I feel very fortunate to run throughout my entire pregnancy–running during my 40th week of pregnancy and the day before I went to the hospital to deliver.
While it was not always easy (it ebbed and flowed constantly), at least I was still able to get out there most days and get my running fix in.
I wanted to share some of my tips for running during pregnancy. However, the biggest thing I have learned during my pregnancy is how different each person’s pregnancy is! Not only is each person different, but each of their pregnancies are different as well. So with that in mind, my first and foremost tip is:
1. Listen to your body.
Your body will let you know if it is okay to run that particular day. I first had issues with getting out of breath (common during the first trimester), then pelvis/groin bothered me for a while, followed by my back, then hip flexors, and finally just general pelvis discomfort at the end.
The first trimester was tough. I had little motivation and I would get out of breath easily. During the second trimester (the “honeymoon” trimester), things were pretty smooth sailing. I ran two half-marathons and trained at a decent mileage most weeks. By the third trimester, I was running much more slowly (10 minutes/mile) and much less weekly mileage (10 – 15 miles per week).
Through it all, I listened to what my body was telling me, and if I felt like I needed a walk break, I took a walk break. If I felt up to do a track workout, I did one. Thankfully I’m pretty in tune with my body, so I knew what it could tolerate. And I while I wanted to preserve as much fitness as I could throughout my pregnanct, by the end it was mostly just about getting my running fix in for the day.
2. Heart Rate
I learned early on that keeping your heart rate below 140 beats per minute is old-school thinking. There is no evidence this will cause a miscarriage, nor is it unhealthy for the baby–they will still get the oxygen they need.
I did wear my heart rate monitor at the beginning, but then stopped when I developed a rash. (I’m still not sure if it was caused from the heart rate monitor strap or not.) Instead, I listed to my body (see #1) and went based off how I felt.
When I did occasionally wear my heart rate monitor, my heart rate stayed at 180 beats per minute (bpm) or less. (Prior to getting pregnant, it wasn’t uncommon for my heart rate to get to 190 bpm.) I definitely felt like 180 was my max, and it was only during a hard workout or a race that it got this high.
NOT a recent photo.
3. Buy a maternity support belt.
I wore this support belt on every run since month 4 of my pregnancy. The days I accidentally forgot it, I could feel the extra pressure from the baby on my pelvis, so I was very grateful for how much it helped. I rarely felt the urge to pee during my pregnancy runs, (Only occasionally when racing or doing a longer run.) and I often wondered if this support belt help lift the baby off my bladder.
I would recommend getting a support belt that has some stiffness to it versus a flimsy belt that is merely stretchy material. This one was stiff and supportive, and I purchased it at Motherhood Maternity.
4. You can race!
I ran a total of 6 races while pregnant: 2 half-marathons, a quarter marathon, 6K, 5K, and marathon relay (nearly 7 miles), so it is possible to run races and even push yourself, but always keeping in mind what your body is telling you! (See #1)
During these races–especially the ones at the beginning, I was able to push myself pretty hard and truly race. For each of these races though, I was very cautious going into each one–keeping my goals open-ended because I never was certain how my body would respond. Thankfully my body usually knew when it was ‘go’ time and allowed me to race.
The last race I did was when I was 8 months pregnant. I definitely had to slow my pace down and be cautious of how hard I was pushing myself. I knew it wasn’t worth jeopardizing the health and well-being of my baby.
Gosh, look at how small my belly was back then!
Mentally it was not fun watching/listening to all of my running friends talk about their 10+ mile long runs and hearing about a new PR they had set, but I kept telling myself, “At least there is an end to this.” (Versus being injured–you often have no idea how long you will be sidelined.)
I did my best to keep a positive attitude about my situation and not wallow too much in the fact I wasn’t able to train hard this past summer and race at my full potential. At the same time, I knew I was fortunate to be able to run as long as I did, and I’m glad I can tell my son that he and I ran nearly 1000 miles together.