Ask Coach Jenny
Q: How can I continue to run safely through my pregnancy? ~Elisabeth
A: Best wishes to you, Elisabeth, on your pregnancy. It sounds as if you’ve been running regularly, which is great because most doctors encourage women to continue their exercise routines through the pregnancy with modifications to effort levels along the way. That said, the first step is to talk it through with your doctor to confirm you’re both on the same page, as every journey to motherhood is unique.
Although it can be a safe activity during pregnancy, the key truly is to re frame your thinking from running or training for a race for you, to running for the baby, for you and for the delivery. In a way, it is like training for a race in that there is a specific date; there is a progression in the growth of the baby and the more consistent you are with your exercise, the stronger you’ll feel along the way, both while delivering and recovering post delivery.
The difference is in your running. When training for the Baby Marathon (aka your due date), your body is going to be adapting to the demands of growing and fueling a baby versus the demands of your running workout progression. For example, your heart rate naturally increases at rest and activity to provide oxygen to your little one. This may seem like you’re getting out of shape, but you’re not. You’re breathing for two and that takes more effort (kind of like running faster takes more oxygen, too). So ultimately, when you’re running your pace will also be off as you progress through each trimester.
Now, before we get all down about that, let’s think about the perks.
- That also means your cardiovascular system will grow stronger because you’re running for two!
- Another happy outcome is in knowing your mental strength will quadruple post baby.
- And let’s not forget to mention you’re going to be a great running role model for your baby.
Perks aside, it is going to be different than your normal running routine. The goal isn’t to maintain your pace or mileage, but to run, run-walk and walk to stay active as you make your way to the big day.
Here are a few tips for running safely through your pregnancy.
You’ll be fine for the first month or two in your go-to running apparel, but when the time is right, shop for a few core pieces of apparel, including bra, shorts or tights and tops. There are a lot of wonderful apparel companies that cater to active moms to be. Plus, it’s a mini reward for staying active.
Exercise by your body and your breath rather than a pace or plan.
The old rule of thumb for exercise efforts while pregnant was to keep your heart rate below 140 beats per minute. This was changed because that number means something different for every woman (high intensity for one, low for another) and it didn’t convey the right guideline.
The goal is to keep your effort level easy to moderate and avoid high-intensity activity. One really easy way to monitor this while moving is to listen to your breath and tune into your body. If you can talk comfortably, you’re in the right zone. If you struggle to get words out and can hear your breath (reaching for air) you’re going at too hard an effort – slow it down. One great test you can easily do on the run is to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or any few sentences you know by heart (a prayer, poem). You’ll know when you reach the end of the poem if you’re in the right zone or not.
Create your own running recipe.
Remember progressing in this case means keeping that easy to moderate effort level as you progress through pregnancy. This is different for every runner. Some women can run all the way through, while others go from running, to run-walking intervals, to walk-running, to walking. Some women even have a different running routine for each child they’ve had.
This is not a pass or fail – there aren’t any brownie points for running all the way through. But you will earn bonus “wise runner” points for tuning in, listening and modifying your program as you go. It will feel better, you’ll want to keep doing it, and it will be a great tool to use when returning to running once the baby is born (more on that in another blog).
Adjust, modify and progress.
In order to keep in the easy to moderate effort zone as you progress, you’ll need to modify your running program. Again, this means something different for every woman, but in general here are four progressive strategies you can use to run in the right zone all the way through.
- Continuous running at an easy effort zone.
- Run-Walking Intervals – incorporate walking intervals within your run to reduce impact on your body and keep your effort level in the safe zone (easy to moderate). Example: walking warm up 5 minutes, then alternate running for 4-5 minutes with walking for 1-2 minutes.
- Walk-Running Intervals – as you progress you can slowly increase the number of minutes of walking while decreasing the running minutes. This will allow you to keep running with good quality and not fatigue you too much. The result = a great workout!
- Walking – a fantastic activity for the final weeks. You can still get in the miles and maintain your fitness.
Make it convenient and safe.
Running on a treadmill is an effective way to assure safety in your workout. It offers a controlled climate, an easy way to adjust your effort level and a softer surface to reduce impact forces.
Follow these tips for running during your pregnancy to improve your health, the health of your baby and your chances of a good, strong delivery. Just remember that everyone is different and you need to stay in tune with how you’re feeling and adjust your effort level accordingly.
How did you handle running while pregnant? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.