Running during pregnancy was a learning curve since my experience changed each trimester and often from week to week. By the third trimester, I just had to take it day by day! But, I was able to run throughout my entire pregnancy, including the day I went to the hospital and had my son in early October of 2020! I recently shared my experience returning to running after pregnancy, but I wanted to reshare this post for those ladies who are still logging miles with a growing belly!
I got pregnant at the same time I was recovering from a running injury. So, my running was in a weird spot in the first place. When I found out I was pregnant in January 2020, I was going to physical therapy three times a week for a torn tendon in my ankle and not running at all. I didn’t get cleared to start running until mid-February, right around the time my pregnancy nausea kicked into full gear.
When I did start running again, it was doubly hard not to compare my training to where I was a year prior, training for Boston Marathon. I was running 50-70 miles a week, I felt strong and loved working with a coach for the first time. It’s one thing to start running again after an injury and it’s another thing to keep running once you get pregnant. So the combination of both was especially difficult, physically and mentally.
I explained the situation to my OBGYN (who, coincidentally is married to my sports ortho) and she felt that given I’d still been active in other ways and that I had such a long history with running (20+ years), it was fine if I continued to build my mileage back up and ran throughout my pregnancy. Typically, you don’t want to start anything new when you get pregnant, but running wasn’t exactly “new” to me. I’d just had a little break.
When I talked to a fertility specialist about how running impacts fertility, the two biggest takeaways I had were (1) be your own advocate and (2) share in detail what your background, goals and concerns are so they can give you the best guidance. And that’s true when you’re pregnant as well! There are many benefits of running throughout pregnancy so if that’s your goal, talk to your doctor!
I updated this post throughout my pregnancy, and you’ll see what I experienced in each trimester outlined below. I also shared how my weekly mileage and average run pace changed throughout my pregnancy. For reference, the last race I ran before I found out I was pregnant was the 2019 American Fork Half Marathon at an average 6:57 pace.
I also included at the bottom of the post the questions I received on Instagram about running in pregnancy.
This post has my favorite pregnancy workout outfits. Most things are not maternity-specific, so you can use them before and after pregnancy. I also have a post dedicated to pregnancy running shoes.
In my first trimester, I ran anywhere from 0 to 15 miles a week. My average pace was 8:30 – 9:30 minute miles.
I was recovering from an injury and rebuilding mileage with a lot of run-walk outings! I definitely didn’t look pregnant – my photographer had no idea when she took these photos in March that I was expecting!
I was extremely nauseous almost immediately in my first trimester. I felt sick from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. But I quickly learned that I felt a LOT worse if I didn’t workout. The challenge was getting myself to start my workout since it sounded absolutely miserable to run when I was that nauseous. But I just had to force myself to do something.
To help me get going, I’d tell myself to start my workout as easy as possible. If I was running, I’d walk first. If I was riding the Peloton, I’d take a five minute warm-up class first. I usually felt better with the easy warm-up and ramped up the intensity just a little once I got going. Other days, a warm-up ride or 30 minute walk was my workout and I called it good. But doing something to sweat helped ease my nausea for at least a few hours so I could get some work done.
In the first month, I spent a lot of time on the Peloton since I still wasn’t cleared to run given my ankle injury. But around 4-5 weeks, I started adding run-walk outings, at the guidance of my PT. (My PT knew I was expecting very early on given that we had to adjust my treatment plan and stop dry needling).
I also typically do strength training 2-3x a week, but I found that walking, running or the Peloton helped quell the nausea more than strength training alone. So if I wanted to strength train, I’d ride the Peloton for just 15 minutes and then did a short strength session. (And the weight was light – my heaviest dumbbells are home at 8lbs.)
I noticed my chest was sore even before I knew I was pregnant. (That’s one of the reasons I took a test a week before my expected period, and it came up positive even then.) And, within the first month, my chest went from a B/C cup to a D cup. So, buying new sports bras was necessary almost immediately. I needed a lot more support for running to even be an option! The Shefit Ultimate Sports Bra and this one from Amazon were my favorite.
I had severe sacrum pain in my first trimester, so much so that I could barely walk at times. I’ve had issues with my sacrum for years, and my OBGYN told me that it was far too early to have sacrum pain related to pregnancy. She also said it was too early for the relaxin hormone to be impacting it to that level.
But, when I explained that I felt something slip out of place while doing a PT exercises for my ankle, she suggested doing to PT specifically to address my sacrum. So, I started going to PT for both my sacrum AND ankle. We worked on strengthening the whole pelvic/hip area and also on loosening up my piriformis. By the start of my second trimester, my sacrum pain improved drastically. I also saw a chiropractor regularly who specializes in prenatal care.
Another thing I noticed right away was a feeling of breathlessness. Since I hadn’t been running consistently due to my injury, I wasn’t sure if it was pregnancy-related or just a result of lack of running! But, I’m pretty sure it was pregnancy-related since one of my running friends told me she experienced the exact same thing early in her pregnancy. Plus, I had still been doing cardio with the Peloton. I especially noticed breathlessness any time I tried to run up a hill (which happens a lot where I live!), far more than typical hill challenges. So, I just took a lot of walk breaks.
I really struggled with running being hard so early on since I didn’t look pregnant. Plus, so many of my aches and pains didn’t have anything to do with pregnancy! I felt like I should still be able to run normally. But looking back on it, the fatigue and nausea impacted me a lot more than I realized. (I took naps most afternoons and I’m NOT typically someone who naps!) I should have been kinder to myself.
In my second trimester, I ran anywhere from 5 to 30 miles a week. Most weeks averaged around 20 miles. Lower weeks were related to a fall while running that required some time off. My running pace was around 8:30 – 10 minute miles and I got slower as the second trimester went on!
While the soreness from my first trimester went away, my chest got even larger. I had to buy yet MORE sports bras, this time in an E cup.
Early in my second trimester, my bladder became a major issue. Immediately after I started running, I needed to pee. And that feeling lasted the entire run, even if I went back to the house or peed in the woods mid-run (yep, that happened). I still needed to pee again as soon as I started running again! I talked to my doctor and she said there wasn’t really anything I could do about it. But, miraculously, this lasted only about 4-5 weeks.
When I started having the pee problems, I switched my runs to only start from home so I could empty my bladder right before, i.e. typically 3 times before I headed out the door. I had to pee immediately before starting a run in order to make it through 4-6 miles!
Oh boy, this one was frustrating! My round ligaments really started to hurt halfway through my second trimester. It felt like the worst side cramp you can imagine…on both sides. Then, eventually my right side bothered me a lot more and I wasn’t sure why.
I also felt a LOT of pressure in my pelvis area, sometimes accompanied with the need to pee, other times not. It felt like there was a cinderblock sitting at the top of my pelvis.
It was at this point that I bought a maternity workout support band – the Recore Maternity FitSplit. I didn’t really know if it helped at first, but I stuck with it and my runs certainly felt better, with less round ligament pain and less pelvic pressure. So I think it must’ve helped. And, was not willing to try a run without it to test so I guess that says something!
My sacrum pain returned with a vengeance about midway through my second trimester. I found a chiropractor in Winston-Salem who specializes in prenatal work and that made a WORLD of difference. I rarely struggle with sacrum pain in my third trimester! And my round ligament pain even improved. She explained that the sacrum tilting the way mine was can make round ligament pain even worse than it normally would be in pregnancy.
I think the adjustments helped with the pelvic pressure, round ligament pain and sacrum issues even more than the FitSplint. But again, I wasn’t willing to give up the FitSplint to test it out! And I was definitely not willing to try the FitSplint without also getting the help of the chiropractor.
At 20 weeks, I fell while running in an attempt to social distance from another runner. (Full story here.) I was terrified and called my OBGYN immediately, who got me in for an appointment that afternoon to check on the baby. Thankfully everything was okay, but I was still VERY nervous to run again.
But, my knees were so banged up that I couldn’t straighten my legs easily, let alone run. So, I went to my sports ortho just to be safe. (I ignored my ankle injury for 3+ months last year and learned my lesson!) He determined nothing was broken and I hadn’t torn an ACL, but that I had a very inflamed bursa. He had me take about a week off before I tried running again to let the inflammation go down.
Aside from letting my body heal, it also gave me time mentally to reset and shake off the nerves. When I went back to running, I definitely slowed down my pace compared to what I’d been doing before just so I could be more cautious about where I stepped.
While I certainly had days that I got frustrated when a run felt just plain miserable, I became much more accepting of where my running was on those days. I ran 2-3 minutes per mile slower than my normal pace. But hey, when I logged 11 minute miles, it made it even better when I logged miles in the 9s! (Most of my runs used to be in the 7s and 8s previously.) I also found that not stopping my watch for walk breaks, i.e. letting walking roll into my average pace, helped me mentally.
I could’ve left my watch at home, but I liked tracking my progress on Strava, through all phases of running! And I knew I’d want to look back on this phase someday. I regret not making my Strava private in my first trimester so I could add notes about what I was experiencing. Since I didn’t share online that I was pregnant until nearly 23 weeks, I didn’t write much in Strava either. And now I wish I had.
I ran about 15-22 miles a week for the first half of my third trimester, running 3-4x a week. Then, I dropped down to 3 times a week, averaging 10-15 miles a week. From week 35 on, I only ran 1-2 times a week, 3 miles each time. I even ran the day I went to the hospital. (My husband and I also golfed that day, ha!)
These are photos from that day! So crazy to think how much everything changed after that day… in the best way!
My average pace when running was 9:45 – 10:30. But on days that I was run-walking (most days!), I averaged around 11-12 minutes per mile. I almost never ran two days in a row, alternating run days with Peloton days.
And I dealt with third trimester nausea (which I didn’t know was a thing until I got pregnant!). But I found if I made sure to eat every couple of hours, it helped a lot. And eating a pre-run snack and eating ASAP after my run was necessary! My go-to pre-run snack is a couple of these energy balls.
This was true for all types of shoes, but since it was summer, I was mostly wearing sandals or loafers. But putting on more-fitted running socks and then my running shoes was really hard. Bending over sort of cut off my breathing and then just reaching things was hard. So, I usually sat down and propped my foot up sideways to get my sock on. Then, I’d prop my foot up around waist height to put on my shoes and tie them. (I shared my favorite running socks here.)
The round ligament pain and pelvic pain actually improved a lot after my second trimester! I still wore my maternity belt, mostly in hopes it would lessen the need to pee. (More on that below.) And who knows, maybe it was also helping with the round ligament and pelvic pain. I never ran or even went on long walks without it!
The constant need to pee returned. I felt like I had to pee from the moment I started running, even if I peed literally 30 seconds before I started! I just dealt with it since there wasn’t much I could do about it other than emptying my bladder as many times as possible before running. And I’ll be honest, a few times when I ran in the rain, I even attempted to just pee my pants (YEP, how’s that for TMI?) and I couldn’t!! But, I know other women who accidentally peed their pants without trying while running so I guess I was lucky??
This was something I started noticing during week 34. Even if I just ate banana before my run, I felt SO full and backed up (sorry, TMI) and had the sensation of acid reflux without the burning.
I read that because I’m so short (5’1″) there isn’t as much room for the baby to spread out so it makes digestion woes even more pronounced on petite ladies. Yay. I switched to green tea rather than my pre-run coffee.
I’ve heard from a lot of women who say they couldn’t run during pregnancy because it was uncomfortable. I’m going to be totally honest with you – IT WAS NOT COMFORTABLE FOR ME EITHER. But, I was acutely aware of the difference between pain and discomfort. I walk whenever I felt like it, even if that meant walking every 90 seconds or walking for most of the first mile.
When I saw women running on Instagram or friends told me they ran through their entire pregnancy, I expected they would slow down but no one ever really talked about how it’s just uncomfortable. I did not have the blissful pregnancy running so many people portray or the experience of logging easy miles up until delivery day. My legs usually felt heavy. My feet and ankles were swollen. I was toting around a lot more weight, which made it feel harder. I had to pee. Occasionally I got mid-run Braxton Hicks. And I was running in the hot, humid Southern summers on top of all that.
I share this because I don’t want you to feel like running was comfortable or effortless for me – it wasn’t!!! And it’s okay if it’s not comfortable for you. You may have different discomforts than me, or heck, it might feel a lot better for you than it did for me. (I wasn’t the youngest pregnant runner out there, ha!) And it’s also okay if you want to quit running earlier in your pregnancy! Every pregnancy is different so it doesn’t always help to compare. Try to give yourself grace and really, REALLY listen to your body. I also updated my doctor at each appointment about my running to make sure they didn’t have any concerns.
Some days I finished my runs feeling VERY frustrated. It’s hard to not feel normal and I really missed just going out for a run without it being a big ordeal to empty my bladder 10 times, put on my maternity belt, then feel like I need to pee again, etc. And it just took a lot longer out of my day to get my workout in. I missed the days of being able to knock out 7 miles under an hour! But, on the contrary, there were days where I really enjoyed my run and I was so happy when I finished.
I guess the highs and lows are no different from non-pregnancy running, but it’s certainly a different type of training that is hard to cope with mentally on most days. I had to REALLY focus on the positives during my runs. In Strava, I noted the little things that felt like big wins, e.g. “I didn’t have to pee for most of my run!” or “I ran some miles in the 9s!” or “The weather was gorgeous today!” And sometimes it was looking at the week as a whole, e.g. “I ran over 20 miles this week!” or “I ran 15 miles this week!” I was very happy with 2-3 runs a week.
What the positive thing is changed each day and week and sometimes I really had to search for the positive angle, but focusing on it helped a lot. I tried VERY hard not to compare my running with what it was like the week before, the month before, and especially a year before. And remember, being pregnant is basically the same doing intense endurance training for nine months without a break or taper!
Gone were the days of going out for a run and running the whole time! Often times, I needed to walk for 0.5 or 0.75 miles before I felt ready to try running. And I usually walked 2-3x during each mile and often times a LOT more. I didn’t really have a set interval that I ran or walked, but I listened to my body. Some weeks, I walked nearly any uphill and then jogged the flat or downhill portions. That worked great for me physically and mentally! 🙂
My return to running postpartum has been quite the journey. See my updates here!
Here are the questions I got on Instagram with my responses below. The moral of the story on all of these is to check with your doctor about YOUR situation. I’m not a doctor and I’m just sharing my experience in this post!
Yes! I think the chiropractor helped the most with this. Or, maybe just a different phase of pregnancy. Things change so much from week to week! Give it time. It may improve… or it may not. Everyone is different and pregnancy is definitely a journey in patience.
My doctor didn’t give me a heart rate threshold, but every pregnancy is so different. Ask your doctor for guidance specific to your situation.
I listened to my body a LOT more than normal (good lesson to learn!) and took a LOT more walk breaks. I also nixed workouts much longer than an hour just because I didn’t have the energy or desire.
I didn’t. That’s something I would ask your doctor about.
My doctor told me I can run through it as tolerated. But, again, I’d ask your doctor since every pregnancy is different and it may be something different in your situation than in mine.
I’ve loved using my Peloton for cross-training! Swimming, biking and walking are all great options. This post talks about cross-training options and the benefits. Just be sure to check with your doctor before you start anything new.
I was just VERY careful about where I stepped (I looked at the ground a LOT more) and I took more steps to keep my feet right under me. That helps keep you center of gravity under you — and that’s good practice for running form in general! I also put my inserts back in my shoes to give my ankles a little more support, especially my injured one.
Most doctors will advise NOT to start anything new once you get pregnant. But, talk to your doctor about your particular situation.
Yes! See above! I didn’t run much, but mostly because I was still recovering from a torn tendon.
If you were running prior to getting pregnant, running — in most cases — shouldn’t increase your risk of miscarriage. However, make sure you talk to your doctor early on about your workouts. Every pregnancy is different and in some high-risk situations, they may have you modify your workouts.
I used this Recore Belly Band.
I wasn’t running due to a torn tendon when we were trying to conceive. But my doctors had no concerns with my level of running when I talked to them last summer when making some plans. Read this post about running while trying to conceive and also talk to your doctor!
I did some speed work and strides in the first trimester, but it was really my ankle recovery that limited me more than anything. In the second trimester, I did some tempo work and hill repeats. But as my round ligament pain acted up, I didn’t really have to desire, so I didn’t add it back later either. If you were doing speed work consistently before getting pregnant, you should be able to keep doing it. Just double check with your doctor.
If you ran during pregnancy, what is your number one tip you’d give other women going through it?
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