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Fitness and Pregnancy, Part 1: Body Image & the Devil on Your Shoulder

EF Blog

Fitness and Pregnancy, Part 1: Body Image & the Devil on Your Shoulder

Amy Ward

When it comes to body-image, I have never been particularly self-conscious. Sure, as I have gotten older, I chose not to run shirtless, and the itty bitty bikini bottoms became just "bottoms". To quote Marc Shepard, a great biathlon coach and competitor, my confidence has always stemmed more from the fact that my body has been "shaped by the activities that I love" as opposed to choosing particular activities in order to shape my body. I was proud of how I looked because I was proud of what my body could do. 

Then I got pregnant.

I have had the pleasure of befriending many fantastic, fit moms. Runners, triathletes, figure competitors, and crazy-strong lifters. From our time together and my professional education, I knew a bit of what to expect: I would feel chubby, slow, and tired. I would need to give myself more recovery time between sets and workouts, and at one point or another, some movements and body positions would be off the table. But experiencing these "minor" changes is a little different. I certainly felt my body changing; oddly enough, almost immediately. But I wasn't prepared for the mental changes. Enter: devil on my shoulder. 

At about 8 weeks, "D" as I will refer to him, made me look at slender women differently. It didn't matter if it was a lingerie commercial or a spritely 20-something at the gym. Immediately I was jealous of her trim physique and I felt the proverbial waistband tighten against my growing belly (and backside). Don't get me wrong - I know these thoughts are wacko. Two months prior, I would have thought about the lingerie model starving herself and the 20-something needing major help with her form. But the D is a dangerous thing!

D convinced me that sleeping past 8am was no big deal, that lounging around all day was a-ok, and that having 2 plates of french fries for dinner was not a problem (it only happened once). That I could take more time and care with my pre-workout foam rolling than the actual workout itself. 

Then the self-image devil on my shoulder would return and all I could think about was my growing body - if I feel this fat now, how am I going to feel in a few weeks? at 35 weeks? Why do I keep eating this crap? It's not helping anything. Well, I might as well sleep another 11 hours. Is it too early for your hips to start widening? Or is that just the brick of cream cheese I plowed through in 2 days? 

Luckily, my appetite for healthier foods slowly returned, as did the energy for some respectable workouts. I hopped on my road bike and did some exploring and had no problem with chilling on 2h of rolling hills. I got back in the pool, started daydreaming about new spinning playlists, and decided that it was still too early to give up on some of the lifts that I was unsure about continuing during pregnancy. It was exhilarating.

Surprisingly, with a few good lifts, rides, and swims (even while wearing a suit with unforgiving neon chevrons), made all the difference in the world. Sure, I am swimming slower, lifting less, and my core shakes like a newbie during planks, but I am back to doing the things I enjoy.  And it gives me hope that maybe I'm not done quite yet with my athletic accomplishments. I just need to temper those benchmarks with a dose of pregnancy reality. And my shoulder feels a bit lighter because of it. 


Amy knew that when the time came, she wanted to be a healthy and fit mom-to-be, with plenty of energy and a positive glow. Along with other moms' contributions, she writes about the reality of it all in her multi-part blog series: Fitness and Pregnancy. Read up as she shares the joys and frustrations of staying fit during pregnancy.


Do you have a topic that you'd like to see covered in the Fitness & Pregnancy series? Do you have a story of your own that you'd like to share? We would love to hear it! We might even post it in the EFBlog!