For women, pregnancy can mean packing on extra pounds and cutting out exercise for a few months.
This wasn't the case for Miriam Howard, executive officer for the 62nd Maintenance Group commander, who gave birth to her son, Jalen, 16 months ago and used the qualities of the Comprehensive Airmen Fitness program to stay active during and after her pregnancy.
"I had no experience to babies prior to having my son, so it was hard for me to imagine what it would be like," she said with a smile. "It was nothing like I could imagine, but in a good way."
Howard, formerly on active duty, now serves as a captain in the Reserve as the operations officer for the 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. She and her active duty husband, Jean-Pierre, came to the decision that transitioning to the Reserve would be best for their new family.
"In a nutshell, family planning was the number one reason I chose the Reserve," she said. "My husband is Active Duty and adding a baby to the mix just meant some extra challenges we didn't feel we could successfully meet."
Balancing the roles of a first-time mother, wife, full-time executive officer and traditional Reservist, Howard explained how she made small changes to her workout regimen in order to keep her physical fitness in check during her pregnancy.
"Before I got pregnant, I worked out every day," she said. "So while I was pregnant, I kept that schedule and slightly modified it. I'm a big runner, so as my belly grew, the running got slower and shorter. Towards the end, the running just turned into walking. That was the biggest way I modified my cardio routine."
In addition to a cardio routine, Howard's personal fitness level prior to her pregnancy allowed her to continue strength training.
"I also weight lift, and I modified that by just lowering the amount of weight. I still lifted; I just didn't do it as aggressively as I normally do. And then again, as the belly got bigger and my whole body changed, I took out a lot of high-impact stuff like bike riding."
Even though she made small changes to her exercise routine, motivation didn't come so easily every day.
"For the first three months you usually feel sick and tired," she explained. "On those days, it was hard to get motivated. Towards the end of the pregnancy, you're just ready for the baby to come. Those are the only two points during my pregnancy I felt unmotivated. Other than that, I was still able to work out."
Howard felt it was important to work out during her pregnancy because fitness is a large part of her life and Air Force culture.
"For me, personally, I genuinely believe in the benefits of exercise in all aspects of your life," she said. "As far as mood, physical health, physiological health, that was a big reason. Also, I knew when the baby was born that I would want to get back into the routine of working out and I didn't want to be so far behind that it would be impossible to catch back up."
Post-baby, falling right back into a seven day-a-week fitness routine wasn't the easiest thing to do, Howard said.
"After he was born, there were a lot of factors that proved a seven day workout routine to be a challenge," she explained. "As a new parent, your life and your schedule is one hundred percent revolved around his schedule, and as an infant he doesn't have a schedule. There's no longer day and night, your life is kind of happening in three-hour increments between feedings. So it wasn't easy to fall back into the habit, but you do the best you can."
Along with physical fitness, mental health is another key factor of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness. According to Howard, the goal of exercising during a pregnancy is to feel good about yourself while staying healthy and happy.
"Counting calories and losing weight is not the point [of exercise] while you're pregnant," she said. "I think the point is to keep you in the rhythm of having that in your daily schedule. It's also a huge boost to your self-esteem. A lot of pregnant women go through the challenge of their body changing and hormones going crazy. Exercising while you're pregnant makes you feel good and at the end of the day, you know that you've done something productive for both you and your baby's health."
Comprehensive Airmen Fitness not only focuses on physical health, but mental social and spiritual fitness as well. Focusing on positive behaviors, like staying active before and after a pregnancy, the Howard family is able to build resiliency and conquer challenges of every day Air Force life.