First and foremost, I need to make something clear with this post: these are general guidelines. Above everything else, listen to your doctor. Never start a health regime during pregnancy without consulting your doctor. Be open and honest with your doctor while you are exercising while pregnant. Tell him or her about every little ache and pain, even if you don’t think it’s important. Communication is crucial; your doctor can’t help unless you talk.
During my first pregnancy, I had many people question why I was still running. “You’re pregnant,” they would say. “That running can’t be good for the baby.” I was stunned and a little offended; did people really think I would purposefully do something to harm my baby? Did they think I had not studied this intensively to make sure it was okay?
While pregnant that first time, I immediately asked my doctor whether I could continue running. He was in favor of it. I was in my late 20s, in good health, and was not a high-risk pregnancy. He did advise me to take it easy, though; this obviously was not the time to set a new PR.
I listened very intently, and I started slowing down within those 40 weeks. Before I was pregnant, I was running about a 10-minute mile. The day before I gave birth, my rate was about 12:30-13 minutes per mile. For a runner, that’s a significant difference, but I was just overly thankful that I was able to run throughout my pregnancy. I went into labor naturally at 37.5 weeks and had a fairly easy delivery. I attribute much of that due to my ability to run throughout my pregnancy.
I listened to my body; every time I had trouble getting air, I would slow down. If I was ill, even with a cold, I didn’t run. I played it safer than I would normally, but that’s what you do when you’ve got another little life growing inside of you.
However, there are times when you should not exercise during pregnancy, and there are exercises you shouldn’t do when you’re pregnant, such as anything with extreme sports or contact sports. I’ve never been a cyclist, but I’ve also heard that outdoor cycling during pregnancy is a bit risky, too.
If you’ve been put on bed rest, don’t exercise. If you have vaginal bleeding, dizzy spells, or any other symptom like these, don’t exercise.
And, most importantly, don’t feel pressure to exercise every day. I’ve gotten already to the point where if I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, it’s not going to happen in the afternoon or evening. By lunchtime, I feel like I’ve got a giant basketball attached to my waist that is getting heavier by the hour. The idea of running in that state sounds like torture. And you know what? Those are the days I don’t run.
Also, I’ve found out that I exercise better in the mornings if I have some fruit or a glass of chocolate almond milk before I start running. I noticed it during my first pregnancy and noticed it again this time around.
Despite what you do, people like to question your habits. “Oh, she’s still running during her pregnancy? That’s not good for the baby” can change very quickly to “She better start doing some kind of exercise while pregnant. That’s not good for the baby otherwise.” Here’s what you do in those cases: ignore them.
Focus on what your doctor says and what your body says. Don’t exercise when you’re not feeling good. Don’t exercise when the doctor says to rest. If you’ve been a runner but running starts to become too much, walk. Walking is a great, safe form of exercise.
I am a huge advocate of exercising while pregnant – it’s why I’m a week away from being in my third trimester and still keeping it up. However, I am very conscious that I am no longer running to get stronger, faster, and better. It’s not just about me anymore, and it won’t be for a while. Every time my time gets slower, I’m just thankful to still be running. And if it comes to a point where I need to stop for some time, then I will stop. I’m running for my health and for my baby’s health. There are two of us doing this together, and I’ve got to take care of her, too.