A question from @jenbletsgems: How do you stay motivated to run through pregnancy when it’s painful?
It’s okay to train through pregnancy, but equally okay to sit on the couch.
History has long tried to diminish women’s rights to their own body in matters of health and exercise. “Don’t run for fear of your uterus falling out.” The stigma against women empowering themselves through sport and fitness has slowly been lifted by the pioneers who blazed a trail for the rest of us.
Now that I got my female athlete movement ramble out, let me share what my experience training through pregnancy was like—in a word, volatile. Not in the negative connotation that is normally associated with that word but in its basic meaning of “liable to change rapidly and unpredictably.” I originally had a goal of trying to maintain 50 miles a week, plus two light workouts, through my pregnancy as long as it felt comfortable. Note: My average is 80-90 during full training. Halfway through my pregnancy, I had yet to hit that and most likely never would. First lesson: You have less control over your body than you thought you would. Once I surpassed my first hellish 13 weeks of sickness, I got back into the gym for two weeks of biking and strength training to ease my transition back into running. The following weeks I more or less averaged 25-40 miles a week with a few “oh shit” days. These days come in the form of random joint aches that are enough for me to take the day off, a night of insomnia leaving me feeling “awesome” in the morning—or I just plain felt like poop. I might have a streak of five solid days of running mixed with two workouts where I get super pumped, only to be put back in my “pregnancy place” a day later. Volatile, I say!
It was all about feel for me. I had no set mileage or paces in mind when I headed out the door. Instead, if I ran the first 15 minutes and felt good, that day might turn into a workout. Comparison to my old self had gone out the window. Living up at altitude had been a little more challenge during the pregnancy too; I might be running with my teammates laughing, having a good time, and bam! Here’s comes a hill—where did Stephanie go? I stopped to take a breather. That was my trick to sustaining energy on runs and workouts. I take breaks whenever the effort really goes up, and there is nothing shameful in that. I also increased the ancillary work I do outside of running—side planks, cat/camels, hip exercises, arm weights, etc. The goal was always to keep the body’s foundation as strong as it can be before labor comes. Things are changing, loosening, expanding, and the female body is amazing at adapting. However, the female runner mind might not be quite as adaptable. Here are my three biggest takeaways I will pass along:
1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re blessed with morning sickness and can’t leave your couch, find a great TV series, and saddle up, partner. The extra blood flow you’ll get in second trimester will boost those red blood cells back up.
2. I loved being pregnant most days, but on other days I really missed my old self. It’s an exciting and confusing time for a gal to have all these new hormones and emotions coursing through your body. I reminded myself how lucky I am to be able to bring a human into this world—pretty BA!
3. Trust your instinct. There will be a ton of unsolicited advice from “experts” on training during pregnancy. Listen to your body and take it day by day. Sometimes I didn’t know how far I’d run until I was 15 minutes in and either I felt the flow or turned back for home.