Learning to Just ‘Be’ with Pregnancy

When I embarked on The Adventures in Parenthood Project, I had a lot of questions. A few of them had to do with wondering what I would be able to do in the outdoors and for exercise while I was pregnant. To begin finding some answers, I included a section in the survey I conducted, wherein I asked women questions about resources they were able to find on what they could do while they were pregnant, which activities they enjoyed, how supported they felt, and more. Of the 442 survey respondents, 60.8% responded to the questions, which gave me a lot to work with.

I won’t divulge into those statistics today (though I bet you’re wondering what I came up with!). But what I will get into briefly are my own thoughts on the topic now having the perspective of being pregnant myself. Prior to becoming pregnant, I was curious to know both what I would be allowed to do in terms of outdoor activities, and what I would want to do. I discovered, of course, that these are two very different things and it is entirely up to the individual woman to decide how she will navigate those waters.

On one of many mountaineering trips (Mt. Rainier) pre-pregnancy, of course. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
On one of many mountaineering trips (Mt. Rainier) pre-pregnancy, of course. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

I thought that being active in the outdoors would be something I’d fight for through my pregnancy because it is so important to me. It still is, but the main thing I have learned through this process is that, while I’m growing a baby, I just need to be doing what I can to ensure that I am able to stay active and healthy. Sometimes that is outside, but most of the time it is not.

I definitely enjoyed hiking in the summer, but learned the hard way when too much is too much (read How (Not) to Cross a Glacier in a Thunderstorm While Pregnant for more). Now I get my fresh air mainly through walking and the odd ski, and otherwise find that the best workout regiment for me has been going to the gym three times a week, where I alternate an hour’s worth of cardio on the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike, and then finish with some arm weights and a good stretch. Modified yoga at home has also been lovely (though I yearn for a more rigorous and challenging practice!). All in all, if you looked at my lifestyle the past 4 months, you’d never know that I’d climbed mountains, backpacked thousands of kilometres, or skied in the Arctic.

I'm looking forward to getting back into a more serious yoga practice. Photo taken in the Giant Cedars, Revelstoke National Park. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
I’m looking forward to getting back into a more serious yoga practice again. Photo taken in the Giant Cedars, Revelstoke National Park. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

But, it really doesn’t matter. If anything, pregnancy has further challenged me to really let go of identifying myself by what I do. This isn’t easy in a community that is on hyper-drive when it comes to mountain sports. And at the same time, I have relished the excuse to just ‘be’ and to do what my body is telling me to do. Often it’s telling me not to be so hard on myself.

I have to admit, though: I can’t wait to crack into our gear room again. To go sorting through sleeping bags and hiking poles, harnesses and camping stoves. To breathe in the smells of the outdoors without having to worry about how my body will hold up. But I know these last few months of pregnancy are precious. In just a few months, it will have been well worth the wait for the little package we are expecting.

For now, I just need to take good care of myself, and remember that the next outdoor adventure will always be waiting for me.

A Note on Finding Your Own Limits: To find out what my body could handle during pregnancy, I mostly just tuned into how it was feeling while I was exercising and consulted some sources on the web. I know just how hard I can push myself, so I had to be extra cautious in keeping activities moderate and easing into them slowly. This is something I continue to do – ongoing monitoring of my breathing, my heart rate, my level of exhaustion and any warning signs that I need to ease off.

Overall, I have learned that a lot of this depends on how active you were before you were pregnant, so each woman will have to determine this for herself. Consult your doctor if you are at all concerned. Mostly, remember that no matter what you were able to do before you were pregnant, your body has completely transformed in its pregnant state, so you really cannot depend on “well, I was able to do this before!” Be mindful of how you are feeling and give your body a break when you need it. 🙂

For more on this topic, check out the section “Being Active During Pregnancy” in my Resources.

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

13 thoughts

  1. So so true! I am feeling a calling to get out snowshoeing before the arrival of my baby – BUT I suspect my hips/pelvis will limit just what I can do/how long I can go for – whereas i can swim and go on the elliptical with no discomfort at all. In some ways as this is the “between summer and true winter” mountain time, it is easier/definitely safer to stay indoors and be fit until there is a decent snow base. I have come to truly enjoy just “moving” and feeling more like the “non-pregnant” me when i am. I have been blessed to have high energy throughout my pregnancy and in many ways have been more consistent with my workouts for my – and my growing baby’s – health. I think or many of us James Clapps “bible” has been a godsend as it is one of the very few books to address exertion in pregnancy. Without that we would all be stuck exercising below 140bpm heartrate for 45mins or less at a time, instead of being encouraged to listen to and monitor our own bodies. Love your blog – thankyou!

    1. Thanks, Michelle! I really appreciate your comments. I encourage you to stay tuned to this whole project, as at some point I’ll be releasing all my findings from the surveys and interviews I have conducted. It is really a website for an ongoing project and I use the ‘blog’ to keep people in the loop. Good for you for keeping up your activity level and I’m glad you’ve had so much energy! Mine has been very up and down. I try to work out every other day so I don’t push too hard. Take care!

  2. Love this post – thanks for sharing! I too have had to make adjustments in my exercise routine during pregnancy, but I love getting out there when I can and doing whatever I feel up to on a given day.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I’ve found that it has felt so good to be so in tune with my body throughout the pregnancy. I was already fairly ‘tapped in’, thanks to my regular yoga practice, but pregnancy has helped me to be so much more kind to myself.

  3. Nice post. You have a better attitude than I did while pregnant! I race mountain bikes and admit that I cried a LOT on my bike during the pregnancy. I found it difficult that my limits changed before I even knew I was pregnant and they seemed to change with every workout. When you are used to your body responding these changes can be challenging! But the return to adventure does come quickly. I was lucky enough to do my first race 4 months after our daughter was born. Although, I am now doing 45 minute cyclocross races instead of 100 milers, it is still a great day on the bike. I wish you a speedy transition to your new adventures once your little one arrives.

    1. Well, I didn’t go into too much details about all the tears I’ve shed. 🙂 It’s ironic that fit, active women are the best prepared for pregnancy and labour physically, but perhaps struggle more from an emotional/psychological standpoint when it comes to the physical changes that prevent us from doing the things we love. I know that once the pregnancy is over and I have healed up that I will feel super motivated to get back into things. I’ll be so thankful to be able to do those things again!

  4. Hi Meghan,
    I’m looking forward to following along on your project, I just wish this post would have been a year earlier, lol. I gave birth to my son in March of 2012, and I’ll spare you the cliches, but being a mom is more amazing than I could have ever imagined. I kept fairly active during my pregnancy too, I felt it helpped me to feel more like myself. I remember discusding going downhill skiing with my massage therapist who, being faily adventurous herself, surprised me when she seemed shocked and asked: “Are you allowed to do that?” like there’s some sort of pregnancy police out there. I’m a good skiier and I would never have done anything that would have put my baby at risk, but it’s nice to know that I’m not crazy, or at least I’m not alone in my craziness. I also went backpacking at about 12 weeks. My hubby and I secretly packed most of the gear in his bag and hung out at the back of the group so I could have my morning sickness without an audience, and since we weren’t ready to share the news. I’m still glad I was able to do it though!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Kirsten, and for following along with the project! Pregnancy is quite the journey, isn’t it? More recently I have been able to enjoy some cross-country skiing, which seems to be my favourite outdoor activity during this time. We just have to do what’s best for ourselves!

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