Roughly two months ago, Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen and husband Pat Lemieux announced they are expecting a child, due in August. At that time she announced she would not be racing, but would keep exercising—and training—as long as possible.
LAVA caught up with Jorgensen to find out how her training has changed and what she is learning on the road to impending motherhood.
Did you consult with a doctor about your training when you got pregnant? Is there anything the doctor said that stuck with you?
Of course! I had a ton of questions, so I went into my appointment with a list. Specifically, can I continue training like I have? The biggest takeaway I learned was that anything I did pre-pregnancy, I can still do while I’m pregnant. She also told me how to spot potential problems. For example, blood clots are more common in pregnant women, so now I am very mindful of paying attention to any warning signs. You have to listen to your body. It’s much better to be active, healthy and happy than to stop exercising and find yourself unhappy.
What were some of the immediate changes you noticed? How did your training plan change when you learned you were pregnant?
The first trimester was rough, I felt very sick and just wanted to lay in bed. I found myself lying in bed wondering how people get through the first trimester without telling anyone they are feeling badly. I was doing one workout a day, which was really all I could do because my energy level was so low. I had a lot of food aversions, which is probably another reason I had low energy; I didn’t have the proper nutrition for training.
I felt my best when I was outside and active. I had to experiment with what made me feel good, because I only felt good when I was running. I started going on afternoon walks just to get outside and feel better.
During the second trimester, I realized my big toenails were getting bruised and I was scared of losing a toenail. It took me about a week to realize my feet had grown an entire shoe size. I sent my husband to a local running store and he came back with different ASICS shoes in different sizes and I realized my feet were swollen.
You spent much of your first trimester fighting nausea, but running seemed to help. How are you feeling about it in your second trimester?
I feel more normal, that’s really the only way I can describe it. When I got to my tenth week, I added in a few more workouts because I was feeling more like myself, plus strength training. It’s important to keep up strength exercises, but your body starts to change and making sure you have the right form is even more important than before. Lucky for me, though I do have a bump, it hasn’t precluded me from doing the actual exercises. I’ve started working with a strength coach to make sure my form is on point as I grow.
I’m sticking to the strength-training exercises I’ve been doing for years as an athlete, which is a lot of glutes and core activation. But I’m doing other things too, like activating my core through breathing exercises. I’m taking a holistic approach to health and training, and listening to my body. If something feels funny, I adjust. Simply getting in the pool has helped me relax and ease some of the inflammation that comes along with pregnancy.
How did working out while pregnant make you FEEL? Were there any benefits to exercising while pregnant that surprised you?
I don’t feel like an athlete! That’s the strangest part for me. I can’t go as fast as I used to, it’s almost as if there is an internal mechanism that caps off how fast I can go. Because at the end of the day, I’m creating something beautiful inside me. That’s what is most important.
You’re a recent Olympic gold medalist. How do you see your Olympic training for 2020 shifting?
I plan on training as soon as I can! Everyone’s pregnancy and birth goes differently. I’ll have to play it by ear. Sometimes there are complications and your recovery time is long; I’ve seen some women bounce back just a few weeks later. I’ll begin just as soon as it is safe to do so.
Heart rate is so important to monitor during physical activity while pregnant. How important has your heart rate training been through this process?
My Polar HR monitor helps me regulate how I am recovering. Two of the biggest things I look at are my resting heart rate overnight and my recovery time in Polar Flow. It’s important for me to make sure I’m getting the proper recovery time- again going back to listening to my body. It’s interesting because I’ve noticed my heart rate is about 10 beats higher than normal.
I have been training at altitude the past month. It’s especially important to monitor my heart rate on those runs, making sure I don’t push myself too hard. You can get a boost from training at altitude, but you also can dig a hole for yourself if you try to do too much too soon. I’ve used a lot of tools over the years, but I use Polar because I’m confident in the reliability and accuracy of the data, which is especially important right now.
What advice do you have for other women who want to continue running or training during their pregnancies?
Listen to your body! I can’t say that enough. As an athlete, you are so in tune with your body. Being pregnant is just another, different way to learn about how your body works and adapts. For example, if you’re craving high fat foods, it’s probably because your body, and baby, needs it!
Continue to enjoy what you love to do. It is OK and actually good and beneficial to exercise throughout pregnancy.
I also always remember what my mom told me: enjoy this time, you aren’t pregnant for very long! Take the time to relax and appreciate the miracle growing inside of you!