Running in pregnancy has many benefits if your pregnancy is an uncomplicated one. From reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and easing constipation to promoting a healthy weight, running has the ability to increase those feel-good endorphins that come with pounding out the miles.
But, the reality is, not everybody can run in pregnancy. Pregnancy running can be hard on your body, especially as your bump grows.
In most circumstances, running is good for both mum and baby, although there are important things to keep in mind – and avoid where possible.
1) Running for the first time
It may seem obvious, but pregnancy is not the time to take up running for the first time. It’s a hard exercise at the best of times and you don’t need to put yourself through additional cardio strain trying to build your running fitness. Instead, listen to your body and only perform exercise that's going to be safe for you and baby. As always, check in with your Doctor before starting anything new.
2) Skipping the warm up
You might well be used to lacing up your shoes and heading straight outside, but with all the extra blood flowing and the work your body is doing you might find yourself lightheaded and dizzy if you launch straight into it. Always take the time to warm up with some gentle stretches and a light jog first.
3) Setting a challenging PB
Chasing personal bests need to be removed from your run-vocabulary while you're pregnant. Don’t push too hard or set off too fast – embrace slowing down. The 'Talk Test' will help you to know if you've overexerted as you should be able to hold a conversation as you run. If you can't and your breathing is heavy, or you feel tired or in pain, slow down to a walking pace or stop. You may well find that your usual pace (the one you find easy), now becomes a struggle, as your body works hard to meet the demands of growing your tiny baby. It’s all about reframing your goals. Forget your 5k PB – instead focus on being strong and healthy.
4) Forgetting your pelvic floor exercises
Running is one of the most high impact exercises you can do and with the additional baby weight, it puts more pressure on the pelvic floor. It is vital that you keep your pelvic floor strong and get into a routine of practising pelvic floor squeezes throughout your pregnancy. Just squeezing here and there is not enough. Pelvic floor exercises need to be functional and work with you as you move your body. For more expert advice on understanding why pregnant runners should strengthen their pelvic floor check out acclaimed physio Clare Bourne or Emma Brockwell at Physio Mum.
It’s important to stay hydrated anyway when running but especially so in pregnancy, a time when you should be taking more water on board anyway. It helps to keep you cool, reduces the risk of UTIs and helps your body to deliver all that amazing goodness to your baby. Make sure you always run with a bottle regardless of the time of year and take small sips all the way around your route.
An increased temperature can cause issues with the foetus, especially in the first trimester. Later it can very quickly make you dehydrated (see point above). When pregnant, make sure you’ve got comfortable shoes and loose clothing and avoid running during the hotter parts of the day.
7) Getting caught short
We've all been there: you're heading out the door for a run without a care in the world, when suddenly you're struck by an overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom. The urge to go always hits about halfway through your run, so make sure you know where there are public loos on route. Even in the very early days of your pregnant running journey you may find it causes you to need to wee more often.
8) Picking a route that’s too long
You might be used to long weekend runs but your body may start to tell you something different now. Plan your route and avoid any areas where there might be an increased risk of tripping or falling. Ideally, you should pick a route that has a number of shortcut options if you find you need to head home earlier than intended. Or, take cash for a taxi!
9) Not wearing a sports bra that will adapt to your changing shape
A supportive sports bra is an essential piece of kit for all women, but if you're a mum-to-be then it's more important than ever. You also, ideally, need a sports bra that also allows for growth and can adapt to your changing shape throughout pregnancy. Our nursing bras give great support, adapt to your shape as it changes and also have drop-down cups for easy nursing.