Running while pregnant: 7 important things to know
March 8, 2022|By Amanda Loudin
You've got a bundle of joy on the way, which means changes ahead. Here's how to navigate running while pregnant and beyond.
There was a time when doctors told people to hold their heart rates below 140 beats per minute if they planned to continue running while pregnant. Thankfully, those dark ages are a thing of the past, and today, there are myriad inspirational role models who safely and successfully run through all nine months.
Not only that, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports exercise while pregnant and lists several benefits from the exertion for both parent and baby. These include reduced back pain, decreased risk of gestational diabetes and C-section delivery, and a quicker recovery postpartum, among others. Additional research published in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal reveals that running through pregnancy can help to reduce postpartum depression. All fantastic reasons to stay moving down the road when you're expecting.
If you're hoping to continue running while pregnant, consult your doctor first. With their greenlight, follow these guidelines to get to the finish line feeling happy and healthy.
1. Keep your cool
During pregnancy, you want to make sure you avoid overheating, which can be harmful to the baby, especially during the first trimester. Run during the cooler parts of the day, choose shady routes, and wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Also, make sure to hydrate well. If hot yoga or saunas are part of your regular routine, now's the time to let those go.
2. Check your expectations
If you're used to running at a certain pace, know that as your pregnancy wears on, that's likely going to change. The same may apply to the distance you're used to covering, and the number of days you run each week. This may also mean adding in walk breaks now and then.
Growing a baby demands a good deal of energy, and your body will let you know how much it has left over for running. Accept it, respect it, and know that you'll be back to your old self in the future. In the meantime, relax and enjoy the ride, appreciating all that your body can do.
3. Stay aware of aches and pains
Just like running when you're not pregnant, you want to nip any potential injuries in the bud. With extra weight on your soft tissues and joints — not to mention your back as your belly grows — new aches and pains might pop up. In particular, as your body prepares for delivery, it releases a hormone called relaxin designed to loosen tendons, ligaments and joints.
Be cognizant of these changes and how they impact your gait and ability to run comfortably. Also, pay attention to your balance as the baby grows, as your center of gravity may change and make you more vulnerable to tripping and falling.
4. To race or not?
If you're used to entering races and enjoy the camaraderie they provide, there's no reason not to continue while pregnant. But as with your training paces and distances, adjust your expectations, leave the PRs for another time, and simply go for the experience.
5. Keep up the strength work
Just as lifting weights is healthy and supportive of your running when not pregnant, strength training is a great way to support your changing body. Keep your routines going, making adjustments as needed to accommodate your growing body.
6. Know when to stop
Hopefully, everything will go smoothly during all three trimesters, but sometimes, your body sends signals when it's time to slow things down. In fact, a 2015 study of elite runners found that only 31% continued training in their final trimester. You may find that running becomes too taxing for your energy reserves, it may become too uncomfortable, or you might develop too many discomforts as you near your due date. It's OK to let it go and find alternative forms of exercise.
7. After the baby arrives
Many new parents are anxious to get back out on the roads or trails, and who could blame them? But first, check in with your doctor for the go ahead, and then plan to ease back into your mileage. Your body has been through more than a marathon these past nine months, and it will take several months to return to your normal running self.
Be gentle with your expectations. Remember that you're likely getting far less sleep than normal, and if you're nursing, you have even more demands on your body. With a patient approach — similar to a return from injury — you'll be back in form before you know it. In fact, many people find that after a full recovery from birth and a return to more normal levels of training, they're stronger than ever.
Running while pregnant can ultimately make the experience more enjoyable, deliver powerful health benefits to you and your baby, and make delivery easier. With a doctor's OK, and by following some guidelines, it can be a time you reflect back on with joy.
Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.
I've been a runner for more than two decades and a journalist for just as long. I'm also a certified running coach and nothing makes me happier than marrying up writing and running. Find me on the trails with two- and four-legged friends.