Run Throughout Your Pregnancy With These Little Adjustments
This Is Nike (M)
Your body and mind will thank you for keeping those running shoes in use. Learn how to adjust your routine once you're expecting—and find a whole new appreciation for it.
- Running while pregnant is not only great for your physical and mental health, it can also help you become a more intuitive athlete (and parent).
- Managing your intensity, staying hydrated and increasing your mindfulness are key to running safely as your pregnancy progresses.
- Head over to the Nike (M) page for tons of motherhood support spanning mindset, movement, nutrition, recovery and sleep.
Read on for more ...
*This content is designed to inform and inspire, but it is not meant to diagnose, treat or give specific medical advice. Always check with your health care provider about how to stay healthy and safe before, during and after pregnancy.
If you're a runner (if you run, like, ever, that's you), you're familiar with the perks of your sport: feel-good endorphins, better cardio fitness, some strong lower-body muscles. Of course, you wouldn't want to give all that up when you're pregnant—and you shouldn't have to.
"I think of running throughout your pregnancy as one-third for your general physical health, one-third for birth preparation and one-third for your mental health", says Amanda Williams, MD, a board-certified obstetrician-gynaecologist in Oakland, California. (She ran a half-marathon at nearly six months pregnant, BTW.)
You'll be grateful for those physical benefits during pregnancy, which, from your increasing weight to shifting centre of mass, brings on the biggest changes your body will probably ever undergo, says Dr Williams. Beyond that, research shows that people who exercise throughout their pregnancy can improve their ability to deal with the pain of labour. "It could be the strength and pliability of the body, the practice in coping with discomfort or the belief in their capacity … or all three", says Dr Williams. And in terms of mental health, the mood-regulating chemicals that running releases can help balance the hormonal ups and downs of pregnancy. Running also gives you space to sort through your thoughts and anxieties (which you may justifiably have plenty of), she adds.
But there's one other upside to running during this time that you might not realise, according to Jane Wake, an ante- and postnatal exercise specialist in London: It solidifies a mind-body connection that will help you learn to trust yourself, a skill that can serve you during childbirth and way, way beyond.
So, ready to run? While an international study of almost 1,300 women found that running doesn't negatively impact pregnancy, there are a few adjustments you may want to make to ensure your routine is safe and enjoyable. (Side note: Especially if you're having a high-risk pregnancy, get your doctor's or midwife's blessing before doing any exercise.)
1. Consider where you're at now.
As wonderful as running is, it's not the best activity to jump into for the first time when pregnant. "Your body experiences so many changes from pregnancy and from running, so it would be really hard to adjust to both at the same time", says Dr Williams.
If you weren't a runner before, start with brisk walks for a month or two, then you can slowly ease into a jog or run-walk if you're feeling great, says Dr Williams. If you ran previously, stick with or scale back the frequency until you're comfortable in your new body.
2. Change how you measure intensity.
Some runners love a good smartwatch to track their heart rate in real time. But because your heart rate is already affected by carrying a human inside you, a better metric is your rate of perceived effort (aka RPE), or how hard you think you're working, agree Dr Williams and Wake. It's OK to be running at a moderate to somewhat hard effort level, says Wake, but try not to go above that. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being effortless, you want to be between 4 and 6.
Or use the talk test: "As long as you could chat with a friend while running, you're circulating oxygen really well, and that's the most important thing", adds Dr Williams.
3. Drink up—and notice signs you're not.
Running pulls water from your muscles, including your uterus, as you move, and your baby needs fluid to receive healthy nutrients (P.S. so do you), says Dr Williams. Drink at least eight to 12 cups of H2O daily, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and sip before and after every run, she says.
If you experience uterine cramps mid-run, "that's your body saying it needs to slow down and wants water", says Dr Williams. You may have heard of these cramps; they're called Braxton-Hicks contractions. They don't mean you're in labour—try not to freak out!—but you should adjust what you're doing.
4. Help your bladder out.
It's no myth that pregnant people have to pee often and urgently, especially well into their third trimester. Empty your bladder just before heading out, but take it a step further: Plan a route that has toilets you can hit along the way if needed, recommends Dr Williams.
And if leaking is an issue for you (you're not the only one), do Kegel contractions (squeeze your pelvic floor muscles) at least a few days each week, says Dr Williams. Make sure you relax and release fully after each contraction too. "You'll be drier, of course, but also less distracted by annoyances, which is the goal", she says.
5. Be more mindful.
You don't need to be scared about tripping or falling, but there are some shifts going on in your body that might make you less stable than you're used to being. It's smart to stay present during your run, keeping an eye on changing terrain, slope or weather that could lead to a slip, says Dr Williams. Head out with a positive affirmation in mind that you can tap into every so often, she says, so you don't zone out too much.
6. Listen to your body.
You can train for an event while pregnant, like Dr Williams did, or you can just run for fun. Either way, the biggest piece of advice is the same: Check in with yourself and be flexible.
"Running isn't going to be a linear progression right now", says Wake. "You have to be extra patient with yourself". Stop or walk if you feel sick; walk (or head home) if you feel tired; and, by all means, skip a run if the idea of it is stressing you out. Dealing with back pain as your belly grows? Maybe running isn't the best activity for you after a certain point, so enjoy exploring others, says Dr Williams.
You know running is good for you, but keep asking yourself, Does this feel good for me right now, mentally and physically? And be ready to pivot from your plans if it doesn't, even if you have a race on the horizon, says Dr Williams.
That type of intuitive feedback loop—keeping tabs on how you're feeling and acting accordingly—is the foundation of the mind-body connection that will help you trust yourself and all the decisions you have yet to make as a new parent, says Wake. At the risk of sounding cringey ... kind of magical, isn't it?
Words: Charlotte Jacobs
Photography: Vivian Kim