Before I start this post for real, I’d like to put out there that I am not an expert on exercising while pregnant. I am not an expert on exercising at all. These are merely my feelings & opinions. Please consult your OBGYN before starting any kind of workout program while pregnant.
Okay. That’s done. To start this post for real, I’d like to say that I did not run during my first pregnancy, which is something that I wish I had done. It was really difficult to get back into running after not having done so for close to a year. My doctor, whom I really like, said he didn’t think all of that bouncing was good for the baby. Being my first pregnancy and being uber-careful and worried about every little thing, I followed his advice without much further thought and without a second opinion. (I did, however, do a lot of prenatal yoga.) Now, let me tell you about my OB. I’m not sure exactly how old he is, but he’s got to be past retirement age. The man has recently started wearing hearing aids and looks kind of like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. He is very laid back, very old school and an excellent doctor. He delivered Bug and I am so glad that he did.
My OB office has four doctors and three midwives. I see my doctor when it is recommended, but for my usual monthly visits I actually prefer to see the midwives. This pregnancy, I have asked two of the three midwives about exercise and both told me the same thing: if you did it before you were pregnant, you can do it during pregnancy… as long as we’re not talking something crazy dangerous, obviously. They said that if I ran before, I can run now, and I can do it until I am no longer comfortable doing so. Sweet. I’ll take it.
To me, the most important thing about running pregnant… or any prenatal exercise for that matter… is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If you begin to feel faint & overheated: stop. If your belly starts to hurt: stop. If you feel like you are going to throw up: stop. Pretty simple. My first pregnancy, I was so much more worried about reading the right thing to do that I didn’t feel the right thing to do. This pregnancy, I am relying so much more on instinct, and though I’ve had some emotional/crankiness issues this time around, physically I have felt much better.
To get to the bones of prenatal, I’m going to lay out how it’s similar to running sans growing baby and how it’s different, as well as some tips that I have found to be very helpful.
When you take a break from running, say a couple of months, it can be hard to get your groove back. I find that the first run back is always awesome. You get all pumped up because you’re thinking, “That wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be! I felt great!” And then, your next run, your legs feel like lead and your lungs are on fire and you think, “This sucks. I’m never going to make it.” After that, each run gets progressively more comfortable and eventually the groove returns. I took a several month break from running when I got pregnant, mostly because I was so exhausted that all I could think about doing in my spare time was sleeping. I took a very necessary nap almost every day for 3 1/2 months. Once I finally started to get some energy back, I started running again about once a week. Just like a non-pregnant return, the first run was fantastic. I was amazed at how “easy” it was. Joke’s on me, because the next run was rough. But, just like a regular comeback, it has slowly gotten more comfortable and my groove has returned, although said groove is a different groove, for obvious expanded belly reasons.
The other major similarity to running pregnant versus non-pregnant that I’ve found is the boost of energy and positive mind set. I feel great, energetic and super happy for a couple of days after I run… both now and before baby-on-board. I’m a pretty happy & positive person to begin with, so an extra dose an happy isn’t usually too noticeable. However, I’ve been dealing with some crankiness issues this pregnancy, and that dose of happy right now is amazing. Hubby can probably attest to that. The energy boost is a pretty nice added bonus, as well.
The groove. Here’s where I’m going to talk about taking it easy. See, I’m the kind of person that is very competitive with myself. When I go for a run, I get a tad bit disappointed if it wasn’t faster or farther than the last time. That’s actually part of the draw of running for me. I can set constant goals and the only person to hold accountable for the success of reaching those goals is me. I have to continually push myself harder for that desired result. Prenatal running doesn’t exactly allow for that. For the first time, I’m taking it easy while I run. No long term goals in mind except to stay healthy. No short term goals of “today I’m going to run this far” or “today I’m going to hit this pace.” I have no qualms stopping if my body tells me to stop, when usually I would just push through. I run slowly and take walking breaks every few minutes. It’s kind of refreshing, but difficult to change mind sets at the same time.
Kind of going along with the groove being different and the need to take it easy is that usually, when you run regularly, you are doing so with the intention of either losing or maintaining weight. While pregnant, it’s hard to lose sight of that and to remember that you are supposed to be gaining weight! This makes your pace slow down as time goes on rather than speed up. I keep reminding myself that the goal isn’t speed, it’s health!
Water. It is important to stay hydrated. We all know this. It is even more important to stay hydrated when you’re pregnant. My midwife suggests that I drink something crazy like 96 ounces of water a day. Normally, I only carry water on a run if it’s going to be more than 6 miles. Anything less, I just drink water before I go and then drink lots when I’m done. Mostly because I don’t like carrying things while I run. When I trained for my half-marathon, I used a Camelbak Mini-M.U.L.E., which was great because it had a pocket for snacks/gel/fuel/whatever. That was also during the fall and winter, though, and it wasn’t so darn hot outside. Now, it’s too hot to wear it. I’m pregnant, dude, I’m already hot enough. So, I’ve been running with a water bottle. My favorite is my Camelbak Eddy Bottle. I hate carrying it, but I love that I don’t have to tilt it to get water. Pregnant, clumsy me would have issues with not watching the road.
Take it easy. I know I already talked about this, but it’s important. Don’t go faster than you need to. Don’t let yourself overheat. Walk if you need to. Listen to your body.
Stretching. I usually stretch after I run, but non-pregnant me didn’t see a huge difference if I skipped the stretching every once in a while. I didn’t feel unusually stiff or sore or anything. Pregnant me is different. The thing is, though, it’s not my legs that get sore if I don’t stretch. It’s my back. If I run and then sit down for a half an hour before stretching, my lower back will be pinched the rest of the day. If I stretch first and then sit down, I have no issues. Today, I ran and then sat in the car for 20 minutes and then went to the grocery store before I finally made it home to stretch. My back is angry, folks.
As of right now, I’m doing a 5 minute warmup, just like always. Then, I’m following this 10 minute increment pattern:
- Run 7:00
- Walk 3:00
- Run 6:00
- Walk 4:00
- Run 4:00 or 5:00
- Walk 5:00
- Run 2:00 or 3:00 & walk the remainder of the 10 minute increment as a cooldown.
That gives me a total of about 20 minutes running and 20 minutes walking. Again, if I feel like I need to stop and walk, I do. This has been my pattern for a few weeks now, after trying a couple of different things. First I tried running a mile and then walking a quarter mile, repeat. My GPS was wonky so it ended up not being reliable. Then I tried running for 10, walking for 5, repeat. I didn’t make it. This pattern will likely be changing as my belly gets bigger and my joints start to stretch. I’ll keep you posted :)
Did you run while pregnant? Tell me about it!