Have days when you’re too tired or unmotivated to do your gym workout? I do. It’s during these weak moments when I recall that indoor cycling instructor Michelle Watkins is 35 weeks pregnant.
Oh baby, the rest of us have no legitimate excuse to skip her class.
Watkins leads two popular evening classes a week at EoS Fitness on Sports Arena Boulevard. The 31-year-old is due to have her first child on June 20. She plans to continue coaching classes through the end of May.
Watkins says she consulted with her doctor on her exercise regimen, and got the green light.
“I decided with my doctor to do this and to listen to my body about it,” she says. “If something doesn’t feel good, I stop. Otherwise, my body knows what it’s doing. I know my threshold.”
Watkins is a kindergarten and pre-K teacher at a Montessori classroom in Poway. Her path to becoming a fitness instructor in San Diego included stops in Provo, Utah, and Phoenix.
High-energy by nature, she gravitated away from yoga toward indoor cycling.
Early on, she had a negative experience with a military-style cycling instructor who screamed at her to go: “Faster! Harder!”
She was ready to throw in the towel, but serendipitously discovered the “Ride the Rhythm" style of BeatBoss cycling. The BeatBoss philosophy is influenced by matching the workout flow to a song list created by the instructor.
Soon enough, Watkins was taking two classes a day, six days a week. She was encouraged to become certified as a BeatBoss instructor and has been leading classes at EoS since June 2019.
Exercise is recommended for most women, regardless of their activity level prior to pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“If you exercised and were physically fit before pregnancy, you can safely continue exercising throughout your pregnancy,” reports Johns Hopkins Medicine. “If you were inactive before pregnancy, you can start exercising at a moderate pace.”
After becoming pregnant, Watkins had hoped to continue weightlifting, but found that her core strength had evaporated. She could no longer do a pull-up. Doing free weights hurt her back.
“Things changed,” she says. “Picking something up off the floor, no thank you. But I guess I’m a cardio person. I can run and bike just fine.”
Watkins was lucky in that she avoided nausea and fatigue in the first two trimesters of her pregnancy.
“Then my belly started popping at 6 months,” she says. “I couldn’t cycle as fast or go down as far in the low [cycling] positions. I’ve had to take the intensity level down.”
As a regular participant in her class, trust me that any change in Watkins’ intensity is imperceptible. Her style is to deliver a constant patter of instruction throughout each session. That has not diminished.
Try to imagine leading a fitness class at eight months pregnant while conveying coherent instruction for 50 straight minutes.
“It took me months to build up the tolerance to be able to coach during the whole class,” Watkins says. “In the beginning it was a lot of 30-second sprints...go! And then I’d catch my breath. I know now that if I can talk the whole time, I’m good to go.”
Her advice to other women who are pregnant and considering their workout options?
“Listen to your body,” Watkins says. “Do some reading. Read other women’s experiences, especially other women who are exercising and the way it’s changed their pregnancy. It’s nice to sit down and take care of yourself and relax. It’s also great to stay healthy and feel good for yourself and the baby.”
This particular BeatBaby, says Watkins, glowing after a recent workout, is a girl. She's gearing up to peddle into the world named: Eliana Lynn. SDSun