August 20, 2012

running while pregnant - the first trimester

When I started telling people I was expecting, among the regular questions you always get was "Are you going to keep running?"  My answer?  Absolutely.  As much as my body will let me of course.  The general rule of thumb is any exercise routine you were doing before pregnancy, you can continue to do while pregnant.  You might have to tone it down a bit, but as long as the pregnancy is low risk and exercising isn't causing any complications there is no need to give up something you love.

I was a little unsure at first what the 'rules' would be regarding me running while pregnant, so I called and talked to a nurse at my OB's office.  She said I could absolutely keep running, just to listen to my body and try to keep my heart rate under 140.  So the next time I went out for a run I strapped on my heart rate monitor, and less than a minute in my heart rate was already at 155.  I was baffled.  How was I supposed to keep running if barely doing it was already going against recommendations?  So until my first doctor's appointment I kept it pretty easy.  Not running too fast and taking lots of walk breaks.  The first week was the most difficult, because I felt SO SLOW.  I was often thinking what's the point?  But it is amazing how quickly the baby can affect your body.

In the sixth week of pregnancy I was quickly short of breath and exhausted.  An 11 minute mile seemed like I was using everything I had.  And hills?  Not happening.  I had to walk them all.  A baby quickly starts placing large demands on your body, and no doubt I felt it.  The heat was pretty horrible, so I moved all of my running inside to the treadmill.  I toggled between 5.8mph and 3.8mph a lot.  Thankfully after my first appointment the doctor told me that the heart rate suggestion is a very old school recommendation, and I needed to focus more on how my body was feeling.  The goal being able to continue a conversation while working out.


I was excited to hear that, but weeks 6-9 were still incredibly tough.  To the point that I wondered how in the heck I would keep up any sort of decent mileage, and if it was even worth it to keep running.  I had to pee every couple of miles.  I was slow.  I was tired.  I was sick.  Surprisingly I felt the least nauseous shortly after running.  That alone helped me push through, that and my stubborness of course.  But I'm so thankful I did.  It was easy to want to give up, but now even though my pace has changed and running is definitely a little different, I feel so much better after a run.  Saturday I completed my first race while pregnant (well technically I was like 3 days pregnant at the Hospital Hill race, but I bet that doesn't really count :o), a 5k in 29:19.  Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

At my ten week appointment I asked my doctor what she would say if I said I wanted to run a half marathon in October.  I was expecting a 'no, you can keep running but not that far' or something, but she quickly responded with "I don't see a problem with it at all as long as everything is going well and you feel up to it."  I'm stoked.  My family is still a little apprehensive, but I really think I can do it.  I obviously won't be going for a PR or anything, and it will be much different than the halfs I've done before, but I think it would be amazing to say I completed a half marathon while pregnant.  I'll be 21-22 weeks at the time (depending on which one I end up signing up for) so even though I'll have a belly, it shouldn't be too in the way.  I'm sure I'll have to stop at the bathroom, and probably stop to actually eat a piece of toast or something as opposed to just some honey stingers, but I'm hoping it is all worth it.

If you're planning on running while pregnant here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE!  You need to drink some water before, ideally during and after your run, along with taking in a minimum of 64 ounces of water during the day.  I shoot for 72+.
  • Fuel your body.  You need to make sure you are taking in enough calories to make up for those that you've burned.  Your body and your baby need the food.
  • Find a running buddy.  If you're doing to be running outside I would suggest finding a running buddy.  I don't always run with someone, but I try to if I'm going for 5+ miles, or at least stay close to neighborhoods and main roads.  If something should go wrong you want quick access to help.  If you've had a running buddy before, you might need a different one unless they are willing to slow down with you a bit :o).
  • Run with your phone.  Most people already do, but if you don't now would be the time to start.  Again, quick access to help if you need it is a must.
  • Slow down.  It is tough to slow your pace, but there is absolutely no way I could continue running at my previous 8-9 minute mile pace.  It would put too much stress on my body.
  • Take a break.  If you need to walk, do it.  There is no shame in taking a walk break, and listening to your body is a must.  If you are feeling short of breath or overly tired, stop to walk.
  • Have the right gear.  Pregnancy loosens your tendons and ligaments, so making sure you have the proper shoes is a must.  Also, you don't want to overheat, so if you're running in warmer weather make sure you are dressed the part.

I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep running.  Hopefully into the third trimester, but I had a lot of back issues with Ryann and I'm just not sure how uncomfortable I'll get.  But for right now I'm loving running while pregnant.  It is different, but it feels so good to continue doing something for myself while much of my body is doing everything it can to provide for this little babe I'm growing.

Any other pregnant runners out there?  Do you have any tips for me?  What has everyone else been up to on the fitness front?  Link up your posts below!


Amy said...

When I was pregnant with Eli I ran until 32 weeks and felt great, despite a lot of people telling me I shouldn't be working out. My doctor told me the same thing - don't exert yourself to the point where you can't carry on a conversation, don't get too overheated, hydrate, and listen to your body! Good for you staying active!

The Bignon Family said...

So impressed with you!!! I wish I could have kept it up as much as you are! Serious lower back pain in the first trimester ruined it for me, and now I get out of breath after just a few minutes :( Oh well....swimming and walking are my friends! Keep up the good work mama!

lindsay said...

man, good for you!!!

i wish i kept up with running when i was pregnant. i was pregnant for 4 months before i realized that i was and had no idea why my times were getting worse and worse and i was feeling so heavy and slow during my runs. my runs just knocked me out and i actually started to dread it because of how i was feeling. little did i know, i was pregnant again ;0) although i don't follow a regular workout routine like i did before, i am certainly more active this time around than i was the first time which has helped my weight stay steady {so far at 31 weeks that holds true}.

keep it up! you are inspiring girl! you got me to start running in the first place with your amazing transformation and i can't wait to start running again after this little dude is born. i already signed up for my first 1/2 in june {which is the one i was training for when i found out i was pregnant} ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey Ash-
WTG with your running!!! With 7 weeks til Babe 2 is here I've kept up running and love it. It is weird to do with a big ol belly but like you, I enjoy it. Yoga really helps me on my off days to stretch, focus on breathing and center myself. Keep it up!
Ashley Carson

Anonymous said...

Wow I'm both impressed and jealous. At 13 weeks (tomorrow) I can hardly push through my headaches or exhaustion! Good for you! :)

Amy said...

Go for it girl! My running coach and best friend ran the Arkansas half last year and she was 5 months pregnant. Crazy but amazing too!!

Sharstin said...

atta girl! i always ran with my babies and it kept me feeling great and like myself:)

mandie lane said...

A belated CONGRATS! I've been slacking on my blog reading (and, uh, everything else in life) lately and your pinning of baby things got me curious - love the announcement pics/post! Best wishes to you throughout your pregnancy, Ryann will be a lovely big sis.

Kelly said...

Now that I am finally off bed rest it has been great to get out and stretch my legs!!! I won't be running anymore but tennis and walking should be enough exercise to get me through the remainder of this pregnancy! Good for you. Can't wait to hear about the half!

Chelsea Leis said...

Thank you for those tips, Ashley! I’m sure that a lot of pregnant moms would be motivated to run or do some exercises even though they have a sticking belly that house a little angel. Exercising during pregnancy is not a bad idea, as long as you are at low-risk status, and your body allows you to. But still, you have to take some precautions on what exercises and activities you will do. It would be best to check with the doctor, like what you did.

Anonymous said...

I'm 22 Weeks pregnant and still doing my 4 mile run it's definitely getting harder as my baby keeps growing and still dealing with morning/all day sickness and exhaustion, but it's worth it. I have noticed that while it's hard to start the workout sessions it.certainly gives me energy to continue my day. Good luck

how long is pregnancy said...

great article,thank you

Tiffany said...

I am SO glad I found this post! I just found out last weekend that I'm pregnant and all last week I freaked out and struggled through my runs. Am I running too fast, getting too hot, why is this so darn hard and it was easier before, etc. It was FREAKING ME OUT!! lol

I'm glad to hear that it got harder early on for you too - that it isn't just me, and it is normal. Makes me feel better about continuing and just letting my body do what it wants and running for fun.

There is a half marathon I want to run in October too. I'll be 17 months along. It will only be my 3rd half marathon and Im already slow as it is... so I'm a little apprehensive. I got up to 6 miles before I was pregnant (recovering 1/2 a year from injuries and re-training up to that point) so we'll see what I can do.

I have plenty of time to train and I'm not shooting for a PR or anything... but if I have to walk 15 min miles, I probably don't want to do it... so we shall see. Either way, I just want to be able to run through most of my pregnancy for the health benefits and stress relief.

Thanks for sharing!!

Cathy Stewart said...

It’s true that keeping fit and active doesn’t have any complications during pregnancy. In fact, it helps lessen your discomfort, and speeds up your recovery upon delivery. But it’s also important to listen to your body rhythm. Everything that comes in excess has its drawbacks, especially since your baby's health is also a concern.

Cathy Stewart