Previous installments of Feel the Burn can be found here. “Working Out in Your First Trimester” is here.
Ah, the magical oasis of your second trimester. FOR SOME, right? If you’ve already been told to elevate your legs above your head and are on full pelvic rest and feel like garbage, please close this tab immediately and do whatever it is you’re doing to keep your sanity.
If, however, you’re having a pretty normal pregnancy, the second trimester is where it’s at. You (especially if you’re on round #2 or more) look Definitively Pregnant, your puking is ideally under control (YMMV, my cousin threw up literally every day of all three of her pregnancies), but you’re not yet beginning to experience the MASSIVE STRUCTURAL FAILURES that await many pregnant people in the third trimester. That thing where you need to pee, but when you sit to pee, the baby moves and blocks off your ability to pee, so you can’t pee? Let’s not borrow trouble, we’re not there yet. Let’s talk about exercise.
For me, it’s absolutely been easier to work out in my second trimester than in my first. What’s gone is the bone-crushing weariness, which really knocked my training on its ass more than the nausea. I felt like Beth March, some days, like [wanly lifts pen, sets it back down.]
If I had to define the transition between the first part of pregnancy and the second part, at least when it comes to physical activity, I would say that the roadblocks to working out change from Feeling Like Shit, Generally Speaking, But Your Body Is Recognizably Your Own:
…to Body Presents You With Physical Limitations and Spatial Issues, But Your Energy Is Back (I know Bella’s wasn’t, but she was under pretty extreme circumstances):
Think how great the Twilight screencaps will be when we get to the third trimester! But I digress.
Something I had been prepared to adjust in the second trimester, and was happy to discover is over-hyped, is the ol’ you-can’t-lie-on-your-back-no-more. I had been bummed about it, because so many of my favourite exercise moves involve lying on my back on a weight bench (presses! skullcrushers!), or lying on my back on a mat (pelvic lifts! VARIOUS HAMSTRINGS) and, well, you just know that you’re going to be forced to add in extra squats and lunges to fill in the time you would have spent, happily, on your back.
Now, the not-lying-on-your-back thing comes from the TruFact that when you do, the weight of your full uterus will smush this vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart and make you all dizzy and stuff. That’s why they want you to sleep on your side instead of your back in pregnancy. This presents a problem for only those witches and freakazoids who are capable of sleeping on their backs. Back-sleeping is a sign of demonic possession. Everyone is supposed to sleep on their stomachs with one leg flamingo-d up and out to the side. That’s just science. But, yeah, that’s what the back thing is about.
THEREFORE, many people will tell you you can’t lie on your back to exercise, which is untrue. Being on your back for brief periods of time is fine. Like THE VAST MAJORITY of pregnancy-related things, your body will tell you when to get off your back. I have this from Qualified Medical Professionals.
Do you feel dizzy? Get off your back.
Do you feel fine? Keep on keepin’ on.
Every week, I go to the gym, and my people say “you still good on your back?” and I say “I think it’s okay this week, but probably next week will be the last week!” and then:
Months come and go, but instead of being depressed about Edward, you’re happily exercising on your back like a boss.
Now, this will end at some point, I have no doubt. But for now, these are the actual things I am not doing anymore, because of weird pressure or bad feelings:
1. Reverse twisting crunches on an incline bench (Actually my best move, damnit.)
2. Full sit-ups (I know, I know, people don’t even do them a lot anymore, but I LOVE FULL SIT-UPS and have a very flex-y spine.)
3. The Roman chair back extension stuff.
So, you know, not a ton of actual restrictions. But then…this is the other thing, at least for me, about the second trimester.
I AM LOSING STRENGTH. I HATE IT. I HATE LOSING STRENGTH.
I’m just…weaker. I can’t do the same weights. I can’t do full push-ups. Everything is eroding, little by little.
The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. – Galadriel
And it’s okay, it doesn’t really matter. But it does matter, to me, a little? It doesn’t NOT matter. And it’s strange to watch your body change. We don’t really talk about weight on this site, ever, which is a very deliberate choice of ours and we’re happy with it, but I had planned on gaining a bit less weight with this pregnancy because last time I put on more than the recommended amount (which is fine, it’s SO individual) and the hardware in my left leg (titanium rod, handful of screws just below the knee and just above the ankle) started to bug me and the scar tissue got weird and I developed a really impressive dragging limp for a couple of months.
Which was not my favourite thing, obviously, so I was all “well, I will eat with greater awareness and I’m a very fit person now and will have a different experience and blah blah” but, in fact, I am having an identical experience, because this is just what my body does when there is a baby inside it. My mom gained the same amount of weight, to the pound, both times, and I think that’s me, too. I’m limping already.
All of which is to say that you’re working with what you have, we all are, and there will be days where that’s fantastic, and days where you’re just showing up. Being a fitter person is great. It is not a bulwark against the realities of change and a way to ward off age and the natural processes of the body.
Please enjoy your day.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.