Going for a run is an easy and inexpensive way for pregnant women to stay active. And the good news for running mamas is that if you ran regularly before getting pregnant, you can usually continue running at your normal pace for as long as it feels comfortable.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re running while pregnant to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby.
1. Ask your doctor first
Before hitting the track, be sure to get the green light from your doctor. Most women who are in good health and have uncomplicated pregnancies are encouraged to stay active and can run during most of their pregnancy. However, if you have medical conditions or pregnancy complications, you may be advised not to exercise at all. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting to run – or do any kind of exercise – during pregnancy.
2. Invest in solid equipment
During my pregnancy, I had a trouble with swelling at the end of the second trimester. Buying the right running shoes can really help with this, especially since many pregnant women’s feet go up a size or two. Choosing the right shoe can make all the difference, so choose something that offer lots of arch and ankle support, as well as excellent traction.
As far as clothing goes, wear loose-fitting gear made of light, breathable material to help you stay cool. To avoid the appearance of melasma, wear good sports hat if you are jogging during warmer weather or in the sunshine, and always use a sunblock with SPF 30 or higher. And of course, invest in an adjustable, supportive sports bra that can expand with your growing chest.
3. Take it easy
No matter which trimester you’re in, it’s important to take things slowly at first. Sure, there is a difference between running in your second month versus your sixth month, but either way, start gently and work your way up to a faster pace. Generally speaking, a moderate tempo is advised, so don’t push yourself. The point of running while pregnant is not to prepare for a marathon or do suicide sprints, but to get your blood pumping and those endorphins going.
Pregnant or no, learn proper breathing techniques to help prevent painful cramping.
Be extra aware of your surroundings (and the weather)
No matter how well you know your running track, pregnant women should be on high alert for obstacles. A simple branch can cause you to trip, especially as pregnant women have changes in balance. Your centre of gravity shifts as your belly grows, leaving you more vulnerable to slips. A nasty fall can be a dangerous situation which every pregnant woman wants to avoid, so keep your eyes peeled and tread very carefully on unfamiliar terrain. Avoid running on trails with debris, rocks, tree roots, and other natural obstacles that could cause a fall. Run on pavement to play it safe, especially in your last trimester.
As for the weather, there are some benefits for people who work out in the heat, but for pregnant women, this should be strictly avoided.
It’s always important to stay cool while exercising, but especially for pregnant women, who tend to overheat more easily. Avoid jogging in hot or humid weather and opt for jogging early in the morning or evenings if you’re pregnant during the summer months. It goes without saying that running outside in very cold or freezing temperatures should be avoided if you’re pregnant. Hit the treadmill or an indoor track instead.
5. Mind the date
In the first two trimesters, you’ll be able to run faster, more often, and for longer periods of time than in your last. As labor approaches, you’ll experience a lack of energy and you’ll get winded a lot faster. Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself too hard will force your body to divert oxygen that should be going to your baby. Ease up if you notice any of the following signs:
- You feel pain in your joints and ligaments.
- Your muscles feel extremely sore, weak, or shaky for a long period afterwards.
- Your resting heart rate in the morning is more than 10 beats higher than normal – this is a sign that your body is overworked and needs rest.
You feel exhausted instead of energized after your run.
Stop running immediately and call your doctor immediately if you feel dizzy or faint, have chest pain, contractions, or vaginal bleeding. And remember: A long, relaxing walk can be just as beneficial as a run in your later months, so don’t be afraid to slow it down and go at a moderate pace.
6. Hydrate, then hydrate some more
The amount of liquid in your body increases during pregnancy, which can make you feel heavy or heavy-footed. This is not an excuse to take cut back on your water intake, but quite the opposite. Pregnant women need to take extra care to stay well-hydrated for them and their growing baby. Plain water is best, but if you’re using an electrolyte replacement or sports drink, dilute it to cut the sugar content – two parts water to one part sports drink – and avoid any drinks with aspartame altogether.
There are several ways to determine whether you’re dehydrated. The colour of urine is the most reliable one, so if it’s looking darker than usual, drink some water ASAP. Another way is to weigh yourself before running and afterward. The difference between two numbers is the amount of water you have lost, and which you need to compensate.
Running during pregnancy isn’t for everyone. The good news is, you don’t need to go running specifically to stay active and in shape while you’re expecting. Yoga, walking, swimming or gentle workout programs geared towards expectant mothers are all excellent ways to keep fit with a little one on the way.