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October 6, 2011
Training for a Healthy Pregnancy
Dori Watters
As a mother of two and soon-to-be three children, Dori Watters maintains a consistent exercise routine in order to keep mentally and physically fit throughout those challenging nine months of pregnancy...
I have competed in multiple marathons and half-marathons, 10K and 5K
races, adventure races lasting from six to 30 hours and several triathlons.
However, nothing has been quite as mentally, physically or emotionally
challenging as the nine months leading to the birth of my children or the
subsequent months of recovery.  In addition to training for numerous
sporting events, I have three full-time careers.  I'm a wife, a mother of
two wonder boys and an orthodontist with my own orthodontic office.  The
reason I choose to participate in endurance races during pregnancy is not
necessarily to win the event, but instead to keep me sane through all of my
I have found that learning to listen to your body is extremely
important for exercising during pregnancy.  If you can, get in the best
shape of your life before getting pregnant.  The better shape you're in
prior to becoming pregnant, the easier it is to understand your body and
its limitations.  By no means am I saying that everyone should prescribe to
my pregnancy fitness regimen, but rather that you should discover your own
fitness protocol.  I approach pregnancy like I would an endurance training
schedule; I break it into three phases over nine months, and each phase has
a unique set of obstacles to work through.
For the first three months, the two most common issues are extreme
fatigue and morning sickness-or all day/night sickness, which I've found to
be a more accurate term.  I was shocked by how exhausted I felt during the
first trimester of my pregnancies.  I don't normally nap, but for those
first 90 days I could have slept for hours, even in the median of Woodward
Ave, at any time of day.  The first and biggest obstacle was talking myself
into lacing up my running shoes.  Just the thought of tying the laces was
exhausting, let alone actually going for a run.  But once I got myself out
the door and started walking, I felt 100% better.  Much to my surprise, each
workout left me more energized and able to handle my careers.
What is nice about working out during the first trimester is that
your body hasn't changed much, so you can usually practice the same motions
and movements in your pre-pregnancy routine.  My doctor told me to be
careful not to get overheated and to make sure I was hydrated.  My normal
fitness regimen includes twice-a-week Pilates, yoga or ballet classes.  At
least three days a week I strength train and participate in MotorCity
Bootcamp, my husband's strength and agility class.  I also run at least
three days a week and make one of those runs a longer route.  I found that I
was able to maintain my normal routine through the first phase of
The second major obstacle to overcome during the first trimester is "morning sickness." Just the smell of certain scents would set off cascades of dry heaves that would bring me to my knees.  I was out for a run one morning a few months ago and ran by a bunch of beautiful lilac bushes, which are typically something I love.  But that particular day, the intense smell of lilacs had me bent over, getting sick in front of the bushes.
The first 15-20 minutes of my workouts were rough because I had to fight off the nausea, vomiting and dry heaves, but once I broke a sweat I felt amazing, like my "old self" again!  The hour after exercising was the only time of day that I could eat and drink without experiencing nausea and vomiting.  I made sure to drink both water and something with electrolytes.  I also was sure to incorporate rest days into my schedule, which are important in any training program, not just during pregnancy.
I enter phase II of my pregnancy training program around month three or four.  My extreme fatigue and horrendous nausea and vomiting are now replaced by new obstacles...
Running routes are now mapped out with bathroom breaks placed strategically throughout.  The intense feeling of urination goes away after you run a few miles, but unfortunately it is uncomfortable up to that point.  I ran the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon in June and felt great.  However, I had to plan bathroom breaks along the way.  The focus on how fast I could run was replaced by concern with how I felt during the race.  If that meant slowing my pace, walking or stopping to use the restroom, then that's what I did.  I don't keep the same push-through-anything attitude at this point in a pregnancy.
A lot of people stop doing "crunches" while pregnant, which I understand, but I feel like I need to strengthen my core even as my stomach grows.  Pregnancy takes a beating on the core, so why would I completely cut out strengthening the core muscles (unless there is a medical reason to do so)? I like to perform modifications of core workouts.  For example, the plank has multiple variations.  Exercises with a stability ball are also great to help maintain ab work!
When I strength train, I don't pay particular attention to the amount of weight I lift; I just monitor my form to decrease the chance of injury.  I contribute my speedy recoveries from my two previous C-sections to good core and upper-body strength.  I was home after both C-sections within two days of the operation and I was walking within a week of the surgery.  I ran a 6-hour adventure race just six weeks after the birth of my first son and a half-marathon seven weeks after giving birth to my second.  There is no way I would have bounced back as quickly had I let my strength slip away for nine months.  It was not easy but is most certainly doable!
For me, the third trimester of pregnancy is when the aches and pains really start to set in.  It's a constant discomfort that requires attention every day.  Sleeping comfortably is a challenge at this point and, because I've been told to sleep on my left side as much as possible, I often wake in the middle of the night with aching hip pain.  My lower back seems to be in a constant knot and the sciatica pain starts to shoot down my legs when I lay down for too long.  So, what's a girl to do??? Keep moving the legs forward!  I'm quite aware of the stares I get from bystanders who think that a really pregnant woman running looks funny, but I try to block out those glances because exercising helps to ease the pain that comes with being pregnant.
I ran for the entire duration of my first two pregnancies.  I even participated in my husband's boot camp class the mornings of my C-sections.  I ran much slower at the end and had to take frequent walking breaks, but I was still able to get in four to six miles.  The three month home stretch of a pregnancy can feel like an eternity; it kind of feels like hitting that wall during a marathon when you think to yourself, "I can't do this!" If the impact of running is too much on my already aching body, I switch to swimming, which places less stress on my body.  It's important to listen to your body by designating rest days or to enlist the care of a chiropractor or a massage therapist.
Pregnancy is like all of the endurance events I've competed in-just harder.  I would never entertain competing in a 15-hour adventure race or completing a marathon without the proper training and base preparation.  Even when I feel huge and awkward, lacing up my running shoes and getting a workout in makes me feel powerful and leaves me knowing, "I can do this!"
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