*I am not a doctor and am not giving medical advice. I just have a lot of opinions and can share my experiences with you. Take that for what it is and do what you and your doctor believe is best for you.
Running While Pregnant
I have always been a very strong believer in the logic that pregnancy, delivery and the time post delivery is all very hard on your body and the best give you can give yourself is the gift of fitness during these phases of your life. I have three kids born in 2003, 2008 and 2014 and only ran through the last pregnancy. During my first pregnancy, I just really wan’t into working out. During the second, I went to the gym for BodyAttack and BodyPump classes and spend a lot of time on the elliptical machine and I could definitely feel the difference. I believe that a lot of my pregnancy aches and pains such as back and pelvic pain were lessened by the exercise that I did and that the labor was much easier because I was used to using my body. Knowing this, I was sure I wanted to keep running when I had my third.
Running With #3
When I got pregnant again in 2013, one of the first things I asked my doctor early on was if could continue to run. I gave her the long list of what I did on a regular basis in the hopes that she would sign off on each activity. She signed off on me continuing the “same type of exercise” during pregnancy that i had done leading up it. By “same type” she was including long distance running, intervals/sprints and weights (within reason). She was not encouraging me to suddenly start new speed work outs or powerlifting, but she was very clear that I didn’t have to STOP doing anything. She did however offer a very valuable piece of advice that I could continue until by body said stop… and it would say stop. At some point, my balance would shift, or the weight in my pelvis would get to be too much and I would know that it was time to change exercise forms (notice: she did not say to change intensity). She was definitely right – at right around week 34 of my pregnancy, the weight in my pelvis was so heavy that I had to stop running. I opted instead for yoga and fitness at the gym and long walks.
I would say overall that maintaining my fitness during this time made for a very easy pregnancy, delivery (2 hours) and meant that I was very quickly up on my feet again afterwards. An extra bonus was that I was also back in my normal pants 4 weeks after the delivery – not the end goal, but definitely not a bad side effect of keeping your body active!
The one thing I did notice right away was that my legs, lungs and heart felt like they could run for days, but my core and pelvic strength was gone as a result of baking a human for 10 months. I spent the first weeks going on very long walks with these large Danish baby carriages in order to try to rebuild a little of my core strength. After about 5 weeks, I went for my first walk/jog trip, which was mentally hard as I felt like I had lost all of the fitness and strength that I had built in the past years. I had to remind myself that this is going to be hard – for good reason – just go slow at a pace that is right for me. So I plugged away at it until I could finally jog 5K again without walking.
- Make sure to breastfeed before you go out
- If you feel like you are going too fast or hard, you are. Slow down and don’t go so fast that you feel like your core is not supporting your back or that you may have an accident.
- Leave your GPS at home. Your not going to set a speed record here and it’s more important that you run on feel and not the speed or HR on your monitor.
Breakthrough: Baby Jogger
A good, quality baby jogger is worth the money and I would suggest buying one! At about 8 weeks out, I was ready to start running on a more regular basis and invested in an used baby jogger. Ultimately, this meant I had some freedom. On the days where he was cranky or didn’t want to sleep, we run. When I know I will have three kids to deal with in the evening, we run. I could run through a nap, on my way to pick up another kid, which my husband. All of a sudden, I could do what I want when I wanted.
The one I ended up buying was a Chariot which is now produced by Thule and is fully convertible so it can function as a bike trailer, stroller, jogger and modified for cross country skiing if you are into that. We still use this almost daily for running or cycling/transport.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy high end version and you can buy used as I did. Just check for the following:
- Supports baby up to a high age/size. A jogger that supports to 15kg is cheaper, but will last a limited time as babies grow fast
- Good shock absorption. If you think it could bounce baby around or would not like to be strapped in that thing for a 10k run yourself, then don’t put your baby in it.
- Good safety harness. Obviously.
- Large air-filled wheels. Larger wheels are more stable, air-filled wheels give a smoother ride.
- A stationary front wheel that does not pivot or turn around (a la shopping cart wheel). That front wheel dictates where the jogger goes and you don’t want it to hit a rock and bounce off in the street or off the trail.
- A safety hand strap so that you are tied to the jogger should you lose control over it.
And most importantly, ask your doctor about when you can put your baby in a jogger. Mine was 4 months before he used it and that was only after I bought an extra baby sling that held him in at a lowered angle and supported his back. If they are too upright too early, you can hurt them. And even then, start on a smooth service like asphalt or concrete until they are used to it.