There's a lot to think about if you carry on running during your pregnancy. Take on board these practical running tips.
According to official guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, aerobic exercise (including running) and strength conditioning exercise are both considered not just safe, but beneficial. Exercise can help women adjust to the changes in their body during pregnancy, helping with back pain, tiredness, swelling and even varicose veins. If you love running, then continuing during pregnancy will boost your mood, help you manage anxiety and probably help you sleep. Exercise has been shown to minimise or prevent gestational diabetes and hypertension and, contrary to old wives' tales, doesn't affect milk production. And being fit and healthy will also prepare your body for labour (and fitter women usual have shorter labours and less complicated deliveries).
However, the aim of exercise during pregnancy should be to stay fit, rather than to reach peak fitness. Here are the golden rules to follow if you decide to run whilst you're pregnant.
Unusual Symptoms or Pains?
If anything worries you, stop exercising and consult your GP, midwife or specialist. This might include pelvic pain, back pain or simply a sense that something isn't quite right.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions?
It goes without saying that you should discuss these with your healthcare team before running during pregnancy. Arm yourself with the positive benefits if you feel they might not be as pro-running as you are.
Add Some Strength Training
Glute amnesia and muscular imbalances can be a problem for pregnant women. Don't let running add to these issues. Make sure you do plenty of light rehabilitation work to offset any tightness and to promote pelvic stability.
Don't Forget Your Pelvic Floor!
Make pelvic floor exercises a key part of your training routine and you'll reap the benefits - as a Mum and a runner - now and in the future.
Consider Cross Training
If you suffer with pelvic girdle pain (sometimes refers to as SPD) you might find running just too painful. Cycling would be a good alternative.
80% Is Your Max
Stick to 8/10 of your personal maximum RPE (rate of perceived exertion) to avoid overheating or overexertion. Avoid sprints, hills and speedwork. This isn't a time to chase personal bests.
Keep It Under 45 Minutes
Guidance from top obstetricians is to keep exercise sessions to 45 minutes or less during pregnancy: this will help avoid a drop in blood sugar, which is more dramatic in pregnancy.
Avoid Very Hot Runs
If it's a particularly hot, sunny or humid day, you are probably best advised to skip your run and choose a cooler form of cross training as an alternative.
It's easy to overheat when you're pregnant, and this is unhealthy for you and for your baby. Dress appropriately, in light, breathable fabrics which wick away sweat, and take on plenty of fluids including electrolytes. Drink plenty throughout the day, too.