It is the question I have had many times, and the question I had never really thought about before it happened to me.
What does it feel like to run while pregnant?
I get it.
You would think running while pregnant would be pretty uncomfortable, the big bump in your front would kind of bounce up and down and you would feel completely out of balance, your belly pulling you forward.
That’s what I thought anyway.
But here is what really happens when you run while pregnant.
Your belly goes HARD.
Actually, on that note, in general a pregnant belly is a lot harder than I would have ever thought, but when you run, it becomes rock solid, almost contracted to hold itself in place, so there is no bouncing, there is no movement, and honestly you wouldn’t even really know you are pregnant for the most part…other than the fatigue felt with every step, and obviously if you reached around you would feel it!
Running up hill is a LOT harder. I found I was breathing hard within a few steps, but that makes sense right? You are going against gravity, having to lift that extra weight upwards. In the same vein, downhills become a lot more enjoyable, you DO notice how you can lean into the hills and just fly (relative, I am not flying anywhere right now haha) down the hill.
In the first trimester, when you are feeling exhausted all the time and feeling sick most of the time, for me, running was the toughest at that point. In some ways, that was because I was completely out of shape after 10 weeks of no exercise, but it was also just in those early stages your body is working so damn hard to get this baby going that it doesn’t really have any energy to spare.
During that time, although I built up to 7 miles, I found when I got home from a run, I was POOPED and would need a nap. Running itself didn’t really feel any different to usual, and the best way to get through this time is to just remove any sense of pacing from your life (hello, #nowatchme!), and just run whatever felt enjoyable for you. It can be hard to accept that you are getting slower and slower, yet when you look down, you don’t have anything to show for it. You look completely normal (other than maybe some bloating), so running using #nowatchme is absolutely ideal during this time.
Some days you may feel better than others, and you can pick it up a little on those days (I chose not to), but you have to remind yourself of what is most important here. Although you don’t have the beautiful bump to show, your body is working overtime trying to get things going, so it needs some slack.
In the second trimester, your clothes start to get a little tighter…and shorter as they climb up your belly as they are pulled out. All normal length active clothes have to be put aside, and you are left with the long ones that cover your bum as they are the only ones that will make it with you the whole way through.
As you often hear, this is the sweet spot, and for the most part, running feels pretty good. I would say I still had very few runs where I felt “normal”, but there was a marked improvement from the first trimester, and other than your clothes being a little snug, there is not really much different about anything running wise.
I did however notice that my legs were sore all the time. It felt like every run I started out at 18 miles of a 20 mile long run, my legs already sore and heavy, knowing I could make it, but they felt heavy.
That feeling hasn’t really gone away, but again, that is to be expected with extra weight being put on your body every week.
The second trimester just kind of goes by. I wouldn’t say I felt good, but I felt a lot better than the first, and it wasnt as difficult to breathe as it is now.
There were a few times in the later end of the second trimester where I did have some pain, either a lot of tightness in my lower abs, or a pain in my belly that just didn’t feel very good, as it was a specific area that was hurting. I prepared to say goodbye to running, and I mean that, I was ready to step away at any point, just as I had to get pregnant in the first place, but then I would give it one more run to see how I went, expecting to stop and walk within a few minutes, but it would be a lot better that next run, or would completely go away within a few minutes (whereas the previous run, the pain had been there for longer). I started to wear a pregnancy band from Gabriela on my runs, which helped me to feel like things weren’t as tight.
With Dr Fusons guidance, her words from when I interviewed her for my pregnancy podcast series ringing in my mind, I took it day by day with my running.
Some days I thought it was the end, and then the next day would be a great run (bearing in mind I was still only running 3-4 times a week, not every day). After about 28 weeks I never really felt like running was easy, I felt tired, but mostly in my legs, and not really bad, just that long run feeling.
In the third trimester, my dedication to running backed down a little, if I missed one of my running days because we were busy, I didn’t care. If I felt like using the ElliptiGO instead, I did. If it was a little too cold and I didn’t feel like going out there, I didn’t. Even if that meant taking off 3-4 days a week of exercise, and just doing the strength training with Drew.
But things still felt pretty decent within my body. I noticed as the weeks went by that I became out of breath easier. I didn’t look at pacing, but there is a steadily decline in my pace over the weeks as I went from averaging 8:45 per mile (roughly) to around 9:30 or even 10 minutes a mile, with a lot more walk breaks, but I was at peace with that. I was doing what my body felt was right at the time.
Even as your belly grows big, it still doesn’t bounce at all. Granted, I still wore my belly band, which lifted some of the weight a little, and kept things supported, but overall, I really didn’t notice that much of a difference other than the speed and just tiredness in my legs.
As I write this, I don’t know if I will still be running when this get published, but for now, I am happy and proud of my body for being able to still manage 15-25 miles a week through most of pregnancy. Nothing compared to the 90 I was doing in heavy training, but enough for health, and enough to make me feel like I was doing something to look after my body.
And just if you re still a little skeptical of running and pregnancy, and still in that mindset that it is not good for you, here is an article I wrote for Motiv Running on running through pregnancy after my interview with Dr Fuson.
I trust her with my whole heart, and if she says it is okay, I believe her.
So that my friends is running through pregnancy. Not as exciting as you might think, but maybe gives you some things to send to a loved one you may know who is wondering about this. As I mentioned, I now have a pregnancy and running podcast series, which you may want to check out here.