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Running during pregnancy: what it looked like for me

Updated: Feb 27

A huge motivator for me becoming a run coach was to be able to provide support for pregnant and postpartum runners. I had my daughter almost five years ago and, while my body allowed me to run through two-thirds of my pregnancy, my return to running was not at all what I imagined it would be. Because it was really helpful for me to read about others’ experiences running during this season of life, I wanted to share my own. Here I share my experience running while pregnant, and I’ll share my postpartum return to running in a forthcoming post. 

Before I dive in, I want to note that everyone has different experiences with exercise during pregnancy. Trust yourself and your doctor to make the best decisions for your pregnancy. There is no one right way to do this!

Setting the scene: six months prior

To understand my running during pregnancy, I think it’s important to note the base I had coming into it. I found out I was pregnant in August 2018. I had been running regularly since June 2016 (after an extended break). My weekly mileage during the first half of 2018 was in the 20’s and 30’s. 

Trimester one: fatigue but consistency

Like many, I was really fatigued in my first trimester. I would finish the work day and just lay on the couch for the rest of the evening. Luckily, I wasn’t as tired in the morning, and my training log shows I averaged about 15 miles per week throughout August and September. This was a definite decrease from the spring, but I was happy for the miles. 

I was running with a local group at the time and remember a few workouts done in the heat of a Texas summer. I toughed it out through a couple before I realized that I really needed to tell my coach. I had kept pushing since only a few people knew the situation, and I knew I would keep pushing if my coach didn’t know there was a reason for my backing off. Luckily, one of my close running friends encouraged me to tell him sooner than I probably would have otherwise. It can be so hard accept that you need to slow down, no matter the reason!

In early September, I ran my first and only race knowing I was pregnant (I had done a trail 10k right before I found out). Each person runs 2.5 miles in the Zilker Relays, but in the Texas heat, it was tough. Luckily, I had my same mama bear friend running in the relay with me and encouraging caution. I find it hard to resist pushing in a competitive atmosphere, and in retrospect I’m even more grateful for her helping to keep me in check. 

A few weeks of running later and I eased into trimester two.

Trimester two: really the best third

A female runner stands next to a running only sign on a path
On the running path in the Turia Gardens, Valencia

Trimester two arrived and my energy came roaring back. It was just in time for my husband and I to go on an extended trip to Europe, where we worked remotely for two weeks and then spent two weeks traveling on vacation. I purposely landed us in Valencia, Spain for the working weeks. Not only was the time difference better than other parts of Europe, but it calls itself the City of Running. Hardly the first or the last time I steer our travel in the direction of some good running!

We AirBnb’ed a small apartment with good wifi five minutes away from the amazing Turia Gardens and its dedicated running paths. I titled one of my Strava runs “Felt sooo good!” and that was true of all my runs in the city. The weather was warm but not hot. The running path was beautifully marked and populated by just the right number of other runners. While I couldn’t enjoy local cheese or wine, I ran 14 miles each week we were there and felt great doing it.

After Valencia, we traveled to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. I didn’t run as much only because we walked…and walked…and walked those cities. I definitely got my steps in! 

It was during this trip that I was able to let go of any expectations I might have had for running in pregnancy and really listen to my body. Traveling and exploring new places was a good distraction. It was also a break from my everyday routines that made it easier to envision setting new ones.

Once we got home, I continued averaging about 15 miles per week through November and December. My pace started to slow in some runs, drifting 30 seconds or more slower than my usual easy pace, but overall I was enjoying the easy running and a few light workouts. 

A pregnant woman in running gear
Capturing bump progress after a run in early December

Trimester three: trading running for biking

An eight hour car ride to see family over the winter holidays coincided with the end of my second trimester. That long in the car really did a number on my pelvis; it was the first time I was deeply physically uncomfortable during my pregnancy. A couple days later I went out for a run and had some serious discomfort. 

I temporarily moved my workouts to the stationary bike at the YMCA and went to see the amazing Rebecca Maidansky, a pelvic floor physical therapist, for the pain. While getting help managing that, we also talked about preparing the pelvic floor for birth and what a return to running could look like. She mentioned a recent study that suggested waiting three months to begin running again. Three. Months. I could not wrap my head around that time frame. Wasn’t your follow up doctor appointment at six weeks post delivery? Even that seemed like an eternity. Nervously tucking that fun fact in the back of my mind, I continued working on my kegels and biking.

A pregnant woman smiles while biking at the gym and listening to music
Biking at the YMCA at the end of January

A couple weeks later, I was ready to try running again. Feeling nervous, I asked my husband to come with me. Not long into the run, I started to feel dizzy and a lot of discomfort in my hips. I ended up walking home, grateful for my husband’s company. I knew it was the last run of my pregnancy, but felt content with having been able to run through the first two trimesters. 

While I missed running, I really enjoyed my new ritual of going to the YMCA a couple nights each week. I went two to four times a week each week, until April 4…and had my beautiful kiddo four days later!

Wrapping it up

I have really fond memories of running during pregnancy. I also have so much gratitude for all my running buddies that looked out for me, slowed down for me, and helped me continue to feel like myself through running during such a crazy season of life. While my husband and I don’t typically run together, pregnancy gave us the opportunity to do so - another benefit.

But, while my pregnancy went smoothly, my postpartum experience was nowhere near what I imagined it would be. While I eventually got back out on the roads and trails, it took dedicated work and time to get there. Look for that adventure detailed in a post soon! 

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