One of my first thoughts after discovering I was pregnant was: how will this effect my running? I was in the midst of training for a marathon, so fitness was a major part of daily life. I’ll warn you: things might change quickly after getting knocked up. Here’s what to expect when running during pregnancy.
Prepare for Immediate Fatigue
Right, so I was training for a marathon when I got pregnant. My longest run at the time was 18 miles, so I was in pretty good shape. Looking back, I think my body knew it was pregnant from the moment of conception. I saw a difference in my performance almost immediately. I was sluggish, slow, hungry, and exhausted. I tried going to bed earlier, running at different times, changing up my diet, but nope: I was running poorly because I was running for two.
I distinctly remember doing a 12-miler a couple weeks after conception (still no idea I was preggers), and I berated myself for doing so poorly. I was wiped out the rest of the day, and I had to walk some of it. I also found that I had difficulty sleeping and I was hungrier than normal.
I’d like to state for the record that I’m no super athlete. I’m a very middle-of-the-packer who runs for fitness (not quickness!). My best marathon is 4:11:52, if that puts it in perspective. Still, running is definitely my jam, and I value being in shape. So it was hard mentally to see all that work (especially during marathon training!) slide into a heavy, clunky, out-of-shape blob of morning sick, cracker-crunching yuck.
I know, I get it. I was supposed to feel beautiful and full of life. I felt gross.
Take It Easy
I searched the internet and the bookshelves for info on pregnant runners, and there’s a little info out there, but not much. Here is what I found to be true: you have to listen to your body. I realize that’s not a great revelation, but I had SUCH a hard time doing that at first. I was convinced I could mind-over-matter it, but I couldn’t. I used every ounce of energy I had to try and get a few miles in while wanting to hurl, and looking back: it wasn’t worth it. Some women can do it, but then again, some women don’t have morning sickness. If it feels good, go for it, but if it doesn’t, try (gasp) walking.
If you’re a runner, you know how horrible it is to hear someone suggest walking. I hated reading that. I didn’t want to hear it. But you have to take it easy on yourself. You’re literally growing another human. You’re busy. Even if it looks like you’re just sitting there. (Or walking?Lawd.)
Pelvic Pain Isn’t Forever
Another problem I had, also right away, was that my pelvis hurt like hell when I tried running (or jogging, or anything with a bounce). You might have heard of the hormone relaxin, which loosens the ligaments in your pelvis in anticipation of child birth. It made my pelvis feel like it was going to break in half and that my hips were on crooked. It was actually painful, and I was concerned I was doing damage to myself. I felt this way in the first trimester, even though it’s not supposed to kick in until much later.
Don’t Panic–You’ll Be Back
Needless to say, my pregnant running experience didn’t last long. The best I can tell you is this: don’t panic. I did. I was sure I’d never run again. (It’s possible other pregnancy hormones played a role in my mourning hyperbole). I wasted so much time freaking out about *temporary* changes.
The truth is, I had a pretty straight-forward delivery, and I started jogging 3.5 weeks after my baby was born. Within 10 weeks, I placed third in my age category in a 10k race (obviously a slow field, lol, but still!). I was amazed how quickly I was able to rebound. Once relaxin was out of my system, I didn’t have any more pelvic pain, and other than newborn sleep deprivation, that crushing tiredness was gone.
Walking Doesn’t Mean You’re a Quitter
So yes, Virginia, there is a reason to walk. It’s great exercise while pregnant. It’s low impact, but if you do it outside and crank your headphones, you can even zone out sort of like you’re on a run. Another benefit was that my husband joined me. He’s a certified nonrunner, but we were able to enjoy each others’ company while hitting the pavement. Those last moments “just us” were really special. Best of all, it actually did help me maintain a semblance of fitness so getting back to running was a quick transition.
Finally, here are some tips for running while pregnant:
- Buy a new sports bra or wear two (this will be shocking if you’re not busty, like me. Sadly, the great new boobs are also a temporary experience.)
- You’ll need maternity sports gear, especially if you usually wear snug tank tops. I recommend getting loose-fitting tops that fit your shoulders so you can wear them after baby when you still haven’t quite shrunken back to your normal size.
- You might be able to stay in your shorts for a surprisingly long time. But if not, don’t fight it.
- Buy new shoes if the ones you’re in now are on the fence. It’s not the time to take chances on your joints. Though be aware your feet could temporarily grow while pregnant (do the indignities ever end?).
- Liberally use Body Glide or anti-chaffing gel.
- Don’t do it if it hurts!
- Chill. You’ll be back at it soon enough.
- Hydrate more than normal. Pick a cooler time of day since baby shouldn’t get over heated.
- Belly band if you’re still running once you have a belly. It’s like a sports bra for your belly, and you can get them online.
- Know where bathrooms are (bouncing, bladders, bellies–you get it)
- Be careful! It’s surprisingly easy to trip over your own feet when you can’t see them clearly!
Q: What was your pregnant running experience like? Share your tips or trials!