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Pregnancy doesn’t mean a nine-month hiatus from running. Here’s how to run safely while expecting.
If lounging with your feet up while eating pickles and ice cream isn’t your idea of a dream pregnancy, you’re in luck. As long as you have a doctor’s okay, know the warning signs of over-exertion, carry plenty of water and use common sense, you can run safely while you are trying to conceive and throughout your pregnancy.
Assess Your Condition
For runners, you must have a discussion with an OB/GYN about your overall health, your baby’s health and your fitness goals. Once you are cleared for running, proceed with caution and pay attention to your body. Stop exercising immediately if you have spotting, cramping or other pains. Revisit the discussion at monthly check-ups to ensure all is well.
“As long as moms are feeling good, amniotic fluid levels are normal and the baby’s growth is proceeding at a healthy rate, I tell my patients it is fine to continue doing what exercise feels good to them,” says Dr. Robin Barrett, an OB/GYN from Portland, Ore., runner, mother of two, and doctor to Kara Goucher. “Tracking heart rate can be misleading, so I suggest using whether or not you can carry on a conversation (you should be able to) as a gauge to judge exertion and pay attention to perceived effort.”
Sari Anderson, a professional adventure racer and mother of two from Glenwood Springs, Colo., used this method during pregnancy. “I would sing or talk to my dog when I was pregnant and running alone to make sure I didn’t go too hard,” she says.
“For patients starting with a good base level of fitness, I tell them that moderate exercise is not only fine, but also helps to keep blood pressure in check, staves off gestational diabetes, and even helps women deliver closer to their due dates, often with somewhat easier deliveries,” Barrett says. That being said, Barrett doesn’t encourage non-runners to begin running when they are pregnant. She does encourage all of her healthy patients to maintain a fitness program. Walking, pool workouts, stationary cycles and elliptical trainers are good options to stay fit if you don’t feel like running. Anderson preferred biking and hiking toward the end of her pregnancy. “I still had the benefits of cardiovascular workouts and fresh air without the pounding,” she explains.
“Pregnancy is not the time for runners to expect to PR, go as fast or as far,” Barrett says. Christine Hinton, a runner, mother of two, coach, Women’s Running contributor and creator of the pregnantrunner.com and therunningcoach.com, adds, “Pregnant runners should aim to run for the emotional and physical benefits and to see their healthy body in a new light.”
Hinton’s best advice for expectant runners is to be flexible with workouts. Even though you may want to go on a five-mile run, your body may be saying a one-mile walk is plenty. “This is the time to maintain fitness, do what feels right for your body, and not make gains,” Hinton says.
“The length of your pregnancy is really not a long time to have a modified work-out plan,” Anderson says. “I ran at a higher intensity but for shorter times during my second pregnancy than I did for my first.” It’s difficult for Anderson to limit the intensity of her workouts, so she knew shortening the duration was the best way to protect the baby’s health, her physical health and maintain her mental wellbeing. “Runners are used to pushing through the pain—do NOT do this when pregnant,” Hinton advises. “Always stop, assess and then decide if you need to call it quits or can continue. Anything that doesn’t go away quickly may warrant a call to your OB/GYN.”
Eating for Two
It’s a fact: You will gain weight during pregnancy. So enjoy it! Now that you are eating for two make sure you get enough quality calories to help your baby grow and to keep you going strong. Always have a snack with you while running, but double-check your favorite gels and chews to make sure the ingredients are safe for baby.
Staying hydrated is critical. Water helps to keep you from overheating, which happens much faster when pregnant. Exercise during cooler times of the day as an increase in core temperature can be harmful to developing fetuses. Water is also imperative to maintain your increased blood flow and healthy amniotic fluid. “Even if you need bathroom breaks every five minutes, do not cut back on hydration,” says Hinton, who had a loop with a bathroom every half-mile and often ran on a treadmill next to a bathroom during her pregnancies.
You Are Growing, Too
It’s obvious when your clothes no longer fit, but not so with your shoes and sports bra. You may need to switch to a more supportive top, or even double up, as your breasts grow throughout your pregnancy. By the time you enter your third trimester, consider trying shoes a size larger to accommodate swelling and provide adequate support. “Body changes can be hard for a runner who is used to a slim, strong body,” Hinton says.
“We are lucky as runners because we gain less weight than the average sedentary pregnant woman, so enjoy the changes and the roundness that eventually comes.”
Hinton proudly ran in sports bras, belly exposed, up to the day she delivered. “Being pregnant is an ideal time to slow down a bit and ease up on yourself,” Hinton says. This is your opportunity to focus more on the quality of workouts rather than the quantity, marvel at the changes occurring to your body, eat an extra serving—or two—of favorite food, and take the occasional nap. Rest up now because you will soon be chasing your little running prodigy around the block!
FREE RESOURCES FOR MOMS & MOMS-TO-BE
As you will soon discover, the best place for information, besides your doctor, is other moms. We scoured the web for sites offering great advice on working out while pregnant and beyond. Take a look to answer your questions, calm your nerves and provide a few laughs.
Christine Hinton’s website with her advice and experiences regarding running while pregnant.
Inspiration for moms to get out the door and exercise.
Social networking site for athletic moms.