Athletes, For Good

Good Content from: Saucony elite athlete, Sarah Piampiano

MORE: Second trimester | First trimester 

The 3rd Trimester!  I felt like I would never reach this stage of pregnancy, so it was an exciting thing when I hit the home stretch!

As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, I’ve found pregnancy to be challenging.  I think, as pregnancies go, I’ve had a pretty great pregnancy experience.  I’ve been able to run, bike, and swim all the way through until the end (this morning, for example, I swam for 1 hour, did a 1-hour ride on my indoor bike trainer, and will head out for a walk this afternoon).   I was nauseous early on but never threw up.  I also never had any crazy symptoms that I had been warned about or ever been THAT uncomfortable.  But even with an easier pregnancy I never feel that great.  I have felt in a constant state of average, which wore on me mentally more than anything else.

Throughout my pregnancy, I always dreaded the 3rd trimester.  I was worried that I was going to be highly uncomfortable, unable to move and mentally miserable.  For me, movement is a huge source of stress relief and mental decompression.  I wondered and worried about how I would feel if I wasn’t able to get outside and get the energy release I crave.

But, as it turned out, the 3rd trimester was when I felt the best of my entire pregnancy.   I am not sure if this was due to expectation management (i.e. I was prepared to feel awful so was pleasantly surprised when I felt otherwise), because I have finally grown accustomed to the changes in my body and the physical limitations from pregnancy,  or because many of the symptoms that were so frustrating for me during the earlier parts of pregnancy had finally gone away.

When I first became pregnant I NEVER expected to be running so late into my pregnancy.  My goal was to make it to 30 weeks (7.5 months). But as I passed the 30-week mark, running continued to feel good and bring me joy,  so I kept at it.  I also NEVER expected to be riding my bike outside (or really at all for that matter!!) so late into pregnancy.  Yet I’m still out there on the weekends following my husband. around on his bike adventures.  I NEVER expected to be able to do multiple workouts in a day, but I am.  So, while everything does feel average-at-best physically, from a mental standpoint I feel a lot of gratitude and relief that I have been able to physically move for so long.   This experience has made me more fully appreciate how important movement is to one’s mental and physical health during pregnancy.

Like my earlier blogs, I’ve outlined below how my third trimester looked overall.

Third Trimester – Week 28 through my due date

Goal – Stay active and healthy
Hours Per Week:
Planned: 6-8 hours (I typically train 28-35 hours per week)
Actual: 15 +/- hours

 As I mentioned above, my expectations for the 3rd trimester – both in terms of how I would feel and what my level of physical activity would look like – were very very low.  But, as it turned out, my body and mind really benefitted from staying active, and I felt pretty good overall throughout the 3rd trimester.

As I entered this last period of my pregnancy my goal was to do one hour of activity per day.  But as I went along, I felt good, and actually even better with what I was maintaining.  2 sessions per day for about 1 hour each felt right. I kept waiting for the moment when my body would say “Sarah, it’s time to slow down”, but that moment never really came.  There were definitely days and workouts when I went a bit too long or hard,  and I would follow those up with 3 or 4 very easy and lighter days of training to ensure I wasn’t overly stressing my body,  but then I’d bounce back.  Generally speaking, I found that exercising ~ 15 hours per week proved to be the right amount for me.  This included 3-4x swims per week (1 hour each), 2-4 runs per week (30 minutes to 1 hour long), 4-6 rides per week (1 hour – 2.5 hours in duration),  1-2 strength sessions per week (45 minutes to 1 hour in duration) and 2-4 walks or hikes per week.

Everything I did was at light or moderate intensity.  My body has been great at providing feedback about what feels good versus not, and so I have relied heavily on that to guide what I am doing.  For example, riding up to 2.5 hours in a given session has felt great, but if I try to ride for 3 hours I am exhausted and knocked out for days.  Similarly,  I found I can run for up to 1 hour, but if I try to run even 10 minutes longer, my pubic bone starts to hurt and I feel completely drained for several days.

During no part of this pregnancy was I trying to push my body to reach new limits, so anytime I did a bit too much, I always backed off and re-adjusted what was possible for me.  Rides all under 2.5 hours and runs under 1 hour.

As I have approached my last weeks of pregnancy,  running has been the one thing that has become harder.  Where it often felt the best for me throughout my pregnancy, it has only recently become uncomfortable enough where it doesn’t seem worth it anymore.  I may go out and run on my due date, simply for the amusement of running on the day I’m supposed to be giving birth, but for all intents and purposes, I think my running days may have come to an end.

I would say overall I feel a deep sense of gratitude, as many women experience pelvic pain early on and are not to run far into their pregnancy, so I feel extremely grateful for the ability to get out on the trails and roads for as long as I have.

During the 2nd trimester, I put a big emphasis on eating well, eating a diversity of foods, and eating lots of protein.  But towards the end of the 2nd trimester, I hit a 3 week period where all I wanted was sugar!  I have NEVER had a sugar craving like that before in my life.  I wanted cinnamon rolls and donuts for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, and cake for dinner!  The cravings were intense, and as focused as I was on feeding my baby all the right foods, I could not resist!  Over Thanksgiving, I made a 3-layer cake with cream cheese frosting, and proceeded to eat the entire thing in 48 hours!!   And a few weeks later I ate an entire quart of ice cream over just 2 days!  I was unstoppable!

Luckily, those intense cravings for sugar subsided, but for the majority of the 3rd trimester, I have craved two primary things: carbs and whole, grass-fed milk.  And I have followed my gut! I generally eat healthy, but I’ve also included a lot more carbs in my diet – from pasta to bread to pastries and ice cream.

And while I don’t have intense food aversions like I did during the 1st trimester, certain foods – like protein and vegetables – don’t sound appetizing.  It is not that I can’t stomach them, but more that I have to be very proactive and mindful about including them in my diet each day as they are not what I crave at the moment.

Throughout my pregnancy, my goal was to gain a healthy amount of weight, which was the prescribed 25-35 pounds. I didn’t want to put on an unnecessary amount of weight, as there is a lot of research suggesting that women who put on excess amounts can actually create long-term obesity and health issues, like diabetes, for their children.

However, I actually found gaining enough weight to be a challenge for me.  Eating my normal diet wasn’t enough with my level of activity, and so I needed to be very proactive about including more calorically dense foods, like pasta, bread, ice cream, nuts, seeds and more into my diet.

Overall my energy was very good in the 3rd trimester.  As I got further along in the 3rd trimester I started to struggle to find a comfortable position to sleep, and I woke up a lot during the night to pee, both of which had a negative impact on my energy levels. Yet I never really felt sluggish or lethargic.  Some days I would be tired from a bad’s night’s sleep, but I never felt the lethargy and heaviness that I had expected.

Main Pregnancy Symptoms:
Mid-back pain
Some pelvic pain and pubic bone pain
Carb cravings
Milk cravings
Occasional swelling/ water retention
Restless sleep
More frequent urination

A lot of women also experience Braxton Hicks contractions in the 3rd trimester, which are considered “practice contractions”.  I haven’t really felt these at all.  There are 1-2 times I can recall experiencing them, but for the most part, I haven’t felt a thing.  In fact, as I sit here, 2 days away from my expected due date, I haven’t felt anything that would even remotely indicate that I might go into labor anytime soon!

Although not a “symptom”, I also continuously felt “huge” throughout my pregnancy.   Even before I was showing, I felt bloated, and then when I started to show, the body changes felt so foreign and odd that the feeling of “huge” persisted. There have been many times when I couldn’t imagine my belly poking out anymore or growing any bigger, but it did!  By the time I reached the last month, a solid waddle was happening!  I think for first-time moms, being prepared for the changes in your body is important.  It is exciting and fascinating.  There are moments when it feels wonderful, and others when it doesn’t feel so great, but also knowing that there is a little human growing inside you makes the ups and downs manageable!

From a physiological standpoint, one very interesting thing I have experienced over the last month has been a significant drop in my resting pulse rate.  When I am not pregnant,  my resting pulse rate is between 38-44 bpm.  When I became pregnant, my resting pulse rate immediately jumped into the high 40’s/ low 50’s and then continued to rise hovering around 60 bpm for several months.  Then, about a month ago, I noticed it falling.  In the past 4 weeks, my resting pulse rate has dropped from 60+ bpm to 46-48 bpm.  I don’t have a clear explanation for why this is, but it is something that I have found to be incredibly interesting to follow and track.

So, that is it!  My 3rd trimester experience in a nutshell.  Now I am just in wait and see mode, with fingers crossed that our nugget arrives soon!

I truly hope this gives a little insight into the physical, emotional, and mental journey of pregnancy.  Every woman’s experience is different, but I strongly believe that sharing our experiences will help other women navigate their pregnancies a bit better.

Look out for my post-partum thoughts and what my return to running (and swimming and cycling) will look like!

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