Captive for 9 ½ Months

Len Panchuk and Nicole Lark at Breathe Fitness on Whyte Avenue regularly collaborate with The Acupuncture Turning Point to help our clients be at their best.

by Nicole Lark BHK, PTS, TSCC-3

Originally published April 30, 2015 on The Acupuncture Turning Point website

TO HAVE A CHILD, or not to have a child? It is a question I have asked myself many times — depending on the day it can be ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Being a step-parent for the past 6 years, starting at the age of 25, to two young children (now 7 & 11 years old), I have a fairly reasonable idea of what to expect. Children can bring a wealth of enjoyment and satisfaction to your life, but ……they can also wear down your patience, zap every ounce of your energy, and forever change “normal” as you know it.

Fast forward: I am currently in my second trimester and experiencing first hand the very early stages of motherhood. Being a sport fanatic and health enthusiast most of my life, child-bearing, as anticipated, is interfering with “normal”. To be completely honest, I have always had a hard time believing any woman who tells me she ‘enjoyed being pregnant’.

That said, I do appreciate that it is a remarkable transformation, one that connects me not only to my mother who gave birth to me, but to generations now before me and yet to come. To be able to grow a being inside of me is a miraculous thing.

On the tough reality side, the actual day-in, day-out experience is something that really challenges me to develop tolerance and patience (something I know I will continue to be “taught”). I am currently viewing pregnancy as one horribly long marathon that I must endure for the reward of the end result.

Any woman who has been pregnant knows first hand that the first trimester is often extremely exhausting — most are plagued with ‘morning sickness’ or worse, ‘all day sickness’.   I have never had as many daytime naps as I did during my first trimester, nor had so much difficulty just eating. I struggled to find foods that I could swallow, knowing that if I could just get it down, it would actually make me feel less sick.

Feeling nauseous most of the time and being extremely tired made it very difficult to continue exercising. This has interfered with the core of my vitality. I feel temporarily held hostage or imprisoned in this pregnancy (I know, I know – it is a blessing and of my own choosing!). Being a health professional in the personal training industry, I know very well that exercise is important for a healthy pregnancy. But, staying motivated to continue working out has been tough — fatigue and nausea often win the battle with me succumbing to the couch for an afternoon nap instead of hitting the trail or weights. I am used to working out consistently 6 times per week – at best it was reduced to 2 or 3 times per week at a much reduced intensity and duration. Being so physically exhausted made me frustrated — I just did not have my usual energy to workout. So much of my hard work was going to be lost over the next year.   Less than three months into my pregnancy here I was already experiencing how my child was altering the fabric of my being and how parenthood will inevitably change my entire life!

Now in my second trimester and reclaiming some of my energy and experiencing less nausea, I am exercising more, but not to the same extent as “before motherhood”. Physically, I am in relatively decent shape, still able to lift weights and use the elliptical or swim for cardio. However, more than anything, I do miss my early morning runs where I enjoyed the quiet of the morning, embracing the trails before others are even awake, with a sense of calm that I only get after exercising outside in nature.   Mentally, it is hard to accept the fact that I am not able to do something I intrinsically enjoy that I feel is a part of the core essence of who I am.   Some people have suggested I could still hit the trails in the early morning by walking; from the perspective of a non-runner this makes sense. Yet any dedicated runner will tell you walking is just not the same! There is something exhilarating about running in a trained body that can only be elicited through the act of running. It would be similar to someone telling a downhill skier to take up cross-country skiing — they both have their merits, but one cannot replace the other.

This is one of the few times women can gain weight and not be ill perceived by society (too bad I am too stubborn to take advantage of that!). As easy as it would be to just stop exercising all together during my pregnancy, I just cannot do it. For my physical, mental and emotional health I know that exercising is of paramount importance for me as well as for the health of my future child. I feel morally responsible to my baby and partner to do everything within my control to ensure a healthy pregnancy and thus healthy baby. Everyday, although I aim to hit 10,000 steps on my pedometer, either through walking, elliptical, or a combination of both, I also aim to give my body (and baby) rest when I feel I need it. I want to continue strength-training two to three times per week to maintain – not necessarily augment – my strength. Basically, I know it is critical for me to use physical fitness for my mental and emotional health on one hand, and to assist with the physical demands of pregnancy and childbirth on the other.

So I am learning to be more lenient with myself these days about how often and hard I exercise, but I am not willing to become complacent and find multiple excuses to avoid exercising altogether. I believe we all must take personal responsibility for our own health and not let changes in our life circumstances – be it a pregnancy, an injury, student or work life – stand in the way of taking care of our selves.

As I get deeper into my second trimester I will blog about how my exercise habits and perceptions of loss of “normal” unfold. I am hoping that by trying to stay active, even though it is harder than ever to do so, it will help me cope, adapt, and maybe even thrive within the constant challenges of be(com)ing a mother.