How I Fit Workouts into Infertility, IVF, Pregnancy, and Triplets

“I work out. Just kidding. I chase triplets.” A triplet mom details how her workouts changed through infertility to raising triplets.

“I work out. Just kidding. I chase triplets.”

This catchy saying went around a few of my triplet mom social media groups about 2 years ago. Our trios were starting to enter the Wonderful World of Toddlers, and we found ourselves having even less time for ourselves and running around after our kids even more.

I found the saying tongue-in-cheek cute and secretly hoped someone would order me one of the screen prints or mugs it adorned. But the saying wasn’t entirely accurate in my life. I’m able to fit workouts into triplet mommyhood, but it’s hard—really hard. Especially depending on which stage of triplet life I’ve been in.

Pre-kids (circa 2012-2013), I had a solid weekly workout routine down. I pounded pavement 3 days a week, pumped iron 2 days a week, and rested 2 days a week. My strength-training regimen was built for my unique fitness needs by my personal trainer at Acosta Fitness, and my running regimen had me logging anywhere from 10 to 20 miles a week. I was cruising and even training for a half-marathon.

My fall from fitness grace happened in 2014—when our 19-month infertility journey brought us to the doorstep of IVF. In the information session, I learned that I’d have to curtail my workouts during the stim phase of the cycle to not overtax my stressed, hormone-riddled body. “Oh honey,” the nurse had said when I inquired about continuing to train for the half-marathon, “Kiss those plans good-bye.” I left the session less excited about our next steps toward (hopefully!) starting our family and more angry at yet another thing my dysfunctional ovaries were robbing me of.

Woman runner stretches calf against tree.
The last run I took before beginning IVF—13.1 miles before what was supposed to be my taper to a half-marathon.

For the next 2 years, my workout routine was all over the place, ruled by various—dare I say it—dictators.

In the 8 months that followed, IVF directed my workouts. I walked during stim cycles and resumed my normal routine during non-stim cycles. The 2 weeks between our ET and first beta saw me sitting on my butt. I was cleared to do whatever I wanted after the first 48 hours following the ET, but I wasn’t going to chance having an errant lunge rip an embryo from my uterine wall.

IVF handed off its baton to my multiples pregnancy, which was ruled equally by my doctors and my body. Ironically, my RE could get me pregnant with triplets, but he couldn’t advise me on more than a singleton pregnancy. So in the 8 weeks between learning I was pregnant and consulting with a specialist, my running shoes didn’t move above a walk. My MFM cleared me for exercise—if it didn’t raise my heart rate above 140 beats per minute. So I bought a heart-rate monitor (affiliate link), walked, and found a pregnancy strength training regimen to follow.

My doctors weren’t the only ones who had specific rules about exercise during my pregnancy. My body also liked to throw its weight around. And as much as I had a history of pushing myself, I also knew that this wasn’t the time. When a little voice told me to stop strength training, I put the weights down where I stood in the gym and went upstairs to walk on the treadmill. When my body protested the walking, I demurred to simple stretching. I was determined to be as healthy as I could for the three tiny humans growing inside me, and if that meant sitting on the couch, then sit I would.

Pregnant woman posing for picture, holding framed picture that reads 27 weeks.
Me at 27 weeks. I went into labor exactly 1 week later and gave birth 4 days after that.

My workout routine entered a whole new level of nuttiness when my triplets, aka the Tagalongs, were born.

Working out was a fantasy in the Tagalongs’ first 6 months of life. Life during the babies’ 8-week residency in NICU was work, visit NICU, pump, sleep, repeat. When the babies came home, they were on a 3-hour feeding schedule. They were inefficient eaters, and we weren’t adventurous about trying to feed all three at once, so feeds took 1½ hours. Cleanup, prep for the next feed, and pumping took another 30 minutes. That left us with 1 hour in which to live life. One hour in which to shower and dress, eat, pay bills, run an errand, do housework, and complete other adulting tasks. I should mention that this schedule was 24/7. For the first 2 months the Tagalongs were home, we slept in 1-hour chunks we unaffectionately referred to as The Round of Naps—less during colic.

There were some bad@$$ moms in my social media groups who managed to get in workouts during that time. One mom won a CrossFit competition, competed in several road races, and even completed training for the Boston Police Academy. Me on the other hand … It took me over a year to make regular exercise more of a reality.

Mother bottle-feeding infant triplets.
Me feeding the Tagalongs, who were about 6m/3m.

Even then, I had to baby step workouts back into my life. I started out with very light strength training a few days a week. Then, we invested in an elliptical (affiliate link) so I could run once a week. As I got my strength back and we finessed schedules, my workout routine increased so that by the fall of 2016, 3 years after our infertility treatment began, my workout routine was back to what it was in the days of yore.

But it hasn’t always been predictable or steady. I’ve had to juggle when I work out with ever-changing work and kid schedules. And I’ve had to learn to be flexible about whether those workouts happen. Sometimes, logging miles is eclipsed by the need for sleep after a long night with littles. Other times, workouts are interrupted by tiny people whose struggle to put themselves to sleep is much greater than one person can handle.

I’ve had to learn to be OK with this inconsistency and unpredictability. That’s been a hard and frustrating lesson to stomach. I’m a creature of habit, and I don’t get along very well with routine breakers. It’s hard to go from dictating the events of your life to having the events dictate you—particularly when you’re very passionate about something.

Female runner is exhausted postrun.
What I look like after a full day with the kiddos + a workout.

I’ve never been an uberfit fitness junkie, but exercise is important to me. It’s how I stay healthy—both physically and mentally. It plays a huge part in how I stay sane. Working out—running in particular—is my way of stepping back from the crazy in my life and regrouping. I’m a much better mom, wife, family member, friend, and person when I’m able to lace up my kicks and run or lift.

And that’s why I’ll continue to play Tetris: Adulthood Edition to fit exercise into my regular routine. My life is quite different from what it used to be, but that doesn’t mean that things I enjoy must go by the wayside. It just means that I must work a little harder to have them.

And that’s just fine by me. After all, hard work pays off. That half-marathon and I finally met in 2017, and it was everything I thought it would be—and more. I ran it again in 2018 and signed up for it again in 2019. And I’m flirting with the idea of a full marathon. Some things are worth the wait.

Race picture of female runner.
My redemption race: 2017 The Mesa-PHX Marathon.

About Marcella Hines

Marcella Hines

Marcella wants to live in a world where she can escape to quiet rooms stacked high with books that come bundled with a brownie cookie dough DQ blizzard and cuddly purr monster. When she’s not finding creative ways to play with cars for the eleventy billionth time or shouting, “Undies! Pants! Sit! Pee!” at toddlers who have the attention span of a gnat, you can find her running to the beats of an audiobook/podcast or assisting writers in crafting their work through her editing business, A to Z Editing. Marcella likes talking about the day-to-day experience of raising triplets, like how to navigate toddler time and a park playdate with three toddlers in tow. Follow her running, English weenie-ing, and ice creaming on Instagram: @hineschica.

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