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Nikki’s Story: Post-Pregnancy Exercise is Full of Struggle and Success

Before she got pregnant, Nikki Suter stuck to a fairly regular exercise routine at her local Nashville YMCA. She took cardio fitness classes and worked with weights a few times a week.

“I wouldn’t say I was at my ideal weight, but I felt healthy,” she says.

When she found out she was expecting, Nikki kept going to the gym. She knew staying fit during pregnancy has lots of benefits for a mom-to-be, including lessening common backaches and preventing excess weight gain. But a few times after working out she felt not quite right and worried about the possibility of miscarriage. Then at nine weeks, she had a hemorrhage and the worry solidified.

“It scared me away from exercising,” she recalls.

There are definitely circumstances when exercise should be avoided or curtailed during pregnancy, so keep up with your regular visits and follow your doctor’s advice. There are so many ways that a woman’s body changes at this time, so discussing diet, bodily changes, activity and any other concerns with a medical provider at each prenatal visit is important.

Waiting for the baby weight to drop

Nikki gained a significant amount of weight with the pregnancy, but not an overly concerning amount. Friends told her she’d immediately lose a lot of it once the baby was born. There is some simple math here: the weight of the baby and the amniotic fluid will go away with delivery. Afterward, some water weight will go away too. But the weight gained beyond that doesn’t magically disappear. Nikki was 25 pounds above her pre-pregnancy weight after her son was born.

Nikki attempted to start running at about three months postpartum, but found it tough to stay with it. Being a new mom and getting back to work took up so much of her time and focus, adding one more task seemed impossible. Getting back to running may have been too ambitious so soon after her delivery, both physically and mentally. Her friends and family soothed her guilt pangs about getting back to exercising.

“People kept reassuring me that my body would just naturally shed the baby weight once X or Y or Z happened. So I waited, but the extra weight stayed. I started to realize, at about one year postpartum, that if I don’t start putting some real time into tackling this, nothing is going to change,” she says. “I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing.”

nikki suter and her infant son biking

Nikki Suter bikes with her infant son often

A little motivation

Nikki knew that she stayed far more disciplined and progress-focused when she took exercise classes, so she returned to the YMCA for a kickboxing class with a favorite, encouraging instructor.

“It was utter misery!” she recalls matter-of-factly. “You look around and see healthy, fit people all around you and think, ‘I don’t belong here.’ I felt like everyone was watching me. But eventually you realize they are healthy because they’ve been working at it for a while, and no one is actually focused on what you’re doing as you are. You have to start somewhere. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t start.”

Since taking that first step, Nikki has continued to attend kickboxing and weight training classes at the Y. She runs twice a week on a mostly uphill trail at Edwin Warner Park. She changes things up by hopping on a stationary bike or stair climber. Most important, she makes exercise a priority. She is now back to her pre-pregnancy weight, with a goal to increase her fitness level.

“I have more confidence and I feel a lot healthier,” she says. “I want to be healthier for my son. I’ve started to realize how much he watches me and I want that activity to be something that he sees.”

BCBST members can get pregnancy support and resources through the Healthy Maternity program and take advantage of gym discounts through FitnessBlue, which is part of the Blue365 member discount program.

For tips on how to exercise while pregnant, click here.

Nancy Henderson

Nancy Henderson

Nancy Henderson, a writer and editor originally from New York, moved to Nashville more than 25 years ago and considers herself more Tennessean than Yankee these days. As Editor at Parthenon Publishing since 2005, she has written about health care and wellness for a variety of publications.

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