You’re pregnant! Now what? If you hope to run during your pregnancy, the first step should be to discuss your plans with your healthcare provider. Fortunately, in healthy pregnancies, breaking a sweat is recommended and encouraged. And when it comes to vigorous exercise like running, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) gives the okay as long as you were a runner prior to getting pregnant. If you’re expecting a little one, read these tips on “running for two!”
Before you Begin
When the couch is calling your name, remember the many reasons why a sweaty run might benefit you (and baby). According to the American Pregnancy Association, exercise during pregnancy can help with the following:
Fewer aches and pains
Reduced constipation, bloating, and swelling
A reduced risk of gestational diabetes
More energy and better moods
And a body that is prepared for the rigors of labor.
The benefits are huge, but when it comes to physical activity, more isn’t always better. The rule of thumb for running while pregnant is not to run farther or faster than you were before you conceived. Pregnancy is the time to take it slow and steady. Depending on the day, you may find that you need to reduce mileage or your slow pace (or both!).
What to Expect in the First Trimester
In the early months of pregnancy, your body is working extra hard to grow another human, so even before you start sporting a bump, you may feel exhausted. Be gentle on yourself - some days you may truly need a nap instead of a run.
If morning (or all day!) sickness rears its ugly head, a short run might help you feel more normal. To stay energized, fuel up with a carbohydrate-rich snack and fluids about an hour beforehand. And keep in mind, if you’re dehydrated from vomiting or can’t keep food down, don’t force yourself to go running.
What to Expect in the Second Trimester
The second trimester is often called the “honeymoon phase” of pregnancy. First trimester fatigue and nausea have likely dissipated, but your bump is still relatively small. If you feel well, the second trimester is a great time to continue your running routine.
As you enter the middle of your pregnancy, tendons and ligaments will loosen to make room for a growing uterus and baby. Many women experience the common, but uncomfortable round ligament pains during the second trimester. These sharp pains usually strike the abdomen or hip area and can be exacerbated by running. If you experience pain and aren’t sure what’s causing it, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
What to Expect Third Trimester
In the final months of pregnancy, many women start to feel very uncomfortable. As long as you feel up to it, there’s no reason to stop running, but there are a few extra precautions to keep in mind.
As your uterus grows, it will start putting more pressure on your bladder. Combined with the jostling motion of running, you may find yourself looking for a bathroom. Accept that mid-run potty breaks are the new normal and plan your running routes around them.
Weight gain and a belly bump will shift your center of gravity forward and make you less steady on your feet. To prevent falls, stay alert for uneven terrain like dips or cracks in the sidewalk. A treadmill or track might be the perfect route for late pregnancy runs!
Finally, as you near your due date, it’s a smart move to go running with a buddy or bring a cell phone. If your water breaks or you start feeling contractions, you’ll need assistance.
So before you lace up your sneakers, remember to get your doctor’s okay, adjust expectations, and most importantly enjoy the miles with your new little running buddy!
Megan is a writer, RRCA certified running coach, and new mom living and training in rural upstate New York. She competed in DIII track and cross-country at Wesleyan University and now focuses on the half-marathon and marathon distance.
Main Photo Credit: CHURN/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Natalia Deriabina/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Golubovy/shutterstock.com