Second Trimester Energy = Back at the Gym

In the haze of the NT disaster, I forgot to mention that at 14 weeks pregnant, I returned to the gym. I’ve been feeling more energetic lately, so I started doing prenatal yoga at home once or twice a week, lifting weights three days a week, and have continued to hike with the dogs four to five days a week, depending on the weather.

In case you’re curious, I’m doing a three day split: Monday’s I’m doing legs/back, Wednesday’s I’m training shoulders/triceps/chest, and Friday’s I’m working legs/biceps. Every three weeks I am switching up the specific exercises I’m doing.

My weight lifting sessions last about 30-40 minutes, and I’m wearing my heart rate monitor so that I can see how hard my body is working. I’ve noticed that my heart rate stays below 145bpm at maximal effort, so I’m happy with that intensity. Some old and disproven literature out there states that pregnant women should keep their heart rate below 140bpm so that they don’t overheat. While the new standards have shown that it’s safe to raise your heart rate above this if you’re well trained, I’d rather stay conservative. My goal isn’t to pack on more muscle or to lose weight, it’s mostly to keep up my strength and endurance for a more comfortable pregnancy and labour and delivery. It’s also for stress relief, as I’ve always enjoyed the routine of working out. 

I’m not doing any HIIT cardio like I used to. I’m just doing leisurely hikes with our dogs. As much as I would love to be one of those ladies who runs throughout their pregnancy, I already have lax ligaments and I suspect that the relaxin coursing through my body will make me susceptible to repetitive sprain/strain injuries. 

Last Wednesday, I did my first workout- shoulders/triceps/chest, which went well. Last Friday however, I did legs/biceps and then spent an hour in a deep squat position breaking up the soil and planting our leeks. Soon after, I started spotting, which freaked me out. I figured that I did too much, and so since then, I’ve decided to limit myself to one physical activity per day. And yes, gardening counts.

I’m otherwise feeling really good and haven’t had any spotting since Friday. I still haven’t been sleeping great, due to anxiety and stress, as well as difficulty getting comfortable in bed. I used to be a stomach/side sleeper, but my belly doesn’t feel good in that position. My current favourite position is sleeping on my back, but I know I’m not supposed to sleep on my back in a couple of weeks, which stresses me out. I have been trying to get used to sleeping on my left side but I don’t enjoy it. Overall, I’m not getting that nice deep sleep that I used to. I am taking little cat naps (under an hour) on the couch with the little dog, which is lovely. The naps provide the perfect boost of energy for the rest of the day. 

I’m still having moments of nausea in the morning if I don’t get food in my belly quick enough, but that’s totally under my control. 

The second trimester is off to a great start!

IVF#2: To Exercise, or Not to Exercise?

This question plagues me every single time we get close to an FET/IVF/TWW, and to be honest, I am no where closer to a solid answer on this.

As most of you know, I am a very physically active person. I played multiple sports on a competitive level. My regular schedule of activity before TTC was intense hockey games 2-3 days a week, plus weight lifting 3-4 days a week. My body loved it, my mind loved it. Sometimes I wonder if that’s how I managed to keep my depression at bay without meds for so long.

When we started doing the IUIs, I continued playing hockey twice a week, weight lifted 2-3 days a week, and limited my exercise to regular daily activities during the TWW (no hockey, no weights). In between BFN’s, I would go back to playing hockey and lifting. In total, I had 4 BFNs from IUIs.

When we moved to IVF last year, I went down to playing ice hockey once a week, and continued weight lifting. Once my ovaries started becoming palpable from the outside (approx stim day 8), I stopped everything except for walking the dogs. We got lots of eggs that round. 21 mature –> 14 fertilized –> 7 day five blastocysts.

Embryo transfers 1 and 2 were DW’s, and she weight lifted once a week plus dog walks before the fresh transfer, and only dog walks during her TWW. After her 5 week miscarriage she joined me back playing hockey once a week. After her second transfer, she only did dog walks, until her miscarriage again at 5 weeks.

Prior to embryo transfer #3, I was playing ball hockey twice a week, and walking the dogs almost daily until the TWW. During pregnancy, I only did dog walks a couple of days a week, until 6 weeks when I went back to weight lifting, and then miscarried sometime during week 7/8.

I returned to the gym a week after my D&C at week 9, and for three months, lifted heavy weights and did compound lifts (squats, deadlifts) 3-4 days a week. I also did sprints 2 days a week. This is until embryo transfer #4, after which I did nothing but dog walks.

After embryo transfer #4 = BFN, I look two weeks off due to being depressed and Christmas holidays. For the past two weeks, I have been working through this high volume fitness competition program. I am on week three of the muscle building phase. Since I started it, I’ve packed on three pounds, but it’s hard to know if it’s just water weight from re-introducing carbs (from 15% to 35% of my macros), muscle mass, or gosh fat (from eating nearly 500 more calories daily than before). I am loving the program so far, and find that I am so hungry even with the increase in calories (from more muscles?), but realize that I shouldn’t be continuing this program once I start stims. The program has me lifting for 90 minutes 6 days a week, plus the 3 days of cardio that I’m not doing (I don’t want to create a calorie deficit). I realize that this is too much, and too frequent for a body trying to optimize reproduction.

Now, I’m trying to decide whether to limit myself to dog walks soon, or whether it’s safe to keep lifting, but at a much lighter resistance.

During my research, I find things like this, which has me thinking that since I have worked out regularly for over 15 years now, no matter what I do, my outcome will be the same. This study essentially says that women who have a history of exercising regularly for five or more years generally have poorer outcomes than sedentary women, regardless of if they exercised during IVF or not.

Then of course, there’s this, which has me totally thinking that I shouldn’t exercise during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy because of the greater risk of miscarriage, but then confuses me by showing studies that say exercise helps to prevent miscarriage. Though, neither really matters to me right now because my concern is about IVF outcomes.

The alternative medicine doctor part of me thinks that all strenuous activity (things that make you sweat, hold your breath, increase your intraabdominal pressure) should take a back seat during stims and the TWW because these kinds of activities drain the resources (Qi) needed to make and nourish developing eggs/embryos. From a primal/paleo perspective, these activities would mimic the unfavourable conditions of running away from predators, or having to hunt/forage, both of which indicate to the body that right now food is scarce and not a good time for baby making. Also, heavy lifting encourages the cycle of muscle damage and repair, which is the basis of muscle building. This increases the oxidative load on the body, and the resultant increase in metabolism increases the amount of free radicals floating around, which is also bad.

As for light exercise such as walking, and light cleaning, I believe these activities are good during stims and the TWW. They increase the circulation through the body, and get some good endorphins flowing.

What I would love to see is a study comparing consecutive IVF cycles- one with exercise and one without, with identical treatment plans, and what the resultant embryo numbers and qualities are. Too bad I can’t find anything like that, as it would shed some light on what I should do.

What I do Know
– I have already stopped doing cardio because it is counterproductive to try to burn calories
– I will keep my calories the same as right now (well-fed and higher than maintenance).
– I will definitely not put myself at risk of ovarian torsion.
– I will not exercise while my ovaries are healing from egg retrieval (last time took two weeks to have a non-painful poop)

Those of you who have done IVF- what kind of activity did you maintain during your stims? What kind of outcome did you have from your IVF? What would you do if you had to do IVF again? What was recommended to you by your RE?

Back to the Gym

Living in fear is no way to live.

But since the transfer, I pretty much stopped all physical activity, aside from dog walks every other day with my lovely ladies. If you recall, exercise is pretty much my only method of stress relief, and the two-week-wait is extremely stressful, so I’ve pretty much been shit to be around. DW has been great though, letting me go at things at my own pace, pick our activities, change my mind, complain, get frustrated, then pass out for another nap and start all over again.

In the past couple of weeks we did some fun things.

We:

– went to Ripley’s Aquarium on our anniversary
– have dined at our favourite restaurants
– seen two films in theatre: Lucy and The Hundred Foot Journey
– driven into downtown on numerous occasions for gelato from our favourite chocolatier, Soma

Other than that, I’ve preferred couch lazing and watching Netflix over socializing. We’ve finished Rectify (which was amazing), and I am still making my way through The Mindy Project. Once school starts next week, I will have no time to watch anything.

However, I finally emerged from the couch potato haze, and returned to the gym two days ago. My muscles were feeling wasted and listless. They needed a pump!

With almost twenty years experience lifting weights, it was humbling to have to limit myself to a lighter workout. My TCM doctor strongly urged against me working out at all, but honestly, I was going crazy. I had to. For my health, and the health of my pregnancy.

But this is what I did:

Three giant sets of the following circuits with no rest between giant sets:

Giant Set 1 (x 3 sets):
8-10 overhand pull-ups (assisted)
10 push ups (off toes)
10 body weight squats
10 ball hamstring curls

Giant Set 2 (x 3 sets):
10-12 chin-ups with a lat pull down machine
10-12 bench press with a bar only
10 slow Bulgarian split squats
Plank
10-12 seated row

20 mins elliptical on a very low level to get lactic acid out of my legs

It felt so good. I was so energized, and sooo sore the next day and took it as a rest day.

Today, I’m back at the gym, a little less sore, but ready to go.

This is what I did:

Giant Set 1 (x 3 sets):
10-12 barbell curl
10-12 barbell military press
10-12 rope press down
10-12 rear delt fly

Giant Set 2 (x 3 sets):
10-12 overhand bicep curl
10-12 upright row
10-12 overhead tricep extension
10-12 lateral delt fly

20 minutes elliptical
20 minutes swimming and stretching in the pool

I’m so happy to be back!

Tomorrow is our competitive ball hockey team’s championship game, as well as the league’s season wrap-up banquet. Our team is defending first place, and I have to come up with an excuse for why I can’t play but will be watching instead. This is a team that we have been playing with for almost 5 years, and we love these girls. It’ll be weird for me not to play, as I usually make every single game. We’ll see how it goes!