MOVING FOR TWO // How does pregnancy fit in a movement lifestyle
I should warn you that I am not one to tell you that pregnancy is; “the best thing that can happen to a woman”, “blissful and miraculous”, “happiest time of my life” , you get the point… I guess I must have missed that bandwagon of emotional connection to the idea of reproduction. For me, multiplying in purpose of continuing your genetics have been OBVIOUSLY around for millions of years and there is nothing romantic about it in terms of biology. Although, it is pretty exciting to be brewing a mini version of you and your loved one combined. But instead of painting this picture with only bright colors, I want to talk about the truths and facts in the most objective way possible, my own experiences and struggles with pregnancy. Maybe it would be different for a person who has a sedentary lifestyle, but for a performer/athlete who still trains 4-5 hours everyday and wants to improve, let me tell you folks; it is hard and physically uncomfortable. But as for any uncomfortable experience in life, there are some unexpected pros for each of the cons!
Earlier in the spring I had too many projects going on at once so my training regimen was a little peculiar to start with. There was 2 completely different types of performances to choreograph and rehearse for. One required organizational work, meanwhile I was teaching a month long Teacher Training Seminar to my trainers, last but not least I was attending my husbands’ calisthenics class as the only representative of the female human species. The pressure was high, as you can imagine! So it did not surprise me when I started to feel a little heavy in the air and generally a bit weaker than usual. I knew how much mental stress can effect the physical performance so I thought I was just tired and needed a rest. After everything that was going on came to an simultaneouslyended it was time for us to pack our bags for the US to teach Parkour&Circus summer camps for 8 weeks. The general tiredness continued, so I started to think maybe I was losing my endurance & strength and it was time to return to some fundamental strength training, but then the obnoxious morning sickness hit me! Ooops, yep, definitely pregnant!
I was one of the lucky ones who avoided morning sickness in the first trimester, so I had more of a chance to train through through it, a bit, unaware of the little monkey growing in me. Of course, being a nerd in everything, I approached pregnancy with the same mindset: I did my research. I read actual researches mind you, not pregnancy articles or books. If you read too much online, you might as well roll on your side and do nothing for 9 months because apparently EVERYTHING is dangerous!
The researches and physical facts about pregnancy shone a light to the weird positive effects, as well as my struggles. Apart from all the loss of strength and lack of energy, my muscles were also growing at a visible pace (so were my boobs, by the way!) and I was feeling less sore with almost no DOMs. Later when I learned that blood flow increases up to 60% during pregnancy, it made so much sense. There is also more oxygen in your blood, so it is actually a great time to make “GAINZZ!” Plus your recovery rate will be off the charts. Would you have imagined that pregnancy has the same effect as blood doping? I did not, but it’s pretty cool. However, you need to be prepared to alter your training as you go farther along and resist the urge to “push through” the struggle. As your baby will quickly make you understand that the punishment of pushing through is not worth the extra gains. So relax and enjoy the extra blood flow in a chill manner. I suggest shorter but more frequent sessions.
After my nausea kicked in, it was nearly impossible for me to get upside down or do anything spinning, until I figured out how to minimize it. The golden rule that worked for me has been: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND NOT YOUR EGO! Eat what it wants you to eat, sit when it wants you to sit, sleep as much as you can and don’t get stuck on what you should/could have been doing. Nowadays I feel pretty good about handstands and inversions but spinning is still a trigger. I decided that it is not such a big loss in the bigger picture of things. If I feel nauseous I switch to something else. Usually mobility training instead of skill training. I also got really creative about teaching trapeze without actually getting upside down, even got some sweet combos out of it!
Let’s talk about mobility, because pregnancy is probably THE BEST time to train and increase your ROM! Prolactin is a hormone that circulates in your blood when your estrogen levels increase, production of prolactin peaks as your get closer to childbirth and after birth. So this wonderful hormones main job is to produce milk BUT it also has more than 300 functions in the body, including metabolic effects, regulation of fluids, regulation of the immune system and behavioral functions. One of its great functions is to cause laxity in the connective tissues (including ligaments) to prepare the body for the hard labor that is birth! Meanwhile it is a great hack to have in your back pocket to use it for your advantage! Make sure that you are training MOBILITY and ACTIVE CONTROL OF YOUR ROM rather than flexibility and static stretching though, If you gain to much flexibility without the strength your joints might loose stability. This is also why it is a good idea to limit high impact tricks and work more on softness or fluidity. Always take it slow and don’t abuse this hack! Like any hypermobile person (myself included) would tell you, it is not fun to have loose and unstable joints.
Prior to pregnancy, I have never really experienced serious shortness of breath and dramatic increase in heart rate, just because I have always been training and well conditioned. Imagine my surprise when my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest and my lungs felt like collapsing, just because I hiked a short steep hill! This one, by far is the most uncomfortable one for me, but unfortunately there is no way around it. Your body just has another priority right now and spends most of your available energy making sure that the baby is healthy and strong. It really doesn’t care that you want to climb that rock or run that mile. Best is to accept this fact and take your time doing anything strenuous, stop and collect your breath if you need to. Pat yourself on the shoulder for being an awesome bad ass pregnant lady already attempting this, be proud of yourself instead of comparing your non-pregnant condition to your pregnant condition!
One of the weirdest perks that I personally experienced is an incredible increase in proprioception. All the floor acro skills that requires coordination and air awareness suddenly became not just available but also felt so natural. Some of the skills that I learned during pregnancy are: Front walkover, back walkover, macaco, front handspring, back handspring and some super funky circus moves that don’t really have a name. As my belly grows and backbends are getting tougher, some of these moves will be tough to practice, but since my brain and nervous system knows what to do, they will be so easy to get back into! Moral of the story, instead of improving strength, focusing on skills that require coordination is more productive during pregnancy. It is also a more fun to stay active and feel like you are still improving.
Speaking of belly getting bigger, what do you think will happen to your center of gravity as you start to grow? Yeeeaaaah, it wil be weeeiiird! This is not a particularly negative or positive effect, it is just what it is. Some things will feel harder while other things may feel easier. Nevertheless, it creates a great opportunity for movement exploration and character developement, purely because you WILL have a very different body than what you had for years.
All in all, pregnancy is a very different experience than anything you have ever experienced. Going with the flow and embracing the limitations is the way that I found comfort in the process. Additionally letting go of my ideas for “improvement” and “training” was absolutely necessary for my sanity. So far it has definitely been a challenging and interesting time in my life and I am not sure I would like to go through it again. Ask me again after I meet the little one though, I heard it was quite magical! Before you go, let me tell you one more thing that might effect your own opinion on the subject: Sex, during pregnancy IS AAAHHH-MAZING!