My joints might be looser, I might have extra blood in my system, and my resting heart rate might have risen, but that doesn’t mean I have to hang up my running shoes and become a coach potato. Yes, you might have guessed it; I’m pregnant, but that will not stop me from doing what I love.
Pregnancy is an exciting, stressful, and exhausting time full of questions and uncertainty. Some expecting moms are over the moon with joy; others are scared out of their mind. If you read my previous AFM article, “How to Balance Training and Everyday Life,” you might recall that my first pregnancy came as a shock. Well, this one is no different. It seemed I had just stepped away from professional running so I could find my passion for the sport again. Well, I’m not going to let this stop me; I am determined to keep running. Last time, I kept it up until I was six months into my first pregnancy; this time, I’m shooting for nine months.
Not surprisingly, your body is different when you’re pregnant. Not only are you gaining weight and thus putting extra pressure on your body, but your ligaments loosen and your heart rate elevates (along with a few other things). So you have to be a little more cautious than normal. Of course, it’s always important to consult your doctor to get the go-ahead for exercise. But once you do get clearance, there’s no reason you can’t keep working out. Some studies have shown that working out while expecting can improve your mood, help you sleep better, and lessen those pregnancy aches and pains.
Here’s what I have found gives me success in my workouts when I’m pregnant:
Typically, you can keep logging the same mileage you were running before you were pregnant, though probably not at the same clip. I’ve found I’m still able to complete my usual running routes; it takes me a little longer. I was running an easy five miles in 35-40 minutes before I was pregnant. Now it takes me 40-50 minutes to cover that route. No problem—it’s still just as challenging, but I have to take into account that my body is different.
I love to do core exercise. Who doesn’t like a flat stomach, especially during swimsuit season? Just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I have to stop. As my pregnancy progresses, I will simply modify my exercises to accommodate my growing belly. For example: When doing abs and v-sits, I use a few pillows to keep my back elevated off the floor. I also incorporate some cat-cows, a yoga stretch that is great for lower back pain, into my routine.
It’s really easy to overheat when you’re pregnant, which is not good for your growing baby. It’s important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. I like to take a handheld water bottle with me on every run. What used to only be used for long run days is now essential for all my runs.
There will be days when running doesn’t feel good. Maybe your stomach starts cramping or your lower back is aching. If this happens, stop and take that day off or try a different form of exercise like swimming (if the pain is really severe, consider contacting your doctor). But don’t give up running just yet. Give it a couple of days—or even a week—and then try again. You might be surprised with how much better you feel on another day.
There might come a point in your pregnancy when you’ve taken time off and your body still doesn’t feel good with running. It’s OK to step away. Remember: You’re not going to be pregnant forever. It’s OK to just walk. During my first pregnancy, I stopped running when I was about six months along. It was the dead of winter and I didn’t have access to a heated pool for swimming, so I turned to walking. The exercise kept me moving and got my blood circulating, which, ultimately, was what the doctor said I needed.
There are many things you may have to give up while pregnant, but running doesn’t have to be one of them. If you were already running, then you should be able to keep it up. Bear in mind that, while your body is changing, your daily exercise routine needs to be adaptable to accommodate those changes.