Running During Pregnancy



In pregnancy, my decisions are no longer my own. Everything I do, eat, or drink affects my child. It's a time of selflessness and a time to put another person's life ahead of my own. That being said, pregnancy doesn't mean giving up who I am. It doesn't mean lounging around and eating ice cream for nine months.  It doesn't mean eating for two constantly.  On the contrary, a healthy pregnancy means incorporating exercise into my routine every day. Fortunately for me, this was already my life, and I value upholding a healthy lifestyle despite my changing body.  

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) updated its guidelines in 2002 and reaffirmed them in 2009:  "Pregnant women without contraindications should be encouraged to engage in regular, moderate-intensity physical activity 30 minutes or more, on most, if not all days of the week."  Exercise improves circulation, helps maintain a healthy pregnancy weight, improves mood, reduces risk of gestational diabetes, not to mention creating gains in strength, endurance, and postural control that are all essential for childbirth.  Researchers find that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy are more likely to have babies that are more fit, smarter, and better able to soothe themselves.

I ran 3 races during my first trimester and I've already done 3 more during second trimeter!  I hope to keep running/jogging for as long as possible during my pregnancy as long as I feel well and I don't have any contraindications.  To me, being a good mother means sharing health and wellness with my baby even before he or she is born.  But being a healthy mother also means that running takes on a new purpose and identity.  Runners World magazine suggests that running during pregnancy is more about maintenance than improvement or strenuous training, and I completely agree with this.  Now is not the time to set a PR in a half marathon or sign up for an ultra race up a steep mountain.  Now is the time to change my goals and put competitiveness on the back burner while focusing primarily on health.

Every pregnancy is different, unique, and individualized, as is every baby.  But these are my personal tips for successful running and working out during pregnancy:
  • Change your priorities: The goal should be promoting healthy motherhood and a well-balanced lifestyle, not winning the gold in my age group.  
  • This is absolutely not the time for weight loss.  Bring a few extra snacks if running for more than 40 minutes.
  • Maintain constant awareness of feelings and symptoms. Mama-to-be should be able to talk in a few words while exercising.  This is not the time to "push through the pain" or ignore body signals.
  • There doesn't seem to be an expert consensus on healthy heart rate during exercise while pregnant.  The previous guidelines suggest 135 or 140 bpm, and I have also read that anything under 160 bpm is safe.  Heart rate is important because a higher heart rate during pregnancy means increased blood flow through the placenta, which can lead to a tear.  I always wear a heart rate monitor when I run.
  • Exercise for time, not miles, and walking is perfectly fine.  Don't exercise past the point of fatigue.
  • Avoid extreme heat.  Sitting in the hot tub has a known link to miscarriage, and strenuous exercise in hot weather is just as bad.  Wear a hat, stay cool, or walk if getting overheated.
  • Mix it up, and be well balanced.  I only run about one or two days a week, and I try to incorporate strengthening, yoga, biking, stretching, hiking, and other activities on the off days.
  • Afternoons post-run need to be nap time, and this was especially true during my first trimester (and will most likely be an issue again as I grow larger in the next few months).  The biggest difference I've noticed is that I don't have the energy to go from one athletic activity to the next.  If I'm going to run, I probably won't get off my butt for at least couple hours afterwards.  Gone are the days of multiple workouts in the same day.
  • Practice active recovery and deep breathing.  Physical activity can be good preparation for the strenuous nature of labor and delivery, so I find it helpful to practice relaxation of the facial muscles, slowing down my breathing rate, and thinking peaceful thoughts even while still running.
  • Finally, talk to Baby during exercise!  You both are in this together!

And here's a summary of the races that Baby and I have done together so far...



1)  Los Lunas "King of the Hill" 5K Trail Run (March 12th):  There were a lot of rolling hills and the biggest challenge was keeping my heart rate within my goal zone.  Active recovery was important.  I felt great but ended up walking the uphills just to be safe.

Los Lunas Trail Run

5K and 10K finishers!


2)  Amy Biehl "Trailblazer" 5K (March 19th):  It was absolutely freezing that morning!  The challenge was restoring circulation to my hands.  I maintained about a 10 minute mile pace and couldn't wait to warm up afterwards!

Amy Biehl school

Trying to warm up!

Sun starting to come up during the early morning race


3)  Pecos "Amanda Run" 10K (April 9th):  This is the only 10K I've done during pregnancy so far.  My two running buddies joined me and we always have fun at this race.  The endurance of running 70+ minutes was a challenge, but I brought snacks and paced myself.

Baby's First 10K

Lovely morning!

Running past the Pecos Monument

4)  Wood Gormley "Panther Run" 5K (April 30th):  The first half of this race is mostly uphill, and again I had to watch my heart rate carefully and walk some of the inclines.  I may have had a faster start if I had warmed up a little more beforehand.  I had several friends who ran this one too, and the camaraderie always makes a race more enjoyable!

Wood Gormley Panther Run

Running Buddies!




5)  Santa Fe Striders "Run Around" 5K (May 21st):  This was the annual spring race for the Girls on the Run organization.  It was challenging for me this year because I was having some cramping and dealing with dehydration as the weather started getting warmer.  I walked a few times and had probably my slowest 5K time on record, but I'm still happy to have done it and listened to my body.

Starting line for the Santa Fe Run Around at the plaza

5K finishers!

6)  RunFit "Cherry Garcia" 5K (June 18th):  The high temperature in Albuquerque that day was 99 degrees, and it was still a balmy 97 degrees at 7 p.m. when this evening 5K started.  My running buddy and I ran the entire time but we certainly didn't set any records!  (I think I placed 10th out of 15 in my age group... yikes.)  I really enjoyed doing an evening race and felt slightly more energetic.  The highlight of this race was eating ice cream afterwards! 

Cherry Garcia 5K

Sandia Mountains in the distance during the last stretch

Enjoying some post-race Ben & Jerry's!



I hope to add a few more short races to my list during the second half of my pregnancy!

Stay tuned for some updates on gardening, reading, and early summer fun in Santa Fe! :-)




Comments

  1. Thanks for posting about exercising while pregnant without being "preachy" - I appreciated these tips and agree everyone is different. I liked napping more while pregnant, but did get my workouts in! They actually helped me sleep better at night :)

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