Mid- November of last year, I started training for my first half marathon after successfully completing my first 10K. This was thanks to the call I felt to join Team World Vision. I was struggling with my running and unsure just what I’d signed up for. Fast forward to fall of this year- I’m not training for a race, I’m training for labor, and I’m training for all the running around I know is going to come with being outnumbered once baby #3 arrives.
Running while pregnant is HARD. I know that is probably one of the more obvious statements you’ve read all day, but I keep bringing up to my husband all these amazing stories of women running half and full marathons while pregnant and feeling discouraged that I can’t even imagine doing a 10k right now. My wonderful life partner reminds me that those runners probably had more experience than a single half marathon in their running career when they got pregnant. He also reminded me that not all pregnancies are the same.
So here’s a little bit of what I’ve experienced so far about running while pregnant, because maybe some others out there will need a perspective from a non-professional athlete and from a barely more than beginning runner so here you go, internet!
Let’s start with some straight up honest struggles:
*Standard medical advice right now is that unless you have a high risk pregnancy or your doctor has advised against it due to medical history or some other factor, you can keep doing whatever physical exercise you were doing before, but my doctor recommended I keep that at a moderate level- one where I can still hold a conversation amidst my effort. I had high hopes of continuing to run after getting pregnant, but I don’t have easy pregnancies and so here we are… I am out of practice after four months of intense morning sickness. I’ve continually tried to downplay this to myself because it’s “Not as bad as last time” but to be honest, not as bad just means I’ve been able to have some good days, to be able to get out of bed without feeling totally depleted, and to avoid needing rehydration. Those are all HUGE wins for me, but they certainly don’t translate to being ready to lace up my shoes and get some miles in. So my first trimester I was lucky to get in a walk once in a while and I was three months out of practice when the fall weather started to set in and I decided that when the good days came (and sometimes even when they didn’t) that I would try to get in some miles once again.
*Just because first (and almost second!) trimester is over, does NOT mean my nausea has gone away. I will be so excited after my post partum recovery to be able to run again without throwing up (don’t worry, not from over exertion! Just from hormones or smelling something I have an aversion to, etc.) and now that baby is getting bigger, I have the typical later pregnancy symptoms of heartburn, less room to breathe, and even occasional dizziness. New to this pregnancy (or maybe just because I’m older this time around) is some crazy sciatic pain that sometimes shows up during my run and other times keeps me from even getting out the door.
*MY mental game is hurting too. Running is certainly not all mental (and I’m trying to keep listening to my body while it changes as it grows another person! I do NOT want to injure myself or put little one in any sort of distress), but a big part of it is, and that is something I am struggling with right now. I can’t go as fast as I did before and I have to exert more energy just to maintain a slower pace than I am used to. I have
not felt confident to go as far as I used to either, mainly because I don’t trust going very far from a bathroom and I get mentally fatigued just going around my neighborhood instead of running down the more interesting paths I’m used to for longer runs.
*Nothing fits correctly right now- from a purely practical standpoint, I am struggling to go on runs because I have nothing comfortable to run in. It’s still too hot for me to wear pants or full length leggings. The running capris and shorts I had before no longer fit my growing belly, but I’m not far enough along for the maternity shorts or leggings I bought to stay up and fit correctly.
SO, with all those struggles in mind, WHY am I still doing it?
*My mental health- I struggle with prenatal anxiety- the hormones and my brain just don’t seem to get along. Running is still such a good way to reset and find some mental peace. I get tired enough that the anxiety thought spirals have to stop. The endorphins help balance out the pregnancy hormones. I gain some perspective and get into the sunshine. The number one reason I want to stay active amidst all the discomfort and discouragement is because my brain needs it.
*My physical health- I am hoping to have an easier recovery if I continue to take care of my physical health these next few months. Some things I just can’t do a good job of right now (I still have CRAZY food aversions to a lot of the healthier things I’d usually eat so my nutrition is not what I’d like), but getting outside and moving my body is something I can still do and something I am valuing after being put on modified bedrest for part of my last pregnancy. PLUS, this is good for my physical health not just postpartum, but RIGHT NOW. I’m hoping it will help fight some of the frequent health issues that come up for women during their pregnancy.
*My kids are still looking up to me and I want to keep showing them that we can do hard things. It has been such a joy this year to watch them want to “run a race” and just burst out in squeals of joy as they talk off running stretches of our family walks. I love watching them learn to love being active and the adventures you can find when you explore on your own two feet.
*Mileage goals- I set a goal of a certain number of miles at the beginning of the year, not anticipating that I would spend over half the year pregnant. I am trying very hard to still make that goal happen! I want to finish out the year strong and I know that when I look at that big goal that every mile counts, even if some miles are more speed walking or hiking at a toddler pace instead of pure running.
*BONUS: The encouragement I get when I’m out there just makes me feel really good. The running community is so lovely and supportive and it reminds me that forward is forward, I’m doing the best I can, and deciding to run is what makes me a runner- not my pace, or my body, or having a race to train for.
So if you, like me, are an expecting mama and feeling discouraged bout how hard prenatal fitness can be- I just want to say that you can do hard things so KEEP GOING! but DO IT YOUR WAY. Do what you can, and what you can will change day by day. And as miserable as it can feel sometime, it’s kind of fun to get a little kick (literally) of encouragement from your tiny running body along for those prenatal miles.