When I got pregnant, I was totally out of shape at the time. I had taken seven months off from running to deal with health issues, with the goal of resolving them so I could get pregnant.
So when I became pregnant, I had a great plan: I was going to get the best aerobic base ever, so that right after I gave birth I would be back to faster times. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work out quite like that.
The biggest thing I learned in pregnancy: Pregnant running is unpredictable. The best thing you can do is enjoy the ride and find gratitude for whatever movement you can do.
Running in the First Trimester
Since I started running again right when I got pregnant, running in the beginning felt hard. Not only was I out of shape, I was also first trimester tired. That was a winning combination.
I was just so grateful to be running again that I didn’t mind how slow I was—or that 2 miles for this marathoner felt long and tough some days. The joy of getting to be out there running outweighed any of the other stuff.
First trimester running can be really tough, so don’t stress about miles or pace. Get out there for the enjoyment of running. And, just know that it does get easier in the second trimester!
I think it’s so important to keep an open mind when you’re running while pregnant. You never know how things will feel, so be kind and gentle with yourself. It’s a lot of work growing a new human and it takes a lot of energy out of you.
There would be some days that I wouldn’t feel like running at all in the first trimester. So I wouldn’t make myself run. And there would be other days that I would want to run, but I literally couldn’t go faster if I tried. I had to let go of expectations for my running during pregnancy: expectations for goals, distance, paces, or mileage. The easier you can let those go and truly just treasure whatever running pregnancy does let you have, the more enjoyable your running in pregnancy will be.
I can genuinely say that my running in pregnancy was a precious and joyful experience. It was nothing impressive—I most certainly wasn’t the fastest, but I was grateful for every mile.
Running in the Second Trimester
Running in my second trimester started to improve. I wasn’t totally fatigued like I was in the first trimester.
Even though I was feeling better energy-wise, now my growing belly was causing some discomfort while running. I wasn’t too big (I don’t even think I was really showing) when running started to feel uncomfortable and I was dealing with round ligament pain.
Round ligament pain usually presents itself in the second trimester. When the ligament that runs from your uterus to your groin is stretched, this causes pain—which can be dull, achey, or sharp. I was so worried that would be the end of my running throughout the pregnancy. However, I got a belly band around 16 weeks and that helped me so much. Every time I ran, I wore a belly band and didn’t have to deal with round ligament pain for the rest of pregnancy.
The takeaway there is to try out some different things to see what feels good and helps make the journey more sustainable for you.
Running in the Third Trimester
I did the most running of my pregnancy in my third trimester—which is also when I was dealing with the most painful symptoms from symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
SPD is when your pelvic joints become stiff and cause pain. It felt like a groin strain and like a girdle of pain that extended to my low back. Even walking was painful at that point in my pregnancy. But somehow I was able to run and not be in any more pain than walking would be—and it was the only time of day I felt fluid and free and more like myself.
I felt totally blessed to be able to run that I didn’t care that it looked nothing remotely like the running I had in my peak fitness. I was so big, it was a hot San Diego summer, and I was so painfully slow—but each run I would come home and find something to be excited about to tell my husband, Tyler. It could be that my run wasn’t painful, or that my heart rate stayed relatively low for how hot it was, or that I was able to keep an efficient cadence.
Those events helped me to keep running in the right perspective: to find gratitude in what my body was letting me do—no matter what it looked like—and for any run I did to be a celebration of my baby and I.
Towards the end, the baby can also find themselves in some wild positions that just make running hard that day. But then the next day, they aren’t using your stomach like a hammock and it feels a lot more pleasant.
That’s why pregnant running is something you take one day at a time. I wasn’t sure if I would make it past 17 weeks and I was blessed to run up to the day I gave birth.
I cried on my due date because I was so relieved to have made it to that day after losing a pregnancy a couple months prior to getting pregnant with my daughter. It felt like such a miracle to come to the end of my pregnancy.
Throughout the whole nine months, I focused on the positives about my running, and in doing so, I was never really disappointed in my running while pregnant. I was realistic the whole time that running could be taken from me at any moment because of the pain and discomfort—that every run I was able to do felt like a gift.
I think that’s important to note that if you have to stop running at any point in pregnancy, it doesn’t mean you’re not an amazing runner, or that you’re not tough. I had so many friends–all well-conditioned, competitive runners–who had to stop running in pregnancy because of the pain. Honoring your body is always the right call.
Time to Move is Time For Yourself
The primary goal in pregnancy is to be protective over your health and your baby’s health. And if running is painful, there are other forms of movement that may be a better fit for your body, like swimming or cycling or walking or gentle yoga. Do what makes you happy and feels good.
Carve out time in your day for movement that makes you happy. Life gets really busy once the baby comes. It was important for me to take 20 or 30 minutes a day to get out and run. I would talk to Baby Clark as I went out there and try to encourage her to stay in a position that made running feel good.
If you are pregnant and running, please keep an open mind and a gentle approach with yourself. Don’t worry about if you’re getting slower while pregnant (you probably will be). Don’t stress about the body changes (you’re growing another human and your body is amazing). Let each run be a celebration of the gift of running and the miracle of growing a human while you’re
running. If you do that, it makes the whole experience of running while pregnant such a joy. It added to my life during pregnancy and helped me to find another way to connect with my baby.
And something I learned from going through unmedicated labor, while running can never prepare you for the pain of childbirth (I wrote a really cringe post a week before I gave birth about how marathons prepared me for pregnancy. Here’s a hint: you can stop a marathon at any time, but I found out that you cannot give up in the middle of the birth. The baby has to come out somehow)—the mental strength you have practiced in running can help you during your labor. We practice being tough, we have different tools in our toolbox for running and how to stay mentally engaged and work through the pain. And now whenever I have my next baby, I’ll have those labor tools and be able to better navigate the birth experience.
I hope you are able to see the beauty in running while pregnant. It’s all about your perspective in it. Find joy and grace for yourself in that experience and it will be a beautiful thing.