time on the way to and from work. It gives me just a few minutes to gather my thoughts, center myself, and decompress from the “go-go-go” of my work day. Yes, you do have to give yourself extra time, and this isn’t really realistic when the weather is miserable, but for me, one or 2 extra train stops meant an extra mile or more of walking per day. That adds up!
  • Make yourself a deal. Add in little bits of actual exercise, without turning them into a full on workout. For instance, there are certain times where I’ll tell myself that every time I walk past the pull up bar in my house, I have to do one pull up. One rep seems like nothing at the time, but when I pass through the same doorway 15 times in one day, that adds up to (you guessed it) 15 pull ups. Not bad for fitness “freebies”, right? You can make a similar deal with yourself whether or not you have equipment in your home. Commercial break during your favorite show? 15 squats and 15 glute bridges. Have a bench in your bedroom that’s the perfect height for incline push ups? Every time you enter that room, bang out 10 pushups. It’s easy, and it’s not something you have to do every day, but it’ll get you moving at times when otherwise you might just be sitting around.

 

Readers: How do you move more throughout the day? Is it possible for you to take a different train stop or find another way to sneak movement into your commute? 

 

 

My Workout Progression Through Pregnancy

As I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy, I’ve recently begun to be on the receiving end of a lot of questions and concerns about my health and the health of my baby.

It’s no secret that I’ve remained active throughout my pregnancy, and at nearly 38 weeks, I’m still going not so strong. Because of all of the questions though, I wanted to take a few minutes to address some of these concerns and paint a picture of what my workouts, and my exercise progression (or, more accurately, regression) has looked like for the past 37 weeks.

“Are you supposed to be doing that?”

This is a question I’ve received a lot, especially as I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy. I’ve also had it asked in a less tactful way, as in when my neighbor straight up asked “are you hurting your baby?” while I was in the middle of a back yard workout this summer.

Spoiler alert: No, those battle rope swings were not hurting Baby R.

Anyway, I think most people ask these types of things not out of malice, but out of concern. They’ve been told for most of their lives that pregnant women are not supposed to lift anything remotely heavy, are not supposed to exert themselves in any way, and are essentially supposed to lie in wait for their baby to be born for 9 months. I don’t get angry at people who ask me this question, but I do try to clarify the truth for them.

And the truth is, pregnant women are more than capable of physical activity, as long as it’s something that they were engaged in prior to becoming pregnant, and as long as they have gotten the OK from their doctor. Now, I’m not a marathon runner, so I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to train for a marathon while pregnant. Likewise, I’m not a CrossFitter, so I wouldn’t join a new box and try to compete in the Crossfit games while pregnant. But weight lifting, casual running, spinning, and other types of fitness are normal parts of my life. Since becoming pregnant, I have continued with these types of activities, just modifying them as needed as things progress. Because I’ve had a low risk pregnancy, all of this is encouraged by my doctor, and by current research in the field.

Have I maxed out my deadlift or squat for the past 9 months? Not even close. But I have kept myself under and barbell and have tried to maintain as much strength as possible while still being safe for myself and for baby.

Have I set any new running PRs? Oh, hell no. But I did continue running at a slower, more comfortable pace, up until I was about 6-7 months pregnant. Maintaining strength and physical activity is great for a pregnant woman’s body during labor and delivery, and also helps her to recover after the trauma that is child birth. As long as you’re not over exerting (and remember, this is different relative to all of our various pre-pregnancy lifestyles) physical activity is a benefit in most pregnancies, not a hinderance. Of course, there are certain medical conditions and circumstances which prevent this, but the overwhelming rule us that it is more than healthy to continue physical activity into the duration of your pregnancy, as long as you are mindful and smart about it.

So how has my progression looked? And keep in mind — this is just me, for this one pregnancy. My next pregnancy will likely look and feel much different, just as each pregnancy will for every other woman out there who experiences this. What I do should shed no light on what others “should” be able to do, and it certainly is not a rule book to guide anyone through their own pregnancy. I am just an example, a unique experience, and information here should be taken as such.

First Trimester: Weeks 5-13

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I start at week 5 because that is when the test turned from one line to two!

During my first trimester, I was extremely lucky to not be plagued by horrible morning sickness. I did have nausea, but it generally came on in the evenings, which worked out well for my morning workouts. My energy was certainly not up to my normal standards, but I did find that keeping a consistent workout schedule helped to keep my energy as high as possible during that time. As I got to the end of the first trimester, I did realize that back to back workout days really took a toll on me, so I made sure to generally schedule things with at least one rest day in between tougher workouts.

During these weeks, I was still weight lifting, spinning, and running, and would base the intensity on how I felt on any given day. I did take the weights down on my weight lifting days, sticking to about 60% of my previous weight levels on the big compound lifts (deadlift, squat, bench).

One thing I realized as well, however, was that my upper body could train a lot harder than my lower body. I made a conscious decision to continue with push ups, pull ups, and heavy weight training for my upper body, as long as these things did not overly strain my core too much.

And the result? Although my workouts were overall less than before, my upper body strength actually went up in several lifts, including the overhead press. I’d call that a win!

Second Trimester: Weeks 14-27

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During these weeks, I felt excellent overall. It was the amazing second trimester energy burst that many women describe, and boy did I notice it! My nausea all but disappeared, and my appetite went back to normal. During this time, however, I did have to be extra careful about taking rest days in between workout days, in order to avoid lower abdominal pain. I learned to recognize the discomfort of over exertion pretty quickly, and listened to my body intently when it needed 2,3, or even 4 days in between workouts.

Lifting continued, albeit with even more decreases in the big lifts. I took my squat and deadlift down to about 50% of my pre-pregnancy weights, using this time to just keep my muscles engaged. This was not about building (or even really maintaining) strength, just maintaining proper movement patterns and engaging my muscles just enough to continue feeling good physically and mentally.

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Running ended between 6 and 7 months, once I realized that it had become too painful. Around this time, I did want to keep up some good cardio conditioning within my own limits, so I took to the hills by my house and would walk hill repeats for 30-40 minutes at a time. This wasn’t too strenuous, and didn’t give me the pelvic pain of running, so it was the best thing for me then, and continues to be my cardio of choice at this point as well.

Third Trimester: Weeks 28-40

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And here we are in the 3rd trimester! Lifting is still part of my routine, but it’s only about once per week now, or twice if I’m feeling good. I was still in the weight room for most of the third trimester, but as I’m nearing full term, I have been sticking mostly with dumbells and cables in the gym, and kettlebells/resistance bands at home. Workouts are short with plenty of rest, and I listen carefully to my body to make sure I’m not overdoing it. Some days I feel great and can get an hour of light work in, and some days it’s just 15 minutes! The key for me in these later weeks has been to take it one day at a time, and to remember to not compare myself from one day to the next. This little baby takes priority, and while I want to maintain as much strength as I can to keep myself healthy through labor and delivery, I also want to make sure that she’s given the best environment in there to grow and develop.

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A little tired gym selfie! 

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At this point, at just under 38 weeks, I am proud to say that I am still as active as I can be. I may move a little slower and less gracefully, but with an uncomplicated pregnancy so far, I’m doing what I believe to be the best thing for both myself and for my baby girl.

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Readers: Do you have any questions? Have any of you maintained an active lifestyle during pregnancy, and what was your experience like? Did you receive any negative backlash for doing so?