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, the 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 about road conditions and safety, as well as listening to my body twinges that may be alarming. As I approached my third trimester, we would 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 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 have 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!”
Protect your ankles and joints from sprains and strains by investing in proper, well-fitted running shoes.
Hormones such as relaxin increase the laxity of your muscles, joints, and ligaments. While it is good for when you’re in labor, it also makes you more vulnerable and prone to injuries.
The extra pregnancy weight also puts a lot of pressure on your knees, causing joint pain.
That’s why during pregnancy, a comfortable and stable pair of shoes is crucial, especially if you want to keep up with your running routine and reduce the risk of unwanted injuries.
Another must-have for pregnant runners is a sports bra that will provide maximum comfort and support. It may be extremely uncomfortable to train with heavy breasts, but a high-quality sports bra can make may a difference.
Also, investing in a sturdy and supportive bra can help relieve breast pain during exercising and running.
As your belly keeps growing when you’re pregnant, eventually it may get really hard and frustrating to run with a bouncing belly.
In order to make running more comfortable, it is recommended to wear a belly support band. It can help maintain proper posture, reduce pelvic pressure and relieve pain and discomfort that may occur when running.
Note: The aim of exercising and running in pregnancy should be to stay fit and healthy rather than break records. Don’t over-train and listen to your body signs. Belly support band and sports bra are quite helpful for active moms-to-be, however, sometimes it is better to slow down on running. The best alternatives to running during the pregnancy are walking and swimming.
As a runner, you know how important hydration is, just don’t lose this beneficial for you and your baby habit. Make sure to drink before, during and after the run. Proper hydration will help you keep fit and support the seamless transportation of essential nutrients and vitamins to your baby.
Finally, staying hydrated helps keep your skin healthy and prevent pregnancy stretch marks.
Note: Dehydration reduces blood flow to the uterus and can cause cramping and premature contractions. The first sign of dehydration is if your urine is getting darker. Your urine should be of a light yellow, but if it’s amber or light brown color, that means you’re dehydrated.
As the baby grows, you’ll notice more and more pressure on the bladder, making you need to pee more often. For this reason, try to find the locations of the public restrooms along your route, so you can stop to relieve yourself.
If you don’t want to use public restrooms, just make sure to run not far from home. Maybe there is a running court or a small park near your house, so you can use your bathroom whenever you need.
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!
PaceBuilders™ Online Run Coaching - PaceBuilders™ is a premium online run coaching program for runners of any experience level. With two unique, affordable coaching options to choose from, you can learn to run faster, run farther and run injury free. Inside PaceBuilders, you can work directly with experienced, RRCA/USATF certified running coaches or you can choose to follow our self-coached program and take advantage of unlimited access to all of our training assets including training plans, runner-specific strength training plans, nutrition information, mindset, race strategy, pacing guidance, LIVE monthly Q&A sessions, private client community and more!
Runner's Toolkit - Get access to 30 days of free coaching tips by email and get your #1 running question personally answered by me, just for signing up. Plus get free access to our private Facebook community where other RunBuzz community members gather for support, camaraderie and general shenanigans.
Find out how you can support RunBuzz's mission to bring quality running content (educational, inspirational, etc) to the running community. Did you know it takes approximately 8-10 hours of work to research, record, edit and release each podcast episode? Help support us in our mission to make every runner regardless of age, size and ability a better runner. Your support helps keep future RunBuzz podcast episodes ad-free and new episodes coming.