Running While Pregnant? 3 Must-Know Tips

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I took the photo below while on a lovely run in the Idaho foothills. The weather here has been on a warming trend, and I even spotted a few flowers poking through the dead brush on the trails. I finished my run feeling refreshed and alive—it was the first sunny trail run I’d done in months.

IMG_8877.JPGTo be clear, I’m nearly five months pregnant, which means running isn’t what it used to be. In the past, a “lovely run” would have probably involved a killer workout and barely being able to stand afterwards (weird, I know). Now, said runs mean: 1) I made it through without desperately needing a (nonexistant) bathroom halfway through (OMG the worst), and 2) I didn’t fall down, throw up, or have to stop 50 times.

Yeah, it’s a little different these days.

As I was easing my way up and down steep trails, I thought about how different that run felt than the ones I’d done leading up to my marathon last October. This time, I leisurely stopped halfway through to take photos. I walked the inclines. I stopped once or twice to watch a neat-looking bug crawl across the path (I wished my daughter could have seen the super cute caterpillar!). All things I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing while in training mode.

Since this is baby #2, I have the benefit of experience on my side. I’m still learning, of course, but here are some pregnancy running tips, passed down from one slightly-seasoned mom to another:

1. Take It Easy

Last time, I pushed myself as much as I could for as long as I could. I always kept my heart rate low (about 70–80%, for those of you who use heart rate monitors), but I thought that I was somehow tough for keeping my fitness level really high (a.k.a. pushing myself too hard). But honestly, that’s just kind of stupid for two reasons.

First, it can result in injury. Your pregnant body is preparing for childbirth, which means it’s growing and expanding. During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin, which, among other things, causes the ligaments to loosen. What do loose joints mean? Less stability, more potential injuries.

Second, you can spend all of the other years of your life pushing yourself. Take the nine short months of pregnancy to chill a bit and be active at your speed and current ability. If you can’t run, so what? Walk daily. Swim. Ride a bike. Just be active.

(Side note: I listened to Pregtastic podcasts during my last pregnancy. They were great company while I got in my daily run or walk! Even though they’re no longer making new episodes, I still enjoyed the older content.)

Make your fit pregnancy about staying strong and healthy but not overdoing it. Because, really, it is stupid to push it. Take it from someone who’s already done it.

#2 Stick to Trails or Treadmills

The roads are just too hard on your pregnant body. Every time I’ve tried to do a road run after about the start of the second trimester, I’ve ended up with back pain. (I still run roads from time to time because it’s more convenient, but I really try to avoid them when I can.) Stick to trails or treadmills, which have more give when your foot strikes.

#3 Make Time for Yoga

Prenatal yoga was both a body-saver and a stress-killer. I also believe it was what enabled me to keep running until almost 7 months pregnant and was an important part of being able to birth my daughter naturally. Running really works your muscles and puts a lot of pressure on your bones and joints, and yoga was a perfect counter balance to the hard work I put in running.

I also tend to be pretty really high strung, so spending 10 minutes each week in savasana, the relaxing “corpse pose,” was wonderful. At first, I hated savasana and could barely sit still; I’d glance at the wall clock, waiting for the minutes to go by until I could leave. But soon, I learned to look forward to those precious minutes where I could just sit still and do nothing but be there with my baby. That’s what’s so awesome about prenatal yoga: teachers tend to emphasize rest, being centered, and focusing on your new little one.

Do yourself a favor, and find a prenatal yoga class to go to every week. I promise it’s worth it.

#4 (Bonus!): Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Some women can run through their pregnancy; others can’t. Some women can eat clean and have pristine diets; others are lucky to keep down processed food. I can’t say it enough: listen to your body, don’t beat yourself up, and know that you are a great mom-to-be for trying. Really.

Seasoned running mamas, what can you add? I’d love to hear your advice, especially since I still have over four months to go!

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