Confessions of A Pregnant Swimmer

pregnant-bellies-swimming
Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

By Annie Grevers, Swimming World Staff Writer. 

Transitioning out of college or professional swimming can be a shock. It takes time to stop feeling guilty about only getting a one-hour workout in when you’re used to exerting yourself for two to four hours each day.

After getting through that rocky transition, some of us females are faced with another life-altering phase– pregnancy. After years of looking down to see some definition in the ab region, a belly gradually rears its head. After years of thinking about tightening your core during every stroke and cranking out hundreds of ab exercises, the pregnant lady is left feeling like a heavy hammock in the pool, incapable of engaging the mid-section. Pregnancy is a wondrous thing, but for competitive athletes, it can be quite an adjustment.

Now nearly eight months pregnant, I’ve had some interesting thoughts whilst swimming these days…

1. Will I be better at backstroke now?

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 13:Karin Prinsloo during the heats session 200m backstroke on day 6 of the SA National Aquatic Championships and Olympic Trials on April 13 , 2016 at the Kings Park Aquatic Center pool in Durban, South Africa. Photo Credit / Anesh Debiky/Swim SA

Photo Courtesy: Anesh Debiky/Swimming South Africa

No, you won’t. As a lifelong anything-but-backstroker, I thought maybe having this baby balloon would keep me afloat and somehow add a new dynamic to my rotation in backstroke. It was wishful thinking. I’ll let you know if any new developments occur in this final month, but I’m going to lay it down as scientific fact for now: your body may be making a backstroker, but pregnancy won’t necessarily morph you into one.

2. I feel “fast”/less saggy today. Maybe I should actually look at the clock. 

Robin-Sparf-pace-clock-time-reflection

Photo Courtesy: Robin Sparf

NEVER look at the clock while pregnant. Relaxin, the hormone your body produces to make pregnant ladies hyper-flexible for labor, is not helpful as you effort to relocate those fast-twitch muscle fibers. A narrow, controlled, explosive breaststroke kick becomes a pipe dream. Rather than checking your molasses pace, appreciate how naturally flexible your body is right now and enjoy the slow…

3. Will flipturns crush my baby?

Robin-Sparf-underwater-flipturn

Photo Courtesy: Robin Sparf

These have become more comical over time. How many times has a competitive swimmer been told to “get in a tighter ball”/”knees to chest”/”feet hip width apart”? All of these cues have been disposed of and replaced by “keep knees away from baby”/”knees nice and wide”/”just get going in the other direction somehow”.

4. Is today the day…when I won’t be able to pull myself out of the pool?

war-eagle-practice-kickboard-pull-bouy

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr / Swimming Australia Ltd.

Every day I wonder if today is the day the belly will keep me far enough from the wall and I’ll fail to clear it. I long ago gave up on the “pull up and out of water into step” method. It’s been the “pull out and flop down on your butt” method for months now. One of these days, I may have to humble myself and swim to a ladder.

4. What does this look like to my lane mates?

pregnant-swimmer

Photo Courtesy: Valentina Yachichurova

I remember being a college swimmer and watching a very protrusive pregnant belly belonging to a masters swimmer move down the pool. My thoughts then were: “Good for her!” and “Why is she in a two-piece?” I now know why she was in a two-piece. One-pieces no longer fit. And even if you buy a large one, you’re compressing the belly, which never feels good. The beauty of a two-piece? Unlimited room to grow. If there’s a time in life to have a belly hang out, it’s now. And a tan pregnant tummy will only help your shifting self image.

5. I now understand what a rec swimmer is.

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Photo Courtesy: Caroline Kosciusko

After years of having my mind boggled by watching people swim slowly back and forth in the pool, I now get it. At certain stages in life, moving through water at a high velocity isn’t appetizing…but simply moving through water is heavenly. The serenity, the weightlessness, the all-over compression offered by a vat of H2O is invaluable, especially when you weigh 30 pounds more than you did as a competitive swimmer.

Even if pregnancy is far, far from your mind at this point in time, let my experience be a reminder of our sport’s hospitality. Swimming will be there to support you (literally and figuratively) throughout any and every season of life.

9 comments

  1. Stella Paz

    Also diving off blocks pregnant is the craziest feeling!! I swam at masters worlds in Canada two year ago 4 months pregnant and I thought I was going to do a belly flop! Nope!

    • Annie Grevers

      I haven’t ventured onto a block in months…I can imagine that’s a bizarre sensation! Not exactly a stealthy entrance. 😉

  2. Pamela Rose

    Laura Hrastar check this out

  3. Lauren Bortnowski

    So much this, Annie! I swam through my pregnancy too and it was super humbling, especially as a sprinter. And finding a cute pregnant lady suit that’s also good for training??….Yeah…Two piece it is.

  4. Anneloes Peulen

    Koen Woestenborghs Martin de Wildt

  5. Jolanda Post

    Jitske Schauwaert

  6. avatar
    Linda Chandler

    Super cute article, Bird

  7. Swim Giggles LLC

    I finally had to give up on flip turns about a week before our second was born. Swimming while pregnant is the best exercise ever! 🙂

  8. avatar
    Cindy Ong

    I’m 25 weeks pregnant now with my third child and have competed in Singapore nationals in June and Japan masters (7000 people) in July when I was 3 months pregnant. Swam some pretty awesome times and came home with a couple of gold medals much to the amazement of the Japanese. I’ll be doing my third international race next week in Singapore at 6.5 months pregnant going up against some ex Olympians! Wonder if I can still dive….