As a female runner, I’ve often wondered how I would handle running should I ever become pregnant. After doing quite a bit of digging around online, I quickly realized that there’s a great deal of contradictory information out there!
Decades ago, exercise of any form was discouraged. Back then, doctors advised women to keep their heart rate under 140. Now, it’s generally thought safe to exercise during complication free pregnancies, as long as you feel comfortable.
There are some genuine concerns regarding how exercise could affect the developing child. When you run, your body sends less blood to your internal organs to send more blood and oxygen to your legs. Reduced blood flow to the fetus may be seen in extreme prolonged exercise. Other fears are overheating, if mom’s body can’t regulate her temperature in hot weather, or dehydration. Research has found those fears to be unfounded!
Dr. James Clapp III, author of “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy,” is debunking the prevailing conservative stance. He tracked the effects of frequent (five or more times per week), prolonged (30- to 90-minute) bouts of high-intensity (65% to 90% of maximum capacity), weight-bearing exercise on competitive runners and aerobic dance instructors.
Dr. Clapp found that these pregnant athletes’ bodies were not only conditioned to handle the physical changes that occur from more strenuous workouts — such as increased heart rates, higher body temperatures, stress on muscles and ligaments, and reduced levels of oxygen and glucose — but that they had easier, healthier pregnancies when they continued these activities.
I spoke with a few bloggers about their experiences with running while pregnant and they had a wide range of feedback!
Mom of two and social worker, holistic health counselor & RRCA certified running coach.
“I ran through both pregnancies, including the day I delivered my second. My midwives were fine with me continuing to do what I had done before, but at less intensity. I had been running 50-60 mile weeks in marathon training, so I cut back to about half that and continued gradually slowing down as my pregnancy progressed and as my body asked me to! By the end I was jogging very slowly with walk breaks but it felt good to keep moving!”
Mom of two and registered dietitian.
“My midwives were supportive of my running during both pregnancies. They told me to be more cautious of road conditions and safety, as well as listening to my body twinges that may be alarming. As I approached my third trimester, we would we talk about decreasing mileage or including walk breaks. We made my plan together but ultimately they trusted me to make good running decisions for me and my baby. I set my half marathon PR when I was 7 weeks pregnant (before all the nausea hit!) Then toward the end of the second trimester things started to slow down – it was a natural thing for my body. I also took walk breaks when needed, especially if round ligament pain occurred. For my second pregnancy I bought a maternity support belt and then helped me run longer into the pregnancy.”
Mom of two and ACSM Health Fitness Specialist.
“I unfortunately experienced contractions and bleeding early on that coincided with running, and had to stop at 19 weeks. It was so hard to stop, I felt like EVERYONE else around me was suddenly a runner and it was all anyone talked about! But I continued power walking 3-5 miles at a time to help keep up with physical activity, and it made a world of difference in my labor, delivery, and recovery. My advice is to listen to and respect your body. Running while pregnant is certainly doable for some women – but not for all. If you are one of those women who has to temporarily give up running, don’t beat yourself up. It doesn’t make you any less of a runner or a mother. In the end, the time you took off will feel like just a tiny blip on the radar, and of course, the baby is SO worth it!”
The best advice everyone had? Listen to your body!
Don’t assume that you have to stop exercising just because you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor and, assuming you’re having a normal pregnancy, you should be able to continue working out at a slightly lowered level of intensity until it’s time to pack your bags for the hospital!
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Erica House has her Masters in Psychology and has been teaching at the University level since 2007. She is certified as a Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine as well as a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. After quitting smoking and maintaining a 50 pound weight loss she became passionate about helping others on their journey to lifelong happiness and wellness.