Pregnancy is a truly personal experience, and every mama should do what feels right for her (and what her doc recommends, of course). But it’s always interesting to see how different women handle the various challenges that each trimester has to offer — and what felt right for our contributor Nichole, who just happens to also be a two-time Ironman finisher, was fascinating! –Jenn & Kristen 

One might think I was crazy if I told them I ran 4 miles a couple of days a week, did 60-minute intense weight lifting classes several days a week, and filled in the gaps with the stationary bike, elliptical, and stairs throughout my entire pregnancy. One would almost certainly find it crazy that, in my final week of pregnancy, I ran 4 miles on Tuesday, lifted (while having contractions) on Thursday, and delivered on Friday (40 weeks + 1 day).

But you know what? I felt good! Really, really good!

My mindset throughout my entire pregnancy was to listen to my body. No matter what anyone (other than my doctor) said or how crazy they made me feel, I was going to do me and what I thought was best for “us.”

Now mind you, I didn’t just randomly start exercising and eating healthy when I got pregnant — I had a solid foundation as a two-time Ironman endurance athlete, with numerous triathlons and marathons under my belt, so I worked with that base. And, in addition, my doctor was aware of my activity and monitored me closely throughout my pregnancy.

With that being said, I will insert the disclaimer that I am not a medical expert, nor do I recommend starting any kind of a new regimen while pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

This was my first child, and I’m no spring chicken … 35 years and counting! Hence, I wasn’t sure how long it would take or even if I could get pregnant. At the time, all I was focused on was completing my next venture of running up Pike’s Peak (check out my journey to the top here), which I conquered about two weeks prior to becoming preggo. The “plan” was to knock this off my bucket list, then focus on trying to become a mother. Little did we know that it would happen right away. We were shocked and a little scared to say the least!  I just kept thinking “Holy CRAP, I’m going to be in charge of a human life!” There’s nothing quite as terrifying as that.

Some think that pregnancy is a time to kick those feet up and indulge in whatever your heart desires since you’re eating for two, but with my health and fitness history, my attitude leaned more toward, “How healthy can I eat while staying active and keeping this baby safe?”

My doctor hadn’t overseen too many endurance athlete pregnancies and encouraged me to be smart while listening to my body and baby. I’m stubborn as can be, but nothing will make you put yourself second like a child. The way I saw it, this baby and I were a team and, no matter what, I would always put her first (yes, I did say “her” … I had a girl!).

With that said, nutrition was top on my list. Here are some typical foods I ate during my pregnancy …

Lots of fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grains. I ate so many avocados that my husband feared our child would come out green! Fortunately, these nutritious foods sounded good to me — I know that’s not always the case for pregnant women, and it doesn’t matter how good something is for you if you can’t keep it down.

When I did have strong cravings for less healthy fare, I made it into a game. I would find a way to tweak the recipe in order to make a version that amped up the nutrition. For example, I LOVE macaroni and cheese. So, I would take whole-wheat pasta and pair it with real cheese, and then mix in tons of goodies (peas, cauliflower, corn, spinach, tomatoes, chicken). I did this with a lot of my cravings. I’d first scope out the ingredients and say: “How can I make this healthier while still enjoying it and honoring the craving?”

I even made chocolate a daily treat. I would savor two squares of 90-percent dark chocolate with vanilla Greek yogurt and almonds every morning. Still do! PURE BLISS.

With the decisions I made during pregnancy, I had to deal with a lot of criticism from people who, I’m sure were well-meaning, but had no clue what my doctor and I had discussed. They’d say things like: “You’re not gaining enough weight. All that physical activity and bouncing around can’t be good for the baby. Are you getting enough protein? Are you drinking enough water?” Although there were times I’d let things get to me (again, only human), if I lived my life in fear, I’d never be happy nor would I be able to enjoy the gift of pregnancy.

My advice? Choose your tribe wisely. Block out the naysayers and embrace all of the supporters!

Other than the typical exhaustion that comes with the third trimester, I felt strong leading up to labor and during. I had trained well for this race. With that being said, my husband and I were really fortunate — we checked into the hospital around 6:30 a.m. and met our healthy, beautiful, 7-lb 9-oz daughter around 1:30 p.m. after pushing for 20 minutes. Now I realize that all pregnancies and deliveries are VERY different. Women’s bodies are simply AMAZING! For my experience, I definitely prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.

Would I do it the same way again? ABSOLUTELY. In the words of my husband, “If we ever have another, I know you’ll go even bigger.”

What was your pregnancy and birth experience like? —Nichole

Categories: Fitness

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