Can You Run Through Pregnancy?
It used to be the protocol that when you found out you were pregnant, you were basically wrapped in bubble wrap and told not to move. Now, apart from the eating (and the obvious drinking) restrictions, the advice generally now is to stay as active as possible – within reason*. Why has the advice changed? Well, as with most of our medical advice from years ago our knowledge of everything has evolved (Hinman et al 2015). Remember when we used to put everyone on bed rest when there was something wrong with them? Now, they want you to move as much as possible. Research has told us that activity and fitness can help with most problems from depression to back pain (Stanton & Reaburn, 2014; Vanti et al 2017), so it's no surprise that the advice has changed for pregnancy too.
So the big question is – can you run during pregnancy? To answer this question in full, I’d like to share my own personal experience.
The black and white answer is YES, you can. The more greyish area is – you may not want to.
The Struggle is Real
From the very very very beginning I was hit with all the weird and wonderful less common symptoms. Most women develop back pain or symphysis pubis diastis/dysfunction, also known as SPD, (where your pubic bone becomes so soft from your hormones that is separates – ouch!). So far (there’s still time), I haven’t been hit with any of these ones, but I do have a headache 24/7, pregnancy rhinitis (sneezing and sniffly), and an occasional bloody nose from doing absolutely nothing - none of which have stopped me running.
For the first 4-6 months the thing that really surprised me when running (and walking upstairs for that matter), was the shortness of breath. I remember racing a cross-country race at about 8 weeks pregnant and I was out of breath for a lot of it – which completely freaked me out. Needless to say I threw in the cross country towel after that. From here on in I stuck to plodding my usual routes, the same distance, but slightly slower.
It wasn’t until about 5 months that I started to feel like I couldn’t do as much. My mileage was cut short per week, and my times were falling. Why you ask? Was it pain? Was it tiredness? Shortness of breath? Not exactly. At this point I started getting something I would never have expected - cramping. Possibly from the grapefruit sized cargo I was carrying around with me. I spoke to my midwife about it and she said, “its not harming your baby – it’s just you that’s in pain – you may find that you might have to adapt the exercise that you do.” Once I knew it was “just me”, and not my baby – totally fine. I can push through pain that’s just mine and not harmful. I figured out a tactic that if I shorted my stride (a lot!) and ran a certain pace (slow), plus breathing in and out of my nose – I could manage about 5 miles before any cramping kicked in. Granted, it took me about 50 minutes, but I was “running” and that was fine by me.
You think long car trips are bad?
This was also about the time when I started noticing I had to pee all the time. Seriously, over a 4 mile run I think I would have to go about 3 or 4 times. This limited my routes to the less populated trail runs, where bushes and trees were frequent. Jumping up and down with a grapefruit sized object on your bladder, I can honestly say is not the most comfortable thing in the world. Fast forward three more months, as I’ve gotten bigger – and slower, this is the most compromising symptom yet. Cramping, and shortness of breath I can deal with tactics to reduce them. Having to pee every 20 seconds only to find there’s not much there, is extremely unsatisfying, and honestly, demotivating.
You’ve heard it all before
The bottom line, is that everyone will be different. For some people they have so much pain in their pelvis that just walking is a struggle. I consider myself lucky that I’ve made it this far, as I know friends who had to quit running much sooner. I also know people who made it much further! You may be that person who runs all the way to the hospital to give birth, or you may choose to eat Oreos the entire time (which by the way, sorry to burst your bubble, but eating for two thing isn’t really a thing anymore!), sometimes you have to just go with the flow.
What we do know, that if you’re a runner beforehand, and you're classified as “low risk” – running is perfectly safe in pregnancy*. The general guidelines recommended that you slow it down and be more gentle, but to be honest – the symptoms will force you do that, whether you like it or not! Whether you can run to 20 weeks or 40 weeks, the fact that you’re still moving and exercising is a bonus. If you’re stopped in your tracks by pelvic pain, or if you just simply decide that running isn’t for you at the moment, that’s totally fine too. We are all different in what we can do, and what we choose to do.
For me…I’m just a little bit too stubborn to call it a day, and I'm sure I’ll attempt some jogging here and there for another week or two– or what we have come to call "WOG’s" ( walk/jogs) in my house. I'll be honest and tell you that its now about 90% walking and 10% jogging, but in my head - I'm still running!
**Please remember to check with your health care provider if running through pregnancy is safe for YOU !**
Hinman, S., Smith, K,. Quilen, D., & Smith, S. 2015, Exercise in Pregnancy, A Clinical Review, Sport Health, pp. 527 – 531.
Perales, M., Artal, R., Lucia, A., 2017, Exercise during pregnancy, American Medical Association, Vol 317, No. 11, pp 1113-1114.
Stanton,R. & Reaburn, P. 2017, Exercise and the treatment of depression: A review of exercise program variables, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Vol. 17, pp. 177-182.
Vanti, C., Andreatta, S., Borghi, S., Guccione, A., Pillastrini, P., & Bertozzi, L. 2017 The effectiveness of walking versus exercises on pain and function in chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials, Disability and Rehabilitation, Vol, 41, No. 6, Pp. 622-632.
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