I don’t know about you guys, but for whatever reason the 20-week mark has hit me like a ton of bricks during this pregnancy. I spent part of my weekend alternating between the couch and our bed, curled up into a ball. I felt incredibly tired, the baby was pressing on something in my lower left abdomen that left me in a lot of pain, and I can’t remember the last time I was so grouchy.
My poor husband is a saint. He handled just about everything at home the day I felt so sick. He took care of our toddler and both of our dogs. He fixed lunch and dinner, and he did our laundry. Meanwhile I slept, whimpered, cried, and waited for the awfulness to pass.
Since exercise always helps to lift my spirits, I headed out on Sunday for a long walk with our big dog. We both needed the movement and the fresh air, even if it was freezing rain and windy. I followed Sunday’s walk with an hour-long combined treadmill and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workout on Monday and power yoga today. I took this picture after getting home, showered, and dressed. I’m definitely showing!
All three days of workouts have been good for me. The baby has shifted a little, and I’m feeling more like myself again after three consecutive days of activity. Now that the holidays are here, it’s going to get harder and harder to work out consistently. Staying active is really good for you during pregnancy, but how do you manage to stay active and how on Earth do you manage to eat well during the holidays?
Why Pregnancy Exercise is So Good for Your Brain During the Holidays
The single most important reason, from my perspective, to maintain your pregnancy exercise routine through the holidays is your mental well-being.
The holidays are supposed to be a happy time, but the reality is that for most people, the holidays are both happy and stressful. There are an awful lot of social pressures out there this time of the year. We’re “supposed” to do so much!
We’re supposed to buy gifts that make friends and family happy. We’re supposed to have Pinterest-worthly Christmas decorations in our homes. We’re supposed to attend all of the functions we’re invited to, and we’re probably supposed to bring either food or a hostess gift when we get there. Oh, and of course, we’re supposed to look nice (anyone else stress over trying to look nice in maternity clothes?).
For Most of Us, the Holidays Have Ups and Downs
The reality is that for most of us, the holidays have ups and downs. We feel the pressures I’ve already mentioned, we feel torn between staying home to celebrate with our own kids or traveling to see extended family. We grief for loved ones, and sometimes work separates us from our families when we’d much rather be together.
Exercise may seem like a low priority compared to all of these things, but you might be surprised at the positive effect a regular workout routine could have on your holidays. Exercise gets your endorphins (happy hormones) going, helping to improve your mood. You’ll be a better wife and momma with endorphins on your side!
Another perk of regular exercise is simply the routine of working out. Our other routines (family, work, social) seem to be different in December than they are for most of the rest of the year. By sticking to a regular exercise routine in December, you’re anchoring yourself to something separate from the hustle and bustle.
Regular Holiday Season Workouts Help You Maintain Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: holiday weight gain. Every pregnant momma has unique needs where diet and nutrition are concerned, but I can promise you that not matter how unique your needs are, you share one thing in common with every other pregnant momma in the universe. That one thing is this: just like them, you’re going to gain more weight this season than you do during any other time of the year.
The best way to combat that isn’t to try to diet or restrict yourself too much. The best way to combat it is to continue to exercise regularly. So attend your holiday get-togethers, try to make the healthiest choices you can, but allow yourself a few indlugences, too. Seriously!
For all of my focus on healthy living, I love my family’s homemade sugar cookies at Christmas time, I bake several homemade pies for Thanksgiving, and I’m not going to bypass the dessert table at whatever holiday party I go to. You’re human, just like I am. You’re not going to be able to resist every unhealthy thing you see this season, and neither will I.
My advice to you is to continue making exercise a priority during the holidays. A regular fitness routine will help you to keep your weight gain in check, and it’ll help you to maintain your hard-earned pre-pregnancy muscle tone, too! Your body needs to gain fat during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean it needs to lose muscle. Stay strong, Momma!
Eating Food as Fuel
I want to make one more really important point about nutrition over the holidays. While I absolutely endorse enjoying holidays foods in moderation, I also come from a recent history of endurance events. Over the last few year, I’ve done quite a bit of endurance training. What that training has taught me (and that I think a lot of women miss out on) is that my body needs good fuel if I want it to perform well.
Have you ever eaten too many empty calories and then tried to sustain a hard workout? Runners call that feeling “bonking.” It’s what happens when you’ve fueled your body the wrong way, and you can’t finish your workout. If you indulge too much during the holidays, you’re going to bonk your workouts. You’ll feel sluggish and heavy; lethargic and weak. I know because that’s exactly how I felt after eating a piece of pie a day for a week after Thanksgiving!
Don’t bonk. Eating food as fuel is such a different mindset than eating food for emotional satisfaction!
Here I am, eating for emotional satisfaction this weekend at a German Christmas market just before completely bonking the next day:
If you keep working out on a regular basis through the holidays, I think you’ll find (like I have) that you just don’t crave as much crap as you used to. It’s easier to turn down the fried foods. It’s easier to say no to all of the desserts because you really want to hold out for a single piece of that one amazing-looking chocolate (chocolate is my weakness) dessert. And then, when you start your workout the next day, you’ll feel the difference!
Okay, okay. I’m almost done talking for today, I promise. This next part is the muscle of the post, though! Stick with me…
Finding Time to Exercise During the Busiest Season of the Year
At this point, we’re all in agreement that the holidays are awesome and stressful. We agree that being pregnant during them poses some extra challenges. No one’s arguing that endorphins help improve your moods or that regular exercise will help you maintain healthy pregnancy weight gain over the next several weeks. In fact, we’re all so inspired by what we’ve read/written so far that we’re ready to lace up the tennis shoes and get to the gym, dang it!
But let’s be real.
Not everyone manages to work out through the holidays because…it’s hard work.
We stay so busy this time of year that it’s hard to tell ourselves that getting the gym is as important as getting to the post office to ship those holiday gifts to family and friends. Or that doing some yoga this morning just isn’t as high of a priority as putting up a few more Christmas decorations.
Ditch Your Commute to the Gym
Some of our time limitations are perceived and others are real. So how can we find the time to work out when time feels like it’s stretched so thin? One of the simplest ways to create more time to exercise is to save time driving to and from the place where we’re going to do that exercise. In other words, if you want more time to workout, then ditch your commute to the gym!
Free FittaMamma Exercise Videos Online
Instead of driving to the gym (or yoga studio, etc.) for your workout, look for ways you can do short, intense workouts at home. FittaMamma has several helpful videos on their website that show you how to do a variety of different exercises, ranging from trimester-specific videos to kettlebell and core.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to work my way through the site’s videos of second trimester-specific exercise. Here’s the link if you want to check any of them out with me! I’m especially interested in this one about the bum and the legs, since my bottom tends to start expanding proportionally to my belly at about this point in my pregnancies!
HIIT Workouts You Can Do at Home
Another type of workout I’ve found to be awesome at times when I can’t get out of the house, and that’s also great for doing in a hotel room, is called a HIIT workout. HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, workouts usually use your own body weight for resistance, and they don’t usually require special equipment. I’ve started pinning a few pregnancy-specific HIIT workouts on my A Very Fit Funk board on Pinterest.
The HIIT workout I did yesterday at the gym is right here. It suggests walking for 10 minutes on a treadmill set at an incline. The first time I did this particular workout, though, I did it at home with my toddler. We danced and hopped around the room for 10 minutes instead of walking on the treadmill. I broke a hard sweat, and she thought my antics were hilarious. (No doubt, I looked pretty silly, but I got a good workout in at home, while hanging out with Small Shaw!)
Online Yoga Classes
Another tool I’ve had great luck with at home is an online yoga studio called YogaGlo. For $18/month, you can take unlimited yoga classes online. The videos are shot professionally, and the instructors are great. You can choose classes based on intensity level, class length, or even by the part of the body you want to focuson. I used the site a lot in the first several months after Small Shaw was born because I was able to choose classes that were just 15 or 20 minutes long.
Happy Holidays & Happy Home Workouts!
No matter where you’re at with your pregnancy fitness, I hope that something in this post resonated with you. Check out the pregnancy exercise videos on FittaMamma if you need some inspiration, and be sure to leave a comment here if you need a little encouragement (or if you want o give me a digital high five. I’ll take one of those, too!)
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by FittaMamma, who has graciously outfitted me with maternity activewear for my active pregnancy. FittaMamma supports active mammas by offering exercise tips, recipes, and maternity activewear that holds and supports your baby bump!
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