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Running During Pregnancy

So my last blog was about running after pregnancy. The questions that followed were more about running while pregnant. It seems that there are lots of women getting mixed messages about running while pregnant. Is it safe? The answer is, it depends.

Let me start with I am not an OB/Gyn specialist. I am a podiatrist who specializes in sports medicine. That being said, I am the mother of three girls; and ran a marathon 3 months pregnant with my daughter Caitlin (who is now almost 15). I ran during my first two pregnancies; but during my pregnancy with Sasha, my youngest, I had to stop due to complications. Age definitely was a factor, since I was approaching 40 at the time. Conclusion, talk with your doctor. I can only tell you about my experience and the experiences of many of my patients with running during pregnancy.

Alysia Montano, a former University of California star, ran the 800 meters at the US Track and Field Championships last summer, at the age of 28 and 34 weeks (8 months) pregnant. Her doctor cleared her to run and she ran a slower than her normal, at a steady even pace but finished with a respectable time. Her goal was just to compete.

I ran a marathon pregnant at the age of 31 and 14 weeks pregnant (3 months), but wore a heart rate monitor, and had a Sherpa on his bike checking on me along the course. His job was to make sure I didn’t get dehydrated or have any issues along the way. I finished in a respectable time; not my best, but not my worst!

So what are the recommendations about running while pregnant?

  1. Running is actually good for the Mom and the baby, as long as you are not high risk AND it is part of your normal routine PRIOR to your pregnancy. It is not recommended to start a vigorous exercise program while pregnant.
  2. During your first trimester, you should continue your normal routine; but be mindful of getting over heated. Make sure you stay hydrated and cool.
  3. During your second trimester, time to talk with your doctor. Some women have to stop running because they have weakness in their cervix. This was why in my later pregnancy I had to stop. I was slowed down to a brisk walk. Kegal exercises are also important during the second trimester.
  4. During your second trimester, it is also important to realize that you need to shorten your stride and watch your posture. Hunch back is not a good look; and it puts too much pressure on your knees and feet. This is also the time to change your shoes to at least a half size bigger. You may need wider as well. You may also need a more supportive shoe than what you normally wear. As you start to add bulk to your frame, your feet tend to swell and get a little longer, wider and a little flatter. (This does not change after you delivery – most women stay at least a half size larger in shoe size after pregnancy).
  5. The third trimester is usually where many women stop running just because they are uncomfortable. There are bands that can help with the bulk of your belly; but you want to avoid anything that hampers fetal blood flow. Brisk walking and slow jogging can really be helpful to keep the swelling down in your legs and help in delivery. No studies have shown running is harmful to your baby.
  6. After delivery, it is important to get back to your routine. This helps with your recovery and also can help avoid post partum depression. See my last blogs for tips on getting back out there.

Bottom line: Pregnancy is not the time to start a new running program, but if you are a veteran runner and jus happen to be pregnant; talk to your doctor about continuing to run. Other than woman with cervical weakness, most runners can continue as long as they are mindful of increasing heart rate, over heating and dehydration.

Update on the goal to run 2,015 miles in 2015: Art and I continue to churn out the miles. We are approaching 700 miles this weekend and will be in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga this weekend. Full race report to follow next week.

Run Happy! Run Healthy!