Community Contributor: Whitney Heins, Founder of Mother Runners, Knoxville, TN
When I was in my first trimester with my first child, my husband ran the Leadville 100 ultra-marathon. While he was lost in the woods (literally speaking), I passed the time on a trail run—at probably an altitude of 11,000 feet. I mentioned this to Jake and he went kind of nuts—“Was the baby even getting oxygen? That was not safe!” he said.
To ward off future heated discussions of this ilk, we talked with my doctor who set parameters so that Jake and I both felt like running was good for me and the baby. Those parameters were—if you’re a runner, it’s totally cool—no, it’s actually awesome—to keep running while pregnant. But, do it smart.
My doctor capped my weekly mileage in the second trimester to 70 percent, 50 percent in the beginning of the third trimester, to no more than 25 percent of my pre-pregnancy weekly mileage towards the end of my pregnancy. And, he told me to always run at a conversational pace—or invest in a heart rate monitor to make sure I didn’t go above 140 beats per minute. These bounds helped us remain healthy throughout and are good guidelines for most running mamas-to-be.
Here are some other tips to help you keep moving while pregnant.
Talk to your doctor. Every pregnancy is different. You may have complications or feel different than other Mother Runners. Whatever you do, make sure you tell your doctor that you’re continuing to run so that they can monitor how that’s going for you and the baby. Also ask them to set guidelines like mine did—sharing your running history so they know what your body is used to doing.
Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel good or feels strange. Stop doing it. And, then share with your doctor what’s going on. Mother Runners advise not to push yourself hard. This is not a time to do speedwork and long runs. (Plus there is an increased risk of injury because of the relaxin hormone that’s pumping through your body getting it ready for birth—link). The comfort zone is the place to be when growing a human. Keep it easy. You’ll get it back.
Master the art of peeing outside (or find bathrooms). I cannot tell you how many times I would have to pee (or at least felt like I had to pee) on a 4-mile run. I got really good at pretending like I was tying my shoe but instead was…well, you get the picture. Humility goes out the door in the name of comfort. If this isn’t something you want to do, plan to run near public bathrooms.
Get a maternity support belt. When the extra weight in my tummy got uncomfortable, I invested in the Gabriella Maternity Light Support Belt.It worked wonders taking the pressure off so I could still log slow miles throughout my pregnancies. Also, this is common sense—but make sure you have good supportive shoes.
Manage morning sickness. If you’re dealing with morning sickness and still trying to run—take heart. Our Mother Runners said sipping Gatorade on their runs helped calm their queasy stomachs. Dr. Cole Hosenfeld of Apple Healthcare recommends dropping your mileage by 10 percent to see if your symptoms ease.
Take naps. Your body is working overtime growing a human and chances are your sleep is interrupted by discomfort and having to pee several times a night. Heed those heavy eyes and try to lay down whenever you have the opportunity to rest.
Raid your partner’s closet. This is kind of genius—if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on maternity running clothes, consider raiding your partner’s closet for workout shirts you can wear while your tummy is housing a human.
Have grace. Your body is freaking amazing. It’s built to run and it’s built to have babies. It’s going to be changing and doing what it needs to bring a human into the world. Don’t stress about gaining weight or missing runs. It’s adapting to this major change and it will adapt again after you have your precious baby.
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon this fall. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @themotherrunners