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I am due with baby number three any day now and thought it would be a perfect time to talk about how to run through pregnancy. This is my personal story of running while pregnant through three pregnancies – all of which were very different experiences.
If you are pregnant and want to keep running, just make sure your doctor approves. If you are pregnant and want to start running, don’t – now is not the time to try something new – walk instead and pick up running after baby comes!
Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t even know I was pregnant until about eight weeks in – and by my first doctor appointment I was 13 weeks. Ah – that was such an easy pregnancy! And I ran my heart out during it.
Before I realized I was pregnant I had committed to train and race pace for a half marathon in April – and I was due early July. I would not be deterred and stayed true to my promise. My best friend and her hubby wanted to run the race as well, so I did a lot of training runs with them.
Since I was coaching and setting the pace – I was not running for a personal record and was running at a pace that was a good two minutes slower than my marathon pace. This made the runs much easier, and also meant that I actually decreased my total mileage each week significantly from my marathon training.
I was able to run the half marathon at 33 weeks pregnant at a nice 8-minute per mile pace (though I was definitely getting some ugly looks). After that I switched to walking four to five miles a day as baby was now head down and putting a lot of pressure on my pelvic floor.
Here is what allowed me to successfully run a half marathon 33 weeks pregnant:
- I was already in peak running condition prior to getting pregnant – and slowed my pace and mileage for what was normal for me. It is totally safe to exercise during a healthy pregnancy – you just have to modify based on YOU. So if you are coming off a marathon training regimen and get pregnant – you can still run distance races – just make sure that you modify and listen to your body.
- I fueled my body with good nutrition. You are trying to GAIN weight while you are pregnant, so I adjusted my eating to accommodate for both the mileage and gaining during pregnancy. Trust me, I gained a healthy 45 pounds on my normally small 115 pound frame – and my big boy was a healthy 8 pounds 13 ounces (he is still off the charts today at 3 ½) – so running didn’t hurt his growth a bit.
- I ran four days a week. I cut back from my normal six day schedule and ran four days per week. This helped with the fatigue that pregnancy brings, as well as gave my body plenty of time to recover from longer runs.
We had big boy July 2015, then a year later we were pregnant again with little boy number two. But this pregnancy was NOT as easy. We had just lost a little baby at 11 weeks, and got pregnant again right after. I had a sub chronic hemorrhage with number two and was put on modified rest (no pelvic activity) which meant I couldn’t even go on walks. IT WAS MISERABLE. This is the longest I have gone in my twenty years of running of not running.
But, I got back to it. After I got the green light at my six week postpartum appointment I ventured out for a slow one mile run, two mile walk, with my shiny new double BOB. It was hard. My legs ached. But it was glorious to get back out again.
Oh, and I was SLOW. For me. I felt winded at my 11 minute mile, and it took me a full year to get back to a 7-minute pace. And then…
Oops! We did it again. Baby boy number three is due any day now, and thankfully we have had a healthy pregnancy again. I am not running any races with this guy (unless you count my running after my two toddlers as they zoom down the green way in their snazzy motorized tractor), but I kept up running three to four days a week through my third trimester. I had to start walking again once baby turned head down (again to protect my pelvic floor muscles), but I am happy with what I was able to accomplish.
So if my story hasn’t scared you away from running while pregnant, here are few things to keep in mind:
If you were already running there is no reason you can’t keep up normal routine during the first trimester. You will likely be tired, and maybe even have morning sickness, so just make sure to have something light to eat (like a half a banana or handful of Cheerios) before your run.
You will be gaining more weight this part of the pregnancy and will become a little clumsy. Keep up your pace but also listen to your body and give yourself some grace. By the end of the second trimester, you may need to back off your running schedule a bit.
I didn’t make it running past 33 weeks with any of my pregnancies and had to switch to walking.
EXCEPTION: I have been a week overdue and induced with all of my pregnancies - so you can bet I am out there during week 40 running every day and scaring my neighbors- hasn't helped me go into labor yet but it doesn't hurt!
Rule of thumb – if you feel like you need to go to the bathroom as soon as you get going it is time to stop and walk instead. Chances are you are putting too much pressure on your muscles which can cause damage.
Another key to running while you are pregnant – drink tons of water! Hydration is super important for you and for your baby’s health. Make sure you hydrate post run and keep drinking water throughout the day.
Finally, when in doubt, play it safe. No one knows your body, or your baby-to-be better than you. If something doesn’t feel right, stop. You will have plenty of time in your life to get back to running, don’t let keeping up a running routine drive you crazy during the short (though I know it can FEEL like it is forever) time of your pregnancy.