Runners are a fanatical bunch. They sacrifice sleep to run, they run in bad weather and they run even if they have a cold or the sniffles. Ask any hard-core runner, and they’ll tell you that barring a serious injury, they will be out there, hitting the pavement, the gym or the track.
For many women, there is another factor to consider. Upon discovering they have a bun in the oven, many mothers-to-be ask themselves, “Should I run when I’m pregnant?”.
If you have not already been consistently running, the answer to the above question is a firm “no”. Pregnancy is not the time to start a running routine, nor any high-impact exercise for that matter.
Adjusting to Your Body’s Dramatic Changes
Many women, however, find that exercise improves their mood and helps them adjust to the dramatic changes in their bodies. If you have been running and are in good health, with a doctor’s permission, you can continue to run if you follow some common sense guidelines!
Your first trimester brings numerous interior physical changes. Many women experience fatigue and often need a nap. Nausea, ranging from annoying to debilitating, can also plague expectant mothers.
If you feel up to running, one of the most important things you can do is stay hydrated. A woman’s body immediately starts funneling fluids to the placenta and uterus as well as creating extra blood to nourish the new life growing inside her. Hydrating is always important for runners, but it is top priority for expectant mothers!
Many women feel like their joints are loosening up in the first trimester. And they are. Ligaments naturally begin to loosen and expand to allow for growth and the flexibility those joints will need later in pregnancy and during birth. It is essential to buy good footwear to support your knees, ankles and arches. Be kind to your feet. They will be working very hard in the months to come.
And don’t forget a good exercise bra. Breasts can begin to swell in the first couple of months, and their delicate tissue may need extra support during this time.
Many women feel much better in their second trimester. The fatigue is gone, and the morning sickness subsides. However, this is not a license to start pushing yourself as your belly is growing as well.
A woman may not realize her center of gravity is transitioning, causing more pressure on her back and pelvis. Falls can occur during this phase as a woman may not be aware of how much her balance has shifted. It is recommended that runners use a treadmill to avoid uneven terrain, and running in the dark is discouraged.
And while it may be horrid to consider, injuries to the abdomen can happen during trips and falls. It is important to practice falling off to the side so as to avoid injuring the abdomen.
Many women do continue running into their third trimester, but it becomes more and more important for a woman to listen to her body. Even though it can be hard for dedicated runners, this may be the time for power walking and lower impact pregnancy exercises such as swimming, stationary biking, pilates and yoga.
As the baby grows, it presses on the lungs, ribcage, bladder and back. Obviously, vigorous bouncing can be uncomfortable for a mother-to-be. Consider shortening the lengths of your runs as well as the intensity.
In the third trimester, it’s all about the support. You may need to go up another bra size to accommodate breasts that are still growing. And an extra support band for your abdomen can lessen the strain on your back and pelvis.
You must monitor your breathing and make sure you do not become overheated. Wear breathable clothing, and if you become short of breath, dizzy or nauseous, stop exercising immediately.
In summary, here’s a checklist for pregnant runners:
- Get your doctor’s permission.
- Stay hydrated.
- Stay cool.
- Wear proper footwear.
- Wear supportive undergarments including a sports bra and belly band.
- Don’t push yourself.
- Run on even ground.
- Monitor your heart rate and temperature.
- Consider alternative exercises.
- Listen to your body!
While Pregnant, You Can Run Smart and Finish Strong!
Pregnancy is such a joyous and exciting time. If you are in good health, there is no reason why you can’t continue your exercise routine, even if that includes running.
It is important, however, to keep the big picture in mind. Nothing is more important than your health and the health of your precious little one growing inside you. Be kind to yourself and listen to your body. There will plenty of time after pregnancy to lace up the shoes and take your baby for a run in the jogging stroller.