Running

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Running while pregnant.  I never thought I’d be the lady who is strong enough to be a pregnant runner.  Or a runner into my 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  Let alone potentially running all the way up until delivery!  At almost 39 weeks pregnant, it’s truly AMAZING that this body is still going.  I am starting to believe that I am indeed a strong lady — heck, I have continued to run regularly for my entire pregnancy!  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of myself.

I have been a runner for years.  Just in 2012, I ran a number of races, including four half marathons, a 10-mile trail race and a number of 5K races.  When I became pregnant in January 2013, my goal was to have a healthy pregnancy.  The way I intended to maintain above-average health was by continuing to exercise and eat a nutritious diet.  Going into the pregnancy I had no complications or reasons that I shouldn’t be exercising, so I continued running as normally as I could on a regular basis.  Later, I will break down the three trimesters and what my exercise/running looked like during each of those phases.

Running while pregnant is NOT easy.  It’s only for those who are strong and determined.  Only for the extremely motivated.  Had I not been motivated and determined, I would have taken it easy a long time ago and settled for just walking.

To me, as long as there is no medical reason that prevents exercise during pregnancy, it’s a no brainer: EXERCISE!  It’s going to make a healthier baby and a healthier momma….  I understand that there are special circumstances or medical situations that do not allow an expectant mother to exercise; that is different.  Only exercise while pregnant with the medical clearance of an O.B. doctor.

First, let’s talk about some of the benefits of exercise during pregnancy:

1. Healthier baby & healthier momma.

2. Easier time getting through labor & delivery.  (Possibly even a shorter time laboring!)

3. Keeps pregnancy weight gain under control (healthy range for an average size woman is 25-35 pounds).

4. Gives more energy to expectant momma.

5. Keeps stress level under control.

6. Helps momma to “bounce back” and regain her previous shape after birth.

Here are the reasons I {THINK} have been able to run up until delivery:

-I listen to my body. This has been my #1 rule when it comes to running during my pregnancy.  If I were to push myself past the point of what my body is capable of doing, it would have benefited no one.  Listening to my body means this: if I can do it, then go for it…if I can’t do it, then slow down or stop.  At all stages of this pregnancy I have allowed myself the freedom to stop and take walking breaks during runs as necessary.  Do I like taking walking breaks??  My pride doesn’t, but sometimes my body needs them.  Listening to your body is KEY.

-I don’t run every single day. Years ago, I went through a phase where I ran six days per week.  I did that until I became injured.  I have found that running on alternating days is the best thing for my body.  This averages out to 3-4 days per week.  I do workout 6 days per week, but only half of those days are running workouts.  The other days are spent in the gym.

-I crosstrain.  At the gym I typically perform 40-45 minutes of cardio exercise (elliptical, arc trainer, rowing machine, bike, etc) and spend 20 minutes doing a variety of free weights/cable pulleys/weight machine exercises.  My weight training is usually performed in 3 sets of 12 repetitions at a heavy weight (no sissy stuff!)  By lifting weights on a regular basis, my overall body strength is much higher than if I were to only have performed cardio exercise.

-I kept my weight gain under control.  Most of my weight was gained in the 2nd trimester.  In the 3rd trimester I have gained almost nothing.  I guess everyone’s bodies are different.  At almost 39 weeks, I have gained 23 pounds, so I doubt I’ll top out at more than 25 (if that).  I think that keeping my weight gain under control, it has allowed my body to keep going because I’m not as heavy as, say, someone who gains 50 pounds during their pregnancy.  50 pounds gained + trying to run = won’t work.

-I wear a maternity support belt.  Mid-pregnancy (around 25 weeks), I began researching maternity support belts.  Several blogger friends were using the Gabrialla Maternity Support Belt for running, so I decided to give it a whirl.  At 27 weeks, my amazon purchase arrived in the mail and I was excited to try it out.  Talk about a major difference!  The belt is designed to support a growing belly and displace the impact to other areas.  Without my support belt, there would be NO WAY I could still be running.  It truly is amazing how well it helps keep my body feeling better and puts my mind at easy that the baby is safer.

-I don’t run far distances.  I’ve heard of these extreme runners who run full marathons at term….no way, this gal isn’t that big of a champion!  I have consistently ran a distance of 3-5 miles.  Never any more than that.  I’m sure some people could, but I never cared to push myself any further distance than that.  Now that I’m full term, some days I only run 2 or 2.5 miles…but I think that is to be expected.

-I accept that my running now barely resembles my pre-pregnancy running.  Before I got pregnant, my typical running pace averaged between 9-10 minute miles.  Usually I ran around 9:30/min/miles, but the better shape I was in, the more like 9:00/min/miles, and if I was in worse shape, I usually was never quite as slow as 10:00/min/miles pace.  This changed pretty drastically once I became pregnant.  I had to stop using my Nike Pro app on my phone.  Seeing just how much SLOWER I was running was killing my mojo, so I decided to just run based on feel.  This was smart, because I’m way too much of a perfectionist, so I didn’t need to hear my slower pace recited in my headphones.  In my 1st trimester I was still probably averaging 10:00/min/miles, 2nd trimester I slowed to (I’m guessing) 10:30-10:45min/miles and NOW at the end of my 3rd trimester I am running 11:45/min/miles.  WAY SLOW!  But—no matter how slow I am, I am just proud that I am still going.  Doesn’t matter that I’m slow:)

-I never stopped running.  I have maintained my 3 times per week running routine throughout the entire duration of the pregnancy.  I never took a week off.  Had I stopped and given myself a break, I might not have ever resumed.  It allowed my body the ability to adapt as my body and the baby grew.

-I have had the support of my doctor.  My doctor has been 100% supportive of my active lifestyle.  She spent time talking to me about all of the benefits for both me and the baby.  She also recommended that I “listen to my body” and take my level down if it became necessary.  At my appointments she asks if I’m still running and I see her excitement when I tell her I still am:)

What my running has looked like during the 3 trimesters of pregnancy:

1st Trimester.  I suffered from morning sickness throughout my first trimester.  Yuck!  I did not throw up a lot, but I did have constant nausea 100% of the time.  I felt extreme fatigue and overall awful.  It was hard to maintain a high level of fitness during that phase because I felt so awful.  But I did push myself to keep on going, even if it wasn’t pretty.  During the first trimester, I averaged 4-5 days per week of exercise, with at least two of those days being running days.  Because it was still winter, I did majority of those runs on the treadmill.

2nd Trimester.  During my second trimester is when I started to get my energy back, but as my weight increased, I felt heavier as I hit the pavement.  I ran a 5K race with some friends at 17 weeks and felt great.  Once I hit week 20 or so, I was really beginning to FEEL my weight gain.  I felt slower, but I continued to push on and listen to my body.  Somewhere around weeks 16-18 is when I started battling calf tightness.  That calf tightness has stuck around ever since, boo!  I think it has to do with my center of gravity affecting my running gait or from the added weight on my body.  Not sure.  Throughout this trimester, I maintained 6 days per week of exercise, with 3 of those days being running days.  Most of my running in this trimester was outdoors.

3rd Trimester.  When I got to the third trimester, I had a renewed sense of excitement for running since I had just started wearing my Gabrialla Maternity Support Belt.  I also felt really proud of myself that I was still continuing to run.  We moved to Florida for 6 weeks when I was 29 weeks pregnant, and my running actually improved between weeks 29-35!  I think it had something to do with being at sea-level instead of mile-high-altitude.  Because of the extreme heat & humidity of Florida, I did majority of the runs during weeks 29-35 indoors on the treadmill.  During those weeks I actually STOPPED taking walking breaks!!  I could consistently run 3.1 miles (5K distance) without ever stopping to walk.  I felt amazing and so EMPOWERED!!

Ever since returning home to Colorado, I have transitioned back to outdoor running, with the occasional indoor treadmill run.  As I am getting close to delivery, my runs are getting much harder day by day, but I just listen to what my body is telling me.  I am no longer able to run 3.1 miles without stopping for a walking break.  Sad, but it’s the truth.  Typically I make myself run the entire first mile without a walking break and then I allow myself to run in intervals of 3 minutes running/3 minutes walking until I have reached my final distance.  I usually try to run at LEAST 2-3 miles.  I’ve started staying close to home on my runs (JUST IN CASE!)  In the past two weeks I have been running laps around my neighborhood (boring, but then I’m not far from home in case I go into labor).  I calculated that 5 laps is 2 miles, so I try to run at least 5 laps (or add in more laps if I need to add walking breaks).  My calves continue to be extremely tight.   I just grin and bear it.  Here is to running all the way until delivery!

Getting to the end—delivery is near….

Summary.  With my due date looming in the near future, I have no intentions of ceasing running unless (God forbid) something happens.  My doctor has really been an encouragement to me.  At my appointment earlier this week she asked for an update to see if I was still running.  She was really excited to hear that I was.  Even though I can honestly say it’s not all that FUN to be running anymore, I want to keep going as long as I can — even if it’s just to “say that I did.”

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Disclaimer: These are just my own personal thoughts, opinions and personal experience.  I am not a doctor.  You should only exercise under the care of a doctor.  I am aware that there are situations where it is unsafe to exercise during pregnancy.  I also understand that when someone becomes pregnant, it is NOT the time to start up a brand new, intense routine.  The only way I was able to continue running is because I was ALREADY a runner before pregnancy.  I would never encourage someone to become a runner if they were not already doing so before their pregnancy. 

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