If you’re active pre-pregnancy, chances are you’ll be hoping to continue an active lifestyle during the three trimesters. Once the morning sickness wears off ( woooohoooo)! you may find you have enough energy to lace up rather the rest up. But how to adapt your training during this time?
Here’s a few things you can expect from running when you’re expecting.
Did you know that exercise during pregnancy is actually recommend by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Keeping active during pregnancy can help to reduce risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth, alongside relieving feelings of stress and anxiety for expectant mothers. It is also suggested that exercise during pregnancy can aid a faster labour and increase the speed of postpartum recovery. So whats stopping you right?!
Well, prenatal fitness has been a controversial topic for many years. With old wives tails and inaccurate advice littering the internet, many women to feel confused and concerned about what is and isn’t safe during pregnancy.
Due to the shift in your centre of gravity and continual changes to your body and skeletal frame, ( in particular hips) it may not feel comfortable to begin running during this time if you aren't an experience runner prior to pregnancy. Instead it is recommended that you begin with strength building, body weight exercises and perhaps engaging in low intensity cardio exercise such a walking or the elliptical trainer.
But if you are a runner already and feel up to it, heading out to manage a few km is perfectly safe. There are however some amendments you may need to make to your running technique, intensity and routes!
How to adjust?
During pregnancy your body is constantly changing. Slowing down your pace to accommodate this is often necessary. Learn to listen to your body and don’t be afraid to take regular breaks, run slower or walk if needed. Many women worry that they will loose their fitness level, however your body is working plenty hard on it’s own during pregnancy and you’ll maintain a good fitness level even if you do cut back.
Don’t be afraid to REST! It’s so important to take rest days between your training when you’re pregnant. As prenatal women we must accept that our bodies may need more time to recuperate post workout.
Re-routing. This sounds silly but adjusting your running routes to allow stopping time for a wee is also something prenatal women should consider. Hahaha, this is very true for me right now! I’m drinking so much water to stay hydrated and alongside this the growing baby is adding additional pressure on my pelvic floor. If you’re exercising during pregnancy be sure not to cut back on fluids to avoid toilet breaks. You’ll be needing more water the usual to support the growing baby.
It’s also important to give yourself some extra time after eating before you set out on a run. Digestion may slow down during pregnancy so give your food time to settle before hitting the road. After working out make sure you always replenish your body with protein and electrolytes.
Keep it simple, Keep it safe.
Providing you’re not suffering from any medical complications during pregnancy ( such as preeclampsia or plancetal problems) experts advise that these is no harm in maintaining your exercise routine. However It’s important to work within a comfortable range of motion during pregnancy. It’s certainly not a time to begin pushing boundaries physically.
However it’s key to Stay hydrated! During pregnancy you may find that you start sweating earlier and faster so it’s crucial to make sure you stay hydrated and avoid over-training particularly on hot and humid days. You may also find it more comfortable to wear loose fitting clothing.
Avoid uneven surfaces. As your bump begins to grow your centre of gravity will shift. Along with the role of the hormone Relaxin ( loosening ligaments and joints throughout the body) it’s important to focus on good form and steady running during pregnancy.
Be sure to also accompany all activities with pelvic floor exercises. The growing baby will add additional pressure to your pelvic floor and as such it’s important to assist your body in supporting this extra weight by working on those deep core muscles. Just 10 minutes twice a day is a great place to start.
Training through the Trimesters.
Personally I found the first trimester the hardest for training, due to morning sickness and exhaustion. So I found I wasn’t up to running until the second trimester. However, listen to your body. When you will feel ready is different for each woman and indeed, with each pregnancy.
As the body develops and stretches and ligaments loosen, you may find you need to reduce the intensity of your running. Be sure to allow your body as much time as it needs to fully rest and recover between workouts.
When the third trimester hits you may find that due to aches and pains you decide to reduce the amount you run even more and possibly eventually come to a stop with running prior to labour. With the centre of gravity changing continually, some women find they suffer with lower back ache or round ligament pain. Working on a strong core can help to combat this however always make sure you work on prenatal approved core exercises.
Perhaps the most important thing to learn for women wishing to remain active during pregnancy, is to mentally accept the changes taking place. Understand that your physical ability and range of movement will be affected during pregnancy. If you’ve been active prior to pregnancy learning to adjust to these changes can be tough but it’s crucial to a healthy pregnancy and successful prenatal fitness plan.
Once you reach the third trimmest be honest with how your feeling. If running is leaving you more exhausted and achy, it may be time to slow down. Perhaps opt for a few endurance walks if thats more comfortable or rest altogether prior to labour. You’re body is working hard enough on it’s own and exercise should be assisting your body to feel stronger and healthier, not exhausting your further.
Return to Running Postpartum
Once baby has arrived it can be a good few weeks/months before your ready to run again. It’s advised to wait until after your 6 week check to make sure your body is recovering as it should. Tendons and ligaments will remain looser until approximately 5 months postpartum and longer for breastfeeding women, so it’s important to keep this in mind when exercising postpartum.
If you’ve suffered with any medical complications during labour your recovering may take longer, so be sure to give yourself time to fully heal. However, once you’ve been cleared for exercise by a GP don't be afraid to get active. Having a baby takes a lot of physical activity itself, particularly core strength, ( lifting a car seat etc) so just having a baby is pretty good exercise. Beginning with Pelvic Floor exercises and abdominal exercising targeting the Transverse Abdominus ( e.g. planks and bridges) are also brilliant beginning exercises for the immediate postpartum period.
Once you’re ready to start running again make sure you build up slowly. There’s noting wrong with starting with short distances or working on run/walk intervals. As you begin to recover you’ll find your ability levels return and you’ll be hitting the road more often and for a longer time… perhaps just this time with a pram in front!!
Happy running Mama’s!!