“What to expect when you’re expecting”
At this time, during my first pregnancy, I hung up my running shoes. It was 32 weeks and I had reached the point of it being too uncomfortable and slightly painful. It was hard but I knew it was time to take a break and plan to get back into it after baby’s arrival.
This time, 32 weeks in, I’m still going – strong, yet slow and not without some aches, pains, and soreness but still enjoying it and feeling good.
For all the pregnant (or hoping to be) mamas out there hoping to continue running during pregnancy, here are a few thoughts and tips from my own experience, as told by each trimester.
These are just a few things I’d like to share based on what I’ve encountered. Both of my pregnancies have been different and yours of course will be, too so it’s crucial to discuss running or any type of exercise with your doctor.
1. First Trimester: Exhaustion
If you’ve never been pregnant, you might assume the first trimester is the easiest to keep running. You haven’t yet gained weight, that load in your belly is the size of a pea vs. a pineapple.
Make no mistake – running in the first trimester is no easy task. So much is changing and your body is working hard to create this new life form. When I was pregnant the first time, I was training for a marathon during my first trimester. I attributed the added fatigue and struggle to the fact I was training during the hot summer months but, looking back, a lot of that was because of how hard my body was already working.
Some days, it may be tough to get out for a run. During my second pregnancy I felt sick every day for the first 14 weeks and running was the one thing that made me feel better – I just had to really push myself to get out the door! If it helps you to feel better, absolutely keep trying to go. But if not, give yourself a break. Your body is already working overtime.
2. Second Trimester: New Aches and Pains
Aches and pains are nothing new to runners. I’ve been known to throw around the phrase, “Everything hurts and I’m dying” once or twice during peak marathon training season (okay, maybe more than once or twice).
The second trimester might bring new aches and pains, ones you’ve never felt before. I had never even heard of the pelvic floor before I became pregnant but I quickly learned it can be the primary reason for soreness in the lower back, pelvis, and groin area for mother runners.
This is one that’s of most importance to discuss with a doctor. You may be able to avoid or manage it with the right exercises and breathing therapy, or it may be a sign that it’s time to ease up on running until postpartum.
3. Third Trimester: Putting on Shoes
If you’re lucky enough to make it to the third trimester and still be running, that’s awesome. One of the biggest challenges, aside from the two I’ve already shared: putting on your shoes.
For real, with a watermelon-size belly making in difficult to bend and reach, the simple act of putting on your shoes might be the biggest challenge you face (not so bad, right?!).
A few other things to keep in mind – fewer miles, slower pace, more hydration and, of course, more food. If you haven’t yet already had to scale back mileage or pace, increase your hydration or food intake, you’ll likely need to do so during the third trimester.
4. Fourth Trimester: Easing Back Into It
The weeks after giving birth are often referred to as the fourth trimester – an oxymoron, yes, but an important phase in pregnancy? Absolutely.
Getting back to the miles is the goal of many mother runners. The best advice I can share, along with the third trimester rules of minimal mileage, slow pace, and lots of hydration and food (especially if you’re breastfeeding), is to wait.
It’s easy to want to jump right back into it but let your doctor advise on when it’s okay to start running again. Your mind might be ready but your body needs time to heal and build up strength (again, the pelvic floor is a big deal to keep in mind).
Then, when you get the all clear and you’re lacing up for your first run (with a much smaller belly in the way, yay!), give yourself grace. You’ll likely be motivated and energized to get back at it, yet also exhausted and burned out from little sleep, lots of feeding, and 24/7 caring for another human.
Start with half a mile walking, then half a mile running, or some other run/walk mix strategy. Take it easy on pace and try to enjoy the effort more than push it. Be sure to hydrate even more than you think you need to and replace the calories with a good snack (if you’re breastfeeding, this is especially important to keep your supply healthy – something I struggled with big time with my first baby).
To sum it all up, it can be hard to take a break from running while pregnant. But before you know it, you’ll be back at it! Here’s to healthy, happy running and healthy, happy pregnancies.
Runner moms, did you run while you were pregnant? Or did you take a break, voluntarily or because of struggle? Every moms story is different and I’d love to know yours so please share in the comments.