I’m what you might call an aquatic late bloomer. In elementary school, I refused to participate in swim team because it seemed like too much pressure. In high school, I had to choose between marching band and swimming, and I picked my beloved music.
It wasn’t until college, when good friends of mine taking a swimming class dragged me to the pool for a freestyle tutorial, that I began swimming laps. I loved it. Ten years later, I married a former college swimmer and we bonded by swimming laps together.
Each time we swam, I worked on one thing – breathing, holding my head at the correct angle, reaching far enough forward – until I began to feel like a skilled swimmer. I challenged myself and joined a master’s team. I loved the camaraderie and coaching expertise. I got up at 5 a.m. three days a week for it, even during the winter, when it was so cold outside my hair froze on the walk home.
During my first pregnancy, I knew I’d feel better if I swam, so I kept going to the master’s workouts. Morning sickness forced me to start a little later, and my times weren’t as fast as everyone else’s, but it felt great to be in the pool.
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I loved the physical benefits. I felt strong and flexible. I gained just the right amount of baby weight, and my blood pressure and glucose were right on track. As the months went on, I stopped running but kept swimming.
It was in my second trimester that I read a British study indicating babies born to mothers who had exercised throughout pregnancy had higher muscle tone at birth. Another study suggested that women who exercised during pregnancy had faster, easier labor than those who did not. All of that sounded good to me!
During my third trimester, when even walking was a pain because I had to pee every three blocks, I kept swimming. I didn’t quit until the last month of pregnancy, when even putting my swimsuit on in the locker room felt exhausting.
At that point, I focused on prenatal yoga and short walks. I was incredibly fortunate to have an easy, quick labor and delivery. I certainly think swimming played a part in that.
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Three years later and pregnant with my second child, I was still an avid swimmer. I wasn’t any faster, but my technique had improved. I swam almost every day throughout my third trimester.
This time around, I had no leg cramps and the swimming really kept that fun third trimester swelling down. In the pool, I didn’t even feel pregnant. Labor was once again speedy and relatively easy.
I credit swimming with keeping me fit, relaxed, positive and strong throughout pregnancy, and it’s no surprise to me that both my children love the water.