Running Tips for Expecting Mothers

Running Tips for Expecting Mothers

Here's The Short Version:

If you were a runner before becoming pregnant... and running still feels beneficial to you throughout your pregnancy. We support that!

The Science

I recently did a deep-dive educating myself on this subject. I came across this interesting study that surveyed female runners before their pregnancy.

Quick disclaimer-I always like to be clear about the sample size in studies.

This one included:

  • 406 women
  • Age 18+
  • Who ran with the Pacific Association of USA Track and Field organization.

The women in this study were, on average:

  • Multiparous
  • Lean
  • Predominantly white
  • Highly educated

Their competitive levels ranged from recreational to elite. 1/3 of these had been nationally ranked at some point.

Here are the results: 

  • On average, women reduced training during pregnancy. Their intensity reduced to about half of their nonpregnant running effort. It’s important to stay within your ability to talk while running pregnant. It's crucial for your cardiovascular system. Blood volume increases significantly during breathless running. Running above 90% maximal effort may compromise the safety of your baby while in utero.  
  • Good news: Only 3.9% reported sustaining a running injury while pregnant.  However...I don’t know if the questionnaire considered incontinence an “injury”. 

Potential Benefits to your body of running while pregnant:

  • Stronger pelvic floor muscles 
  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Improved triglycerides
  • Increase in high-density lipoproteins
  • Increased oxygen uptake
  • Improved mental health
  • Emotional and social support 
  • Weight management 

Consider These Things Before Running While Expecting:

1. Due Date

Women who run throughout their pregnancy typically deliver 5-7 days early.

2. Be Aware

Peeing on yourself while you run--even when pregnant-- is not normal. Running while pregnant does put increased pressure on the pelvic floor. Which can predispose you to symptoms of incontinence. Both while pregnant and postpartum (short and long term). 

3. Manage the Pressure 

Establishing a healthy core and pelvic floor is all about managing the pressure in your abdomen. Some modifications to consider if running while pregnant are:

Avoid steep inclines/declines

Avoid pushing another child in the stroller

4. Shifting Center of Gravity

 Your baby pulls your center of gravity forward

5. Your Shoes

It’s advisable to purchase 2 pairs of your favorite running shoe. Alternate pairs every other run.  It can take shoes up to 48 hours to regain their optimal shock-absorbing potential after a run

6. Keep Your Intensity In Check

You want to keep your intensity at a “moderate” level. This means you should be able to carry on a continual conversation while you run.

7. Avoid These Common Running Mistakes

That’s a Youtube link for a video I made about this while in PT school.

8. Reframe Your Training Goals

Pregnancy is not a time to set PRs

9. Let Someone Else Push The Stroller

If you already have a kiddo in the stroller, let someone else push it, if and when you can, while running. Pushing the stroller takes away your ability to use your arms to help propel you forward. This helps decrease ground reaction forces. 

How does running affect my baby?

A 2018 international study  of 1293 female runners concluded:

  • Continuing to run while pregnant does not affect the baby’s birth weight.
  • It does not increase the likelihood of preterm delivery.
  • Running when pregnant appears to increase the risk of assisted vaginal delivery
  • Overall, the rates of assisted vaginal delivery were high (25%)
  • However, women were reporting their first pregnancy. Assisted vaginal delivery rates are generally higher in first time deliveries.
  • So, further work is needed to establish the potential link between running and increased assisted vaginal delivery.

We encourage you to listen to your body. 

If running starts to feel too draining or uncomfortable, it’s ok to temporarily switch to walking and/or swimming.

More Tips

1. Use Your Arms

They can help you capitalize on the energy you’re exerting. You'll decrease the amount of force transferred through your pelvis to your back.

2. Lean Slightly Forward

This will also help your forward momentum. When pregnant, avoid stressing the ligaments around the front of your pelvis. We want to decrease your chances of getting plantar fasciitis. This happens when too much pressure is put on your heels.

3. Point Your Toes

Point them forward and, slightly out to the side. We want to avoid in-toeing as it can strain your hips and the muscles that attach your hips to the pelvis.

4. Quicken Your Pace

It seems counter-intuitive. But our body actually works more efficiently, quickly. This goes for both walking and running. Walking quickly will help you avoid the “pregnancy waddle”. If running, the aim is to reach a cadence of 180 steps/minute.

5. Avoid Over-Striding

When running, you want your stride to be short. That way, it gives your body more chances to propel yourself forward. If you over-stride, it’ll cause muscle fatigue more quickly. Over-striding is like doing a lunge each step!

What about running postpartum?

  • 1 in 3 women experience pain when returning to run postpartum. Mostly in the lumbar spine and pelvis. This is currently attributed to relaxin lingering in the system. Joints don’t have as much support from ligaments as they’re used to. That said, I always feel uncomfortable attributing symptoms to just one factor.
  • Postpartum running discomfort is often the result of a hypersensitized nervous system. Sleep deprivation and gradual deconditioning tend to happen in later trimesters. Plus the change in body mechanics + hormonal changes are likely factors.
  • It's better to focus on regaining strength and stability in your deep core than it is to concentrate on speed or endurance. This shift in focus helps prevent long term injuries. Or compensations with cardio activities postpartum.

And running while breastfeeding? Is it uncomfortable?

Both running and breastfeeding feel different for everyone.

In the study mentioned above,  84.1% reported running during breastfeeding. That said, I HIGHLY encourage you to channel your postpartum exercise motivation in a way that will help your pelvic floor heal.

Main Take Away

Our bodies change so much during pregnancy. Even with these changes, there are better outcomes for women who exercise both before and during pregnancy. 

Sign up for a FREE pregnancy Core workout.

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