The number of questions that come with a baby are endless, who also realized much of it would start during the 9 months pre-baby. Running while pregnant needs to be addressed to eliminate confusion, shaming and worry!
The old school thinking about running (or exercising in general) while pregnant was that women should do very little or nothing at all. In fact, long before the concern of baby there was a belief that your uterus would fall out from all the jostling.
So when you start reading up on myths about running while pregnant, make sure you know that’s the line of thinking that got them started!
Running while pregnant has not only been proven SAFE for mom and baby, but comes with a number of benefits.
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended. Assuming there are no issues noted by their OB-GYN.
Benefits of Running while Pregnant
Common myths around running during pregnancy include stressing the baby and leading to preterm labor, increasing the chance of urinary incontinence or increasing the severity of diastasis recti abdominis.
There are no studies that back up any of these claims. But there are a number of studies that have examined how exercising will improve the health of both pregnant women and baby.
- reduces stress and helps maintain positive body feelings
- eases back pain by utilizing those stabilizing muscles
- continuing to build a strong core will help with delivery often making it faster and easier
- ensures that mom stays healthy, reducing likelihood of gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension
- prevent excessive weight gain
- can speed up postpartum recovery
BUT (and this is a big BUT) it is not something you should “just do.”
If you want to run healthy, you’ve gotta run smart– pregnant or not. And while you can start running during pregnancy, it’s often recommended that you focus on exercises you have been doing and progressing them as that could be less stressful.
Can running while pregnant hurt the baby?
Before I say anything else, I’ll say this: I’m not a doctor and I’m certainly not YOUR doctor.
Please get your doctors approval and tell him or her ALL OF THE DETAILS as you run throughout your journey to avoid any complications.
- Usually the answer is no, unless you are a high risk pregnancy or have other health issues
- As noted above improving mom’s health will improve the baby’s health
- NO STUDIES show that running can cause a miscarriage early in pregnancy
Running while pregnant is a very personal choice. For some women it feels great from start to finish, for others morning sickness makes it a no go from the first trimester and others feel good until suddenly the third trimester.
Your body is going to be your guide.
Beyond that, we’ve got some practical tips to help you through the process.
10 Tips for Running While Pregnant
To give you the best information possible, I’ve teamed up with another running coach who ran through multiple pregnancies, Amanda Shannon Verrengia.
We’re sharing the top tips and what she found most useful to see what might assist you.
Much of this is essential for non-pregnant running too, so don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve heard these things before!
- Dynamic Warm Up
- Release fitness worries
- Listen to your body
- Appreciate all the movement you get
- Be extremely flexible with your workouts
- Stay well hydrated and well fueled
- Continue strength training
- Stretch a little bit more
- Pelvic Floor work
- Get the right gear
1) Always Do the Warm Up
I can’t stress this one enough. PLEASE get in some dynamic stretching.
I get it, you don’t always have time. But especially now more than ever you need to spend time allowing your body to slowly ease in to the intensity of a run.
There are two main reasons for this.
A hormone called relaxin is increased in the body to allow the pelvis to relax and accommodate baby. This also causes joints and ligaments to become more elastic, which decreases their stability.
Thus increasing your chance of injury. Doing the warm up, helps you work through range of motion and engage the muscles that will increase stability.
A warm up helps prevent a sudden spike in heart rate. This is true at all times, but more important when you want to ease in to workouts so that you aren’t over exerting yourself.
Start that first mile out a bit slower and focus on easing in to the overall effort.
Dynamic movement is not only good for your body/muscles, it helps your body get in the “oh, it’s time to run” mode.
2) Stop fretting about Fitness
PLEASE do yourself this one courtesy. YOU ARE GROWING A HUMAN.
While Coach Verrangia is a super competitive person, who loves to run and has run since childhood…there’s a time for that passion to be what pushes you.
These 40 weeks of your run life are not the ones where you push through PAIN on a run. They aren’t the ones where you set PR’S and think about your pace.
The miles run while pregnant ARE about health, strength, joy and keeping up the endurance.
The worry that you’ll lose fitness is common, but trust that many mother runners before you have come back stronger and you will too.
- Your body is already working harder than normal, that’s not holding you back, it’s just different.
- Doing any movement including walking and yoga and strength is still helping you stay on track.
- You will have a new level of mental strength post baby that helps you.
- Your body DOES remember the fitness you had before, which actually makes it easier to get back.
3) Understand Your Body Cues
You have to be a pro at figuring out what your body is telling you.
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between being out there running and feeling tired (because you’re pregnant, duh) and being in pain/DONE.
Your body can push through some tiredness and small discomforts and a run can end up feeling great.
Then there’s the “this isn’t going to turn around” run.
- If you’re ever having a sharp pain, STOP.
- If you’re feeling extreme fatigue or dizziness, STOP.
- If you wake up and can’t stop throwing up…don’t force a run!
- Starting to get headaches while running, also time to stop and figure out what’s going on.
4) Relish The Runs You Get
Verrengia loved being pregnant and enjoyed running pregnant, focusing on each new goal.
But that doesn’t mean it always feels great. Especially with a growing belly, it’s all going to feel different.
And it certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t more runs where you end up walking or deciding to cut it short than you imagined there would be.
During this time, we have to truly be grateful for every mile that our body wants to run.
Think of it just like you would have when dealing with an injury! Gratitude for the good ones and knowing the bad ones will pass.
5) Be Flexible With Your Workouts
This goes along with knowing the difference between discomfort and a signal to stop.
Don’t be upset with yourself if you go into the day with a plan for a workout and choose to alter it. If you’re truly not feeling it– change it up!
- Change the time
- Change the route
- Change the whole workout
Getting in any type of movement is GREAT for your spirit and your body.
Need a rest day today instead of tomorrow? TAKE IT.
Every single woman has a different experience, so you must be willing to simply embrace yours! And don’t think it should happen with any specific timeline. You may feel great to start and then not great in the second trimester or horrible to start and suddenly ready to try again in the third.
6) Hydrate and Fuel Enough
First, make sure you’re drinking enough water always, always, always. And get consistent with drinking electrolytes if you’re sweating a great deal (possibly more than you normally would due to hormones).
The eating will be an experiment in running while pregnant. All about what your stomach agrees too, but you must get in enough calories. That may mean opting for more liquid calories with post workout protein smoothies or just giving it to what works like a daily burrito!
You may find that things which were fine before now send you in search of a bathroom.
Part of this is that your bladder is being pressed on, so you may try not to hydrate as much to avoid stopping…but that’s not ok. As you become dehydrated your heart rate will increase and you will create more body stress.
A few options that have worked for others:
- Toast with nut butter
- Picky Bar
- Banana with nut butter (bananas have been shown to soothe the stomach)
Refueling post run is also extremely important to ensure that the recovery process kicks off immediately. We know now that for women, that 30 minute window is really ideal for protein to help recovery and ensure you’re not losing muscle.
Here are some great post run meal ideas >>
7) Strength Training While Pregnant
Strength Coach Danielle Pascente is a phenomenal example of how to do this well. It’s an important component of your training, so don’t let people shame you or guilt you in to stopping.
There are two reasons to stop:
1. your doctor says to
2. your body is telling you to
If you have already been lifting, then this time will help to prevent muscle loss which is going to make your return to all fitness faster and continue helping with that healthy pregnancy weight.
You can still do most movements, but might have some modifications. Like doing push ups with your hands on a bench or avoiding anything where you need to lie face down.
This isn’t a time to hit your 1 rep max, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lift heavy.
8) Yoga and Mobility for Hips
Wondering what you need to do post run? During pregnancy it’s actually more important that other times because we’re placing greater pressure on our hips and low back.
- You need to cooldown post run to let the HR come down
- Spend a little time stretching, especially the hips
- Use another day for active recovery
- Don’t stop and sit – we know this leads to pool of fluids in the feet
Rather than a full rest day, it’s easy/stretch out yoga (20-30 minutes will do) followed by foam rolling and focused roll out work with a tennis or golf ball in any tight areas (some self trigger point work) and then some deep static stretching.
This will help you mentally feel productive on off days and your body will absolutely benefit.
9) Work Those Hips
Strength days are also a key time to focus on your hips. If I harp on this a ton for the everyday runner, it doesn’t become less important when your body is suddenly shifting and changing!
- Pelvic floor work to help with labor and recovery
- Glute activation movements to keep you running strong
- Hip stability moves that will help prevent knee and IT band issues
This work or the absence of it will MAKE OR BREAK your running. I’m telling you.
Make the time for it or you’ll make the time for rehabbing your injury later.What it really takes to run successfully through pregnancy from @runintended #runchat Click To Tweet
10. Pregnancy Running Gear
What runner isn’t motivated by new gear?! And just like your watch or your winter gear, this is designed to make your running while pregnant time more enjoyable.
Maternity running clothes
Having some workout clothes that fit right will help you feel more comfortable during your run.
If you’re looking for some nice stuff that doesn’t cost a fortune (since you’ll only wear it for a short period of time), check out Old Navy and Target maternity.
I would recommend a pair or two of leggings and several tops. If it’s cold/winter and you plan to be outdoors, grab a pullover that will keep you warm during your run— there’s nothing worse than a cold belly!
Verregnia started wearing compression socks during every run at around 28 weeks pregnant.
After reading a lot about the circulation issues that occur in pregnancy – due to the change in blood flow and volume in order to accommodate the little one you’re growing, it felt right for her.
A few reasons you might like them too:
- tightness issues with the calf pain (foot) and tightness as the blood flow is lesser to those areas
- to prevent varicose veins
- help with feet swelling, especially if you are traveling or on your feet.
✅Here’s a great pair to get you started!
The right shoes
At around 15-16 weeks pregnant, I started noticing that my shoes just didn’t FEEL good and my feet and calves were achy while running.
It was time for:
- A bit more cushioning like the Hoka Bondi to help with the extra weight on my feet
- And maybe even going up a half size because of feet swelling
We recommend the Gabrialla support band. It helps with low back support and round ligament pain while running.
It also encourages proper posture/hip position.
- In fact, Verrengia wore the belt when we ran the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas half when I was 21 weeks pregnant.
- And started wearing the belt for every run at 25 weeks pregnant.
What about running a half marathon while pregnant?
You’ve probably seen an increasing number of elite women running races while pregnant and wondered if that’s ok for you too?
As noted above, as long as you are not going from nothing to suddenly your first hardest race ever and you’re not pushing yourself to that redline state it’s ok.
You may need to hop in to a few more porta potties or decide that you just aren’t feeling great on race day and adjust. I’ve had athletes crush their training, then show up to race morning with sudden nausea or fatigue, that can’t be controlled. So they just adjusted to enjoy the day.
Plus these 5 mother runner tips will save your sanity later. Running will be different, that’s not bad!
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