Running in Pregnancy

I gave birth in 2009 and 2013 and both times I returned to running soon afterwards. I really feel that gentle exercise helped me during my pregnancy and after I had given birth. Here are my tips and advice for running in pregnancy.

The Golden Rule of Running In Pregnancy


Throughout my pregnancy I had one golden rule that I stuck to:

 

The health and wellbeing of my baby comes first at all times.

 

This was at the forefront of my mind with every decision I made. For me this meant that all running schedules during pregnancy should be thrown out of the window! This is because one day you are going to feel good and the next day you might feel dreadful and it’s really important that you respond appropriately and listen to your body. If you feel too tired don’t run! Never use running schedules during pregnancy!

Time Your Training

 

During the early stages of pregnancy I felt really sick. I didn’t feel like eating and the last thing I wanted to do was to go outside and run! However, I found that if I ate large portions when I felt less sick and went running during the parts of the day when I felt better, I could keep some training going. It was all pretty random but I was able to maintain some gentle running.

Reduce Your Training Volume, Intensity and Frequency

The type of running you do is going to be affected by pregnancy. My volume dropped from over 100 miles per week down to around 20 miles per week. The pace I ran was significantly slower too. I used a heart rate monitor and kept below 140 beats per minute. I was not interested in running fast, it was all about running at a safe pace. The frequency with which I went out and ran also become quite irregular. If I felt tired I might not run for as much as three or four days in a row. Then if I felt good again I would run for three or four days in a row.

 

Keep It Cool

 

I avoided running in the heat at all times. When I was pregnant with my daughter Emily, in 2013, there was a heat wave in July. I trained in the late evening when it was cooler and I used woodland trails for more shade. I also used my treadmill a lot with a big fan blasting me the whole time to keep me cool. Over heating is not good for the baby and so must be avoided at all times. Remember it’s better to always air on the side of caution and miss a run rather than take even the slightest risk!

Let Your Body Dictate What You Do

 

In general all this adds up to letting your body dictate what you do and being in tune with how you feel on a day to day basis. It’s about being responsible and not worrying too much about actual fitness levels. If you follow these simple rules then you’ll probably end up doing enough running to maintain some fitness and conditioning. This will make your return to running easier. It may also help you through pregnancy as being fit and healthy brings many benefits. If you are fitter then you are probably going to cope with the strain of pregnancy that little bit better. For instance, I never experienced any ankle swelling and this may or may not be related to my state of fitness. I generally felt good during the second and third trimesters.

When To Stop Running

 

During my first pregnancy I did find that in the final few weeks I got more tired and so I stopped running about 3 weeks before I gave birth. Some women run right up to the day before giving birth but I just did what I felt comfortable with. You can take on board all the advice you want but sometimes I think you should go with your own instincts and my feeling was that it was time to stop running.

A Few Words of Caution

 

Never take up running as a new activity when pregnant. Only run during pregnancy if you were running prior to pregnancy and always seek medical advice throughout your pregnancy. Running in pregnancy is good for both mother and baby but not in all circumstances. For some it can be the exact opposite and there are certain circumstances that make running in pregnancy contraindicated. Therefore you must always seek medical advice on a regular basis and if in doubt do not run. Remember always put the health of your baby first!

Here is a summary and a few additional little tips that might help:

  • Always put the health and wellbeing of your baby first.

  • Time your run with the part of the day when you feel your best.

  • Reduce your running volume, intensity and frequency.

  • Maybe use a heart rate monitor* and keep at least 25% or more below max.

  • Avoid hot weather and keep cool.

  • Listen to your body and let it dictate what you do.

  • Always let someone know your route and when to expect you back.

  • Keep hydrated before, during and after each run.

  • Run on softer surfaces to reduce impact (you’re going to be heavier).

  • Avoid uneven or rough terrain so that you reduce the risk of falling on your bump.

  • Wear looser fitting running gear. (I borrowed some of my husbands running tops when my bump got really big.)

  • Take a mobile phone for emergencies.

  • Invest in a decent sports bra or supportive crop top.

  • Don’t use running schedules when pregnant.

  • If you feel bad then stop. Walk back or if necessary ring someone to come and pick you up.

  • Take a healthy snack with you when out and about. This is to avoid your blood sugars dropping.

  • If possible try to run with someone else. My husband accompanied me on most of my runs.

  • I used shorter routes running laps so that I could cut my run short if necessary.

  • Seek medical advice on a regular basis.

  • Avoid doing any rigorous strength or core type exercises on your back. You can risk restricting major blood vessels and it’s important to avoid this so you don’t restrict blood flow to your baby.

  • Do some very gentle pelvic floor type exercises but be very careful when on your back.

  • Don’t worry about putting on weight, it’s a natural part of pregnancy. It's good for both you and your baby.

 

*If you don’t use a heart rate monitor then don’t worry as you can simply run on how you feel. You should be running really easy and be able to hold a continuous conversation without effort. You should never feel like it is tough at any point. If in any doubt run slower or stop.

I hope some of this is helpful.

Jo x

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© 2018 Jo Pavey