Posted on August 18, 2015 by Austin Cox
*Please note that this picture was taken right next to shore in very shallow water
One great thing about standup paddle boarding is how most everyone is able to do it. It’s a great activity to reduce stress, stay in shape, and just have a good time and enjoy yourself. But should there be a time when you hang up the paddle and take a break for your safety and others? For example we have heard the question, “can I paddle board while pregnant” and “is it safe to go paddle boarding while pregnant?” We reached out to our Isle Ambassador Stephanie Myers who has gone through her first pregnancy and is an avid SUPer. The rest of the article is written by Stephanie and she gives some really insightful tips throughout her 9 months.
Pregnancy is the most challenging and rewarding experience I believe a woman can go through. Pregnancy, especially giving birth, is extremely physically demanding which is why my goal while pregnant was to stay strong and active. Various studies have shown the benefits of staying fit will not only help with the challenge of labor and delivery, but help increase energy, reduce back pain, avoid excessive weight gain, reduce chances of gestational diabetes… the list goes on, one study even says it may boost your child’s athletic potential! Although there are many ways to stay active while pregnant, stand up paddle was the best choice for me.
*SUP Surfing a fresh water wave. Picture taken before being pregnant
My body was accustomed to SUP long before pregnancy – I was paddling 5-7 days a week, regularly raced, and surf SUP’d. Continuing to go paddle boarding while pregnant, I gradually adjusted my sense of balance and I never felt off balance or clumsy. There was something about the movements and posture that always made me feel more comfortable physically, even as far along as 39 weeks. In addition, gliding on the water brings a sense of calm to me and I felt it was important to encourage positive and calm feelings during my pregnancy.
The first time I went paddle boaridng while pregnant, I could immediately tell my cardiovascular system was changing. I was more easily winded and knew I would need to slow my pace down. In addition, I decided I would stop surfing. The last thing I wanted was for my board to crash into me in the shore break or on a wave. Being pregnant has a way of making you rethink safety! I decided I would stick to long, calm paddles.
By the time I was in my second trimester, Michigan was covered in white – it was one of the most severe winters we have ever had (remember hearing about the “polar vortex”?) Walking was next to impossible where I live due to the drifts and ice so I stuck with SUP. Several days a week, I paddled in our basement on a SUP simulator by Vasa and then when it was calm, I took to the water. Yes, I wore a wetsuit, checked the weather, went with my husband, and stayed in shallow. We live on Lake Michigan so I was lucky to have the opportunity and to know the area.
Near the end of my second trimester, Lake Michigan froze over and my SUP practice was limited to the simulator. Thankfully, we had planned a trip to Maui so I was able to paddle every calm morning on the North Shore. I also had the absolute most incredible experience on the south shore: Our friend, who lives on Maui, led us out to a spot where he felt we would have a chance to see humpback whales from a distance however, to our surprise, a mother and baby whale showed up right next to us and hung out for over an hour.
Back in Michigan, we had open water again. So far, I had paddled every month of my pregnancy and I was just about outgrowing my wetsuit! Let me tell you, if you think putting a wetsuit on is annoying, try it 27 weeks pregnant! As Michigan began to warm up, I grew bigger and more uncomfortable. My baby would press his heels in to my ribs and my back would hurt. I would go for a paddle and voila… no more discomfort. Something about leaning forward would re-position the baby just perfect and felt great on my back. I asked my doctor about this and wanted to confirm it was safe to keep SUPing. He said yes, in fact, it’s probably easy to gain a better reach with all of my weight being centered out front! He told me I could continue safely as long as I wanted. Remember, everyone is different, check with your own doctor
It turns out, my doctor was right, I started tracking some of my paddles with Strava and I was consistently, and comfortably, paddling about 4.5 mph (even at 39 weeks!) on my 12′ 6″. I was feeling great. In contrast, my walking became so incredibly slow. My hips hurt, I had the pregnant waddle, and it felt like I had a bowling ball sitting in my hips! SUP became my only activity in late pregnancy. I continued hosting a weekly women’s SUP paddle which I have been doing for 5 years now and am so grateful for all of the wonderful women who helped me strap my board on my car and carry it to and from the beach. At several paddles, other pregnant women joined which was great to see!
So did it payoff? Yes! My labor and delivery was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but no doubt it could have been harder had I not stayed in shape. I was able to stay active the entire time (8 hours) and recovered very quickly. Two weeks after my son, Julien, was born, I went on my first paddle. It felt so weird to not have a bump and my abs were weakened. But most of all, it felt very lonely! I can’t wait for the day when I can take my son with me again! For now, we will stick to beach walks.
I plan to to SUP through my next pregnancies if I am able and feel fortunate to have been able to with my first. Although this is my plan, everyone and every pregnancy is different so be sure to check with your doctor and know your limits.
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