The Pregnant Athlete

Learning To Embrace My Changing Pregnant Body While Swimming, Biking, Running & Practicing Yoga


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5 Chinese pregnancy myths debunked.

Week 13 | +8 lbs

The most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with during my pregnancy so far are the constant old Chinese pregnancy myths my parents and in-laws impose on me every single week. I thought that it was bad enough that my husband and I had to select a wedding date based on what they deemed was a “lucky” date, but that was not even a preview of how Chinese superstitions can overwhelm one’s daily existence.

I won’t even bother to argue the benefits of exercise during pregnancy, despite some of our family members’ beliefs, but here are 5 Chinese pregnancy myths and the truth.  Are there any myths in your culture that you have had to disagree with during your pregnancy? Note: I don’t necessarily eat all the foods I write about below, but I thought it was important to get the facts posted anyway.

Myth #1. Eating bananas will cause miscarriage and asthma.

Fact #1. During pregnancy, eating foods high in potassium, such as bananas, can help reduce pregnancy-related swelling of the extremities. It’s believed that leg cramps, one of the most unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy, might be relieved by increasing the intake of potassium-rich foods. In addition, vitamin B6, found in bananas, has been shown to help relieve morning sickness. They also balance electrolytes, are a great source of energy, and are a significant source of vitamins A, C, pectin (a soluble fiber) and manganese. Source.

Myth #2. Eating lamb will cause your baby to suffer from epilepsy.  In Southern China, pregnant women were told not to eat lamb because of an old Cantonese saying: “Faat yeung deu.” Faat means “to break out in acne or measles.” Yeung is the Cantonese word for lamb. Deu means “craziness” or “having seizures.”

Fact #2. Along with other animal foods, lamb is one of the best sources of iron.  Pregnant women require more iron, as it is found in your blood and is responsible for carrying and delivering oxygen to every cell in your body. Pregnant women have an expanded blood volume, so it makes sense that more blood requires more iron. Additionally, you have to supply oxygen to both your cells and the cells of your growing baby. Once again, this greater demand for oxygen requires greater amounts of iron.  Just remember to cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts to 145°F, pork to 160°F, and all ground meats to 160° F. Non-animal foods such as enriched breads and cereals, beans, dried fruits, seeds, nuts, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, barley, chickpeas and blackstrap molasses are also sources of iron, though they will not provide as much iron as animal foods. Source.

Myth #3. Eating seafood will cause your baby to suffer from rashes and other skin problems.

Fact #3. Seafood is a great source of protein, iron and zinc, crucial nutrients for your baby’s growth and development. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can promote your baby’s brain development, especially important to eat during your third trimester.  Avoid some types of seafood, particularly large, predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish that contain high levels of mercury. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) state pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week, or two servings per week.  Not all researchers agree with these limits, however, citing a study that noted no negative effects for women who ate more seafood than the FDA-approved guidelines. Source

Myth #4. It is unhealthy to ingest cold food or drinks or any fruits that would have a “cooling” effect on the body, including pineapples, watermelon, lychees and mangoes. Chinese food therapy is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine. Central to this belief system is the idea that certain foods have a “hot” or heat-inducing quality while others have a “cold” or chilling effect on the body and its organs and fluids. An imbalance of this “heat” and “cold” is said to increase susceptibility to sickness or to directly cause disease itself. Such an imbalance is not necessarily related to the subjective feeling of being hot (tending toward sweating) or cold (tending toward shivering).  Some Chinese view pregnancy as a “heating” condition, and, thus, “cooling” foods should be avoided.

Fact #4. Packed with essential nutrients and full of fiber, fruits are an important part of any healthy diet, and should appear in abundance in your kitchen when you’re pregnant.  Key vitamins supplied by fruits include beta carotene, needed for your baby’s cell and tissue development, vision, and immune system; vitamin C, crucial for your baby’s bones and teeth, as well as the collagen in your baby’s connective tissue; potassium, which helps control blood pressure; and folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects and promotes a healthy birth weight.  The fiber content also provides a number of benefits, including keeping your bowels moving. This helps prevent constipation and hemorrhoids, two common problems during pregnancy. Source

Myth #5.  Raising your arms overhead will cause your baby’s umbilical cord to get wrapped around his or her neck.

Fact #5:  Your movements have absolutely no effect on the umbilical cord. It is pretty common for the cord to be around your baby’s neck when the baby is born, and it is not necessarily anything to worry about.  In fact, your OB will be able to unwrap it from baby’s neck in just a few maneuvers, if need be, so it’s definitely not the life-threatening situation it’s been made out to be. Source

Other Chinese myths that exist:

  • Ingesting dark liquids, ie. soy sauce, chocolate, cola, coffee, tea will make baby dark
  • Eating papaya can cause jaundice and a difficult labor
  • Using scissors will cause baby to have hare lip
  • Moving will cause miscarriage
  • Hammering will cause baby to have pockmarks or spots
  • Going to a funeral is bad luck and can cause miscarriage
  • Holding someone else’s baby will make your baby jealous and angry when he or she grows up
  • Going out after dark conjures bad spirits
  • Visiting temples is bad luck, as is when you’re menstrating
  • Seeing ugly or frightening things may “mark” the baby
  • Bathing during the first month post-partum is dangerous and should be avoided

Week 12 (1/12-18) training: 15 miles

Sunday: 5 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: 3 miles, yoga
Wednesday:  Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 7 miles


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Top 3 ways to beat fatigue for a pregnant athlete.

Week 12 | + 8 lbs

Week 12 of my pregnancy is the most exciting week yet! Firstly, the miscarriage rate drops dramatically after week 12, which, as is commonplace, means that my husband and I can finally start telling our friends and extended family about our pregnancy, and truly celebrate without fear or reservation, ourselves! Secondly, the fatigue that I have struggled with throughout the first few months of pregnancy, is supposed to ease in the second trimester!

Fatigue ranks high among first trimester symptoms, and, although I am fortunate to not have had any nausea or vomiting, found fatigue to be debilitating on many days. This poses as a serious challenge, as I am my business’s only full-time employee, and it was be extremely difficult to find someone to cover could not work—my husband had to call out sick from his own job to cover for me the one time I was sick with food poisoning two years ago. During early pregnancy, levels of the hormone progesterone soar, which can put you to sleep. At the same time, lower blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and increased blood production also cause one’s energy levels to take a plunge.

In celebration of Month 3 and transitioning out of my first trimester, here are the top 3 ways to beat fatigue for a pregnant athlete from my experience.

  1. Stay active, but work out early. I find that my energy levels drop significantly after lunchtime, and I can barely keep my eyes open at work in the afternoons. Studies have shown that exercise will make you feel better, and may boost your baby’s brain. To combat fatigue, I schedule all my workouts in the morning, if possible, when I’m much more motivated to move.

    Weekly Training Schedule, 1/13/14

    Weekly Training Schedule, 1/13/14

  2. Sleep, sleep and more sleep. Adjust your schedule so that you can get the rest your body and baby need. Not only have I found that I need more sleep at night, now needing up to nine or ten hours when I was content with seven before, I also need to take naps too, and I am sure most pregnant women feel the same way. On weekends, I will often wake up early to run with Team In Training, indulge in brunch, shower, and then happily hit the hay for a two- or three-hour nap.

    The Leachco Snoogle Pillow Is The Best (Even for Hubby)

    The Leachco Snoogle Pillow Is The Best (Even for Hubby)

  3. Listen to your (sore) body. I noticed immediately that my muscles are often sore after workouts whereas they were not pre-pregnancy. Whereas I used to take advanced yoga classes without soreness, a beginner’s class will leave me aching for up to three or four days, and whereas I used to run 20 miles or more at a time without any post-run side effects, my quads are still crying from the 30-minute speed work I completed two nights ago. I haven’t found any specific reasons for this issue—many websites direct pregnant readers to stretch more, which is makes me chuckle as a yogini. One piece of advice I give to others is to, as always, listen to your body. If you are extremely sore, but scheduled for an easy run today, take a break instead. There is always tomorrow.
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Month 3 Belly Photo, 1/12/14

Week 11 (1/5-11) training: 12 miles

Sunday: 5 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday:  Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Yoga
Saturday: 7 miles


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Love and running: reflections and resolutions for 2014.

Week 11 | +5 lbs

Love and running have changed my life. Both in similar ways. Both forever.

My husband and I started dating in early November 2007, and, by New Year’s Eve of that year, I knew that I loved him. We leaped into a vacation to Jamaica the same month we got together, where I shared my excitement for scuba diving with him, and he decided to get certified too; spent Thanksgiving at both our parents’ homes, eating lobster in ginger and scallion sauce, stir fried noodles and other traditional Cantonese dishes at his parents’ for lunch, then standard American fare at my parents’ for dinner; and celebrated Christmas with both our families together under one roof.  My husband helped me kick my smoking habit (through my love for him, and his zero tolerance for smoking), embraced and encouraged all of my growing active pursuits (he was always willing to travel with me to my races or for snowboarding trips), and taught me that one does not need to work hard at a relationship (because a great one simply works).  Most notably, my husband has been at the finish line to shower me with hugs, kisses and food at all of my 14 marathons and seven triathlons.  He’s my rock, my Sherpa for life.

Scuba Diving in the Bahamas, 7/08

Scuba Diving in the Bahamas, 7/08

I started running long distances in 2006, a year after graduating from college.   I finally came to terms that I was unhealthy, out of shape and spent most of my waking hours sitting at a desk at my finance job, snacking on cookies and other junk food.  I signed up to run the Coogan’s Shamrock, Salsa & Blues 5K in March of that year without much training, and felt like my lungs were on fire halfway through the race.  Despite my body’s response, I was hooked on the adrenaline rush—later that same month, I ran my first half marathon.  By 2008, I mustered up the courage to sign up for the Potomac River Marathon in Alexandria, VA, my first full, and the passion for running only intensified from thereon.  Running took the place of any vices (smoking being the most significant), imparted on me a great deal about how to plan and execute smaller tasks to achieve a greater long term goal (important to consider for both the 18 weeks of marathon training and the big race, itself), taught me that, through dedication and persistence, anything is possible.

NYC Marathon, 11/2/08

NYC Marathon, 11/2/08

In 2014, I resolve to continue to love my husband in the ways that he’s loved me. I resolve to continue to share interesting experiences with him, spend quality time with his family, particularly with his beloved grandmother, help him curb his video game addiction if ever it gets out of control again, express my love for him in the way that I treat him every day, and be at the finish line when he finishes his first marathon and then Ironman this year (likely virtually for the Ironman, as it will take place 3 weeks after our baby’s due date).

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, an organization that rescues abused elephants, during our belated honeymoon, 12/12

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, an organization that rescues abused elephants, during our belated honeymoon, 12/12

In 2014, I resolve to continue to run long distances, as running has been a fundamental part of every positive aspect of my life.  That said, I also resolve to listen to my body, and, perhaps, walk when my body asks for it over the next few months, instead.

Mile 17 of the Chicago Marathon, 10/9/11

Mile 17 of the Chicago Marathon, 10/9/11

In 2014, I resolve love and feel passionately about our baby as much as I love my husband and feel passionately about running, if not more.  I resolve to not feel overwhelmed if and when breastfeeding doesn’t go as smoothly as I’d like it to, read to him or her every single night, put our baby’s needs in front of my own, practice patience when I take care of him or her, and be present at every moment.

2014 is going to be an amazing year.

Second Ultrasound, 1/6/14

Second Ultrasound, 1/6/14

Week 8 (12/15-21) training: 5 miles

Sunday: Rest
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday:  Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Yoga
Saturday: 5 miles

Week 9 (12/22-28) training: 15 miles

Sunday: 3 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday:  5 miles
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 7 miles

Week 10 (12/29-1/4) training: 10 miles

Sunday: 5 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday:  Yoga
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Yoga
Saturday: 75miles