Tips for the Pregnant Triathlete

I’m in an odd place in my blogging life right now….my blog has always been about tips for training/racing, along with updates on my training and racing. It’s weird for me to give tips on training right now since my workouts are non-existent and my “racing” is just plodding along like a prego. :) However, I feel like I’ve gotten enough experience as a pregnant triathlete to offer up some tips for the pregnant triathletes not as far along as me. :) I’m now ending my 2nd trimester, and I’ve learned a lot about how to train through at least the first two trimesters! It’s been more trial and error than anything as my doctors have only told me “do whatever you did prior to getting pregnant, but back off if you’re fatigued”, and I wasn’t able to find any other elite triathletes who’d trained while pregnant. The only article I found specifically targeted toward triathletes was this–I loved it! So as a result, I’ve pretty much been trekking through uncharted waters! So, here’s my advice based on what I’ve learned. Granted, every athlete AND every pregnancy are different, so I’m sure there’s no “cookbook” recipe for success.

1. If at all possible, keep up your training as best you can in the early weeks of pregnancy when you feel like death! Every morning I woke up, puked, ate breakfast, and went to work out. Almost every time as I headed out the door, I felt nauseous and super tired, but once I got moving, my stomach felt a lot better and my energy improved as well! I’ve attributed my ability to remain active during my 2nd trimester to my activity level during my 1st trimester even though during my 1st trimester I was actually doing LESS than I’ve done in my 2nd! I’m still doing far less than I would if I wasn’t pregnant-AND far slower, but I’ve been consistently doing 22 miles a week each week at about 9:15-9:30 pace this whole trimester. (Pre-pregnancy I did 30-35 miles a week at 7-7:30 pace)

2. HYDRATION/nutrition are key! Bring your water bottle with you on every run–you get dehydrated much quicker when pregnant. Also, you get hungrier at more unpredictable times, so always have a gel handy on your workout!

This is the bottle I use-handheld and has a pouch for a gel! It's by Nathan.

This is the bottle I use-handheld and has a pouch for a gel! It’s by Nathan.

3. COMPRESSION GEAR IS YOUR BEST FRIEND! Seriously, wear compression shorts early on in pregnancy if you want to continue when you get a belly! I started wearing compression shorts at week 14 and I should have started at week 12 even though I wasn’t showing at all by that point. By week 16, I was wearing a compression belly band over my compression shorts. This is the one I bought. It’s called Preggers Compression Band. I double it over to give extra support to my lower belly/pelvis.

I still didn’t have much of a belly, but it kept me strong and pain free so that I was able to handle running without any discomfort! Now at 26+ weeks, I don’t have any belly bouncing on runs, and I feel great after! Also, along with compression shorts and belly band, wear compression socks every day! This I haven’t done until recently, and it’s helped a lot! I wish I started wearing them regularly earlier. During pregnancy, much of your oxygenated blood is going to the baby, not your legs. So compression socks will help keep your legs from feeling dead.

4. As far as biking goes, doctors don’t recommend outside biking after the 1st trimester, so invest in a good trainer for your bike, or a gym with good comfortable bikes. I’ve been able to bike 3x a week for my entire pregnancy and have no discomfort at all on my bike. I can’t go in aero position anymore because I can’t bend over, but I can still sit on the seat, hold the handle bars, and peddle to my heart’s desire! I’m really hoping I can bike all through the  3rd trimester! My power has gone way down; I just do whatever I can without getting too tired. My time on the trainer has decreased as well–I only do about an hour each ride now instead of doing long rides.

The kind of bike I'll bike on once my triathlon bike isn't comfortable anymore :)

The kind of bike I’ll bike on once my triathlon bike isn’t comfortable anymore :)

5. Monitor your heart rate. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any concrete research on appropriate heart rate ranges during pregnancy, but I do monitor my heart rate on every run (I should for biking too). My goal is to keep my average heart rate at or below 160 bpm because that is my “zone 2” or endurance training zone. I absolutely keep it out of my racing zones—if my heart rate goes up, I tone the pace/power/effort down. Again, all my doctors were able to tell me was “your baby is used to a slow resting heart rate, so make sure you’re not huffing and puffing while you’re running.” :)

6. For swimming, I recommend continuing to swim during early pregnancy so you don’t loose your form. It’s hard to adapt back to swimming once your belly grows large, so if you progressively get larger while swimming, it’s easier. For me anyway :) Every week when I start my swim, I feel a little awkward cuz my weight has increased, so I can only imagine it would be harder if I took substantial time off. I decreased my amount of swimming just because I can’t get away from the house more than once a week with our foster kids, but I’ve still maintained about 40-45 min once a week. Also, either buy a swim suit that’s a little large for you, so you can grow into it, or make yourself comfortable with swimming in a two piece. :) I was lucky enough to have had a swimsuit that was a size too big for me, so I’ve been wearing that up until now. Once I grow out of that, I’ll wear bikini bottoms and a sports bra. Some people buy maternity swim suits, but I’m cheap. :)IMG_1865

7. Don’t stop your lifting routine. Obviously, tone it down–I dropped down to just doing little 5lb weights. BUT, I’ve read a lot about how lifting during pregnancy helps with labor and recovery, so I’ve maintained just light lifting once a week. Make sure you don’t do any floor ab exercises on your back after the 1st trimester though–it can cut off the baby’s oxygen supply. For my core work, I’ve been doing a lot of planks!

I do lots of squats too---typically I used dumbells, but when your nephew is handy-squat him!

I do lots of squats too—typically I used dumbells, but when your nephew is handy-squat him!

8. Racing–take it easy! I haven’t done any triathlons because during my 1st trimester, it wasn’t triathlon season, and now it’s too risky to bike outside. But, I’ve been doing running “races”. The longest I’ve done was a half marathon at 12 weeks. Since then, I’ve just been doing 10ks or under. I don’t push myself at all-it’s just a regular “training” pace. But, it satisfies my desire to race and I get to feel like I’ve accomplished something. :)

Finishing a 5k at 24.3 weeks.

Finishing a 5k at 24.3 weeks.

So, those are the tips I’ve learned while continuing to train during pregnancy! What are your tips?

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