One expectant mom rediscovers swimming — and learns why the payoff is worth the effort.
When I was a kid, I spent hours in the pool and the lake. Somersaulting, splashing or just fooling around, I loved being in the water. But as I got older, I found myself sticking to dry land more and more. Trips to the beach or pool became all about dipping my toes in the water, then retreating to my towel to soak up the sun.
While pregnant with my first child, I spent a weekend at a family friend’s lake cabin in Alabama. Taking a dip in the lake’s bathtub-warm water was tempting, but I’d just entered my third trimester, and my body was feeling slow and heavy. As I reluctantly eased myself into the lake, I noticed something amazing—treading water was just as easy as it had ever been, despite the extra pounds I’d packed on. I felt buoyant, and my belly didn’t get in the way as I frog-legged my way through a breaststroke. In fact, I felt remarkably…un-pregnant.
There was a point during each of my five pregnancies when, feeling achy and big, I’d find myself longing for a pool to recapture that weightless feeling. I’ve always struggled with boredom when exercise is too repetitive, but combating boredom is easy in the water because it feels like playing. I’d swim laps for 10 minutes, then head to the side of the pool for some gentle stretching and exercises I’d learned in a water aerobics class. Then, I’d swim laps for another 10 minutes or so before hitting the showers.
Swimming isn’t always easy to fit into a busy schedule. It takes effort to find a lake or pool. It requires donning a revealing outfit; and when you live in a northern climate like I do, you will get cold before you warm up. But the benefits are big. In some ways, it’s like a metaphor for happy motherhood—sometimes, putting in that little bit of extra effort to do something for yourself can seem like a big obstacle, but once you’ve done it, you realize just how worthwhile it was.
Tips & Gear
‘‘As I reluctantly eased myself into the lake, I noticed something amazing—treading water was just as easy as it had ever been."
Backstroke and breaststroke are both recommended during pregnancy. According to Julie Tupler, R.N., a certified trainer and childbirth educator in New York City, the breaststroke is best, as it opens and lengthens the chest and increases innerand outer-thigh strength. Overall, swimming is easy on the joints, helps build endurance, improves circulation and muscle
tone, and can help decrease swelling.
Keep in mind that being in the water can make it easy to forget to drink water. Tupler recommends drinking 8 ounces before you get in the pool and another 8 ounces when you get out. Wear a suit that fits your pregnant physique. The onepiece tank from Fit Maternity, $62, features a generous stay-put cut and supportive belly panels to keep you comfortable in and out of the water. If you’re already in good shape, TYR Aquatic Fitness Gloves, $18, can add a little oomph to your workout.