When I was pregnant with Cadence, I had a hard time finding resources that provided very clear guidelines for running through pregnancy at the level that I wanted to run. Most online resources will suggest 30 minutes of cardio a few times a week. What do you do when you are accustomed to the marathon and beyond? The most helpful thing to me with both pregnancies has been anecdotal information shared amongst runner friends.
My biggest motivator in sharing my running journey through pregnancy is just to add to the story and hopefully help a pregnant runner feel more confident in her decision to do what is best for her and her baby through pregnancy. In all cases, find a doctor who aligns with your goals and value systems, and then follow the doctor’s orders to keep baby healthy.
I ran through pregnancy with Cadence, so I knew generally what was possible. A book that I re-read as confirmation of my pregnant running journey is Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Eric Clapp. Another book that I enjoyed is The Pregnant Athlete by Brandi Dion.
Every running journey is different, and that’s part of what is so fun about our little running momma community. I have received so much love and support from my run friends and family, and I hope that you feel the same love too. No comparisons or judgments, just support for the journey and the privilege to grow babies and run (or walk or sit on the couch :).
Here are my Callie pregnancy running stats:
- avg weekly miles 43
- avg distance per run 7 mi
- avg garmin 8:55 (with lots of stops at the end!)
- 850 miles outside (many of which were with the single stroller)
- 771 on treadmill
- 1621 total
Throughout all of my pregnancy, I maintained a strength program 3x a week, typically 30-60 minutes long. I have a history of ab separation and a sort-of hernia, so I met with a women’s specialist PT early in my pregnancy to make sure that I was doing everything correctly. She advised me to lower my weight so that I did not put too much internal pressure on my core. I lowered weights and increased reps. I also learned that slowing my motions helped to add a little resistance since I didn’t have the weights to do that. Strengthening the transverse abdominis was very important to help hold my abs together, as the rectus abdominis sort of shuts down as the belly is stretched. I really think that maintaining strength work throughout pregnancy was so valuable in allowing me to continue to run throughout pregnancy and have minimal discomfort (other than the obvious huge belly).
Below are some interesting plots showing how the pregnant runner’s gait changes. The data comes from my Milestone Pod data (now owned by Zwift).
First Trimester: Week 0 through 12
Biggest challenge: I miscarried in early December and then got pregnant during my next cycle. Needless to say, I was pretty distraught and anxious when I got pregnant with Callie. My husband had a really demanding work project and was gone for weeks. Solo parenting, nausea, fatigue, and anxiety made for a pretty tough first trimester. Not to mention that my husband came home to a CRAZY wife.
Weight gain can be tough for a lot of women, but my biggest goal was just to not lose muscle. I gained more weight in the first trimester with both of my pregnancies, but thinking in terms of strength really helped me just embrace what was happening to my body.
Running highlight: Jan 6th. I was barely pregnant. Like the lines were so faint that I had to move the stick in the light to see it. But I could feel it pretty immediately in my running. I was at a cabin with girlfriends and snuck out for a trail run. The first days of pregnancy when it’s still a secret to everyone but your closest friends are such a surreal time. Being out there on the trails and feeling my heart rate escalate was such a confirming feeling that this was really happening. The air was so crisp and I felt so much relief after just miscarrying.
Second Trimester: Week 13 through 27
At week 18 we had the anatomy scan and the results concluded that I had placenta previa. I was told not to worry (right?!) and that they would check me again at 28 weeks to see if it resolved. In ~95% of the cases, placenta previa resolves itself, but it’s still tough for any runner to hear. I was told that I could continue doing everything as normal, but this definitely put a lot of fear in me early in pregnancy. I hoped to stay active throughout pregnancy and I did not want a c-section unless it was necessary.
Because of the miscarriage in early December, I chose not to share with anyone other than close friends until week 20. My husband teased me that it was so so obvious to everyone that I was pregnant, but I tried to hide it in IG photos as well as I could. The nausea had subsided and my energy was higher. I really felt mostly good in the second trimester except for the obvious pregnancy symptoms like gaining weight and having gait changes. To help my body feel it’s best with weight gain and gait changes, I switched to the Hoka Clifton, and it was such a nice change for my feet. By the end of the second trimester, Cliftons were pretty much all I could wear.
Running highlight: Our family met up with Sara (@therunningwife) for a beach trip to Hilton Head. I had met Sara in December of 2014 before either of us had kids. The trip together in May was a dream, and I loved all of our stroller miles together. Sara is such a beautiful person and her family is so special.
We also flew to Calgary Canada to visit my husband’s sister and family. I love running with Jon, and my sister in law was so gracious to watch Cadence and give us time every day to run together. The views were beautiful and the time alone with Jon running was really special.
Third Trimester: Week 28 through 37
Biggest challenge: I had a few days where I felt a lot of pelvic pressure, but overall, I had a really good running experience throughout all of pregnancy. I did find that just because I had one bad day, that didn’t mean that the rest of my running days would be tough. As the weeks progressed, I definitely had to run from bathroom to bathroom, so the route mostly stayed the same. Hills were tougher near the end, so I had no problem walking when I needed to.
Running highlight: My sweet running (and life) friend Katie also visited us at week 30. I called it my friend baby moon. 🙂 We met up with Kat and Jackie (also pregnant) for a run around Atlanta, and this run will also be meaningful for the friendships and shared bathroom stops along the way.
Family runs are my favorite. Most Saturdays, we would pack up the stroller and run to the farmer’s market with Cadence. She’d get a popsicle and play on the playground, and then we’d head home. So much gratefulness to be with my family and to still be able to run. I had been afraid that I would not be able to keep up with stroller miles with Cadence in pregnancy, but thankfully it was never really an issue. If anything, it was a counter balance to my ever-expanding belly and provided a never ending supply of snacks and water.
Callie was born at 37 weeks, and she was perfectly healthy. I ran all the way through pregnancy and went to a bootcamp the day before she was born.
Pregnancy and Running
Not everything about pregnancy with Callie was easy, but I think it really helped that this was my second time to be pregnant, and I knew there was nothing to prove by
Here are a few interesting facts about pregnancy running:
- The placenta grows stronger for running mommas so that it can provide nutrients to baby even while momma is out there pounding the pavement. This means that if you run in the beginning of pregnancy, but then stop, your baby *may* be on the hefty side.
- Babies who are born to mommas who exercised through pregnancy are able to handle stresses of labor better. Running is a stress for the baby (just like lifting weights is a stress on our bodies to make us stronger). Studies show that if complications arise during labor, babies who are accustomed to exercise release less stress hormone than babies whose mommas did not exercise in pregnancy.
- Blood volume increases for momma 40-50% during pregnancy. This can be an added boost postpartum and many women see an increase in aerobic fitness postpartum as a result. Just ask the Russians.
- Statistically, babies are born a little earlier and have a little less body fat to mommas who exercise through pregnancy.
- Statistically, there are less complications in labor to mommas who exercise through pregnancy.
- Building aerobic strength through cross training is a great way to stay fit for a postpartum comeback even if you aren’t able to run through pregnancy. Gait changes during pregnancy decrease efficiency, so running pregnant isn’t providing the same benefit as far as neuromuscular adaptations.