Although I’m sure you’re already aware, let me start by saying that every pregnancy is different and every runner is also different. So, just because something happened or worked for me during my pregnancy, does not mean that it will necessarily work for somebody else in the same way. I am incredibly lucky to still be able to run at almost 34 weeks pregnant. A fact I am so grateful for every time I lace up my trainers. Not every runner will be as lucky to still be able to continue for this length of time.
#1 Your midwife probably won’t be able to answer your running questions.
I rang to try and make my ‘booking in’ appointment at the doctors when I was four weeks pregnant and was told to ring back in a month. At the time, I was scheduled to run a 50 mile ultra just a few weeks later. I wasn’t yet ready to tell people that I was pregnant, but at the same time I knew that it would be unwise to just assume that it would be OK to carry on as normal with everything that I did. The doctor’s surgery remained non-committal and told me that they couldn’t really advise so in the end I rang up the local maternity unit and although they stressed that asking for advice on running a 50 mile race wasn’t something they came across every day, they were happy for me to continue running events as long as I was fit, healthy, had trained properly, was running a distance/pace I had achieved before and that there was no bleeding.
At the antenatal classes I also asked a series of questions about running while breastfeeding and despite there being two midwives at the class, neither was able to answer my queries. I’ve since received advice from other runners at my club, through reading magazines and blogs/online articles.
#2 You will be super aware of the life inside of you. Even during the early days.
Even though I had been given the go-ahead to run the Thames Trot 50, ultimately the reason I ended up pulling twenty miles into the race was because I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that if something went wrong, I would worry that it had been my fault for continuing to push at a race that hadn’t been my goal race or wasn’t particularly vital that I run. At that point I was still weeks away from feeling the baby move or even from having my first scan, but having the knowledge that it was there was enough weight on my mind for me to pull before completing the race.
#3 You thought you and your body understood each other.
As a runner, I like to think I’m pretty in tune with my body. I know what paces/heart rate I can run to over certain distances, I know what I need to eat before a run to ensure I have enough energy for what I am asking my body to do, I know the distances my body is capable of running…
…at least I did know all of those things before I became pregnant! Everything is tipped up on it’s head when you become pregnant and tiredness/hunger starts to kick in unexpectedly!
#4 When you have no energy, running will give you energy.
Although I never suffered from any actual sickness, the morning sickness was real – sluggish, feeling nauseous and wanting to nap all of the time. I made myself eat little and often during those first thirteen weeks and tried to continue running a handful of times each week. Other than when I picked up a bad cold and chesty cough, I continued to run throughout and noticed that when I ran out with friends during the week, things always looked brighter and I was rewarded with more energy and felt much happier and (sounds cheesy but) more alive following my run.
Sometimes you need to look after your mental wellbeing as much as you do your physical one.
#5 You may need to plan routes around public toilets.
Mainly during the first and second trimester the need to pee is real. No lie, there was one parkrun where I went to the toilet before the run began, and then when we ran past the toilet block less than five minutes later I was tempted to pull in and go again! (I didn’t, but I was very tempted!) Towards the end of tri two and start of tri three the need to pee seems to have lessened somewhat, although I hear it comes back with a vengeance in the final few weeks. (Something to look forward to! :P)
#6 Eating and drinking before/during a run will become a major issue.
If you eat too close to the run you will be able to feel the food moving around alongside baby and pressing on your stomach. If you drink too close to your run then see problem #5! Because I’ve stuck to mainly shorter distance runs throughout my pregnancy, I’ve been skipping my pre-workout snack and then topping up my fluid levels after a run, rather than during which has seemed to work for me.
#7 There will be times when you feel like you should just hold your boobs in place!
…or your belly. I’ve done both when I thought no-one was watching, just to hold them in place and stop the constant jiggling!
The worst time was about 7-8 weeks in as my boobs seemed to grow an enormous amount at this stage and began to really ache when I ran. I have no idea why they increase so much in size so early on, but by the start of tri two, I had several bras which no longer fit me and my pull-on bras were becoming a real struggle once I’d got them over my head!
As you get bigger, the jiggling lessens. My boobs grew into my bra to the point that there was no longer any wiggle-room and once my bump was more ‘bump-like’, rather than just a thickened waistline, it tended to stay more in place and out front, rather than spend time uncomfortably moving around.
I now know for definite that I absolutely do not want to put on an extra stone and a half at any time in my life though! Uncomfortable times!
#8 Choice of kit has never been so vital!
I have stacks and stacks of running tops and a large pile of shorts and tights to choose from when I run. Yet, since falling pregnant the choice of what is now suitable to wear has become somewhat smaller. Basically, the pink top I’m wearing in most of these pictures is one of the few tops that doesn’t make me look like a giant blob and the shorts are one of two pairs which hold my bump in place. Tops which were tighter around the boob-area now ride up, and several larger tent-like tops now ‘float’ around my stomach without flattering my now-pregnant body.
I can no longer wear running tights around my waist – instead having to wear them underneath my bump and then they kind of hold the bump up in place during my run without cutting into my stomach.
#9 Sometimes the baby just doesn’t want to co-operate.
There have been plenty of runs where I have gotten myself ready (Pee, no food, no drink, Garmin charged, trainers on…) only to take my first few steps out of the door and realise that the run isn’t going to work out because the baby is lying in an uncomfortable position. This tended to happen in tri 1-2 when the baby was a little smaller and moved around a bit more, sticking out in various places. It’s such a weird sensation to feel your belly moving and your weight shifting without being in control of it!
#10 Your running style changes.
It has to. You’re carrying a lot of extra weight, your hips get wider, your limbs ache more… I really don’t want to see any footage of my running right now, as I’m sure my style has diminished into a lumbering lope!
#11 Not everyone will realise you are pregnant. Get over it.
Even now, at more than 8 months pregnant I find myself occasionally dropping into conversation that I am expecting if I happen to talk to strangers after a parkrun. Most people I speak to haven’t realised I’m pregnant, despite my (what I think has now grown into a) rather pronounced bump. I shouldn’t care if people think I am slow, or big or lazy, but every now and again I find myself chirping up that I’m actually not far from my due date, and that is why I was struggling with a run/slower than usual/etc. I always feel a little silly for having said something afterwards, although never because of anything anybody has said.
#12 You will be judged.
Everybody will have an opinion on your choice to continue running. There will be a lot of people who believe you are harming your baby by running and that you should in fact be sat at home with your feet up for the entire pregnancy. (These people will also probably be the ones who are quick to judge if you gain too much weight during the nine months or you lose your baby weight post-birth quicker than they believe you should.) Other people might judge you for pulling your training back too quickly or not considering the baby. Ultimately though, as long as you listen to your body, every medical professional I have spoken to has agreed that remaining active is the best way to go throughout your pregnancy. It helps with having a faster and less painful labour, and helps you to get up and about again following the birth much quicker too.
The only opinions of running during pregnancy that actually matter are those are you and your partner. I was very lucky in that Dan has encouraged me to continue running from the very beginning. (Probably because he knew how miserable and sulky I’d be if I didn’t get my running fixes in during the week!) I discussed with him at great length about running the ultra so early on into the pregnancy, and made it clear that if he wasn’t comfortable with me attempting it that I would pull out before ever crossing the start line. I also rang him several miles into the race to tell him I was worried that something might happen to the baby during the run, and he still encouraged me to continue, as we had received the advice that it was safe to do so. I would not still be running if Dan had any concerns over me doing so and he has been a great support throughout.
#13 You have nothing to prove to anybody. Times do not matter.
It is completely OK to take walking breaks, or cut your route in half from the one you had planned. As a runner, it’s always important to listen to what your body tells you, but it becomes even more important now that there are two of you along for the ride!
This is something I have done much better at than I thought I would. I’ve adjusted my pace accordingly on each and every run and although I’m still running with a watch, it is mainly so I can look back and see the mileage I covered during runs, rather than monitor how quickly I am running at the time. I’ve found it interesting to see how my times and effort levels have changed as I’ve gone along but I haven’t once felt the need to run to the numbers displayed on my watch.
#14 When you decide that it is time to stop running completely, that is OK.
And from talking to others, that time is completely different for everybody. Some of the currently pregnant bloggers I follow who have already stopped running for various reasons are; Dannii, Leah and Naomi. Sara is still going strong.
I’m told that your body and muscles will remember much better than you believe they will and that it won’t be like starting from scratch again when you return to running afterwards. When my body says no, I will be sensible and pack away my running things until several weeks after the birth. I have already made the decision to back away from club trail runs, and it won’t be long before I make the decision to no longer run with my running club on a club night as well. Running will still be there when I return!
You can read all of my previous pregnancy posts here.
Anything else I should add to the list?…