Pregnancy and Running

So you are knocked up?  Congratulations!  But how will your pregnancy impact your running? First of all, always be sure to check with your doctor before exercising during pregnancy.  I am not a doctor, but I have had 4 children, so this blog is based on my personal experience.  Every person is different and every pregnancy is different, what is ok for one person may not be ok for you.  That being said, in my experience, the general consensus among most OBGYNs is that you can continue with your pre-pregnancy exercise program during pregnancy.  Generally if you are conditioned to a certain amount of running before pregnancy, and assuming that you do not have any restrictions, you likely will be able to safely continue with your regular workouts.  However, most women find that they slow down and need to modify their regular work outs as the pregnancy progresses.

Let Your Body Tell You What To Do

It is very important to listen to your body during this time in your life.  If you are feeling overly exhausted from trying to run, you should lessen your mileage or pace.  You may even need to alternate running and walking during your workout.  Of course, early pregnancy morning sickness can affect your general energy level.  Be sure that you schedule your work outs when you are well hydrated and have had some calories in you.  You might need to change up your routine so that you can run in the evenings due to morning sickness.  If you are one of the unlucky people who experience nausea all day long, you might want to just try walking until your morning sickness subsides.  For a couple of my pregnancies, I did much less running and more walking the first 8-12 weeks of pregnancy and then picked it back up after I started to feel better (for the other 2 I felt great and kept running as I normally would during the first trimester).

Don’t Wait for Weight Training

Consider adding strength training to your workout.  If you don’t already do weight or resistance training, then now is a great time to start.  Again, check with your doctor, but adding resistance training via weights, bands, etc. will help protect your joints and increase your overall strength which will not only help your running but your labor.  Remember that you are much more prone to injury during pregnancy, so start light and be careful!  Use light resistance and high repetitions to increase strength.  Consult with your gym assistant or personal trainer to learn proper technique in order to prevent injury.  There is nothing worse than being pregnant AND injured, so be sure you get some help if you are not familiar with strength training.

Stretch It Out

And while you are at it – stretch, stretch, stretch!  Most of us runners are pretty good about stretching (ah-hem – right?).  Now is the time to be even better about stretching.  Prenatal yoga classes (or DVDs) are wonderful and not only give you a great stretch but also encourages connection with your baby.  Yoga and other stretching techniques also aid during labor and delivery (you are gonna have to get yourself into some pretty awkward positions for delivery – true story).  For every run you go on – take at least 30-45 minutes afterward to stretch.  YES – 30-45 minutes, no need to thank me later.

How Long Can I Run til Delivery?

Can you run up until the day you deliver?  Well, this varies for everyone…like I said, listen to your body and your doctor.  For 3 of my 4, I ran up until delivery and including the day I went into labor.  Wait – what about the other pregnancy? Well, I was put on restriction and then bed rest so, I was out of the game a couple of months before delivery.  In fact, for that entire pregnancy running didn’t work out as well.  I was sick the first couple of months.  After I felt better, I had a couple of sweet months of great running.  That changed when he started kicking because he would kick my bladder and running was very difficult.  I resorted to intervals of running and walking until I got put on restriction for the rest of the pregnancy.  Sure it was disappointing, but I listened to my body and the pay off (that sweet little guy) was well worth it.

Can I do Cross Training During Pregnancy?

Consider cross training.  For most of my pregnancies, I cross trained in addition to running.  It gives you a good alternative for when running just isn’t working for you that day – whether it be because of outdoor conditions (remember that Memphis heat in particular is going to affect you more during pregnancy, swelling, etc.).  Try biking or swimming or participating in a group fitness class.  As with anything, ease your way into cross training.  And speaking of easing into exercise, if you are new to running and exercise and NOT an above mentioned conditioned runner, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about starting up.  Pregnancy is the perfect time to strive for overall health.  Excluding any abnormalities, most women – even those who have been sedentary, are able to begin a prenatal exercise routine WITH doctor supervision.  It is important to be honest and open about your exercise routine with your doctor.  Approach exercise with the mindset that you have a medical condition that needs attention and care – because, I got news for you girl, you do.  Report anything that seems off to your doctor immediately and when in doubt – STOP what you are doing until you can seek medical advice from your OB (remember – google is not your OB)
Just to review:
  1. TALK to your doctor
  2. LISTEN to you body
  3. STRENGTHEN your muscles with light resistance training
  4. STRETCH for 30-45 minutes even when you are not active
  5. CROSS TRAIN to give yourself another outlet for exercise
Maintaining a reasonable work out schedule will keep you feeling strong and healthy during pregnancy.  Enjoy your pregnancy, you will only experience the maternal bonding with this particular child once in your lives.  Good luck, you got this!
~ MSV