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How Pregnancy Has Changed Me As A Runner

When I found out I was pregnant, the first thing I did was head to Barnes & Noble to find every book I could about running and exercising through my pregnancy. You know what I found, a whole lot of nothing. I am not saying the books and resources are not out there, but the selection is so slim, it almost wasn’t worth even exploring. I quickly realized that literature had not quite caught up with “the times” and that I would pretty much be on my own with this experience…finding a doctor that supported my continued running, and doing the best I could and using common sense to gauge my body’s response to heat, different exercises and stretches, etc.

So far, the first trimester has been the worst part. I will even call it down-right sucky. From the day we got the positive pregnancy result from my general physician to my first appointment with my OB/GYN was three and a half weeks. My general physician told me that until I was able to get checked out by my OB/GYN that I should not run…AT ALL. Not even a jog. Nothing. I thought that sounded strange, but not knowing better, I obliged. Certainly I wouldn’t want to do anything to put this kiddo in danger, right? Right. Those weeks were the worst. I had just come off of very high mileage weeks from training for the Rock N Roll Mardi Gras Marathon and I basically threw my body into a wall by sitting around doing NOTHING. I was given the okay to walk, but when you are used to running, walking is SO boring. Keep in mind that at this time, I felt perfectly fine…no sickness, no fatigue, no symptoms whatsoever. At this point, my body wanted to run so badly, but my head told me listen to the doctor. It was so hard to physically not do something that I felt I was totally capable of doing. In those weeks I gained 1/3 of the weight I have gained throughout my pregnancy to date. That’s an absurd amount to gain so early on. But, I wasn’t running, my body’s metabolism was completely thrown for a loop, and I was eating ALL THE TIME…mostly out of comfort and boredom.

Finally my first appointment with my OB/GYN came around. I gave him my history of running, and he gave me the thumbs up to keep up with my training, with a few rules:

  • NO marathons. I am allowed to run up to the half marathon distance only.
  • NO open water swims. He knew I wanted to get into triathlons and he made me promise to only swim in clear pool water. That reduces the chance of my getting accidentally kicked.
  • Drink AT LEAST a gallon of water a day. Yes, a GALLON. That’s a lot of water.
  • Monitor my heart rate religiously. I used to only monitor my HR when I was training or concerned with staying in a certain zone, but now I wear it during all exercise…no matter what.
  • Always be mindful of the heat and use common sense. If I feel light-headed, woozy, weak, or feel anything abnormal whatsoever, stop and walk/rest immediately.
  • Most of the “rules” are just common sense things, but I agreed…delighted to get back to my exercising.

    Unfortunately for me, within days of being given the green light to keep going, the pregnancy symptoms hit me. So far, I will say, I have been pretty lucky and not had to endure too much, but at this point the fatigue nearly wiped me out. Some days, I was so tired that I didn’t even know how I would make it through the day. I would shut my office door at lunch time, and as soon as I could set the 1-hour alarm on my phone, I was forehead down on my desk, conked completely out. I even joked with my husband that I was sure that I was suffering from a new level of pregnancy fatigue that I invented, called pregnancy narcolepsy. I can’t even tell you the weird places I woke up, never even realizing I had stopped and fallen asleep.

    There went another few weeks of non-exercising, eating, and gaining more weight. *sigh*

    Everything changed when I hit my second trimester (around 14 weeks). As if a switch had been flipped, I got my energy back, I started sleeping better, and I actually felt like getting out and moving around. I also started taking some new vitamins that helped me keep my iron levels up and maintain my energy throughout the day. HALLELUJAH! Going out for my first run was frustrating though. After not really having run hard in a couple of months, getting out for a 4-miler was tough, but I did it…and it felt GREAT. I enjoyed breaking a sweat, feeling the sun, and working my muscles again. I felt like I was back in action!

    All was going well, and I was feeling motivated. In fact, a couple of weeks later, I even ran the Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Pensacola Beach, FL. It was GREAT! I remember thinking to myself, “I have SO got this whole running mama-to-be thing DOWN! Woot!” (My, how confident I was!)

    04/10/2011 Gulf Coast Half Marathon (Pensacola Beach, FL)

    I rode that runner’s high for the next couple of weeks…until the heartburn set in. It has still never really gone away. A roll of TUMS is never too far out of my reach and while they may help the symptoms slightly, it never seems to *really* go away. Have you ever tried to run with killer heartburn? Oh my word! It is miserable! It stings and you get this horrible feeling in the back of your throat. These days, I am popping at least one TUMS before every run, just for good measure.

    I am currently rounding out the end of my second trimester (at almost 26 weeks) and in the last few weeks things have gotten really interesting. My body has started changing drastically and I have had to change almost everything that I knew about my body and running. As my midsection expands and I gain more weight, I find my center of gravity changing. Because of that, the position that I hold my body in has changed a lot. In addition, Baby Key can be in different positions from day-to-day, meaning my center of gravity and ability to balance can change from day-to-day. It is very strange and, on some days, kind of disorienting. I am currently running in a way that is so different for me and, at times, feels extremely awkward. To help me combat this, I have (as of this week) started running with a special band called the FITsplint (made by MomBodFitness). It goes around my back and has one band that goes across my belly and one band that goes under it for added support. It gets warm, but so far, seems to be working really well.

    Another big change I have had to make is in my shoes. I used to run in very flat, neutral Saucony Kinvaras. I have recently had to switch to the Saucony Fastwitch 5 because it offers more stability and I find that my feet are pronating more because of my wonky, forced running gait.

    My current shoe loves. Saucony Fastwitch 5.

    Breathing is a whole different ball game as well. Again, this is one that changes from day to day. Some days Baby Key is sitting lower and it is easy for me to take in deep breaths and feel like I can get a good amount of oxygen to my muscles. Then there are days like yesterday, where he was positioned right up in my lungs, making me lose my breath doing simple things like walking across the street to check the mail. It can be frustrating, especially if this happens on a day where I have a good, long workout planned. However, I just have to remember that this is temporary.

    To date, the biggest lesson that I have had to learn is patience. Before I was pregnant, I thought I was invincible. I knew that if I laced up my shoes and got outside that I could convince my body to do anything my brain told it to do. I didn’t let much of anything slow me down. How that has all changed! Now there are days that when I go out for a run, no matter how badly my head wants to pretend I can breeze through an easy 10-miler, my body gets to a point where it says, “No more, lady.” Some days I can make it all the way through a 5k, and some days I am doing good to squeak out a half a mile at a time.

    The important thing is that I just keep moving. I am so thankful that I have a big support team (#RunLA, you know I am talking about you!) that helps keep me motivated and thinking positively. I know I will be back to my “old self” next year…I just have to be patient.

    Looking forward, I plan to keep up my 15-20 miles per week as long as I can. I never know if that means another week or another month. My doctor and health care professionals have told me that there is no specific point at which I have to stop, so as long as I feel like I can keep running safely and want to, I am allowed to do so. All I can do is take it one day at a time.

    These days, I feel like “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO is my personal theme song because everyday I’m shufflin’!

    Posted: July 29, 2011 by

    • LisaCrazyAdventuresinParenting

      Such an excellent article!! Thank you!

    • Megan Landry

      Thanks for this post! Lots of great info! You rock!

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