To Run, or Not to Run?
While it’s a great cardiovascular workout with health benefits for both mom and baby, there are a few important reasons to modify and temporarily suspend your running regimen during pregnancy. Here are a few guidelines to follow when your OB or midwife has given you the go ahead for physical activity.
If you’ve been running regularly prior to pregnancy and you actually feel up for a run in the midst of fatigue and waves of nausea, go for it. But don’t push yourself. Trust your body to tell you what it needs. Lighten up on your weekly mileage, aim for a comfortably challenging pace, and avoid terrain that could easily turn an ankle. Stay hydrated, keep the intensity level moderate (you should be able to hold a light conversation), and stop immediately if you experience any of the warning signs* listed below. Walk for a few minutes at the beginning and the end to allow ample time to warm up and cool down. Remember: the event you’re training for right now is the marathon of birth – consider every run in service to that ultimate goal. Races, PRs, mileage goals can wait. Alternate your run days with either complete rest or cross-training days (resistance, flexibility, mobility, other cardio workouts — our Prepare program includes fantastic prenatal workouts for all trimesters). Above all, listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
To protect your back and stabilize your pelvis while running, draw your abs firmly toward the spine with each exhalation. Imagine pulling your navel up and in as you exhale. Allow the belly to soften and relax with each inhalation.
Second and third trimesters
Despite my enthusiasm for exercise during pregnancy, I discourage clients from running during second and third trimesters. Your changing center of gravity combined with hormone induced joint laxity dramatically increases the risk of falling. A sudden fall at this stage can result in serious complications, including placental abruption.
Secondly, the impact of running combined with the weight of the uterus (baby + placenta + amniotic fluid = heavy!) can easily overstretch the uterine ligaments. This repetitive stress can lead to uterine prolapse, a condition I would do everything in my power to avoid. When you feel noticeable bladder pressure or urgency to pee while jogging, it’s time to switch to a lower impact workout, such as cycling, swimming or brisk walking.
And finally, as the pregnancy progresses, the pelvis softens to pave the way for birth. This heightened mobility in the pelvis places runners at risk of hip injury, which can lead to chronic alignment issues that linger long after the pregnancy.
In my experience, the costs of running outweigh the benefits during second and third trimesters. During this special time, I urge you to consider lower impact, safer alternatives to running, such as swimming, cycling, brisk walking and our OB approved Prepare workouts.
*Warning Signs to Terminate Exercise While Pregnant (ACOG)
- Vaginal bleeding
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath) prior to exertion
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling (need to rule out thrombophlebitis)
- Preterm labor
- Decreased fetal movement
- Amniotic fluid leakage