My Second Trimester of Pregnancy as a Hiker
While my first trimester of pregnancy was marked by a sense of urgency that I must continue hiking as before, in my second trimester I comfortably settled in to understanding and respecting the limitations of my body during pregnancy.
Before diving into the details of my hiking and exercise during the second trimester, I think it’s important to mention a defining feature of this period – the wildfires that plagued our beautiful state this year.
2020 in all it’s terribleness gave us the three biggest wildfires in Colorado history, including two within an hour of where we live in northern Colorado – the Cameron Peak Fire (208,913 acres) and the East Troublesome Fire (193,812 acres). In addition, we were very close to the Calwood Fire (10,106 acres) in Boulder County. We even had our bags packed to evacuate.
The effects of the wildfires have been devastating, including loss of forest, animal life, human life, and property. While it is true that much of the forests that burned were ripe for fire due to being dead from the mountain pine beetles, the extent and intensity to which they burned was horrible. And while it is also true that forests can grow back, such growth takes time, and it may be difficult, due to climate change.
Closest to us, most of Heil Valley Ranch, which was my favorite place to hike during pregnancy, was burned in the Calwood Fire.
The Cameron Peak Fire as seen from Blue Skies Park in Longmont October 14 –
The Calwood Fire as seen from Lagerman Reservoir in Longmont on October 17 –
Air Quality and Pregnancy
According to the CDC, if you are pregnant, you need to keep an eye on air quality report warnings for “sensitive individuals”. Wildfire smoke can have several potential effects on pregnant women that increase the risks of pregnancy and the health of the baby.
Since the wildfires started in August, for most of my second trimester I checked the following websites every day, both when I got up in the morning, and later in the day if I was thinking of going out for a hike or walk –
Technically the warnings for “sensitive individuals” are in the orange zone / “unhealthy for sensitive groups” / 101-150 on the Air Quality Index scale (AQI), and I definitely would not go hiking when the air quality was so bad, but often I would forego hiking or exercise outside even when the air quality was in the yellow zone / “moderate” / 51-100 AQI. Even when the air quality was “moderate”, I could often smell smoke and there were times that I went walking and came back home with a headache. As a result, I aimed to go outside only if the air quality was green zone / “good” / 0-50 or within the lower half of the “moderate” range.
An example of the terrible air quality on October 16 due to the Cameron Peak Fire –
How I’ve Adjusted my Exercise Regime
While it is true that I got a lot of my energy back in the second trimester, that did not equate to having the same energy for hiking as I did before.
As the second trimester began, I was still feeling quite exhausted all the time, and decided to try ramping up my stamina little by little. It took a few weeks both for my energy to return and for my stamina to increase. I started out with an easy trail – Heil Valley Ranch’s Lichen Loop – which is 1.4 miles long, and then increased my mileage to 2 miles, 2.5 miles, etc. With experimentation, I discovered that my comfortable limit during pregnancy is 4 miles and 700 ft elevation gain.
I’ve heard of pregnant women in my area hiking more difficult trails, but I felt that this was my limit. It’s important to listen to your body and not compare yourself to others. You are you. Your body is different and your pregnancy is different. And every pregnancy is different for every woman.
Hikes during the Second Trimester
I continued to follow the recommendations for hiking that the nurse from by OB/GYN office instructed during my first trimester. In particular –
- Don’t overheat
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat well and regularly
- Don’t go over 10,000 ft elevation (this is a recommendation for those who live in Colorado. For women who live at sea level the recommendation is 5,000 ft) due to the change in oxygen levels and lower levels of oxygen at higher elevations
- Stick to distances that are not too far, so you can get back relatively quickly if you don’t feel well
- Avoid hikes with a lot of elevation gain
- Use hiking poles to help with stability
*These are the recommendations I got from my nurse. Every person and every pregnancy is different and you should consult with your doctor or a nurse to understand what type of exercise is safe for you*
During my second trimester, I did the following hikes –
- Heil Valley Ranch Lichen Loop
- 1.4 miles, 210 ft elevation gain
- Heil Valley Ranch Grindstone Quarry Trail
- 2.8 miles, 300 ft elevation gain
- Heil Valley Ranch Overland Loop
- 2.7 miles, 290 ft elevation gain
- NCAR Loop in Boulder
- 3.4 miles, 720 ft elevation gain
- Anne U. White Trail in Boulder
- 3 miles, 470 ft elevation gain
- Hogback Ridge Loop in Boulder
- 2.8 miles, 815 ft elevation gain
- Green Mountain West Ridge Trail in Boulder
- 4 miles, 720 ft elevation gain
- Aspen Alley in Nederland
- 2 miles, 200 ft elevation gain
- Golden Ponds in Longmont
- 2.6 miles, little to no elevation gain
- Rabbit Mountain Little Thompson Overlook Trail
- 2.8 miles, 430 ft elevation gain
- Rabbit Mountain Loop Trail
- 3.8 miles, 470 ft elevation gain
When the weather permitted, and when the air quality was good enough, I went hiking about two times per week.
However, after Heil Valley Ranch, my favorite pregnancy hiking spot, got burned by the Calwood Fire on October 17, I stopped hiking. There was a mix of reasons for this: (1) there was still smoke from the Calwood, East Troublesome, and Cameron Peak Fires, (2) my favorite (and the most convenient) place for hiking during pregnancy was burned, and (3) honestly, all the damage from the fires was depressing.
Other Exercise – Walking and Prenatal Yoga
I augmented my hiking exercise with walks around the neighborhood and prenatal yoga.
On days when I couldn’t go outside to exercise due to the poor air quality, 30 minutes of prenatal yoga was my go-to exercise.
My favorite app for prenatal yoga is the Down Dog Prenatal Yoga app. What’s great about this app is that you can customize your yoga routine in terms of which trimester you are in, length of the workout, and what area of the body you want to focus on (“boost”). The prenatal version of the app has a variety of pregnancy-related boosts such as pelvic floor, pubic symphysis, sacroiliac joint pain, heartburn/acid reflux, and labor prep.
It’s often possible to get some kind of coupon code for the subscription to the app. The full price is $59.99 per year or $9.99 per month for the subscription. Even at full price, I think the app is worth it for the yearly subscription. Not only do you get access to the prenatal yoga app, but also Down Dog’s other exercise apps such as regular yoga, HIIT workouts, and Pilates. I think these will be useful to have access to after giving birth as part of an exercise regimen to get back into shape.
Heading into the Third Trimester – My Plans for Exercise
I’m just starting my third trimester. My growing belly is causing me back pain whenever I go walking. A belly band helps sometimes, but other times it causes me pain. My doctor told me belly bands don’t work for everyone.
Instead, I’ve found that prenatal yoga is an increasingly satisfying exercise.
I plan to continue walking in my neighborhood and doing prenatal yoga as my main forms of exercise during the third trimester.
My second trimester was better for hiking than the first by far, although I did not have the stamina and energy necessary to hike as I used to before becoming pregnant. The smoke from the wildfires plaguing our state prevented me from hiking and walking outside to the extent that I wanted to or could have, had the conditions been better. (Don’t get me wrong, I often think of how the fires have impacted both people and animals, and am grateful that that was the only effect the fires had on our lives. However, just for the context of describing my second trimester of hiking, I feel that it’s relevant to note this.)
Finding my limits for hiking as well as having to practice patience to go exercising outside due to the smoke from the fires were both good lessons to understanding and respecting what my body can do during pregnancy.
As I continue into my third trimester, I may not go hiking much due to pregnancy back pain etc., but I’m ok with that. The mountains aren’t going anywhere. I’ll be back to them as soon as I am able.