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Running Tips for Women During Pregnancy

Being pregnant doesn’t mean nine months of lounging and eating deep-fried brownies. The other day, I came across an incredible story of a female runner named Sue Olsen in an old fitness magazine, which has inspired me to dig deeper into the topic of pregnancy and running. In 1995, Olsen ran a marathon in St. Paul, Minnesota about two weeks before giving birth to a perfectly healthy son of 7 pounds and 3 ounces. Yep, she was 8 1/2 months pregnant while completing that race!

Although what Olsen did might not be recommendable for all pregnant women, the story has at least proved that the old wives tale about physical activities being bad for a mother-to-be is totally unsound. If you have been an avid runner, you don’t need to stop doing it completely after getting pregnant. You just have to know your personal limit and how to stay safe on your run.


Running Tips for Women During Pregnancy

  • Not the right occasion for a novice! Running during pregnancy is not recommended for beginners. If you haven’t already been a committed runner who has been running at least three times a week for a minimum of one year, don’t try to run during pregnancy. As mentioned earlier, women’s ligaments tend to be more fragile while being pregnant. If you’re not used to running, it can easily strain your body.
  • Adjust your speed. A lot of female athletes and marathon runners can run at their usual pace throughout their whole nine months of pregnancy. For amateur runners or women who are not perfectly fit, it is better to run at a slower speed or opt for walking after sixteen weeks of pregnancy, as overly vigorous running could cause painful tightening in the womb.
  • How much is too much? Every pregnant woman’s level of fitness is different. Some can run every single day while the others can do it only a couple times a week. If you’re not sure about your proper limit, there is a general guideline. According to Karen Bridson, the author of Nine Months Strong, it is safe for average mom-to-bes to run for about one hour at a time, as often as three to four times a week. So follow this guideline in the beginning. If you feel fine with this frequency after about three weeks, maybe you can start running a little longer each time or a bit more often. If it turns out to be too much, lower your goal a bit. Don’t try to match your running to your pre-pregnant days.
  • Drink for the baby! Make sure you drink enough water before and after running. Sometimes dehydration can lead to preterm labor.
  • No more morning glory. Avoid running in the morning. Many studies have found that regular morning runners are more prone to minor injuries than afternoon or evening runners, due to the fact that our muscles and ligaments tend to be less flexible in the morning. Even with a proper warm-up, sometimes it can still be hard for the body to get ready for a “wake-up run.” While being pregnant, your ligaments could become even more fragile than usual, thus a morning run is not ideal.
  • Time to shop for new shoes! Your feet can get about one size larger as your pregnancy goes on, so be prepared to buy bigger running shoes. Don’t try to squeeze your poor swollen feet into your old shoes. Wearing running shoes that are too tight not only hurts your feet but might also increase the risk of accident.
  • Chum with the docs. Keep in close contact with your ObGyn and medical doctor. Let them know you’re planning to run or have been running while pregnant. If you experience pain or extreme discomfort in your abdomen during your running routine, tell them about it right away.
  • Don’t try to be an iron woman. Once you feel that running has become a difficult task rather than a fun activity like it used to be, don’t struggle on. Instead, accept your temporary limitation and switch to a more relaxing way to stay fit, such as walking or riding a stationary bike.

Benefits of Running During Pregnancy

  • Stress-free Mind and Body – Running can relieve many minor illnesses and discomforts that are common among pregnant women, such as leg cramps, nausea and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Also, it can make you feel more relaxed and keep your pregnancy mood swings at bay.
  • Easy Delivery – Running is an effective way to keep your stamina up during pregnancy. Plus, the regular deep breathing you do while running is almost the same type of breathing you need for the push during delivery. As a result, pregnant women who run tend to have shorter and less painful labor.
  • Smart Baby – Recent studies have found that the gentle bouncing during running and other physical exercises might actually be a good stimulation for the babies’ brains. Dr. Richard Nisbett, a psychologist at University of Michigan, is one big supporter of this theory. In his book, Intelligence and How to Get It, he claims that women who exercise during pregnancy tend to have babies with healthier brains and higher IQs.
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