Are you thinking of running during pregnancy or already doing it? Running during pregnancy is a safe activity to perform if you have already been doing it and have been cleared by your doctor to continue. You will be giving your baby plenty of benefits if your goal is to stay healthy and fit. Here is some information on how to run safely during pregnancy:
1. Discuss it with your doctor and get the OK (before getting pregnant if possible) to participate. Ask questions and get up to date information. Many doctors are giving the OK these days to have you continue running if you are already running. (Here is a list of contra-indications to exercising during pregnancy). Your doctor should be up to date on the heart rate information. (Staying under 140 beats per minute is out of date). Your doctor should also discuss any concerns about your medical and family history (ie. history of miscarriage, blood clotting, etc and possible problems that are unique to you). He/She will be monitoring baby (and you) and will give you information on when to stop running (red-flags).
2. Be flexible and keep an attitude that you are running to keep you and your baby healthy and fit. This can be a fun time and a unique thing to share with your baby. Learn to slow down the pace and enjoy pregnant running as a time to focus on yourself and baby. Leave the Garmin at home, and go by how you feel. Focusing on times and distances are not the best approach. It can be a change of pace for the competitive athlete. But taking this approach is healthy and gives the runner a wonderful reason to slow down and change focuses before baby gets here.
3. Plan to change your nutrition and water intake with running. You will need more calories to provide the energy for you and baby. Upping various nutrients are important too during the pre-natal period and post-natal period, especially if you are nursing. You will very likely need to increase calcium and possibly protein and iron intake. Talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a registered dietitian if you need more information in this area.
4. Expect to maintain or decrease your overall distance and intensity as compared to when you initially became pregnant. Many studies show that baby tolerates the moderate levels of exercise recommended by the AGOC (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) but more studies on high intensity exercise and running are still needed. This previous study on running during pregnancy recently cited on the Runners World website (from the March Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology) demonstrated that baby performed well with moderate to high intensity exercise. (Note: The pregnant women were only tested at 40-59% HR per this link and most were regular runners who added one additional session of (30 min.) of high intensity (60- 84 % of max HR) exercise on a treadmill (not tested for the study).
4. Get some good supportive running gear. A pair of supportive running shoes is probably the best option. Although there is no research on minimal running shoes and pregnancy, this is probably not the time to be switching to less supportive shoes. Your ligaments will be more lax and many runners feet will increase a half size or more post-pregnancy. Also, you will likely need to look for some maternity belly support wear as your belly grows in the second and third trimester.
4. Take care of yourself too and don’t forget to monitor yourself physically. Expect there to be days when your body does not respond well to running and rest or alternative exercise is a necessity. Get aches and pains checked out by a doctor or get a referral to a physical therapist specializing in women’s health. Make the overall goal to be healthy and in shape, not to run to a certain date and you will be more likely to reach this goal.
5. Find a qualified running coach (in the health professional field) that can answer your questions about running during pregnancy. Make sure they are available to answer questions on the days you plan to run. This will leave you feeling more confident in your decision to run or to change up the training plan. A qualified running coach should be able to answer general running questions related to pregnancy and training, and know when to refer you to your doctor or a health professional. This will leave you feeling confident in your choice to run that day or help adjust your workout appropriately.
(Of course, if you experience any of these symptoms, stop running and contact your doctor immediately).