One of the most common questions I get from clients is some version of “Is it safe for me to run when I’m pregnant?” Beyond that, clients will also ask “How can my running be more comfortable?” The good news is yes it’s safe- if you were a runner before pregnancy you can keep running if you would like, also there are some easy modifications to make running more pleasant even as your body changes shape and gets bigger.
To start- yes, you can keep running when pregnant. ACOG, the group that issues the guidelines that doctors and trainers follow for pregnancy exercise, writes “If you were a runner before you became pregnant, you often can keep running during pregnancy although you may have to modify your routine” (link here). You should speak with your doctor if you want to keep running after becoming pregnant, but the good news is that is has been found to be safe for most women.
However, know that running is not always comfortable when pregnant. We’ve had many clients who were former marathon runners and triathaletes who have found that running just doesn’t feel good– especially as they get into the third trimester. Running can be uncomfortable during pregnancy for a few reasons. First, the relaxin in your joints means that your knees and ankles are looser and more prone to roll. Secondly, the weight of the baby on your pelvic floor and bladder can be heavy and running means the baby is literally bouncing on those muscles and organs. If running doesn’t feel “right” there are plenty of other exercise activities that can be more comfortable– the most simple being taking your exercise into the pool. Running or jogging in the water can provide all the cardiovascular and muscular benefits of running on land while taking the pressure off your joints and pelvic floor.
That being said, some women enjoy running all throughout their pregnancy. If that’s you, these are three easy modifications that I’ve found help most women feel comfortable running even into there third trimester. Play around with them, and see what feels best for you.
1- Slow down. This is the easiest, and by far the most helpful. Shorten your route, add walking breaks, add a minute or two onto your pace time. This is the best thing you can do to ensure that you are able to run throughout your pregnancy.
2- Change your route. I’ve found that the best route or path for pregnant women to use when they run is the “petal method.” Imagine that your house (or gym, or office- wherever you start your run) as the center of a flower, and then set your path along individual “petals” so that you are running by your house ever 5-10 minutes. This means that if you suddenly have to go to the bathroom (this is going to happen– running makes this pregnancy symptom even worse!) or if you need water or need to just shorten your run, you are close to home. Try not to be further then half a mile from your house at any point— this will become even more helpful the farther along you are in your pregnancy.
3- Wear a support belt. The thing that eventually stops most women from running when pregnant is that they feel the baby is sitting so heavy on their bladder, and the jostling of running makes the feeling even worse. Wearing a pregnancy support belt will often add a month or two of running for most pregnant women. Google “pregnancy support belt“- there are lots of options!
The good news is that with some simple modifications (and your doctor’s okay) most women that want to run while pregnant can! If you need a little more inspiration, check out this article about Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher- two professional marathon runners who ran throughout their pregnancies. Such great inspiration!
What have you found worked when you tried to run when pregnant? Let me know!