“You’re pregnant?” a woman in my TRX class at the gym exclaimed. “I had no idea!”
To me, it was pretty obvious — I was nearly 9 months along. But I understood that in my gym clothes and with my body that was curvy anyway it might be hard to tell.
“It’s amazing that you’re still here every week,” she gushed.
The woman who was talking to me was older, from a time when pregnant women weren’t very likely to be in the gym. The idea that I was about to give birth probably never crossed her mind. After all, for years fitness for women has been tied to weight loss, and the idea of working out for health benefits (physical and mental) and not to lose weight is still relatively new.
That’s why I was thrilled to see Nike’s new ad, called “The Toughest Athletes.” It features pregnant women being active: running, surfing, biking, with their big, rounded bellies displayed proudly. It didn’t stop there: it also showed a new mom pumping, and another doing pushups while giving her baby a kiss on the nose.
Of course, I know that this celebration of motherhood is tied to marketing for Nike’s new maternity line. Still, I love how the company has leaned in to the challenges of pregnancy, childbirth and nursing, celebrating how strong us moms really are.
“Pregnancy is the ultimate endurance test. A marathon measured in months, not miles,” the marketing material for the line says. “Some days you feel powerful. Other days, you don’t. But you keep going, because you’re a mother. And mothers are the toughest athletes there are.”
Even if it’s as part of a sales tactic, it’s so important that women see pregnant, nursing and postpartum mothers being fit and active. This has nothing to do with weight — it’s about empowering us to trust our bodies, know what we’re capable of, and know that’s best for our health.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I stopped going to the gym around 30 weeks. My body was changing and I was worried about hurting myself or my baby. The trainer I was working with at the time, a man, had adjusted my workouts early on to keep me safe during pregnancy. After all, for too long we’ve focused on pregnant women as fragile.
Later in my pregnancy, my blood pressure spiked. Whether or not it was related to the fact that I suddenly stopped working out, I know that I wasn’t feeling my best in my body.
With my second pregnancy I vowed to do things differently. I was working with a female trainer, who had exercised throughout both of her pregnancies, decades before. She emphasized to me that I knew my body best — and I was capable of doing anything I had done pre-pregnancy. She urged me to make the adjustments I needed, but gave me the confidence to continue working out throughout my pregnancy. In fact, I was in one of her classes on my due date.
With my second daughter, my blood pressure was healthy throughout my pregnancy. Her labor was quick, and my recovery was straightforward. I have no doubt that all those hours in the gym while pregnant contributed.
Not everyone will love working out while pregnant the way I did. Not everyone looks like the slim, fit athletes in the Nike ad (I certainly don’t). But when I watched this ad, I saw that we’re expanding the conversation about what pregnant and postpartum women can be and do. We are strong, and we should celebrate that.
After all, as the ad says, “Can you be an athlete? If you aren’t, no one is.”
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