flying low the day before going in to labor, Middle Fork Snoqualmie, cr. Ryan Audett

During the first few weeks of the first trimester I found my heart and respiratory rates to be more excitable than normal. Then, upon strategic reflection, I realized that training while pregnant is like being at altitude. With increased blood volume, a more responsive initial reaction to training stimulus, increased stem cell activity, and different nutritional demands, the first trimester of pregnancy deserves an acclimatization plan.

Without a blueprint for other female ultra and alpine athletes continuing to progress through their pregnancies, I devised my own plan to teach my body how to perform while pregnant.

For the first few weeks I trained much as I would have done upon first arriving at basecamp on an expedition: many short, moderately-paced runs on level terrain and short, strenuous hikes on hills. This cardiovascular work combined with daily circuit workouts (Zuzka Light's five minute Friday workouts are great as are sessions on the TRX) provided just the right stimulus. Acupuncture, massage, and deep napping were the perfect forums for my body to recover and thus adapt.

After this calculated period of teaching my body how to transport oxygen and nutrients in its new paradigm (which lasted about three weeks) I launched into the most productive athletic performance period I've experienced yet running two ultras and sending my rock project while six to ten weeks pregnant. 

I hope these anecdotes and tips allow other moms-to-be to fully take advantage of their glorious ten months of natural, legal blood doping. With a little patience, pregnancy is the greatest performance-enhancing drug known to man.

Brittany Raven

first posted 2015