Knowing how to tailor your workouts can be a real challenge. Every body is different, and thus the type, duration, and intensity of our workouts all vary. And that doesn’t account for any special circumstances, illness, or physical ailments we have.
I have often wondered what to expect of fitness ability while pregnant. Surely you have to make some adjustments, but thankfully you can still keep maintain regular exercise. This applies to nearly all workouts, even running. In today’s guest post you will learn The Do’s and Don’t of Running During Pregnancy. Although specific to running, these tips relate to any workout.
Guest Post: The Do’s and Don’ts of Running During Pregnancy
It would be the understatement of the year to say that when you’re pregnant, every single fiber of your body changes. Yet, it’s worth mentioning simply because many people fail to realize this very important fact. While there are obvious physical changes occurring in a pregnant woman’s midsection, the rest of her body, as well as her mental health, also changes in an effort to support a healthy pregnancy.
Back in the day, the medical community thought that pregnant women should be bedridden and essentially immobile for the duration of the pregnancy. They assumed a pregnant woman’s uterus would basically fall out if they were to exercise. And due to this fear, out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women ought to severely restrict physical exercise.
Suffice it to say that the medical community has come a long way. It’s now pretty standard practice to actually encourage pregnant women to exercise during pregnancy. The fears of yore are but historical jokes at this point. There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule, but by and large, it’s completely safe and important for pregnant women to exercise.
Similarly, just as the pregnant phase vastly changes a woman’s body, so, too, does the postpartum period. Many women incorrectly think that as soon as their baby leaves their body, that their own body will magically return back to its pre-baby shape, and that’s just not true. By and large, postpartum women are encouraged to begin or resume exercising, but here, too, there are some exceptions to the rule.
Below, I’ll talk about specific dos and don’ts related to running during pregnancy and postpartum. Above all else, though, please listen to your medical practitioner and seek his or her advice if you have specific questions related to your own medical case.
Don’t try to set any personal records.
When you’re pregnant, it’s not the right time to try to set impressive personal records or personal bests. It’s more important to exercise for the physiological benefits of it, both to you and to your fetus, than it is for your ego and athletic accolades.
Don’t run yourself to complete exertion.
For a long time, practitioners believed that a pregnant woman should keep her heart rate under 180 while she exercised (or ran). That advice has since been thrown out, but the spirit of the advice remains. While it’s valuable to get your daily sweat sesh on during your pregnancy, don’t run yourself to the point of utter exhaustion. At all times, you should be able to maintain a comfortable conversation when you’re running while pregnant. If you can’t, slow things down a notch.
Don’t run in precarious situations.
During pregnancy, your body will respond differently to external stimuli than it would were you not pregnant, and this is an important consideration to take into account when you decide each day if you’ll go for a run. If the weather is extreme — particularly if it’s especially hot, sunny, or with a high heat index or humidity — or if the air quality is particularly low, either skip your run altogether or take your run indoors, in air-conditioning. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both serious medical maladies, and they can be especially problematic for pregnant women. In addition, especially during the latter stages of your pregnancy, I’d encourage you to stay clear of runs wherein you are at greater risk of falling: in particular, super technical trail runs.
Definitely get your medical practitioner’s ok before you run while pregnant.
By and large, most medical professionals will tell you that it’s ok for you to run while you’re pregnant — especially if you were running regularly before you got pregnant — but don’t make that assumption. Instead, first ask, and get permission. If you have an extenuating medical circumstance that may preclude you from running, it’ll be imperative to get that knowledge from your practitioner first; remember, your main goal during your pregnancy is a healthy mom and a healthy baby.
Set goals, but listen to your body.
There’s nothing wrong with setting running-related goals while you’re pregnant, but don’t become hell-bent on realizing all of them. Some days you may feel really ill from pregnancy, and you may not want to run. That’s ok! It’s nice to have goals to hold yourself accountable, but it’s more important that you listen to your body each day. Just because you may not run today doesn’t mean that you won’t run tomorrow. Simply be patient, and take things a day at a time. (Easier said than done, I know).
Have fun with it!
When you’re running during pregnancy, you may find that this is a time that allows you to re-acquaint yourself with your love of the sport. Sure, you’ll likely slow down as you get heavier, but that’s okay (and expected). Check your ego at the door! Simply enjoy the ability that you have to move your body in this way while you’re pregnant, and treasure the memories that you’re creating with your growing baby in your belly.
Don’t expect to magically lose all your pregnancy weight right away.
Many women think that as soon as their baby is born, they will magically return to their pre-pregnancy weight. The reality, of course, is that it takes time. Don’t be hard on yourself about this. Remember everything that your body just endured for the past 40+ weeks. It’s likely that your body changed pretty significantly as a result of your pregnancy, and that’s perfectly normal.
Don’t resume exercise right away; get your medical professional’s clearance first.
Post-birth, regardless if it’s vaginal or Caesarean, your body will feel sore, tired, achy, and possibly in pain. Don’t feel pressured to jump right back into an exercise routine! Most times, medical professionals will give women clearance to resume normal activities at the six-week postpartum mark. I’d encourage you to wait until that milestone before you begin running again, even if you feel like you can go sooner.
Don’t do too much, too fast, too soon.
One reason so many runners injure themselves each year is because they run too many miles, faster than they should, and before their bodies are able to absorb the miles’ volume. So, too, is it with postpartum women. Just because you got clearance to exercise at 6 weeks postpartum doesn’t mean that you should begin training again in earnest. Take things really easy. Remember everything your body just endured for 40 weeks. Be kind to your body and to yourself.
Take things very slowly initially.
Closely related to my point above, when you’re postpartum, especially when you’re newly postpartum, take things really slowly. Aim to “exercise” each day, but make the goals modest, such as walking around a shopping center or up and down your street. It’s critical to remember all the physiological changes your body just endured and to be patient as you regain strength.
Talk with a women’s health physical therapist.
A woman’s health PT will be an excellent resource to you in your postpartum period. The PT will be able to diagnose any postpartum-related issues you have, such as pelvic imbalances or diastasis recti, and he/she will be able to give you specific strength and conditioning exercises to appropriately ameliorate them.
Involve your new family!
Particularly when you are starting out, I’d encourage you to incorporate your new family into your running regime. When your child is old enough, you can take him or her out for runs, rides, or walks by pushing him or her in a running-safe stroller. Everyone benefits from fresh air and sunshine, and you’ll likely fun that the endorphin rush and the sunny skies put you in a great mood.
Pregnancy and postpartum are both really exciting and scary phases of life, but neither one necessarily have to exclude running. If you’re keen to continue running throughout these two phases, definitely talk to your medical practitioner in advance.
Learn More About the Author
Jane Grates is a biker, vegan, record lover, Bauhaus fan and brand builder. Working at the nexus of aesthetics and programing to save the world from bad design. You can find Jane at https://www.runnerclick.com.
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