Half Marathon? Check. Marathon? Check. Spartan Beast Race up the ski hills of Vermont while conquering obstacles? Check.
By far, the most physically taxing thing I have ever done was give birth to my son.
Since it's not one of those, "just wave the white flag and the nice first aid van will pick you up" kind of ordeals, YOU SHOULD TRAIN FOR IT! Featured in the photo is me leg-pressing a few weeks before giving birth to Josh.
I don't really know where the idea that sitting around in constant rest and eating whatever you're "craving"= great preparation for the hardest thing you are ever going to do in your life came from.
Probably by someone who never gave birth.
Now, there are a couple of caveats to this. First of all, of course you should check with your doctor before beginning or continuing a regimen at ANY time, especially when you are pregnant. Secondly, if you haven't been training prior to becoming pregnant, you can't start extreme workouts, but you CAN still workout. Thirdly, I know there are absolutely exceptions to this such as with high-risk pregnancies where exercise is not allowed and/or bedrest is the only option.
That being said, I found that being physically fit helped immensely with delivery. Therefore, I strongly believe that women should establish an exercise regimen PRIOR to becoming pregnant and then continue it throughout their pregnancy, as they are able to.
Yes, I had a very long labor and no, being fit did not speed up my dilation or make me progress any more quickly. However, there were a few benefits I think were valuable enough to motivate me to maintain my fitness level:
1.) Going through difficult lifting sessions gave me confidence and focus during my contractions.
When I felt like I was possibly dying and told the nice doctor that I was going to jump out the window, to which he reminded me that I was only on the first floor and would just have to come back in with a broken ankle and continue labor, I thought of my hardest strength training workouts- setting a personal record for my deadlift, struggling through one last set of squats, etc.- and I remembered that I did make it through it.
It encouraged me to think of the pain of contractions as fleeting, just as the muscle fatigue I had experienced before was. I knew I lived through workouts where my husband and I sprinted up a hill in a 25lb weighted vest, did burpees at the top, and then sprinted back down for multiple rounds and I knew I could live through this event too.
2.) Pushing literally took fifteen minutes.
The doctor who delivered my son sat down on my bed with just my husband and one nurse in the room and told me to give some practice pushes. After two practice pushes, he had the whole team assemble in the room while he scrubbed up and then, after a couple more pushes, Joshua was in my arms.
The doctor said it was the most efficient pushing he had witnessed from a first timer. He had anticipated the pushing to take two to three hours, not fifteen minutes. After inquiring about my workout regimen, he attributed the effective pushing ability to the strength I had built, as well as the body awareness that working out provides. I was able to understand what he was instructing me to do and then will my body to do it since I had been practicing the mind/muscle connection that comes in lifting weights for years.
3.) My body was used to fatigue.
After delivery, I was able to be up and at 'em pretty quickly. I was able to get out of bed and shower on my own within a couple of hours. I took it easy, of course, but I wasn't immobilized. Again, all cases are unique and I did not have a C-section, I had a natural delivery and did not undergo major surgery.
God created womens' bodies to accomplish amazing feats such as: growing a tiny human inside of us, bringing forth that tiny human to the world, and then even nourishing that tiny human with substance our bodies specifically create for them! It is truly incredible.
We were made to move, we were made to bring forth life, and the best thing that we can do for ourselves and for our children is to prepare for this amazing experience by priming our bodies into their best condition.