When we found out I was pregnant this time around, I was half-way along in my training for my second halfmarathon. My long run that week was 8 miles, I remember, because I threw up at miles 3, 5, and 8. O, yes, pregnancy has changed my habits as a runner, but it has not stopped them altogether (yet) so I thought I would share the tricks, products, and advice I have learned over these last 27 weeks of running for two.
Running 13.1 miles at 11 weeks pregnant was not my original plan when I signed up for the Dallas Rock’n’Roll Halfmarathon. (This is the part where I blush while I mention that DanO and I keep thinking it will take a few – or at least a couple – months off of birth control for us to conceive… but it never does. Ahem.) The first thing I had to resign as a pregnant runner was my pace. Whether it was stopping to lose my lunch or stopping to use the facilities, I found that my overall pace was almost immediately impacted when I got the two pink lines. Truth be told, this was more mentally challenging than physically, because I watched the pace I had been challenging myself to reach for over the last 8 weeks slipping away. As long as I could look past that as a motivational obstacle, I didn’t find that my physical endurance was negatively effected during the first trimester.
I’ll just put it out there: I found that from weeks 7-15 I rarely ran more than 5 miles without throwing up. Unrelated to exercise, I have always experienced nausea in the early weeks of each of my pregnancies. This made it especially important for me to make sure my body was still getting enough nutrients, electrolytes, and water. Gone were the days of a 6 mile run on nothing but water, and I began treating mid-distance runs as races as far as nutrition was concerned. I would keep a granola bar on my person (or my treadmill) just in case, drink gatorade instead of my usual water, and I also discovered Clif Shot Bloks. They taste like oversized gummi bears, are a quick, easily digested source of carbs and electrolytes, and taste much better going down than GU. Despite the throwing up that I experienced on most of my long runs, adding easily absorbed nutrients to my body while running kept me feeling strong enough to continue (as opposed to shaky and weak and needing to stop).
It is hard to put my finger on exactly why, but a few weeks into my second trimester, I began seeing my actual moving pace decrease. This means that, even without calculating stops I was taking, the speed I could push myself to run was slower. As a matter of choice, I stopped running anything more than 5 miles after my halfmarathon, but even on these ‘shorter’ distances, I added half minutes and then full minutes to my moving pace per mile as the weeks went on. Breathing was a bit harder, and frankly, so was dragging 20 extra pounds around. I decided it is was it is, and I determined to just keep running (no matter the pace) without walking as much as I could.
Picking new, better-for-where-I-am-now challenges has helped me stay motivated to keep at it, despite losing my hard-earned pace. I ran a 5k for fun and not for time at 22 weeks, I challenged myself to run 12miles in a week instead of my former pace challenges, I talked myself up to go (smaller, more appropriate distances) without walking. These were still stretching me, but not outside of my control like decreasing pace.
The best part about running when obviously pregnant is that people literally cheer for you when they see you out on a run. I have had more strangers and passerbyers encourage me in the last 10 weeks than in all my time running before. My personal favorite was when three very lively women who I passed running around the lake all applauded and hollered “Get it, gurl!” and “Dayum, mama!”. TRUE STORY.
The hardest part about running when obviously pregnant is the apparel. My favorite compression pants started to dig into my waist or lack-thereof, and the number of top options I had dwindled. There are few things as discouraging as getting your pregnant self off the couch and deciding to go for a run and then having absolutely nothing to wear. I did dare to buy a couple of items during this stage that I am a) hopeful will last me the remainder of the pregnancy and b) going to wear postpartum.
Lucy’s Hatha Capri Leggings are my new favorite (and only) running capris. Yes, they are pricey, but they are the single solitary pair I can still wear, which makes them worth the investment to me; they also aren’t maternity and will work long after pregnancy. They are ideal for pregnancy running and exercise because they are perfectly stretchy (but not too thin/loose) and actually dip a little in the front of the waistband which is ideal for a growing bump.
If you plan on exercising through pregnancy, run, don’t walk to Target for the C9 Layered Tank with Bra (which I think actually went on sale recently? But don’t hold me to that.) It’s meant to be slouchy and trendy, which will be nice for postpartum, but for now it just has so.much.extra.room. in the torso. And dare I say it looks flattering? Also, It is open and airy which is great for when you have quarts upon quarts of extra blood pumping around heating you up.
Blanqi Bodystyler Support Tank has been the glorious, much needed solution to my “I feel like my belly needs a sports bra” conundrum that started around 20 weeks. I wear it everysingleday but I am especially thankful for it when running, because there’s nothing enjoyable about untethered abs and layers of ‘padding’ flopping with each foot-strike of the pavement.
I am now standing on the verge of my third trimester and here’s the quick and honest of it: running is getting harder. I don’t usually go more than 3 miles, I am struggling for motivation, I walk more than I want to, and things are starting to ache. My battle cry for the next 12 weeks will be this: as long as I am able. I am going to keep running at least once a week until my body stops me, and at that point I will keep walking a couple times a week. My goal in all of this isn’t to be a hero or to impress anyone, it is for myself for several reasons.
1. I want to pickup where I left off after baby is here. While I have no plans to run a halfmarathon next winter (HA!), I know that the sooner I let up on running habits during pregnancy, the longer it will take to get them back when my little uterine occupant is evicted.
2. I have seen physical benefits. While I haven’t officially entered the third trimester yet, which is by far the most physically taxing stage of pregnancy, I have already benefitted from continuing to run. I did not exercise almost at all during my first two pregnancies and I experienced a fair amount of swelling in my ankles and eventually in my everything. With OBoy, my NOSE was litterally bloated with water weight by the end. That was this time of year (heat and humidity is notorious for causing edema/swelling) and here I am in mid-July on a day with a heat index above 100° with zero visible swelling in my ankles. I cannot say for certain that running is the only reason, but my midwife encouraged me that it certainly helps combat it (water intake, circulation, etc.). Running has also helped my energy level.
3. Me time. Me time. Me time. I am a better mom when I am running, taking time to myself, and practicing self-care. This is true when I am not pregnant, and it is true when I am. I am selfish and I want to listen to my thoughts without being interrupted for 30 whole minutes, so I run. It is cheaper than therapy (for me or for my poor children someday).
I will let you know how running goes these next three months. I am optimistic but also am listening closely to my body for if/when it tells me that it’s time to stop.