There are lots of things that you learn about running. There are a whole new set of things to learn about running while pregnant. Here are a few essential tips and observations.
Disclaimer: I speak only from my own personal experience of running during two pregnancies. I have no medical background. Please speak to your doctor or midwife for professional advice.
Getting out there
Getting out running can be more difficult when you are pregnant. There will inevitably be gaps and breaks in the programme on days when you don’t feel good. For me, a good 8 weeks were more or less written off when the worst of the sickness sets in. You also have to be a bit less disciplined than normal. I often feel the “can’t be bothered, too tired impulse” which I generally ignore under normal circumstances, but when I am pregnant I tend to listen to the tiredness more and decide not to train if I don’t feel up to it.
There is not really a good deal of maternity sportswear out there (UK shipping is difficult) and there is the question of how much to invest for what seems like a short period of time. I don’t like wearing tight-fitting clothing or things that fit too snugly to my bump so I am getting by on baggy race t-shirts, draw string shorts and tracksuit bottoms at the moment. As the pregnancy progresses, I may resort to pinching some of hubby’s clothes! My problem is that I like to wear my shorts and trousers below my bump so they can sometimes feel as though they are about to slip down. Most pregnant runners will get a bit warmer than the average non-pregnant person when exercising, so it is worth bearing this in mind. However, it is also worth bearing in mind that you may need to take walk breaks and having layers can help here. A good fitting sports bra is also essential. Pregnancy prompted my first sports bra purchase due to changing size and extreme tenderness. Many women also find their shoe size changes during pregnancy or even their running gait. A change in gait may necessitate a new trainer purchase. I haven’t noticed this problem yet, but I do often feel my feet getting very warm or even a burning sensation at times.
One of the things I love about running is the just getting up and going aspect of it. However, when pregnant, running has to be planned more carefully. I can cope with up to about 7 miles on an empty stomach (e.g. 1st thing in morning). However, when pregnant, I need to eat before hand and obviously allow for adequate digestion time. I would also recommend running with a phone – something I usually cannot be bothered taking. The weather is also something I take into account. When I am trotting along at a slower pace I have no notion of getting an absolute soaking. I am also more careful than usual about ice.
It is not a nice thing as a runner to feel yourself slowing down and to know that your much slower pace which currently feels like a fast paced run is way behind your normal speed. But you need to accept this. If you feel you need to walk, walk. Some days will be slower than others. I am starting to find at 23 weeks that baby’s position can make a big difference. Sometimes the baby can be in an awkward position and make me feel I have a stitch or put unbearable pressure on my bladder. On these days, I have to slow down or stop and walk. During pregnancy, you have less oxygen in your blood which makes moving more of an effort and, as your body expands, you are not only carrying more weight, but may feel your diaphragm is being compressed which makes breathing more difficult. You may well get to a point in the pregnancy when running becomes impossible. Accept it and walk if you can. I stopped at 34 weeks last time. I will need to wait and see how I get on this time round.
I find that I have to be flexible in my training plans. Sometimes if I know I will have a lot of walking to do on an outing, or a lot of running or even swimming after Scott I will skip a workout or reduce it. I never normally do this, but the fatigue forces me to be a bit more canny when pregnant. I am also making more use of the gym and feel that if running is uncomfortable I can do the cross-trainer or exercise bike instead – or even half and half.
I always go to the toilet before I set off. No matter how many “last pees” I have before I go when pregnant, I always seem to need another toilet stop. This is unusual. I can get through most runs without needing to go – including a marathon! This makes the gym with the facilities on hand a good option. Otherwise, it is a good idea to plan a route with toilet stops built in. Note – my home town in winter is woefully inadequate in the public toilet department!
Eating before a run is essential, but as is quickly taking on board fuel and fluids afterwards. If I don’t, I feel sick and nauseous. I find a banana works well and the ideal quick meal is porridge with blueberries. This fills me and make me feel refreshed.
Goals and that feeling
You will undoubtedly miss that feeling of freedom you get with a quickened pace or a sprint. Today on the treadmill I had a silent chuckle as I moved to a brief “upping the pace” at a speed I could normally comfortably maintain for a decent length run. I miss the “burn” that I get from a good run or my usual spin class, but when pregnant I really don’t want to push it. I am trying to think (again very flexibly given baby sleep patterns, breastfeeding and the usual baby unpredictably) about post pregnancy goals. At the moment it is as simple as a 6 mile run to be completed within 3 months postpartum.
The “looks” and questions
If you choose to run during pregnancy you will undoubtedly face questions and stares. Many of the remarks are just good-natured admiration, but a lot of people will question if you are damaging yourself or your baby. Running when pregnant does not damage your baby. It is not recommended that you take up running during pregnancy, however if it is a way of life already, your body can cope. I have definitely had a few looks and questioning stares, but have not had anyone being downright rude. I am reassured by various on-line communities and blogs of fellow pregnant runners. I wish there were some of these groups in the UK as all of the groups I follow are US based.
Why run when pregnant?
To sum up, I run to feel good, to feel a bit of normality. Running is something I see as “me time” and I really value it.