Whoa, Baby!

Why running through pregnancy is good for you

By:  Jennifer Goff

CONGRATULATIONS!  You’re expecting!  

You’re most likely “glowing” and loving every minute of it.  Your hair is so full, your nails are so long, and oh my, your skin is so radiant!  

Oh, who are we kidding?!  If you’re anything like me, there’s suddenly more hair in your shower drain than on your head, your nails somehow have permanent dirt underneath them, and skin??  I can’t even see mine underneath the pimples and cold sores.

However, GOOD NEWS!  Contrary to traditional beliefs that running and pregnancy don’t mix due to health concerns for your piece of fruit (Have you ever noticed that at every week of pregnancy, your baby’s size is compared to a piece of fruit?  Currently, I have a 15-week old apple in my uterus), research now shows that running is very healthy for both mama and baby as long as mama was a runner pre-pregnancy.  Furthermore, if your body was used to consistent miles, it may actually be more harmful to stop running altogether.  So, lace up your sneakers, mama-to-be!  The mental benefits of running will outweigh (or at least balance out) the physical side effects of pregnancy.  At the very least, you may no longer want to hormonally bite your partner’s head off every day.

Of course, there are certain things to keep in mind to ensure having the happiest and healthiest preggo running experience possible.  Heed these suggestions before heading out the door:

Talk to your doctor.  Better yet, before you talk to him/her, find one that is a runner themselves!  My doctor runs every day and therefore understands my need to stay active.  Quite often, we’ll have conversations about the latest and greatest running shoe updates while he’s checking out my cervix (<-- awkward!).  In any event, let your doctor know your running history, and be sure they give you the a-okay to continue.  If you have a history of miscarriage and/or preterm labor, are carrying multiples, or have other health concerns, you’ll need to make sure you’re on the same page before continuing.  

Listen to your body and mind.  A perk of being an athlete is that we’re more in tune with our bodies than most others.  As pregnant athletes, this is amplified.  Therefore, if you feel any abdominal/uterine cramping, stop running.  If you’re dehydrated, stop running.  If you’re more fatigued than usual, stop running.  If there’s anything that seems even remotely off, stop running.  Trust your gut (uh, literally), and don’t compromise your health or that of your piece of fruit.  

Lower your expectations.  Now is not the time to go for that PR.  Keep your effort level easy, and cut back on your mileage.  Remember that your body is working very hard at just being pregnant; balance this energy with the energy you expend on your runs.  The old rule of keeping your heart rate under 140 during pregnancy has been debunked, but this doesn’t mean you should finish a run gasping for air either.  Anticipate getting slower at the same effort level as you get bigger.  You’re allowed to have hormonal pity parties as this occurs (I have about 17 per week), but remind yourself that your fitness level will return post-pregnancy (and perhaps then some!).  Ultimately, cut yourself some slack right now.  You’re growing a human being after all!  

Mind the heat.  It’s very important to not overheat during pregnancy.  If it’s too hot outside, opt for an indoor, air-conditioned treadmill, cross-train indoors, or take a rest day.  My personal rule of thumb is to not run in temperatures over 69 degrees, especially with high humidity, and to carry water regardless, as hydration is even more crucial during pregnancy.  Furthermore, while outside, run early or late in the day along shady routes when possible.  Since you’ll be peeing every thirty seconds, another perk of shady routes is their trees!

Ignore the naysayers, and don’t be self-conscious.  You may get unwanted looks and/or comments from those that still believe you’re doing harm, but know that you’re actually doing something extremely healthy for you, your piece of fruit (btw, studies now show that running through pregnancy leads to smarter babies!), and your partner (because they most likely still have their head).  In addition, let go of the self-conscious devil sitting on your shoulder.  Are you still in the “she-may-be-pregnant-or-she-may-just-really-love-cheese-fries” phase of pregnancy?  Don’t hide it; EMBRACE IT.  Remember, it’s temporary!

Every woman’s body and experience with pregnancy is different.  Therefore, as long as you’re feeling strong enough (i.e. nausea and fatigue can oftentimes interfere), running will lead to a happier and more energetic nine months and a much smoother return to the sport post-pregnancy (I recommend at least six weeks of recovery before getting back out there).

Happy running, mama-to-be!

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