A Different Approach to Running During Pregnancy

Lead leg way out in front of my body. Shin is not vertical.

Lead leg way out in front of my body. Shin is not vertical.

Around this time two years ago I wrote a post called "I Wish I Hadn't Run During Pregnancy." And at the time all the drama of a feared bladder prolapse had me feeling regretful. I truly wished I had made different choices when it came to how much I ran and how far along I was before I stopped (I ran up until three days before my due date).

Now I am pregnant with Baby #3 and thanks to what I learned during my second pregnancy and postpartum, my approach to running during pregnancy this time around is going to be VERY different.

Fear of Losing Fitness. At the beginning of 2012 I was coming off  a comeback year. I'd been away from running for three years, had come back and was having a bit of a "breakthrough," or so I thought. When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to run through pregnancy to try and maintain as much fitness as possible. I didn't want to "miss a beat" when I returned after having the baby. All of that set me up for a lot of unnecessary pressure. This time around: no pressure. I'm not motivated by a desire to "keep my fitness". I know that getting back to the fitness level I was at this year (which is far beyond where it was in 2011/2012) is going to be hard work and I know it will take time. I'm OK with the fact that I'll "loose fitness" over the course of my pregnancy. The driving motivation behind running during pregnancy will not be to prevent fitness loss, but to to stay healthy, have fun and do what I love.

Expectations for Running During Pregnancy. I don't think I set out in 2012 with the goal of running through my entire pregnancy, but I certainly made it quite far running up to just a few days before my due date. It wasn't an articulated goal, but the further I got into the pregnancy the more I wanted to run to the end. And I think it was running later in the pregnancy that did some damage and caused me to have a lengthy recovery postpartum. The fact is the further you get into your pregnancy the more lax the ligaments and supporting muscles of your pelvic floor become. [A great resource on pelvic floor health can be found HERE.] The pounding of running late into the third trimester did me no favors: it strained and stretched an area (the pelvic floor) the that was already under a lot of pressure, making it even harder to tone and firm that area after giving birth. My approach this time will be much different. I've already run, quite comfortably through the first trimester without any real issues with leaking.

This October 26th at the CHaD HERO 5K: 3 months pregnant with baby #3.

This October 26th at the CHaD HERO 5K: 3 months pregnant with baby #3.

I'll be honest though, one of the first things that tipped me off to being pregnant (before I even took a test) was the fact that I leaked during a hard track session. Leaking has happened only a handful of times since my pregnancy in 2012. I've done a lot of PT and taken a different approach to my cross training to ensure that my pelvic floor and core are a lot stronger than they were. But I haven't kept up 100% with some of the pelvic floor exercises  so there have been times when I have leaked: mostly when hormones are flowing (which causes laxity in the pelvic floor) and I'm running really hard. Since that first episode back in August I haven't had any issues. Even though I'm much improved from where I was during my pregnancy in 2012 (I leaked on nearly every run) I don't plan to push my running late into the third trimester. As I progress in my pregnancy, I plan to scale back on the running and replace running with strength training and PT exercises: specifically what I worked on over the summer. I also plan to get back to barre class, which incorporates so much pelvic floor and core work. The third trimester will be less focused on going for one.more.run and more about gaining strength and setting myself up for a better postpartum recovery.

Postpartum Goals. When I gave birth in September 2012 I had my sights set on a spring marathon. That goal, even though it was eight months away would require that I start training in December or January-only three months postpartum. This time around I have no intentions of setting any postpartum race goals. In fact I don't plan on going anywhere near a marathon until at least a year after I give birth. I know that to perform in a marathon at the level I would like, my body has to be back 100%, and I don't feel 100% myself until I'm on longer breast feeding and if history repeats itself that will be around 12 to 13 months postpartum. Not to mention the amount of sleep required to stay healthy and survive a demanding marathon training schedule. And if history repeats itself in that department it will take a good 3-6 months before baby #3 is sleeping through the night. So any marathons will have to wait until 2016. My return to running is going to be gradual, less focused on a goal race an more focused on getting stronger and building a base. The only race I know for certain I'd like to do in 2015 is the CHaD HERO 5K in October of 2015, and that will be a 5K five months postpartum. It's doable, doesn't require a lot of training and is a "no pressure" race. Depending on how I feel there may be other races, but whether or not I run them will be completely dependent on my postpartum recovery. I plan to take the recommended six weeks postpartum to recover before running, that doesn't mean I won't work in some cross training or biking in the interim.  And regardless of whether or not it is recommended, I'll be making a trip to see the women's health PT who I saw last time around to ensure that I'm really ready to get back to running before I actually do so. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to snuggling that little one when they arrive. Big goals and hard running can wait until 2016.

In all of my pregnancies I've always been incredibly conscious of how my running might affect the growing baby inside me but haven't always been conscious of how my running was affecting me. I think that when you're a competitive, type-A personality like myself it can be hard to set those sentiments aside for the sake of your own health. I'm definitely living and learning in regards to finding the right approach to fitness during pregnancy, I'm hoping this time around I get it right. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to snuggling that little one when they arrive. Big goals and hard running can wait until 2016.


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