The Pregnant Athlete

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


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5 favorite prenatal yoga poses.

Week 27 | +20 lbs

Yoga has been my means to counterbalancing my busy and active lifestyle since 2008. Not only has it helped me recover from running injuries over the past six years since I ran my first marathon, but it has also nourished my overall mental and spiritual well-being.  Amazingly, my yoga practice has assumed a deeper role during my pregnancy–it is during yoga that I feel the most connected to my husband and my unborn daughter.  With each inhale, I give life to our baby.  With each exhale, I let go of daily stresses that sometimes seem to have become magnified during my pregnancy. I am fully aware of each of our baby’s movements during yoga, that which I’m completely unaware of during my other active pursuits.

Side stretch during prenatal yoga class shoot, 4/18/14

Side stretch during prenatal yoga class shoot at Sacred Sounds Yoga, 4/18/14

The following are my 5 favorite prenatal yoga poses:

Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)  – We, mommies-to-be that are in our first and second trimesters, typically start class in supta baddha konasana at my studio, whereas third trimester moms taking side-lying pose. We each use two blocks and a bolster to help prop up our upper bodies, and often wrap a rolled up blanket around our feet (see photo below).  I’ve found that starting class in this pose has been the best way to help clear my thoughts, and focus on the connection between our baby and me. I feel closest to our baby in the pose, as I can feel all of her hiccups, kicks and slight movements.

Squat (Malasana) – Malasana helps to increase mobility in the hips, stretches and soothes the back and strengthens the abdomen–all of these benefits have a positive impact on labor and delivery.  Additionally, women are often advised to squat during childbirth. I, personally, have always loved this posture during class, though I often transitioned into Crow Pose (Bakasana) following it pre-pregnancy, whereas I am happy just to squat these days.  I magine I will spend a lot of time laboring in it.

Half Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Half Chaturanga Dandasana) – Half Chaturanga is the only pose that makes me feel like I’m strengthening upper back and triceps, as most of prenatal yoga is focused on either stretching or pain management practice for childbirth.  I love that the posture often makes my upper body sore these days, a signal that I’m really working my muscles.

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) – Pigeon Pose has always been one of my favorite yoga poses as a runner.  It helps to lengthen the hip flexors, increase the external range of motion of the femurs in the hip sockets, and stretch the iliotibial (IT) band.   For runners, tight hip flexors prevent full rear extension of the leg. To compensate, stiff runners achieve extension by arching their back and tilting their pelvis forward; this shifts the foot strike forward, in front of the runner’s center of mass, and creates an inefficient braking force, as well as a heavy foot strike that takes its toll on ankle, hip, and knee joints, explains USA Triathlon performance adviser Bobby McGee.  I love breathing  into pigeon pose, inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to deepen the stretch, while feeling our baby’s movements in my belly below me.

Child’s Pose (Balasana) – Child’s Pose calms the brain, helps relieve stress and fatigue, and alleviates back and neck pain with the head is supported, often with a block.  I love practicing kegels in Child’s Pose during class. Not only does it feel especially intimate to practice kegels in this posture, as opposed to doing so sitting up, but I am thrilled to feel our baby kick during the practice. It brings a smile to my face every time.

Supta baddha konasana during prenatal yoga class shoot at Sacred Sounds Yoga, 4/18/14

Supta baddha konasana during prenatal yoga class shoot at Sacred Sounds Yoga, 4/18/14

Week 25 (4/13-19) training: 38.1 miles 

Sunday: 13.1 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: Yoga
Saturday: 20 miles

Week 26 (4/20-26) training: 23 miles 

Sunday: 3 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga, 3 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 12 miles


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Heartburn and knee pains and calf cramps. Oh my!

Week 25 | +18 lbs 

It is true what people say–my second trimester has been an wonderful time of my pregnancy so far! The fog of the fatigue from the first trimester dissipated in Week 16, I finally adjusted my fuel and water intake for my long runs so as to prevent the migraines I was suffering from early on in the pregnancy, and I’ve been really enjoying finally feeling our baby daughter kick in my belly throughout the day (as has my husband whose face lit up when she kicked his cheek after he laid his head gently on my belly one evening).

Suffocating my husband with my belly, 4/9/14

Seemingly suffocating my husband with my belly, 4/9/14

Although I have genuinely enjoyed the last few weeks of the pregnancy, I have had to deal with a few new pregnancy pains during the second trimester. I’ve noted them, and how I’ve tried to deal with them too.

  1. Heartburn. The first time I experienced heartburn was on an easy 5-mile run a month ago.   I had had a green juice comprised of kale, apples, lemon and ginger and a bit of cheese an hour prior to the run, as fuel for my run home from work.   Boy was I unpleasantly surprised when the cheese and acids from the juice immediately started coming back up after only less than a mile into my run!  My doula Caprice Abowitt explained to me that relaxin is a hormone that relaxes the muscles, joints and ligaments in the pregnant body to prepare the body for childbirth, but also softens the muscles of the esophagus and the valve at the top of the stomach, causing heartburn. I try not to eat solids or drink anything acidic up to two hours before a run, whether short or long, opting to drink coconut water for short runs and fueling with water and gels for long runs instead. However, my heartburn will likely only get worse over the coming months. Some pregnant women have suggested taking Tums to help with the heartburn, which I will try if my food avoidance tactic pre-runs doesn’t work.
  2. Knee pains. The pains in my left knee from an injury that had cut my marathon season short early last fall and forced me to cancel my entries to the New Hampshire and New York City Marathons started to bother me again a few weeks ago, sadly.  I presume that the pains had come back as I gained more weight. The increase in weight meant greater impact on my joints. I’ve been able to lessen the knee pain through daily stretching and foam rolling, however, exercises I learned from physical therapy sessions I had attended for three months last year with Finish Line Physical Therapy, whom I highly recommend.  The recurrence of knee pains served as a reminder not to stop stretching.
  3. Calf cramps. A non-running induced pain, calf cramps have shaken me from my slumber twice in the past three weeks followed by loud yelps, waking up my husband too, so far.  As BabyCenter notes: “No one really knows why pregnant women get more leg cramps. It’s possible that your leg muscles are tired from carrying around all of your extra weight. Or they may be aggravated by the pressure your expanding uterus puts on the blood vessels that return blood from your legs to your heart and the nerves that lead from your trunk to your legs.”  Apparently, it’s also an issue that may worsen over the course of the pregnancy. The only proven remedy seems to be to stretch your calf muscle when this occurs by straightening your leg, heel first, and gently flexing your toes.
Freshly made green juice, comprised of kale, apples, lemon and ginger, and red juice, comprised of beets, carrots, apples, lemon and ginger. No more juice pre-run!

Freshly made green juice, comprised of kale, apples, lemon and ginger, and red juice, comprised of beets, carrots, apples, lemon and ginger, both in our wedding souvenirs. No more juice pre-run!

On a positive note, my second trimester pregnancy pains haven’t affected my marathon training, thankfully.  This past Sunday, I ran the More Magazine / Fitness Magazine Women’s Half Marathon in Central Park. Although it’s always one of my favorite local races, this experience was my favorite half marathon one ever!! Not only was it amazing to see and run with so many female friends before, after and especially during the race, I was excited to run it for two with my favorite female in my life (other than my mom), my daughter.  How is it possible to love someone so much whom you’ve never even met yet? It just is.

More Magazine / Fitness Magazine Women's Half Marathon, 4/13/14

More Magazine / Fitness Magazine Women’s Half Marathon, 4/13/14

Week 24 (4/6-12) training: 19 miles 

Sunday: 6 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga, 3 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: 5 miles


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Nostalgia: A look back at my progress as a runner.

Week 24 | +18 lbs

We, endurance athletes, rarely mull over all of our previous race times.  We also usually do not correlate races with events in our lives.  We often only remember our personal records, or PRs, for our favorite race distances, and, once we beat a PR, that last PR time is forgotten, with a new time ingrained in our minds as the one to beat. For example, I can tell you that I ran my PR marathon at the 2011 Chicago Marathon in 3:44:15. However, I could not tell you what my marathon times were for the marathons before or after that significant race. Sadly, I often forget exactly how many marathons I’ve completed so far–was it 14 or 16? And I certainly cannot tell you off the top of my head what my best times were for my shorter races.

2011 Chicago Marathon, 10/9/11

2011 Chicago Marathon, 10/9/11

As a pregnant runner, however, it is truly nostalgic to look back at my progress as a runner, perhaps since I now could not care less about my PRs or how to beat them.  I only care about how running makes me feel each day–each day is certainly a different day.  I am excited about each run I accomplish these days, and each race IS correlated with an event in my life, my pregnancy–even the number of weeks, specifically–and my growing baby.

6-mile run in Venice, Italy during which I ran over 29 bridges at 20 weeks! 3/14/14

6-mile run in Venice, Italy during which I ran over 29 bridges at 20 weeks! 3/14/14

A look back at a few significant races (and life events):*

  • 3/5/06 – First 5K – 27:02 (8:43/mi) – I had not yet met my husband, and worked at financial firm #1 post-college.
  • 5/4/08 – First marathon – 5:25:17 (12:24/mi) – My husband and my 6-month dating anniversary, and we both worked at financial firm #2.
  • 10/9/11 – PR marathon – 3:44:15 (8:33/mi) – 3 months after my husband and I got married, and less than a month before I opened my yoga studio. Also, notice that my pace per mile is faster than that for my first 5K!!
  • 11/17/12 – 50-mile ultramarathon – 10:44:14 (12:53/mi) –  5 years after my husband and I got together, and a year after I opened my yoga studio.
  • 8/18/13 – Ironman – 14:03:10, 4:31:36 marathon (10:21/mi) – My husband and I had always planned to start trying to start a family after this bucket list race.
  • 9/7/13 – Most recent marathon – 3:46:20 (8:38/mi) – I got injured during this race, and had to cancel my next two marathons in October and November. It worked out well that we got pregnant in October!

*It’s also significant to note that my husband has either volunteered or cheered me on at every one of my marathons, triathlons and ultramarathons I’ve ever completed!

On vacation in Jamaica just a month into our relationship, 12/07

On vacation in Jamaica just a month into our relationship, 12/07

I’ll be running the Delaware Marathon in 4.5 weeks at 29 weeks.  Although it may rival my first marathon as the slowest one, it will be the most special one yet. It will be my third marathon to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training in memory of my late grandmother, my husband’s first marathon ever, and my first running for two.  The race will be so much more than just a family affair.

Month 6 Belly Photo, 4/9/14

Month 6 Belly Photo, 4/9/14

Week 23 (3/30-4/5) training: 38 miles 

Sunday: 10 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 18 miles


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Proper pregnancy nutrition and weight gain: What is right for baby and me?

23 Weeks | +18 lbs

I stepped on my scale for my weekly weigh-in last Thursday morning, and was flabbergasted to read that I had gained 5 pounds since the week prior, a total gain of 20 pounds! The scale MUST be wrong, I thought to myself, stepped off quickly, and tried it again. But, alas, the numbers didn’t change. I was especially surprised because I had made sure to return to both my usual habits of eating well all week, a focus of mine since we had just returned from loading up on breads and pastas in Italy for our babymoon as well as my usual marathon training schedule. I had even completed my longest long run of the pregnancy, 16 miles, five days prior!

16-mile long run 3/22/13

16-mile long run 3/22/14

The most important question loomed over my head: What is proper nutrition for me right now? I already knew that I was of normal weight, which means that I should gain a total of 25-35 pounds by the end of the pregnancy. By my last weigh-in, I was up 19 pounds, which translated to a 35-pound weight gain at 40 weeks if I were to gain one pound per week for the remainder of the pregnancy, but gaining any more than that in a week would put me over.

Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain Chart

Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain Chart

I thought that the best way to figure out the answer to this question was to analyze my meals and snacks for the week. Based on my calculations, I should be eating approximately 2200 calories per day at this point in my pregnancy, essentially 1850 calories pre-pregnancy to maintain my active lifestyle plus 350 additional calories recommended during the second trimester. I wanted to compare my numbers with my actual food intake:

Thu. 3/27:
Breakfast: 8 oz. coffee with soy milk, 1 bowl Chocolate Cheerios with unsweetened almond milk
Snack: 1 banana, 1/2 cup salted pistachios
Lunch: 2 egg whites with avocado and sliced tomatoes on 7-grain toast
Snack: 20 oz. kale, apple, lemon and ginger juice, 1 slice zucchini bread
Dinner: 4 oz. grilled chicken with mango peach salsa, 1 bowl quinoa with kidney beans, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes, 1 bowl fresh chicken soup
Snack: 1 cup pomelo with 1/2 cup purple sticky rice
Total: 2200 calories 

Fri 3/28:
Breakfast: 8 oz. coffee with unsweetened almond milk, 1 bowl oatmeal with flax seeds, 1 tsp natural peanut butter and 1 banana
Snack: 1 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
Lunch: 4 oz. grilled chicken with mango peach salsa, 1/2 bowl quinoa with kidney beans, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes, sauteed asparagus spears with onions
Snack: 6 oz. Choboani nonfat plain yogurt with dark chocolate, pistachios and orange chunks, 1 steamed vegetable bun
Dinner: 1 large bowl Taiwanese beef noodle soup
Snack: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup pomelo, miniature chocolate chip cookies
Total: 2100 calories 

Choboani nonfat plain yogurt with dark chocolate, pistachios and orange chunks, a perfect post-prenatal yoga treat! 3/28/14

Chobani nonfat plain yogurt with dark chocolate, pistachios and orange chunks, a perfect post-prenatal yoga treat! 3/28/14

Sat 3/29:
Breakfast: 2 slices sprouted wheat toast with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
Mid-run: EFS Vanilla Liquid Shot
Lunch: 8 oz. coffee with unsweetened almond milk, 4 oz. grilled chicken with pickled onions and green salsa on baguette
Snack: 8 oz. unsweetened almond milk, banana, 1 cheddar cheese stick
Dinner: 1 bowl brown rice, soy sauce chicken, tomato shrimp, roasted cauliflower, 1/2 bowl sweet funghi soup, 1/2 dough’ssant
Snack: 1 cup pomelo
Total: 2100 calories

Sun 3/30:
Breakfast: 2 slices sprouted wheat toast with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter and 1 tsp mixed berry jelly
Mid-run: 1 Honey Stinger’s Vanilla Waffle
Lunch: 8 oz. coffee with oat milk, 2 soft eggs with chicken apple sausage and kale pesto on wheat sourdough roll, 1/4 cup grits with avocado and jalapeno sauce
Snack: 1 apple, 1/4 cup salted mixed nuts
Dinner: 2 bowls chicken soup, 1/2 bowl white rice, 1 Peking pork chop, 4 oz. steamed fish in ginger sauce, sauteed spinach, 1/4 orange
Total: 2100 calories

Mon 3/31:
Breakfast: 8 oz. coffee with soy milk, 3 egg whites with spinach and mushroom on whole wheat wrap
Snack: 1 banana
Lunch: 2 cups Kale and sesame salad with sweet and sour seitan, chickpeas and butternut squash
Snack: 20 oz. smoothie with almond milk, almond butter, banana and cacao nibs, 6 large crackers
Dinner: 1 large bowl Taiwanese beef noodle soup, 2 oz. salmon, 1 cup roasted cauliflower
Snack: 1 cup pomelo, 2 cups caramel popcorn
Total: 2200 calories

Tue 4/1:

Breakfast: 8 oz. coffee with almond milk, 1 banana, 2 tsp. almond butter
Snack: 1 carrot cake doughnut from Doughnut Plant
Lunch: 1 bowl cauliflower soup, 1/2 tofu panini
Snack: 20 oz. smoothie with almond milk, almond butter, banana and cacao nibs, 1 kale and spirulina muffin
Dinner: 4 oz. grilled salmon, 1 bowl quinoa with kidney beans, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes, 1 cup snap peas with razor clams
Snack: 1 cup grapes
Total: 2200 calories

Wed 4/2: 

Breakfast: 8 oz. coffee with almond milk, 3 egg whites with spinach and mushrooms on whole wheat wrap
Snack: 1 banana
Lunch: 2 cups mixed greens salad with sprouts, shredded carrots, tomatoes, marinated and baked tempeh and ground peanuts in sesame dressing
Snack: 1 cheddar cheese stick, 20 oz. kale, apple, lemon and ginger juice
Dinner: 1 bowl brown rice, 4 oz. pork chops, 1 cup baby bok choy, 1 bowl corn soup
Total: 2200 calories

What is my conclusion upon analyzing my food log? I believe that I am eating a well-balanced diet, chock full of a variety of fruits and vegetables in addition to healthy fats and  protein. Additionally, I am not overeating–on the contrary, I sometimes wonder if I am eating enough, given my active pursuits.

I actually lost 2 pounds from the last weigh-in a week ago, which leads me to believe that the sudden weight gain may have been attributed to the following:

  1. Water retention. I recall that I did have fresh ramen noodle soup the night before that weigh-in, which is often loaded with too much salt, I’ll admit.
  2. Overall weight fluctuation. According to Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of Feed the Belly: A Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide, weight gain isn’t always steady and some women gain more than others early on, but even out in later trimesters. Some of us mamas have also noted that weight gain comes in spurts throughout pregnancy; so don’t put too much stock in that pound-a-week hooplah. “Work with your doctor and take good care of yourself,” says Dr. Roth. “It doesn’t matter when you’re gaining, just that you stay within the guidelines.”


There are two common pregnancy ailments related to weight gain that I do worry about:

  1. Preeclampsia.  Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related illness that can become life-threatening for both mother and baby, involving high blood pressure (hypertension) in particular. Preeclampsia can limit the baby’s growth and make the mother very ill, including the risk of having fits (convulsions).
  2. Gestational diabetes.  Higher weight gain puts women at risk of developing gestational diabetes, or it can be a sign that they have developed it. This is a condition in pregnancy where a woman who did not have diabetes before starts to have high levels of a type of sugar (glucose) in her blood. This can cause excessive weight gain in her baby.


Nevertheless, considering I visit my OB every three weeks, she will certainly tell me if my weight is a concern.
 It is much more important to focus on being healthy–and my health is more than my pounds and ounces. A pregnant woman’s job as a baby-grower is to create a nice environment for baby to develop in. So, with that said, eat nutritious foods, skip the junk, and make time to exercise regularly.

Beautiful morning for an 18-mile run this morning! Can you see the Statue of Liberty in the background? 4/5/14

Beautiful morning for an 18-mile run this morning! Can you see the Statue of Liberty in the background? 4/5/14

Week 22 (3/23-29) training: 17 miles 

Sunday: 2 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: Yoga
Saturday: 10 miles