If you’re planning to continue with your running regimen throughout pregnancy, good for you! Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your pregnant body and your growing baby. “Regular exercise not only helps build your muscles, gives you energy and keeps you healthy, but it mentally helps you through the nine months of expected bodily changes,” says Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. She recommends that her pregnant patients try to exercise at least 30-45 minutes, four to seven times per week. Here’s what pregnant runners should know before taking off with their baby-to-be.
Note: Always talk to your doctor before starting any new running or workout routine.
Each trimester will feel a little (or a lot) different.
Each one of the three trimesters in pregnancy presents a different set of physical and emotional circumstances. This, of course, makes running while pregnant more challenging. “Depending on how physical your workout or running routine is will determine any new obstacles or unforeseen problems that come with being pregnant,” explains Dr. Ross. “With each trimester, new hurdles present themselves to anyone who is interested in working out during pregnancy.” Pregnant runners should listen to their bodies throughout the nine months and to never push if something hurts or doesn’t feel right.
Get in a proper warm-up before you run.
Often times, women who’ve been running for years or months jump right into their exercise without stretching or easing their way in. Brooke Taylor, fitness instructor, mom of two, and creator of TF IGNITE and Taylored Fitness doesn’t suggest this. Instead, she recommends a dynamic warmup to move the body and get the heart rate cycling through different zones. “Maybe walk the first quarter of a mile before adding some intervals—walk one minute and then jog 30 seconds until your body starts warming up and can handle the load.”
Your third trimester is the most important time to be active.
Your third trimester might not feel like the ideal time to get moving. After all, you’re likely more swollen and tired than you were in the first two trimesters. But Dr. Ross says it’s no excuse not to exercise. “Running may not be at the top of your list, but it’s a great distraction to get you to the finish line,” she says. “A regular exercise and running routine will help you feel less bloated and swollen, and give you more energy as you head down the home stretch.”
Don’t run when it’s too hot outside.
If you’re someone who runs every day, hot weather might not be an obvious deterrent, but, because heat dissipation can be an issue, Mindy Solkin, founder of The Running Center, recommends working out indoors when it’s too hot and humid. “In addition to the increased risk of overheating after the first trimester, which can cause dehydration, dizziness, and nausea, a body temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit can result in neural tube defects in the fetus,” she says. “Some other consequences of hyperthermia in pregnancy are fetal growth retardation, intrauterine death, and neural abnormality.”
Don’t skip pelvic floor exercises.
While you might not think that it’s important to work out your abdominals when you’re pregnant, Taylor disagrees, adding that performing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy can help you to avoid “pelvic dysfunction” or “incontinence”—two common issues post-delivery. “I typically design programs that engage [the] core [and the] pelvic floor through each stage of the pregnancy to aid in keeping those muscles strong and engaged,” she adds.
Leave time at the end of your workout for a cool down.
“More often than not, moms-to-be are on a mission to get out and be done,” says Taylor. Her advice, even if it cuts into the last five minutes of your workout, is to make sure to stretch. “Static stretches performed after your workouts are a must to elongate the muscles back to their neutral state,” she adds. “The best time to do this is when your muscles are warm and activated from the workout.”
Moms-to-be should feel perfectly safe running. Running while pregnant is a completely normal and healthy activity for most women. Always be sure to listen to your body and remember that each day may feel different.