Hi all! I haven’t written much about my personal life lately, so the truth is, a lot of things have changed in the recent few months, and even more are about to change in the nearest future. The biggest change, which I’m finally ready to talk about here on the blog, is the fact that I’m getting ready to become a mommy in October! The road to becoming pregnant has not been the smoothest, and I’ll talk about it sometime in the future. Rob and I happy that things have finally worked out for us, and looking forward to finding out what this vegan parenthood thing is all about!
Getting pregnant coincided with a renewed interest in running for me. When I started this blog almost four years ago, being a runner was a sizeable part of my identity, but after completing my last marathon in June 2015, I lost my interest in running for a while, and took up lifting weights instead. In the beginning of 2017 I finally felt an urge to give running another chance, and started running on a treadmill at the gym little by little after my weightlifting workouts (I’ll share more about my experience with lifting weights during pregnancy in a future post). I made sure not to push too hard because I was also newly pregnant, and took plenty of walk breaks to catch my breath. My pace slowed quite a bit compared to my pre-pregnancy running efforts, which was a great opportunity to practice patience. Thankfully, working out was making me feel better as I dealt with morning sickness in the first trimester, and helped me get energized after a long day sitting at my desk at work. Eventually I was able to build up endurance for 2.5-3 mile runs on the treadmill or outside once or twice a week. During the Memorial Day weekend, I decided to sign up for a local 5k, and to my surprise I even finished third in my age group!
9 Tips for Running During Pregnancy
As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, I started researching information on running and working out safely during this time (some of my go-to blogs for this can be found here and here – please note that everybody’s fitness levels differ). One thing all of the online articles and books suggested was the fact that no two pregnancies are the same, so what feels good to one woman may feel completely wrong for another. Oftentimes working out at all can seem like an impossible feat, especially for those of us who are dealing with a bad case of morning sickness (FYI it’s actually an all-day affair, not just in the morning 🙁 ). I had my share of days when instead of a planned workout at the gym, I headed straight home to take a nap.
I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about running during pregnancy from my personal experience. However, I totally understand that everyone’s experiences will be different. So please note that if running feels really tough when you’re pregnant, you absolutely don’t have to do it! It’s 100% OK to run during pregnancy as long as it feels good and your doctor gives you a green light, just as it’s 100% OK not to run if it feels wrong.
1. Check your priorities. The reason for why you used to run before getting pregnant will (hopefully) change now that you’ve got a baby on board. My reasoning for running has changed quite a bit over time. Ten years ago, as I was dealing with disordered eating and body dysmorphia, it was mainly to keep my weight down. Five years ago, when I discovered the fun of racing long distances, it was to build endurance and set PRs. Now that I’m pregnant, today my main motivation is to get fresh air, get my blood flow going, prevent (hopefully) varicose veins from developing (this condition runs in my family), and maintain my fitness and endurance for the upcoming labor. Will I ever get back into wanting to set new running PRs? Possibly, but it’s way down on my list of priorities.
2. Listen to your body even more carefully than before. Running while pregnant can be a completely uncharted territory, especially if it’s your first pregnancy or if you never ran before your previous ones. Our bodies are constantly changing, so if something doesn’t feel right, it’s not worth toughing it out, even if that was our standard practice in the pre-pregnant running days. Today I make sure to run by feel at all times, because making myself (and possibly the baby) feel miserable is not worth the checked box on my running calendar.
3. Embrace walk breaks! I’ll admit that I used to scoff at taking walk breaks while running back in the day, firmly subscribing to the thought that the need for walking comes from a wrong pacing strategy. However, about a month into my pregnancy I was running out of breath even just walking around on flat surface, not to mention running uphill. So I started taking walk breaks on the treadmill every half a mile, and I was surprised that those runs still felt like a good workout. Once the weather got nicer outside in spring, I took most of my running outside, taking walk breaks by feel rather than at a certain distance, and I was surprised that I needed fewer breaks as I ran outdoors. Once again, your experience may differ, so whatever you do, please be careful!
4. Don’t let the slowing pace bum you out. I heard about the imminent slowing that most pregnant runners go through – after all, our bodies are doing a heckuva tough job of building a new human inside of us, so that takes up A LOT of energy. Setting new PRs is definitely not a priority for our bodies no matter how hard we try. Because of this, I wasn’t very upset when I saw that my average pace per mile slowed 2-3 minutes beyond the pace I ran during my last marathon. The human body is amazing, and the experience of pregnancy is temporary, so I’m hoping that eventually I can get faster again if I work on it after I have the baby.
For this reason…
5. ‘Unfriend’ your GPS watch (or a running app on your phone). If a slower pace still bums you out emotionally, seeing it on a screen of your GPS watch or a phone can make things worse. For this reason, you might be better off if you leave those at home and run free 🙂 If you must bring them along, say, to track the distance or just to know what time it is, reset the screen settings to display just that. My current GPS watch is set to show the distance and time elapsed since the beginning of the run so I don’t accidentally run too far.
6. Make it short and sweet. Just as you shouldn’t run at your fastest right now, neither should you try to run the longest. For me right now, a 3-mile run on a Sunday feels amazing as I’ve just passed the halfway mark in my pregnancy. Even though sometimes I feel like I could go longer, I’m going to cap my distance at that so that not to overwhelm my nervous system or risk running out of steam later in the day. It’s no fun when the need for a nap hits you hard as you’re heading to work or running errands.
7. Strategize bathroom breaks. Even if you’ve never experienced the need to dash into the bushes to pee during a run, things may change now 🙂 About three months into my pregnancy, I started feeling like my baby was bouncing on my bladder with every step I took while running, which was quite uncomfortable even if I didn’t need to go that bad. For this reason, before I head out of the door, I try to make a mental note of possible quiet spots along the route I’m planning to run. So far this has worked just fine, especially since I live in a fairly quiet rural area. If you’re planning to run on city streets or in a busy neighborhood, please note the potential bathroom stops in advance in case a need arises.
8. Don’t run hungry, and eat something right after you’ve finished. You need to maintain healthy blood sugar levels for two, so no skipping breakfast before running in the morning! I know that morning sickness and food aversions (I have so many!) can make things complicated, but it’s still really worth it to test out at least a small number of foods that can sit in your stomach. I make sure to eat a banana before my morning runs. Other mild foods that could work: pitted dates, dry toast, plain white rice, a little bit of oatmeal, etc.
9. If it doesn’t feel good, call it a day. This is probably the most important tip! If you made it out of the door but feel tired, heavy on your feet, or start experiencing pain, please don’t tough it out. Listening to your body (tip #2 above) is really important right now, and if your body is telling you that it’s miserable, it’s not worth it to continue punishing it. Eventually most pregnant runners have to stop running as our bodies grow, the center of gravity changes, the belly bounces too much, etc. There’s no shame in that! I’m mentally preparing myself for that day, and for now, if running doesn’t feel right, I just walk the rest of my planned distance.
Question for you: If you are or have been pregnant before, what’s your experience with running or working out during this time? Do you (or did you) have any favorite resources like books, blogs, apps, etc. that have helped you stay active?
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