Parkour and Pregnancy 1st trimester

By Sharon “Sola” Merchant. As part of our Mums & Parkour series of articles, new mother and traceuse Sola writes about her personal experiences during the 1st trimester of her...
Share

By Sharon “Sola” Merchant.

As part of our Mums & Parkour series of articles, new mother and traceuse Sola writes about her personal experiences during the 1st trimester of her pregnancy.

Introduction

I recently experienced the life changing moment of peeing on a little stick and seeing 2 blue lines appear, indicating that my entire life was about to change. It was a planned pregnancy but it still came as a shock! The idea of trying to conceive and the reality of being pregnant are two very different things. The first thing that became apparent was the obvious effect that this would have on my parkour training. Around this time, I was training about 3 or 4 times a week. Having recently committed to practising alone regularly (not through choice, but through living in the middle of nowhere!) I was really enjoying the progression and experience of solo training. And although physically, I was not progressing as much, without others there to spur me on, I feel that mentally I was developing faster than ever. Every session I was learning more and more about myself and my relationship with motivation and with fear.

Not long after discovering I was pregnant, I had the idea to document my journey for two main reasons. Firstly, as a personal reflection, a way for me to monitor, reflect upon and evaluate the relationship between parkour and pregnancy. And secondly as a reference for other ladies for if/when they take the same journey. There are so few female experiences in parkour documented, that I thought it would be beneficial to have such a major aspect of most women’s lives documented from a parkour perspective.

When considering a format for this article, it seemed clear that the most obvious way to do this was to follow the natural stages of pregnancy, those being the first trimester, the second trimester, the third trimester, labour, and finally the postpartum experience. Within each of these stages I wanted to stick clearly to the relationship they have with parkour, however it very quickly became apparent that this would not be possible without detailing both the development of the baby and my body within each stage and the stage to come, as these directly influence the type of training that I am able to do and that I should be aiming to do.

I hope that this will be both an interesting and informative article for all ladies and will shed a light on a new aspect of training. Normally, parkour training is so often based upon improving strength or stamina or reaching goals. However in pregnancy, part of the first step is accepting that you are not going to get stronger, faster or better. You have to surrender your ambitions and learn to enjoy movement for its own sake. This, though at times frustrating and difficult, I feel is a valuable lesson.

One final point I want to make, Is that I am NOT a doctor, nor an expert on pregnancy. I can onlyshare my experiences. As with all things in life but especially with pregnancy, every woman is different and indeed even every pregnancy for the same woman is different. This is not intended to in anyway serve as any form of advice of instruction but merely to share with you one girl’s experience of pregnancy through its relation to parkour.

The first trimester

The first trimester is the term used to refer to the first three months of pregnancy. A typical pregnancy will last 40 weeks counting from the first day of your last period so actually at the moment of conception you are already 2 weeks pregnant. These first 12 weeks are often referred to as the hardest part of pregnancy. (Except for giving birth of course!) Your body goes through so many changes and most women suffer from a whole host of pregnancy related ailments. It is the most fragile part of the pregnancy and generally if a miscarriage is going to occur it will occur in this time. Here is briefly what happens:
The baby:
Very basically, at the time of conception, sperm meets egg and forms a zygote which becomes a mass of rapidly dividing cells. This implants in your uterus and very soon your baby is 1 mm long and is called an embryo. Over the next few weeks, your body completes the arduous task of forming all the major organ systems and external structures until finally your baby becomes a foetus and looks like a baby. By the end of the first trimester the baby is around 5-6 cm long and weighs about 14 grams.

Your body:

Your body is going through a roller coaster ride of hormones and changes that can leave you feeling wiped out! Early pregnancy ailments include nausea and vomiting (not just in the morning but at any time of day or possibly all day, and night if you are unlucky!), extreme fatigue, swollen and tender breasts, backaches, headaches, frequent urination, food cravings, swelling/ bloating in the abdomen, poor digestion, dizziness, increased blood volume (by the end of the pregnancy you will have 30-50% more blood in your system), increased heart rate (because of the extra blood), shortness of breath, mood swings and weight gain. Fun, huh?!

My training intentions:

One thing that all experts agree on, is that although it must be modified and done with care, exercise is extremely important during pregnancy. Delivering a baby is often compared to running a marathon and the strain of producing and carrying around a baby for 9 months means your body needs to be in the best condition possible to make everything as comfortable as possible for you and your baby. I was determined to stay active throughout my pregnancy and despite planning and researching in depth into a yoga practise, I never really thought that much about a parkour practise. I just thought it would be impossible. I knew, however, that no matter how I exercised, there were certain things that were very important:

Abdominals:
During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles are severely stretched and therefore weakened. Strong abs are essential not only for carrying the extra weight around and helping you to push out the baby when the time comes, but also for making sure you will be able to wear a bikini again!I therefore planned to do a lot of abdominal work.

Cardiovascular fitness:
Something I always need to work on anyway but that becomes particularly important during pregnancy. I intended to regularly walk/jog and go swimming.

Yoga:
I practise yoga regularly anyway and everyone knows how great it is supposed to be for pregnancy. So most of my planning revolved around a strong yoga practise.

Pelvic floor muscles:
It became very clear to me early on that one of the best things you can do for yourself while pregnant is to make friends with your pubococcygeus muscle, other wise known as your pelvic floor. As your uterus grows and everything gets stretched and stressed, a strong pelvic floor is vital unless you want to get in some early practise at changing nappies on yourself! (It’s what holds your wee in!) It’s also true that a strong muscle, stretches more easily than a weak one so a strong pelvic floor will help you during labour.

Back muscles:
During pregnancy you can be carrying up to 25 or so extra pounds around using your back! Your posture also goes to pot very quickly and you can start resembling your grandmother if you don’t maintain strong erector spinae muscles, lats, traps and rhomboids.

Arms and shoulders:
Strong arms are not so important during pregnancy, but having spent the last few years building up the small amount of arm strength I have, I certainly don’t want to lose it! It’s also very useful to have strong arms for when you’ve got to start carrying a baby around for hours at a time! Strong pecs will also help with preventing Saggy Boob Syndrome (SBS) after breast feeding when your wonderful new huge boobs shrivel and retreat south. Press ups will be my new best friend!I’ve also heard of a lot of women using an ‘all fours/ on your hands and knees’ position in labour and finding it extremely beneficial. However, having half your weight on you hands when you are the size of a whale and exhausted sounds like quite a challenge on any girls upper body strength! Lot’s of monkey work I think!

Legs and hips:

Makes sense to me that I will need strong legs to carry around the baby bump and all my fatness! Also, gluts (medius) protect your pelvis which is very susceptible to injury during pregnancy, as the ligaments that hold it stable are loosened by hormones. I also made a note of wanting to maintain my leg and hip flexibility to make labour more comfortable. I’m quite flexible anyway but I want to stay that way!

 

My training reality:

4 weeks

 

14 weeks

The reality was significantly different to how I planned it. In the real world, I felt AWFUL! I spent pretty much the entire first trimester, dragging myself through life’s essential duties and spending the rest of the time slouching round the house in my slippers and dressing gown feeling very sorry for myself. I had read about all the symptoms, I knew what to expect, but still, I really was in no way prepared for just how rotten I felt. It just wiped me out. At first I felt disappointed but very soon I just gave in to it and accepted that this process was beyond my control and that the needs of the baby came before my desire to go out and jump off of things!

 

In the first few weeks I felt well enough that I could have trained relatively normally but I just felt fragile. Ridiculously fragile. I didn’t even want to walk around other people in case they bumped in to me! Luckily this only lasted about 10 days. I tried practising yoga but funnily enough it just felt wrong! Doing any kind of pre-prepared routine just felt wrong and left me feeling worse. As morning sickness fully set in, I was left feeling so awful and weak that the most exercise I could manage was the 10 minute walk to work and back and that was a challenge. I soon started to realise that the best way for me to exercise was to train the way I trained parkour. To have vague ideas of what in general I needed to train but to approach each day with an empty slate. To just listen to my body. How do I feel today? Do I have the energy to do some ab exercises? Do I feel stiff and just want to spend some time stretching? Do I want to go outside and just balance up and down a curb for a while?

This was a big breakthrough for me. I not only began to develop the ability to really listen to my body but to be more aware of how it was changing and what it needed. I did do my pelvic floor exercises almost everyday. The one part of my body that HAS got stronger recently! I think for the first 6 weeks I probably did not do any exercise bar walking to work and attempting to do yoga a few times and making myself feel worse. Then for the last 6 weeks, around 3 times a week I did this new kind of instinctive training that by MY definition falls under the label of parkour training. I may not be doing vaults or wall runs, but strength training and learning about yourself, your body and your instincts, to me are as essential parts of parkour training. I enjoyed walking outside in a playful manner once or twice but then the winter really set in. 4 ft of snow and temperatures hovering around the -10 mark. Still I’ve found some fun playing in the snow!

I have enjoyed playing with my ever changing body and centre of balance, doing some simple quadrupedal movements, a few press ups here and there. It’s frustrating sometimes, how tired I get and so quickly, but I have really learnt to enjoy the most simple movements. I found myself drawn to simple slow movements, monkey walking but just very slowly forward and back, side to side etc.

 

As the first trimester drew to a close, the nausea started to subside and my energy levels started to pick up, I can feel that this type of training is the way I hope to develop in the second trimester. It is supposed to be the best time for exercising as you shed the ailments of the first trimester but do not yet have the large burden of the third trimester. I am excited to see how my body continues to change, to feel my baby develop and to see how this effects the way I instinctively feel I want to move.

I hope to increase the duration and level of training I do and the frequency but I am not too attached to this desire. I am well accustomed now to just sitting back and letting things develop as they will. Although it’s a hard and tiring journey, it is equally exciting and transformational! I hope I can continue to learn from this experience and live without fear or concern of the destination, but by simply enjoying the journey.

Note: I have, and will continue, to reply on the book: ‘Pregnancy Fitness – With Ginny Graces’ as  resource throughout my pregnancy and in writing this article

Related posts:

Share