Running whilst pregnant
Posted by Tia Patel | OCT-20-2020
3 of the world's top marathoners, Kara Goucher, Deena Kastor and Paula Radcliffe, have all ran whilst pregnant. Whilst its not recommended to start running if you didn’t already run, for those who already do, continuing can help both mother and child.
Read on for the benefits, the talk test and top tips for running with added weight.
Benefits of running whilst pregnant
Research by an NHS study which recruited women from ParkRun found that running during pregnancy doesn't raise risk of premature birth and has many benefits to the mother's health including:
- Reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, pre-term birth and pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), having a baby with high birth weight, and the need for a cesarean section. It may also improve your baby’s brain development.
- Ease constipation, whilst promoting a healthy weight throughout pregnancy.
- Help with the feeling of fatigue.
- Whilst it won’t put you into labour, it can help get you through it. Women who exercise during pregnancy have easier, faster labors and they feel better postpartum with a quicker recovery time.
Increase the body's production of endorphins and therefore help you to feel good. A 2020 study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal found that engaging in physical activity during pregnancy reduces the odds of developing depression by 67 percent and reduces the severity of depressive symptoms.
The Talk Test
It’s also important to be mindful of your heart rate, but there’s no need to obsess over numbers as it's different for every woman. Instead do the talk test as an indicator of how intense your exercise is. When running, try and hold a conversation with either the person you're running with or yourself. You could even sing out loud! (although, you may get some strange looks). If you can't maintain a conversation, your breathing is laboured or you feel tired or in pain, slow down to a walking pace or even stop.
Tips for running whilst pregnant
Your body will dictate how you run - As you grow a baby your body naturally becomes heavier. A change in gait and extra weight can aggravate old injuries or make new ones more likely. It’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it by running too long or too fast.
You need to be aware of your surroundings - With most forms of active physical activity when pregnant, there is a risk of falling. Especially whilst running when your centre of gravity is likely to be more off than before. This, plus the extra weight you're carrying and the added lubricity of your joints can make you more likely to fall. It's important to plan your route avoiding any areas where there might be an increased risk of tripping or falling (rough terrain, narrow roads or steep roads). Instead opt for packed dirt or level firm grass but also pick your feet up, as well as looking at the ground, in front and your surroundings as you run as well.
If you do fall and you have bleeding or any abdominal pain or reduced baby movements, it's important to seek immediate medical help and be assessed by a doctor.
Continue to ice any niggles post run. The use of cold therapy during pregnancy can also be beneficial for treating swollen feet and hands, which are common symptoms of pregnancy.
3. PBs should be far from your mind- Re-frame your goals so you’re running to be strong and healthy rather than race ready.
4. Avoid overheating - Comfortable shoes and loose clothing are a must, especially when you're outside running. Stay in the shade if it's sunny or avoid running from 10-2 when the sun is at its peak . It's also essential to stay well hydrated so carry a water bottle with you.
Having a child can be both a stressful and empowering time but our main piece of advice for mothers to be is to listen to your body, some days will be easier than others. Any form of exercise is great for you and your baby.