Pregnancy is a happy time but, for runners, it can be one full of concerns. Here are the answers to your most common pregnancy running questions.
Q: If you lose running fitness in the first trimester, how do you know what level to start at when you can run again?
If you suffered sickness and exhaustion in your first trimester, and lost physical fitness, you might worry about how to start running again when you feel better. How much should you exert yourself? Should you try to regain your previous fitness? The good news is that you can safely work your way up to reasonable levels of fitness, but seek the support of an understanding GP or midwife or specialist running coach. Take it slowly and ramp up the mileage carefully, adding plenty of cross-training, walking and lower impact exercise, along with pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
Q: How should you set yourself running targets during pregnancy?
If you're a competitive type of runner, you might want to know how to set yourself a suitable challenge as a pregnant runner. Your cardiovascular fitness feels very different now, and of course you're advised to keep heart rate and temperature to safe levels. But you want a target and a goal. Hopefully it makes sense to set your sights on maintaining current fitness levels, rather than improving them, during pregnancy. Changes in your body, heart rate and temperature may well make your perceived rate of exertion change anyway, so you'll feel like you're working harder. Now is not the time to chase personal bests, to commit to training for a race or to train at maximal levels (sprints, intervals, hill reps etc). Instead, enjoy steady runs, recovery paced runs and walking when your body tells you that's what it needs.
Q: What should you do when running during pregnancy becomes too uncomfortable or cumbersome?
Depending on the size and shape of your bump (and boobs!) you may choose to stop running during pregnancy, but want to stay active. Why not try one of these low-impact alternatives: - walk on a treadmill set at an incline - walk outside (on a variety of surfaces and inclines if possible) - use the gym's cross trainer - cycle (adjust the headset and handlebars so you can sit in a more upright angle) - swim or aqua-jog
Q: What physical signs or markers can you use to assess effort levels as a pregnant runner?
If you've been in tune with your heart rate, breathing and RPE (rate of perceived exertion) prior to pregnancy, you'll find that these familiar benchmarks go out of the window. You'll need to relearn what it feels like to run at gentle, safe levels. Your aerobic capacity is likely to reduce as your pregnancy progresses, and your heart rate will climb faster for less effort. Be aware that your joints and ligaments are now more susceptible to over-stretching and injury, so try to switch up the surfaces you run on (continual road running will put a lot of strain on your ligaments). It's also a good idea to include some pelvic floor exercises into your running routine to keep the entire body fit, strong and healthy (and prepared for birth and a faster recovery).
Q: Are bump bands useful?
It's a personal thing, but some female runners feel that wearing a bump band helps them feel more supported when they run. This might particularly help you if your bump is quite low. It's a low-cost idea to try out, and might help you feel more confident and comfortable as a pregnant runner.