Running Tips – Running Through Pregnancy

Running through pregnancy is a humbling experience.

It starts out easily enough. If you’re like me, you have a few short weeks of feeling totally normal, before the first trimester nausea and morning sickness begins. Then, once you get past that stage of feeling ill, your body is not all that different yet. You may have put on a few pounds, but not enough to make your normal running routine feel that much different. Maybe you’re dealing with a little more tiredness than usual – it could be hard to get up and get going for your run, or you just find that 5 miles is as tiring as 8 miles used to be.

Then the physical changes in your body start to kick in, one by one. Your boobs get bigger and it’s not like you have a bunch of sports bras in a range of different sizes lying around in your underwear drawer, right? Your belly juts out a little more. You might find yourself tugging at your top to try to pull it down over your exposed skin. You may feel constricted by your waistband. You have more blood rushing around in your veins, which makes those hills just a little bit harder. And you just feel heavier on your feet. Your pace is slower, your runs may be shorter. And if you’re lucky enough to add hormonal fluctuations into the mix, a simple loop of your favorite trail might bring about blinding joy, or tears of frustration and sadness.

 

BEFORE YOUR RUN

Make sure you’re stable. No, not emotionally – if anything, being an emotional or hormonal wreck might be helped by you getting out for a run. Take some time to do a little work on your stabilization muscles before you go out for your run. These have definitely helped me feel stronger and more ready to tackle my run, but even if that’s not the case for you, they are still great exercises for pregnancy, so timing them before you run can get you into a good routine of incorporating them into your week. Great moves to try include plank, side plank, dead bugs, quadripeds and bridges.

Set aside your set-in-stone plan. I tried continuing with my training plan through my first and second trimesters. It was an exercise in frustration. I felt bad if I missed workouts and defeated when I couldn’t complete something. Eventually, I accepted that I needed to listen to my body day by day and just take what I had to offer on the day. (There’s that adaptation I mentioned earlier). You want to go out for a leisurely 5 mile run? See how it feels. Maybe after 2 miles you feel like you can’t go another step. Or maybe you feel like doing some faster intervals and you know that 5 miles with a little speed thrown in might be pushing it. Go out and see what your body wants to do and don’t feel like you need to follow any kind of plan.

Make sure you’re fueled. Eating before your run is usually a good idea, although when I used to go out early in the morning, I would often run on an empty stomach. I wouldn’t do that while pregnant. Your blood sugar levels are really important to maintain steadily when you’re pregnant, so you want to try to eat something about half an hour before running. If your only time to run is very early and you can’t fit in time for a snack, it’s important to take some fuel with you, even if you’re not going out for a long run. And don’t forget to refuel as soon as you can when you’re done, with a good mix of carbs and protein. Low fat chocolate milk, fruit and yogurt, an apple with peanut butter – you know what works best for you.

DURING YOUR RUN

BYO Water. Since both my pregnancies have been during winter, I became used to carrying water with me on my runs. The local parks shut the drinking fountains down so the pipes don’t freeze and while I wouldn’t bother if I wasn’t pregnant and just going out for a quick run, there’s no way I’m going anywhere without water right now. Hydration is super important while you’re pregnant and it’s better to be safe than unbearably parched and a long way from home.

Dress for the occasion. It’s time to layer – your body temperature is a little higher than usual and one of the worst things you can do is overheat when you’re exercising during pregnancy. Even when it’s cold out, I make sure I wear layers that can be adjusted or removed if I get too hot – think zippered tops, arm warmers under your long sleeves instead of a jacket, tights with ankle zips and pockets to stash gloves.

Dress for the occasion, part two. Personally, I’ve found that my regular running tights work fine during pregnancy – I just don’t tie the waistband and let it sit under the bump, but longer, stretchier tops are a must for me. I’m a For Two Fitness Ambassador, so I’m biased, but I really do love their running tanks and long-sleeved tees. They are so soft and comfortable and actually feel like a real piece of workout clothing, rather than just a cheap throwaway that will only last a few months at best. However, I’ve also had good luck with Old Navy’s maternity activewear, specifically their half-zip long sleeve tops, also made from wicking material – they’re a good fit for me and inexpensive. In terms of bras, I made my regular sports bras work (with a smaller size Champion crop top bra over top to hold me over) for as long as possible, but once I hit the third trimester, I needed a good quality sports bra in a new size. Just one (those puppies are expensive, after all!) because even if you’re washing it more than often, it’s not like it has to last you as long as your regular sized bras will. The bonus is the new size will probably work for a while postpartum if you’re breastfeeding, too.

Use the run for kegels. It’s lucky that I work out regularly, because when I’m running or exercising is the only time I even think about doing kegels. (This, despite being a pre-post-natal certified personal trainer who advises all her preggo clients to do the pelvic floor exercises on the daily. Oops). When I’m running, it’s easy to remember to do them because I’m already focusing on tucking my tailbone under a little to counteract the pelvic tilt that starts happening with the bump growth. I often try holding a kegel all the way up a hill, or do them the same way you might do a fartlek style interval run – pick a spot in the distance and engage the pelvic floor until you get there. I’ve been better about doing these during this pregnancy, after the horror of the first few postpartum runs after my first – nobody warned me about the peeing while you run. Nobody. 

Keep it Tight! My husband still thinks it’s hilarious that I used the #keepittight hashtag when I reviewed PRO Compression marathon socks. Every now and again out of nowhere he’ll look at me and say, “Don’t forget to keep it tight, bro.” I think he thinks he’s married to a meathead sometimes. Or a running nerd. Or both. In any event, YES to compression during pregnancy. I have been living in my compression socks and calf sleeves, especially in the third trimester. I think it was when I was about 16 weeks pregnant that I went to put on a pair of compression pants and realized they were DONE for the rest of this process. Happily, the socks still fit. And while I am not a big fan of wearing them during running while not pregnant, that’s changed now I’m carrying more weight and have more blood pumping around my veins.

But not too tight. It’s always a good idea to cool down, stretch and roll out after running, but more so during pregnancy, Two areas to focus on specifically are your hip flexors and your pectorals, both of which can become super tight from the change in your body’s alignment. Here are my favorite stretches for each of these areas:

 

Comments

  1. Yes to all of this!!! Especially the fueling before you leave advice. Made that mistake one time, and it was a hard lesson to learn!!! I’ll never forget after having my kiddo how swelled my legs were (C-sections do that to a gal I guess) and when we got home I convinced my husband to help me put on compression socks…but I had to put on HIS because my legs were THAT swollen! EEK! I lived in my compression socks, especially toward the end when I experienced moderate swelling from heat. These are spot on tips, thank you for sharing!
    Kristin Miller recently posted…Henry: 8 MonthsMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      It’s funny, I didn’t think my feet and legs were that swollen until I started wearing my compression socks and sleeves more at the beginning of the third trimester and I suddenly realized how much tighter they were! I’m hoping it’s helping me prevent varicose veins as well. 😉

  2. Great post! I ran through most of my pregnancy with my 1st, but with my 2nd, things got really uncomfortable really fast. I miss it!
    Joanna @Makingmine recently posted…i’ve got nothin’ but love for YoBabyMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      It’s funny how each pregnancy is different, isn’t it? I remember really missing it after I had my son, before I got clearance to run again. Then the first few times I went out were awful, no-good, terrible runs!! But it’s amazing how quickly you get back into your groove.

  3. Great tips!!!
    My DR made me stop fairly early during my first pregnancy – not sure why other than the fact that Chris kept telling him that I didn’t just run, I ran hard.
    My 2nd pregnancy I ran till about 30 weeks and then it just wasn’t comfortable. I still did aerobics (teaching) and the elliptical until 34 weeks when Hunter mad an early appearance!
    Kim recently posted…Taking ActionMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Thanks, Kim! This time around, I’m not running as far as I was when I was pregnant the first time. About 3 miles is my limit right now, but more like 2!

  4. So much great advice here. Back when I was pregnant (wow, almost 15 yrs ago first time!) I was an anomaly running through pregnancy and had to figure it out as I went. I would have loved this post back then!
    misszippy recently posted…#TeamShorts vs. #TeamSkirtMy Profile

  5. I am saving this post because my biggest fear about starting a family is that I will lose running as my #1 hobby. I feel like it’s something that defines me so it’s weird to think of my life without running for ~9 months. I’m actually more scared for running after having a baby – at least pregnancy is a totally valid reason for taking some time off.
    Emilie recently posted…Currently {February}My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Running after having a baby is such a great way to get some me-time! Even if for some reason you can’t run during pregnancy, in the grand scheme of things it’s only 9 months off. I’m sure you’ll be fine! 🙂

  6. About the compression socks? Is it a good idea to wear these if you are starting to run and are overweight but not pregnant?

    Enjoyed your post, and the humour!!

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Thanks Carol! People wear them running whether they’re pregnant or not – I actually tried them out non-pregnant over the summer, so I wasn’t a fan of running with them because it was an extra layer in the heat, you know? But I’ve always loved them for a recovery aid after running. My advice is just to try them out for a couple of runs and see how they feel!

      • Just finally got warm enough for me to try running outside again. I tried the compression socks and did not mind them. I talked to my doctor and she thinks it is a good idea. Thanks for the tip

  7. I’m new to your blog, but couldn’t agree MORE about all your tips! I’m currently 28 weeks with my third and this is the third pregnancy I’ve run through. Although I learned a LOT from my second pregnancy because running too late in to pregnancy and too soon after landed me in physical therapy for a nearly prolapsed bladder and a severely weakened pelvic floor. The only advice I’d add is to see and speak to a physical therapist who specializes in womens health BEFORE running through pregnancy. Your doctor can only offer so much advice: their specialty is pregnancy, labor and delivery. But a PT can really hone in on some helpful information regarding all of the muscles that support your uterus during pregnancy and what running can do to them. It is a must. I’ve had so many comments on my blog from women who can’t run anymore because of the damage they did to their pelvic floor running through pregnancy. It’s better to be informed.
    Sarah @runfargirl recently posted…The Mommy Interviews Feature & GiveawayMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Thanks so much for visiting, Sarah! 🙂 That’s great advice to add. You should check out my Fit Mama Friday feature on Jenelle – she stopped running during her second pregnancy on the advice of her PT, because she was having groin and pelvic pain issues that they put down to pelvic floor pressure from running during pregnancy. It actually ended up being a tendonitis issue, but her PT’s advice was really smart and helped keep her healthy! http://finefitday.com/2014/09/fit-mama-friday-meet-jenelle.html

  8. Great post and YES to kegels! I have done them daily since I was pregnant with my first child. I do them while I do my squat stretch before and after my wod. Our Bradley Method instructor told us the analogy of a hammock vs. a slide for child birth and post pregnancy, and that has resonated in my head forever. I can still picture her saying it to us, which motivates me to keep doing my kegels even after I have given birth!
    Melissa @ Fit ‘n’ Well Mommy recently posted…10 Chocolate Desserts For Valentine’s Day (Healthy and Not-So-Healthy Ones!)My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      That is awesome – you are waaaay better about kegels than me! I definitely have been doing them more often during this pregnancy, though, so I’m hoping it will make a difference in recovery this time around.

  9. Love love love! I had this weird mental block for a while where I kept picturing myself falling and my water breaking so I took about a month off. I hated it, but I think I kinda needed it too. Now I’m able to do one minute run/walk intervals… A long way from marathon training, but doing what I can!

    Oh kegels… I so haven’t been keeping up with mine! I need to get on that… Not too much more time left!
    Caroline recently posted…Bump 2.0: Second Trimester = Straight Craziness!!My Profile

  10. Stephanie says:

    I am an avid running. Ran my first full marathon in March and found out I was pregnant in April. I have a toddler and I feel absolutely defeated. I want to continue to run as long as my body will let me but I have had a really hard time finding the motivation. My max at this point is 4 miles and that is a struggle. Mind you I live in South Florida and it is soo hot here right now. I have been just walking with my daughter and my mother in law, but hoping to get back at it now that the first trimester is over and I am feeling better! Good job mamas for keeping it up!!

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Oh the first trimester is usually the worst – don’t forget you’re growing a brand new organ (the placenta) as well as a baby! I stopped running for a while from about 9 weeks to 13 weeks when I felt normal again. And the heat is even harder when you’re pregnant. Be kind to yourself and do what you can! And congratulations!

  11. Lissa Terry says:

    Thankyou so much for the great advice! I’m 22 weeks pregnant with baby number 6. But this is the first pregnancy I am trying to continue to run, probably because over the last 4 years running has become such a huge part of my life.As I have been marathon training and feeling super strong, I did not anticipate how much harder running would be, and how much slower I would become running for 2. Your article was so validating! one day at a time sweet Jesus! 😊👍🏻

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