It’s been two and half years since my Son was born. And he has been nothing but a great sport when it comes to traveling, camping or hiking. Should I attribute that to all my hiking while pregnant ?!
When he was two, he hiked up some steep hills in Bhutan at an altitude. Walked up 500 stairs to a temple in the peak of afternoon summer heat to reach a hill top temple. And none of these were forced onto him. We were ready with hiking chairs / backpacks for him to be carried over. But, my little hero wanted to walk.
Well, if anything, he better have some of our genes in him when it comes to hiking and outdoors in general.
If there is one thing I am consistent with in life, it’s the endurance building. Be it, the Patagonia Trekking with 40lb backpack, or the vertical climb of Everest Basecamp, or long runs or bike rides, I have been very thankful to be out and about in life.
After all, when I met my husband for the first time, we spent 6 months wandering around the trails in the world, from day 1 of our meeting that ended up in a marriage.
What would stop me from hiking while pregnant after all ?
Is hiking while pregnant safe ? It’s a simple answer. It is safe as long as your body is already tuned to hiking activity before getting pregnant.
Hiking While Pregnant
There are several things to access and consider about hiking while pregnant for sure. It’s by no means taken lightly. But, with enough precautions, it’s one of the safe activities to do while being pregnant.
Getting some form exercise is extremely crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Just don’t tell your mom about it. My parents freaked out when I told them about my backpacking trip to Trinity Alps in my 6th month of pregnancy.
There are several reasons for why one should exercise and more importantly very consistently during pregnancy.
- Weight under control
- Keeping Gestational diabetes under control
- Keeps back aches, swollen ankles, and insomnia under control
- Boost in mood, energy level with some fresh air
- Decrease in pregnancy symptoms
- Quicker Postpartum recovery
- Perhaps a fitter baby ? At least I like to think so. Mine kicks my ass on the trails these days.
But, before you wear your hiking shoes and hit the trail, here are my tips and tricks that helped me enjoy a fitter, happier, fun-filled, pregnancy.
Get Clearance From Doctor
No brainer right ? But, what if you didn’t even realize you were pregnant ? That happened to me. I went on a 10-miler on PG&E trail at Racho State Park in Bay area on a hot spring day. But, at the same time, I was also wondering why I was getting relatively more tired that day on the hike.
That must have been my week 5 or 6 when I did that, without realizing that I was pregnant.
But, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I did get a clearance from the doctor to hike and continue my active lifestyle.
I sure had some initial doubts and scares in the first trimester. Must have been around week 8 and 10 when I had some sudden bleeding. I was nearly convinced that I misconceived. But, my little guy was stronger than my emotions. He stuck around. Those few weeks, I did take break from any long hikes as I didn’t want to take any chance.
But, right after doctor confirmed that everything is fine, his heart is beating strong and wild, I slowly started to resume.
My strong advice is to strictly listen to your doctor’s advice here. If they ask you to take rest, there is usually a reason for it.
Take Others’ Advice With A Pinch Of Salt
Friends and family mean well to us. But, just to please someone else, there is no need to put aside doing things that makes one happy, especially during pregnancy. When I went on a backpacking trip with a group of friends, there were some really concerned souls in the group.
Even advised me not to proceed or return back. I had to pretty much ignore those comments. It turned out to be one of the most gorgeous trips and a memorable backpacking trips.
Moral of the story, everyone will have their piece of advice handy in situations like this. Take it with a pinch of salt. If you are not new to hiking as an activity, and you are taking all the necessary precautions, then it should be fairly straight forward to hike and be safe.
Listen To Your Body
For us endurance junkies, that mileage number or the altitude that one can reach in a certain time can be bit tempting. But, pregnancy hiking is not the place for those goals.
You can set out on a hike for 10-miles but be ready to return if your body says it’s time to return. There is no space for ego here.
When we did the Stanley Glacier hike, which is a 8KM round trip in Kootenay National Park during my 5th month pregnancy, at the first sight of the glacier I chose to stop. The trail was a bit too steep for that day’s energy level.
Chakri went to explore the rest of the area while I hung out with few others who also chose to hang out in the clearing with a great view of the glacier.
Knowing your body’s limits are extremely crucial, especially at the time of hiking while pregnant.
One might ask, how do you listen to the body ? It’s an art. Majority of the times, mind plays a game with us. If you are into endurance sports in general, it’s an art you pick up along the way. As they say, running a marathon or ironman is a mind over matter after all.
Never Go Alone
This is a no brainer. Anything can happen on trail and you need someone to support you. If anything, having a company makes the hiking experience more fun, even if you are an introvert.
I am not into talking while hiking, but knowing there is someone with me on the hikes, makes me feel lot more comfortable with the idea of hiking while pregnant.
I mostly hiked with my husband. But, husband is not a requirement here 🙂 There were a few hikes that I did with friends and talked about pregnancy, names for the baby etc., with girl friends all along. Those types of hikes can be fun too. Unless you have a husband who can listen to you listing out names all through the hikes, then more power to you ….
Aren’t we all told that we should eat for two ?! What a lie that was. Yes, extra calories are needed for sure, but not the double quantity we are lead to believe. And pregnancy also has become a free ticket to eat any junk food and get away with it.
But, all those bad habits will bite you back post pregnancy, guaranteed !!
Coming back to planning nutrition during pregnancy hiking – always carry extra food with you than what you think you would need. Simple rule of thumb:
- Pack for two food
- Pack for two snacks
- Pack for two water
Yes, I know I am contradicting myself. But, hear me out. The “for-two” is just a contingency plan. What if you suddenly become hungry, and what if you are hiking on a hot day and get extremely thirsty, what if you run out of food or snack that might lead to low sugar ?!
So, it’s absolutely worth packing for two and eating for 1.25.
I am not going to give any advice on the diet or food here. After all, pregnancy can lead to interesting food aversions. But, thankfully, I had none. I generally ate high protein, fat food throughout the pregnancy. Thanks to Gestational diabetes in the third trimester.
Pick The Right Trails
There will be days of feeling great and days of feeling not so great with pregnancy. And it’s hard to determine how the day is going to go. You might start out just fine and as the day progresses things might change. Or the other way around.
Given all the unpredictable circumstances, it’s better to take a conservative approach with a plan B.
When I decided we wanted to go on our babymoon to Canadian rockies, i was well past my first trimester. Generally speaking first trimester is when the worse of the symptoms come and go for majority of the ladies. I am not discounting those who have nausea throughout the pregnancy. It’s tough as is without any major symptoms.
Even though, I was one of those without any morning sickness except occasional heart burn, I didn’t take picking the trails that lightly.
There are several things to consider while planning and the hiking trails :
- Distance – What distance can you go and not feel burn out ?
- I recommend you pick 50 to 60 % of your pre-pregnancy hiking distance
- Altitude – What is comfortable for you ? Would you be ok with some altitude ? Would you enjoy hiking uphill ?
- I have done both. I went up to 8000ft on a hike and if you have such altitude there is a no way to avoid uphill hiking. Plus a volcanic gravel trail on one of my hikes was unexpected.
- As a rule of thumb, pick a comfortable trail based on your experience level. It’s totally ok to keep it flat and enjoy fresh air. Nobody is judging.
- Terrain – I also recommend going conservative on the terrain. Why would you want to hike a muddy trail after a rain?!
Right Type Of Clothing
Basically, it comes to comfort. But, what I personally found useful is relatively loose clothes but the wicking and quick dry type.
Dressing for hot weather:
If the weather is warm, it’s perfect to get out for a hike. Here are my favorite pregnancy attire that i personally used on the go.
Rule of thumb when it comes to cold weather clothing while hiking is layering. Especially if the hike involves camping at night at a colder place, your layers will come in for a rescue.
I was never a fan of sunscreens and hats. Perhaps the fact that I grew up in the Indian sub continent with heat and scorching sun as a way of living, made me more tolerant to heat in general. But, during pregnancy, it’s a different game all together, usual heat felt hotter, I would get tired more often. Felt the sun in my hormone pumped skin in the form of burns.
My simple go to list for protection from Sun:
- A hat
- Sunscreen, hopefully a zinc one. Here is my favorite sunscreen. Think Baby Sunscreen
- Plenty of water
Get the right gear to support
Here is my gear list that goes for everyone, whether you are pregnant or not. But, these are must have as you heat out on a trail, being pregnant.
- Ankle support hiking shoes. Last thing you want is twisting your ankle on the trails. The extra weight in your body might trip you a bit, if you are not careful.
- Hiking poles. Trust me, these are one of the best gear you will carry with you on the hikes. Makes things so much better. A high quality pair is a must have. Here is my recommendation for hiking poles.
- Light weight backpack with bladder
Check your weight
Nope, I am not talking about your body weight. It’s the weight of the backpack and the extra stuff you are carrying with you. Shed the weight if you can. Just take the bare minimum with you.
My dear husband was my mule on the hikes we did during my pregnancy. 🙂
I also highly recommend choosing trails where it is easy to get back to a place where the cellphones work. What if you need an emergency stop ?! Not to freak you out, but being cautious during these times doesn’t hurt.
If you are tired, something hurts – be the first one to communicate those with your hiking buddy. Never bite the bullet during pregnancy and any discomforts that might come your way on the hikes. It’s not worth it.
In conclusion, pregnancy time is not the time to hold back and sit on the couch all day long. Provided you are healthy and been cleared for workouts, hiking is one of the best ways to keep fit and stay happy during pregnancy. Enjoy ladies, it’s about to get worse on the sleep front very soon, once your little one is out !!