One of the most common questions I get asked as a running coach and trainer for mamas is, “Should pregnant women run?” Instinctively, I want to respond with, “of course, they can run, they’re not fragile!” Women were made to move: we work, we dance, we clean, we drive vehicles, we pick up children and grocery bags, we sit and stand, we cook and go about our busy lives not even stopping to think that it all involves motion; and we do this pregnant. But what about running? A more important question may be, “How does running make you feel?” Here are three questions I ask to determine whether or not running while pregnant is effective for you, mama.
How is your posture? The first rule to running pregnant is to pay attention to posture. Does it feel like your torso is tall, or is your body hunched over and collapsed at the core? Is breathing labored? As you become more visibly pregnant, you’re easily winded. Having a tall torso ensures breathing efficiency and a more forward lean. A forward lean reduces the amount of heel striking which has been known to contribute to numerous injuries including knee pain and lower back pain in runners. Running with great technique will not only help prevent these types of injuries, but will also help you breathe better and recover better as well. A good rule of thumb is: once your posture goes, your running must “go” also.
Do you feel discomfort or pressure on your lower belly? If you feel pressure and/or pain in your belly while running, I recommend lowering the intensity, adding more rest between intervals, and/or stop running altogether. Between weeks 21-32 of pregnancy is typically when moms begin to complain of pressure in their lower belly when jumping or running. This is also when I ask THE question no one wants to hear: “Why are you still running?” Oftentimes the answer has something to do with mindset and body image and requires an honest conversation. Occasionally, I have a pregnant mom who may be unsure what specific sensation she’s feeling in her body, but insists on running. I recognize that perhaps she was just feeling a bit off on that particular day. In these situations, I encourage mom to keep a journal. If you are unsure what you’ve been feeling during your training, I encourage you to keep a journal throughout your pregnancy journey. Document what you felt during each run - this can be as simple as one word or sentence. Every 2 weeks, sit down and review your writing. What types of words have you written around your workouts? Does the word, “discomfort” or “pressure” come up a lot? If this is the case, it’s time to ask yourself the “why” question and perhaps explore a style of movement other than running.
Where are you running? My last rule of thumb is to choose one running surface and stick to it throughout your pregnancy. Surfaces include paved roads, cemented areas, dirt paths, the woods, grass, turf, or a track. Varying running surfaces can lead to numerous injuries such as shin splints, and could mean rolled ankles and tripping. We want to ensure the safety of all runners, but pregnancy is no time for a musculoskeletal injury and we need to ensure baby’s safety, too. My advice is to stick to a track-type surface, grass or turf, and preferably a flat surface. Unless you are a more mature and experienced runner, I would suggest staying out of the woods. And of course, if it is raining or snowing - as if often does here in the northeast - choose another safe, indoor, fitness activity.
Mama, we want you to move. If you prefer to run, then run. If want to walk, allow yourself to walk. You’re not broken; you’re pregnant. We want you to move often, to move well, and to move safely within your environment. You are, after all, preparing for the biggest fitness event of your life. It will most likely require all of your physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual energy to bring a child into this world. We know this to be true: to prepare for birth, mama’s gotta move!
"2 New Approaches to Reducing Knee Pain While Running ...." 16 Sep. 2015, http://running.competitor.com/2015/09/injury-prevention/2-new-approaches-to-reducing-knee-pain-while-running_135344. Accessed 22 Sep. 2017.