Mothers in Motion
By Lisa Unger
Many athletic people look to coaches for advice and encouragement to achieve their goals. Sometimes a coach assists by designing a training program that emphasizes the athlete’s strong skills while developing their weaker points. Sometimes the coach just observes the athlete and then gives verbal feedback. These are all great ways for a coach and athlete to work together to attain specific goals. Expectant mothers who exercise throughout their pregnancies also need “coaching”, but in a very different manner.
For the expectant mother a coach may be her spouse, a relative or close friend or any other person who wants to help and support her throughout her pregnancy. Childbirth classes strongly encourage, or even require, a support person to accompany the mom-to-be. The support person, or “coach”, is a very important part of the mom’s life well before labor begins. This person will be with mom all the way through her pregnancy and also through labor and delivery. It is important for the support person to know mom’s level of fitness and threshold for pain because they will be the one who helps mom manage the stages of labor, transition and delivery. The support person can also influence mom’s ability to maintain her fitness through the nine months of pregnancy.
It is very hard to maintain an exercise program through out pregnancy. According to Runner’s World writer Dagny Scott-Barrios, “Most women say that running during the first few months of pregnancy is even more difficult than running during the final months before delivery. But they all agree that mustering the wherewithal to get out the door–even if it’s only a little bit of exercise–is just the thing to boost your energy.” This is where the support person can help. Just a few words of encouragement can motivate mom to get out there and do it. This does not mean the support person should act like a drill sergeant and belittle or demean mom if she just can’t bring herself to run on a given day. It is also equally important for the support person to compliment mom when she does exercise or complete a run.
Outsiders may influence a mom-to-be in both positive or negative ways. Recently while I had been running near my home, a car whizzed by with one of its occupants hanging his head out the window who shouted at me, “Hey fatty, can’t you go any faster?” I wondered if he realized that I was eight months pregnant? Regardless of his ignorance, this really hurt my feelings. On the other hand, I had often been greeted by people who did recognize that I was pregnant and expressed respect for me as I jogged on the trails at Forest Meadows. Mary Jane Tappen recalls that when she ran through her pregnancies she received some very disapproving looks and comments as not all of the community at large was ready to accept a very pregnant woman running down the road at that time. Fortunately for her though, the running community and her doctor were very positive.
Douglas Hall, MD, an obstetrician in Ocala, FL, who specializes in developing workout programs for expectant mothers explains that exercise can counteract some of the debilitating effects of pregnancy. “Women who workout during their pregnancy overall have a better, more positive pregnancy experience,” he says. “They take control of the process instead of the pregnancy controlling them.” Physical health, mental well being and low stress levels are all very positive for both mom and the developing baby and may be achieved through exercise. For these reasons, the expectant mother’s support people, or “coaches”, are essential companions who can help her continue exercising throughout her nine-month journey to motherhood.