By Jessica Green
As a running coach, I work with a lot of runners up until they get pregnant and then post-pregnancy. What happens to the runner during pregnancy? One year ago I was able to learn on my own what it actually means to “run through your pregnancy.” It’s not as simple as one might think. I found that creating goals and constantly adjusting to my changing body allowed me to enjoy both working out and being pregnant at the same time.
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to continue running through my pregnancy and enjoy it. So, I wrote down my goals and established guidelines for the next nine months, which turned into the following:
- Run at least three times a week as long as it continued to feel good
- Conversation pace—always
- Limit runs to ninety minutes—if I need refueling, chances are the fetus does too
- Any cramping means it’s time to walk
- Throw pace out the window
- Do one non-running cross training session per week with a prenatal body specialist
I recommend every woman who plans to run through her pregnancy do this. Your guidelines don’t have to be the same as mine, but make sure you go into your pregnancy running adventure with your eyes open and your mind wrapped around realistic and healthy goals and guidelines. Otherwise, you’re either going to be fighting the non-pregnant runner instinct in you every step of the way or you’re going to have to stop running sooner than you want.
The First Trimester
Once I had a vision of what the next nine months might look like it was time to start running. That’s when I realized that this was going to be harder than I thought. There were several situations in the first trimester that I did not foresee, but here are the two major ones:
1) Holy fatigue! I had heard the first trimester was tough, but I had no idea it would take me the entire first trimester to build up what I call my “pregnancy endurance.”
2) Figuring out who to tell about your pregnancy and when. I wanted to keep my pregnancy a secret until the second trimester, but realized I had to tell my instructors, running partners, and clients in order to continue working out and running. I went to classes early to talk to my instructors and confided in my running partners and clients. These strategies enabled me to reach my goals and abide by my guidelines.
The Second Trimester
The middle trimester brought blissful days of running, but also weight gain. Having been a strong runner and in shape prior to getting pregnant, I was surprised at how much the weight gain negatively affected my leg strength. In addition to investing in new clothes, I committed to a more robust and pregnancy-specific strength regimen to help me. Also, I enlisted the support of a prenatal Pilates specialist to keep me flexible and strong throughout my running.
My advice: don’t just run! Concentrate on developing the specific type of strength needed to support your changing body while you continue to run.
The Third Trimester
My final trimester was when running started to get tough again, mimicking the rest of the pregnancy cycle, and I had to adjust to the changes in order to continue enjoying my runs and the process. I still ran three times a week, but my pace was now several minutes slower than even my second trimester running and I walked pretty much every hill in the last month. Running was now a mental release for me as opposed to a physical workout. For a good workout, I preferred strength classes. I fell in love with barre3 studio classes and continued my weekly Pilates sessions.
In the end, I ran up until the day I gave birth. This is not just because I set realistic and meaningful goals and adjusted continuously, but also because of a little bit of luck. Every pregnancy is different, and, for many women, however strong a runner they are, they might not be able to run throughout their pregnancy. I encourage every woman who wants to continue running or working out during her pregnancy to seek out specialists and coaches to help them through this ever changing nine month journey.