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How Being Pregnant Has Made Me a Better Fighter

pregnant boxer
I did a Google image search for “pregnant boxer,” and this is what came up. Completely irrelevant to the post, but I thought it was funny.

I’ve been making an effort to go to the gym throughout my pregnancy. I should explain that my gym is not a typical “run on the treadmill, lift some weights gym.” I train Muay Thai Boxing at an MMA gym. Here’s a video of me kicking some Thai pads at 34 weeks pregnant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuJgPv7z-DY

Exercise has always been an important part of my life, but I think it can be especially beneficial during pregnancy. For example, I’ve hardly had any pain during all of this, I think I have a good amount of energy, and I’m feeling confident about the delivery.

I also read a book called “Exercising Throughout Your Pregnancy,” by James F. Clapp III. In it, he details a study he did on women who exercised while pregnant. He found many benefits to babies born to women who exercised, including better academic and athletic performance. Granted, he was looking at women who did aerobics and running, but Thai boxing involves a bunch of cardio, so it’s probably pretty similar.

The book also says women who exercised while pregnant had quicker and easier deliveries, so I’m hoping for that benefit as well!

One benefit I did not receive was a cardio boost in the first trimester. At that point, I knew exercise was good for your child during pregnancy, but I did not yet understand what my body could and could not do during that time. I still went to the gym, but it was less frequent and I didn’t push myself very hard. But according to Clapp’s studies, women can sometimes improve their athletic performance in the first trimester thanks to the extra blood supply. It’s essentially the equivalent of blood doping. Had I known that, I would have paid more attention to my cardio abilities earlier on!

Faux blood doping aside, being pregnant has helped me at the gym in two ways. First, it’s forced me to really pay attention to my breathing. Last year, I participated in my first full contact sparring tournament. There was only one other girl in the competition, and I lost because I got winded. Thinking about breathing has always been a challenge for me, but being pregnant really adds to those difficulties. It forces you to consider how you’re expending your breathe, and how you can be more economical about it. I’m hoping my new found consciousness of how I breath will help me in delivery as well as in the gym!
It’s also made me focus on balance. To do a good Thai boxing kick, you need to turn your foot and roll your hip over. This helps you to balance and get more power behind you. When you’re pregnant, good balance is absolutely necessary! If I don’t place my foot correctly, I can get wobbly, and that can be a scary thing. Being aware of balance is a must if you’re going to continue any kind of martial art while pregnant, but once you’ve mastered it, I think it will make you a better fighter in the long run.

So this blog post got a little esoteric, and I apologize for that. I hope it helps anyone else out there who fights and would like to continue during their pregnancy! If you have any questions about my experience, I’d love to hear them. If you’re an expert on exercising while pregnant, I have a few questions for you:

– How much can you safely lift while pregnant? Before I got pregnant I was weight training in addition to doing Thai boxing, but I stopped because I was told not to lift more than 25 lbs. Is this true? If so, why 25 lbs.?

– I’ve heard heart rate is not an accurate gauge of how hard you should be working in the gym. Agree/disagree?

– Most studies done on women who exercise while pregnant look at women who workout 20 minutes a day for three times a week. I go to the gym twice a week for an hour each time. Would I get the same benefits as someone who works in short bursts more frequently throughout the week?

Again, sorry for such a specific subject, but I wanted to share my experience and hear from others in my position. Also, I guess maybe I have to mention I’m not getting paid to mention the book I shared? I just thought it was an interesting read.

About carrtoons@gmail.com

Chelsea Carr has been cartooning for over ten years. Currently, she works as the editorial cartoonist for Harford County’s The Aegis and The Record. She has also had her work included in MAD Magazine, b, and Baltimore’s City Paper. Chelsea holds a B.F.A. from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (2005) and an M.A.T. from Johns Hopkins University (2011.) In addition to cartooning and being a first-time mother, she has worked as an elementary school art teacher.

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