This post is about my personal training/exercising/working-out/moving during my twin pregnancy. All pregnancies are different and my experience cannot be used as a guide for how anyone else should act during their pregnancy, but perhaps my journey can act as motivation for others to keep adapting and moving even when the challenges mount up and it is impossible to move like before! I have been incredibly lucky to have had a healthy pregnancy so it has been safe and beneficial for me to keep moving the entire pregnancy! That said, I have dealt with many of the most common pregnancy symptoms in varying duration and intensity (exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, constipation, heartburn, joint inflammations, swollen hands, hip pain, back pain, pre-term contractions, gum inflammations, sleeplessness, the list goes on… what part of your body isn’t influenced by pregnancy???). It’s been all about adapting to the daily form and finding movements that work despite the limitations, or perhaps even finding ways to use movement to make the ailments better!
I had the advantage of being at a high volume and intensity of training when my pregnancy started. This means that there was a lot that could be done for me to slow down and cut back and still be very active. In addition, my references of how active you can remain while pregnant are likely quite different from the average western European and American population’s. As a child, I saw my mom run everyday while pregnant, and most of my current social circle and those I follow on social media have shown incredible levels of training and racing while pregnant. Going into my own pregnancy, I had high hopes of being able to achieve the same. One of the first things I did when I found out that I was pregnant was to get in contact with the talented Emma Belforth at Aktivitus to get help with a strength and training program focused on getting me strong enough to allow me to keep running throughout the entire pregnancy. A couple weeks after starting this training program, we had our first ultrasound and found out that I wasn’t carrying just one baby! It was a shock to find out that we were expecting twins! However, the shock quickly subsided and it seemed obvious and nothing but wonderful that we would have two! This news also forced me to take a step back and lower my expectations of how I could train during the pregnancy. I am very thankful that this is how I reacted. Knowing that I was carrying twins and that many carrying twins have very tough and limited pregnancies made me thankful for what I could keep doing instead of disappointed when my own training was nowhere near the level of my idols.
Before I go in to how my training was during the different trimesters I will mention a little bit about my weight gain because I know this is an interesting topic for many! I was also a bit concerned about this topic going into the pregnancy and I have followed my weight gain closely thanks to our Garmin scale which uploads my weight online everyday. However, this part of the pregnancy became less and less of a concern for me as the pregnancy progressed even as the numbers on the scale increased above levels I never thought I would reach! If anything, I ended up finding it quite entertaining to reach the milestone 80 kg on my 164 cm frame and still feel strong and healthy! When it came to eating, I had periods of the pregnancy where ice cream and candy were appealing to me and then I ate those things and then there were other periods where I was only interested in eating clean and then that’s what I did during those periods. For those interested in the numbers, have a look at the chart below. In general, I gained weight more rapidly at the beginning of the pregnancy and more slowly towards the end, but ended up right in the healthy, recommended range for a twin pregnancy at the end. Most importantly, the babies both grew exactly as they should have throughout the pregnancy and now as they are about the make their entrance to the world the doctors predict that they weight about 3 kg each 🙂
The first trimester was the toughest time of the pregnancy for me because of the problems that I had with nausea. It was exhausting to feel terrible all the time! I also quite quickly felt the effect of increased blood volume and resting heart rate. I ran my last race already in week 4 and after that I almost completely stopped “quality” runs such as intervals and tempo-work, however I was able to keep running 3-4 times per week at whatever pace and distance felt comfortable that day throughout the first trimester. The runs progressively got slower and shorter! I was instead able to substitute the running with weight training and indoor cycling. I continued to swim with Simcoachen in her Fastlane group throughout the first trimester and in the water I was able to sustain my speed much better than on land. The biggest difference was that I never pushed to max effort levels which is how Simcoachen was one of the first people to figure out that I was pregnant 😉
Second trimester the nausea went away and my energy levels returned a bit, however during this trimester I was quickly gaining weight, up to 1 kg per week (!!!) and my body really started to take a beating when I was running. I ended up with inflammations in my feet and my running stride completely collapsed! Already week 18 I ran my last steps of the pregnancy because it no longer felt right to push through the discomfort. This was definitely tough mentally, but I compensated by buying a spin bike and going for long, quick walks. However, it was just a few weeks of these walks until my hips and problems with pre-term contractions made me have to give these up as well. Luckily, I was still feeling generally very well and could continue to weight train, swim, and bike. In all of these categories, the training continually had to be adapted. I stopped doing handstand work in week 23 and continually cut down on the amount of weights during the running strength training classes that Elite Rehab hosts for our running club. The swims and bike sessions became slower and shorter.
As I went in to the third trimester, I started cutting back on work and this made a huge difference in my well-being! I was able to spend more time resting, decrease my stress-level and focus on things that made me feel good. Many of my symptoms and pains became much better. At this point in the pregnancy I had also become very used to adapting and slowing down and it no longer bothered me when I had to stop doing something. Around week 30 I had to stop leg-work at the gym because my hips became too unstable, but I was happy to keep going to the gym and just work back and arms. Around week 34 my stomach became too big to reach the handlebars on the spin bike and I had to switch to using the exercise bikes at the gym instead. Around the same time, flip-turns and even kicking in the pool became painful and I had to switch to just swimming freestyle with a pull-buoy and paddles. At this point, I was starting to think that each workout might be my last, but to my surprise the pregnancy went well above average length for a twin pregnancy and I was able to keep swimming, biking, and lifting weights until the very last days. Biking to the pool and swimming 1500-2000 m arms was my daily activity to keep me sane and feeling good during these last weeks!
Another saving grace was that I was able to continue to transport myself short distances on my bike (granted it’s electric ;)) throughout the pregnancy. Towards the end, my walking was so slow and painful that it was easier for me to bike to the pool than to take the tram and have to walk the few hundreds of meters to and from the tram stop. Since this post is about working-out I haven’t mentioned much about yoga (which is an amazing tool for keeping the mental and emotional part of the pregnancy healthy), but looking at the physical aspect of yoga, I credit my flexibility and knowledge of how to open different body parts thanks to yoga as a vital part of keeping the pain in my body minimal during the pregnancy. I spent a lot of time on an exercise ball and with adjusted yoga poses to help me to open my hips and back, as well as to create space for the babies and take some of the pressure off my internal organs. During some periods of the pregnancy I would get up in the middle of the night each night because my hips or back were hurting and I would need to move/yoga until I was able to get back to restful sleep.
To sum it all, I am amazed at the shape my body has taken during the last 9 months and how it has adapted to all of the changes that come with growing two humans in the womb! It is incomprehensible that this is just the beginning of an even bigger journey! 🙂