You’re pregnant! Congrats! But, what does that mean for your running goals?
The good news: running while pregnant is safe—if you go about it the right way. Mommas, let’s talk about what’s doable and what’s not.
And, as always, check with your doctor before starting or continuing any workout regimen while pregnant.
How much running is safe during pregnancy?
The amount of running you can safely do during pregnancy varies from person to person. It also depends on your activity level before you got pregnant.
“Running during pregnancy is safe if you’re already a runner and you have your doctor’s clearance. You will probably have to back it down during your third trimester,” says Candice Cunningham, Atlanta-based Aaptiv and personal trainer who specializes in women’s health and fitness, pre and post-natal corrective exercise, and fitness nutrition.
“If you weren’t a runner before, don’t start running during pregnancy.” You want to avoid unnecessary stress on the body.
Determining the intensity of your runs depends on your base fitness. “How long and hard your runs can be depends on the individual and their fitness level; you don’t want to get into max heart rate,” says Cunningham. “You don’t want to cause any type of stress, as that could stress out the baby.”
What about racing?
Running a race during pregnancy probably isn’t a wise idea. “If your heart rate is spiking, so is your baby’s. If you’re struggling to breathe, so is your baby. If you want to do a local 5K fun run, sure! Have fun, but don’t put unnecessary stress on the baby,” said Chris Heuisler, a veteran marathoner, running coach and the National Run Concierge for Westin Hotels (and a dad of two!).
Cunningham agrees: “A 5k, fun-run type would be ok, but definitely not a marathon or half marathon; that would be a lot of stress on your body.”
Don’t go for PRs; pregnancy isn’t the time for pushing your body distance or time wise. You’re creating a human in there. “Just stay away from stress, and stay conscientious of how you feel,” says Cunningham. “If you’re tired, take a day off—even if you wouldn’t normally. Don’t push yourself.”
If racing is your bread and butter, try to take a step back during your pregnancy (Don’t worry, there will be plenty of races to run after your baby is born!). Take pregnancy as an opportunity to do some fun 5k runs with your friends, family, or partner. You never know, that positive running energy could channel to the baby!
Is there anything women can do to ease discomfort?
Especially in the later stages, running can be uncomfortable. Strength exercises and proper gear can help counteract that. “Glute strengthening will take a lot of stress off of your body,” says Cunningham. “Focusing on breathing and really using your diaphragm will help strengthen your core.” Not only will the strength exercises combat the fatigue running can cause, they can also make for easier labor (bonus!).
Along with building strength, pay attention to the gear you’re using. Size appropriately, and don’t forget about your shoes. Many women experience changes in the size of their feet during pregnancy, so you’ll probably have to invest a new pair.
What about fuel?
The old saying holds true: you’re eating for two. You’ll have to be conscientious of your body’s changing needs. “Keep in mind that there’s a baby inside you. It’s very important to stay hydrated, and make sure you’re eating enough,” says Cunningham. “Pay attention to how your body feels. If you’re not always fueling correctly, getting help from a nutritionist wouldn’t hurt.”
Are there benefits to running during pregnancy?
Staying fit during your pregnancy is one of the best things you can do—for your baby and you. A healthy mom = a healthier baby.
In fact, a recent study published by the Institute of Movement Sciences and Sports Medicine at the University of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, found that “regular physical activity has proven to result in marked benefits for mother and fetus.”
Even though you may have to step down your running, remaining active is far better than not during pregnancy.