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This week, track and field athlete Lindsay Flach competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the heptathlon.
She impressed fans racing in all seven grueling events while 18 weeks pregnant.
Lindsay worked with her doctor to ensure she and her baby were healthy through training and competition.
Olympic hopeful Lindsay Flach announced her pregnancy just before this year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials. The heptathlete shared the news on Instagram, along with pictures of her growing bump at 18 weeks.
And, at the Olympic Trials, she toed the starting line for every event—in 100-degree heat for a chance to compete in Tokyo. Temperatures in Eugene, Oregon, where the Olympic Trials are being held, reached record highs that were so intense, the events had to be postponed until the evening when temperatures were slightly cooler.
The heptathlon is known as one of the most grueling track and field events, with seven different events. The athletes race through the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter sprint, long jump, javelin throw, and 800-meter run, so Flach had a lot to go through in high heat.
Flach made it clear before the event that she didn’t think she was going to make it to the Olympics. “It was bittersweet,” she told Yahoo Sports of finding out she was pregnant. “I was really excited because I’ve always wanted kids, but it was also a shock knowing that just like that, my track career was over.”
Flach said her doctor gave her permission to work out in moderation, as long as she listened to her body and avoided hard falls.
“My big concern was making sure that I was healthy and the baby was healthy,” Flach said. She trained through nausea and vomiting, and even needed IV fluids three times during her first trimester because she because dehydrated from not being able to keep food and liquids down. Flach's typical training schedule included one- to five-hour workouts six days a week and one non-impact recovery sesh, per her previous interview with Healthy Green Athlete. And, her diet is "basically fruits/veggies/meat/water" focusing on "fuel to be great."
That proved much more difficult in her early weeks expecting. “My pregnancy was very rough to start,” Flach said. “I had about 12 weeks of bad vomiting, which affected my training. If the Olympic Trials were three weeks ago, I don’t know that I would have been there, but I started to feel better and I was able to get some really good practices in.”
Flach knew going into the trials that she wouldn’t push herself as hard as she normally would. She only did one attempt at the shot put and long jump instead of the usual three and, in the 800-meter race, she stepped off the track after 100 meters to make sure that she and her baby stayed safe in the heat.
“My husband and coach were a little concerned that I was going to be stubborn and try to continue,” she told Yahoo Sports. “It was so hard to step off the track, but I had no choice, knowing that there was a little one I had to worry about.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) specifically recommends that pregnant women try to avoid becoming overheated, especially in the first trimester. (At 18 weeks, Lindsay competed in her second trimester.) The goal is to “protect against heat stress,” says Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. That means “avoiding circumstances where there is high heat and humidity,” Dr. Greves adds.
"Pregnant women need to be especially vigilant because getting too hot can put the baby at risk," says women's health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D.
ACOG specifically warns that pregnant women should stop exercising when they notice the following signs:
Bleeding from the vagina
Feeling dizzy or faint
Shortness of breath before starting exercise
Calf pain or swelling
Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina
Flach posted about her experience on Instagram with this sweet clip:
She also shared plenty of posts on her Instagram Stories from people who were (understandably) impressed by her feat. Comments of "Women 👏 Are 👏 Amazing" and "not all heroes wear capes" accompanied photos and videos of Lindsay competing.
Based on her times, Flach didn’t win, but she didn’t come in last, either. She ultimately placed 15th out of the 18 heptathlon competitors who started.
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