Sarah has been at the heart of the English Institute of Sport’s Sport Science Support for the last 4 Olympic cycles. On leaving earlier this year, she’d completed the last three Olympic Cycles as technical lead at the EIS and has been in front line physiology roles for GB Badminton (in the lead up to Athens Olympics) and a senior physiologist with GB Rowing between 2007-2016. Sarah’s nearly completed her doctorate in fatigue management in elite sport and is currently applying her knowledge to herself in preparation for her second child!
‘I’m fine, just a different shape’ was my first pregnancy mantra. Of course, I’d had the usual nausea and exhaustion, but nothing too dramatic. It was certainly manageable, with a plentiful supply of sleep and carbs, namely crumpets. Lots of crumpets.
My job at the time was in the high-performance sport industry and involved a lot of multitasking. Early mornings, in and out of the car a lot, hurrying around on a daily basis. Add growing a tiny human to the mix, I had to think about how I managed my energy, nutrition, health and time effectively.
Roll on 3 years…I happily find myself expecting again. Not a problem I think, I’ve done this before. I can mirror my previous experiences for managing my energy at home and at work. Hold that thought.
As I spent many moments communicating to my hubby and toddler through a nauseous, fatigue induced haze, I quickly realised that second time round was going to be very different and at times, I was soon to realise, strikingly relentless. I quickly needed some different ways to navigate my way through the nauseous fog and ensure I could
a) get to work and b) do my job when I was there as well and c) be there for my family. In fact, I even needed a strategy to get dressed!
For most women, managing pregnancy is straightforward. Finding generic guidelines on battling some of the symptoms of pregnancy is relatively easy, but as I quickly realised, each pregnancy is different and highly individualised. Self-awareness and finding your own way through it means you can feel more in control, at a time when you are experiencing invasion of the body snatchers.
I was lucky, I worked in an environment where you were expected to be solutions focused and perform at a high level, so advice on managing energy was easy to find. I could quickly adopt some practices to my own personal situation. Good news.
Whilst I write this at nearly 33 weeks, 2nd time round, my aim is not to seek pity, nor assume I’m the only person to ever experience a rough pregnancy. Of course not. I write in the hope that the tips below will help other women manage their energy, to cope well in the workplace, whilst enduring the amazing, roller coaster ride of growing your baby(ies).
Absolutely necessary. Tiredness will hit you like a steam roller at any time, so use opportunities to get good sleep when you can. Boring as it sounds, early nights will become your sanctuary and don’t beat yourself up about missing the monthly drinks date, friends will understand.
Take a stash of varied snacks to work and have them to hand at all times. What you fancy one day may change the next (or even by the hour!). Give in to cravings, you need the energy. If you’re worried people will pick up on your sudden need to eat constantly, then be discreet. Above all, drink plenty of fluids (decaf tea/coffee, herbal teas, water) and remember your supplements! Sometimes your body, for no apparent reason, rejects that lovely superfood salad you’ve just eaten, so adding pregnancy vitamins into your diet is really important (don’t’ forget folic acid in the 1st trimester too).
Enjoying the delightful symptoms of pregnancy can seem like a full on marathon, so try to manage your time and energy throughout the day to sustain you. If possible, manage your own diary or at least block out ‘me time breaks’. Hide in the loo if you must and plan your escape route from meetings in case of nausea induced emergencies. Always know where the nearest loo or bin is. Yes really. If you feel really bad, go home. Managing your energy means knowing when to call time, bow out and restart the next day. Don’t be a hero.
You can seek medication for extreme nausea. I tried this for the days when I knew I really had to be in control and whilst the nausea went away a little bit, it was replaced with a drunken sluggishness. Not conducive to leading meetings or driving a car, so I binned them and chose to manage the sickness.
There’s no reason why you can’t exercise unless the medics have advised otherwise, but take it steady. Do what feels comfortable and is safe. Swimming and Pilates were my BFF and as time progressed, pregnancy yoga. Whilst these were a gentler form of exercise than I was used to, I was glad of anything that helped with reducing the increasing ‘bump’ weight and eased my movement, particularly in the later stages.
Not for everyone, but a dose of regular acupuncture helped me loads. If nothing else, it was an opportunity to grab a nap in a busy week.
So, there you have it. Some tips to help manage your energy, in the awe inspiring but fatigue inducing months of growing a tiny human. Remember each pregnancy is different and a fortunate few will wonder what on earth I’m going on about. Lucky them. The golden rule is; if it works for you, go with it, (but perhaps not shout about your fifth packet of hula hoops in the bedside draw…).