This is the first in a series that I am writing dedicated to running during pregnancy. They will discuss what I experienced and learned from my successful “run” through pregnancy, some tips and advice as you and your baby continue to grow, and clothing options (if you are like me and don’t want to spend a lot of $$ on running clothes you will only wear for a couple off months).
First, a disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I have “expertise” when it comes to running during pregnancy. So what am I basing these posts on?
- I am currently in the process of receiving my certification as a Pre / Post-Natal Exercise Specialist.
- I ran up until the day before I went into labor and ran my first mile only 5 days post-delivery.
Second, a word of caution: Running during pregnancy is NOT for everyone. If you weren’t a runner before you got pregnant, now may not be the time to pick it up. Stick with what you were doing and comfortable with prior to pregnancy. And, if you decide you want to give it a try, definitely discuss your intentions with your obstetrician early on in your pregnancy.
When I found out I was pregnant in May 2010, I was training for a 24-hour race in July. My husband and I had planned on waiting a few more years before having our first child, so I didn’t attribute the symptoms I was experiencing to pregnancy – it was the furthest thing on my mind.
In the weeks prior, I hadn’t felt “right”. I am normally pretty in-tune with my body, so the sudden change in how I was feeling was extremely disconcerting. I was achy and exhausted. I was out of breath on short runs (even had to stop running on a couple of runs). I was quesy in the mornings.
Of course, these are normal signs of pregnancy. And I’ve watched TLC’s I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant and wondered how these women could not know!! But, we were using contraceptive methods and I had assumed it was 100% effective, so the possibility of being pregnant never even crossed my mind.
I assumed something was lacking in my diet and even scheduled an appointment with a nutritionist. I had recently completed the longest run I had attempted (28 miles) and thought I could need more calories, protein, or carbs in my diet because of the increase in mileage.
But, a few days after a failed 20+ miler (I was able to run 16 slow miles), I decided to take a pregnancy test…and then another…and another. They all came back positive. I somehow managed to get pregnant!!
Although not planned or expected, I couldn’t have been happier. My running plans and ALL the races I had signed up in the coming 6+ months no longer mattered to me. And, in a way, I felt lucky – I was starting my first pregnancy in the best running shape I had ever been in. The night we found out I was pregnant, my husband and I went on a wonderful 8-mile run in Central Park. It was during this run that I made the decision to try to run throughout my entire pregnancy. I hadn’t given it much thought prior to this because I hadn’t planned on getting pregnant and starting our family for another few years!
I saw my ob-gyn the following week and discussed my running intentions with him. Not only was he supportive of my plans to continue running, but he actually encouraged it. He told me that not running would be far worse for me and my baby then continuing to run. The reason for this is simple: I’ve been running for years. My body is used to the miles, the exercise, the movement, the sweat. If I were to go from running 55+ miles a week to absolutely NOTHING the following week (and continuing to not run for 8+ months), my body would likely react in a negative way. So that was it – I was going to NEVER STOP running!
Below are the guidelines I set for myself during my pregnancy:
- Mileage did not have to dramatically decrease (at least initially). I continued running around 45-50 miles a week early on and gradually decreased over time (each of the subsequent posts will deal with a trimester of running in which I will discuss how much I was running, what I experienced, how I felt). In my final week of pregnancy, I was averaging between 20-25 miles/week (running 5x days/week).
|Getting ready for 4m race @23 weeks pregnant|
- Right off the bat, the biggest change I had to make was the intensity of my runs. Monitoring a pregnant woman’s heart rate is not a practical method to measure the intensity – pregnancy naturally raises your resting heart rate. Instead, I kept all my runs at a pace where I could comfortably hold a conversation. Anything harder than that was too fast and could cause a decrease of oxygen and other nutrients to my baby. I continued to do mile repeats, tempo runs, and other interval workouts – but the fast portion of each was significantly slower.
- I was still going to compete in a couple of races I had scheduled – but was not going to train to PR or follow a training schedule.
- I deferred my guaranteed entry for the NYC Marathon until the following year (I would have been 30 weeks pregnant at race-time). The longest race I was comfortable participating in while I was pregnant was a half-marathon. Based on my comfort-level and my opinion on the subject, I felt that anything longer than that would be foolish. (However, this is all based on what YOU are comfortable with).
|Running the Staten Island Half Marathon @ 28 weeks pregnant|
- I promised myself (and my unborn child) that I would listen to my body more than I had ever before. I didn’t follow a training plan or have a certain mileage I wanted to run each week. Each run was based on how I felt. There were days when I woke up not feeling 100% – and so I didn’t run those days. Or days when I would be a couple of miles in to a run and just not feel right – so I would immediately stop and walk. This was not the time to set records in pace, mileage, or toughness. This was a time to stay fit, healthy, happy – but most importantly, to have a healthy baby.
I was often given strange looks in the later months when I was running – as though I were crazy or doing something that could hurt my unborn child (SO UNTRUE!). And I was constantly asked the same question: Why? Why do you need to keep running?
THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS WHY. (I plan to dedicate an entire entry to this at some point). These are just a few:
- I’ve run my whole life. I couldn’t imagine going even a week without lacing up my sneakers and being outside. I enjoy – and look forward to – the daily exercise, sweat, endorphin-high, and time alone.
|Loving pregnancy @ 30 weeks pregnant|
- At a time when my body was changing and I was constantly stressing and worrying about becoming a parent and all that entails, I needed something that was a constant – something that made me happy, cleared my mind, and caused me to relax.
- I wanted to have as much energy as possible. Sounds like an oxymoron. Especially since you often hear pregnant women complain about how tired and sluggish they feel. But, studies have shown that daily exercise while pregnant strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you actually don’t tire as easily.
- The better shape I kept myself in, the stronger I would be for labor and delivery. It is believed that staying fit while pregnant helps decrease labor and delivery time.
- I wanted to prevent excessive weight gain during the 9 month journey. I knew I would gain upwards of 25 pounds. But, I wanted to ensure that the weight gain was not from me lack of activity and poor eating habits. But instead from my growing baby, increased blood volume, and other necessary changes my body was making to prepare for the miracle of childbirth.
- I was anxious to start running postpartum - and knew that if I took excessive months off, it would be SO much harder to get back to the running shape I was in.
- “Exercise can improve the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your baby, improve stamina, and are associted with positive birth outcomes” according to Ann Cowlin, author of Women’s Fitness Program Development.
Up next…Running Through Pregnancy – Part 2 – The 1st Trimester