Those of you tuning into this blog… most definitely love running!
The thought of not being able to run whilst pregnant has made you think how you are going to stay fit… how are you going to clear your head and go to that happy place… what can I do if I can’t run whilst pregnant…
Whilst there’s a lot of small talk and beliefs going around that high impact and more intense exercise shouldn’t be performed whilst pregnant, the research and guidelines concur otherwise… in short running is safe in uncomplicated pregnancies.
Don’t believe me… a recent study performed in conjunction with Park Run on 1293 pregnant women found no difference in birth weight or gestational age at delivery between those who continued to run ‘vs’ those who stopped.
Now you know running is ok during pregnancy… I suppose we better find out whether you should actually run in pregnancy or not!
1. Has your Doctor/Midwife cleared you to exercise?
2. Do you have Pelvic Floor issues?
3. Are you a regular runner?
4. Do you know what signs and symptoms to look out for if you do decide to run whilst pregnant?
5. Are you following a strength training programme to supplement your running?
Now to shed some light on the questions above
Has Your Doctor/Midwife Cleared You To Exercise?
There are a couple of pregnancy medical conditions for which running would cause more issues. Those of you with pre-existing conditions, respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological or metabolic conditions that you make sure your GP has cleared you to exercise to make sure it is safe for you to run whilst pregnant.
A good example of a pregnancy condition that may stop you from running is an incompetent cervix or cervical insufficiency which puts you at a higher risk of miscarriage. A low lying placenta, especially one that covers the cervix could prove problematic and it would be best to avoid running whilst you are pregnant.
Midwife Pip and Coach James’ Top Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask the Midwife/GP… I love to run, are there any reasons why you think I can’t. That way you are educated and informed on the right thing to be doing… Oh and one last thing don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if you feel that you should be fine to run.
Do You Have Any Pelvic Floor or Musculoskeletal Issues?
Two questions here that are important to consider… Runners are notorious for running through pain… yes you heard me right! Pounding the pavements most days, undervalue mobility and stability and neglect any strength and conditioning work to help lay a foundation that will help support your musculature to give you better running efficiency and reduce injuries.
Some of the most common musculoskeletal problems we see during pregnancy are:
· Pelvic Girdle Pain
· Low Back Pain
· Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
· Knee Pain
There are many other joints that can be affected through pregnancy, through changes in posture, mechanics, increased weight, centre of mass, stress and sleep problems etc.
So if you are reading this and you’ve answered yes above, I do suggest that you look for a more low impact alternative (swimming, static cycling, weight training) or if you want to continue to run during pregnancy, then work with an experienced coach that can help adapt your week allowing you to do something you love and enjoy… if this is you now is a good time for you to check out Your Pregnancy Fitness.
Pelvic Floor Health for Running
1. Have you been through pregnancy before - Was there any trauma or issues with your recovery?
2. Do you have any heaviness or dragging around the perineum, especially after exercise or prolonged standing?
3. Do you leak when you sneeze, cough or run?
For those of you who have history of pelvic floor dysfunction, I would recommend for you to see a Pelvic Health Physio for some further assessment and guidance. They may recommend you reduce or remove running from your programme for pregnancy if the risk to your pelvic floor is too high… please please make sure you look after your pelvic floor as the complications that can arise if not looked after properly can impact your future.
For some women, running is absolutely everything and they must run to stay saine as it gives them endorphins (feel good hormones) to help improve their mental health. If this is you then maybe you choose to continue running despite you are in pain… but there are other forms of exercise that can help release those endorphins and Your Pregnancy Fitness has been designed specifically to help in this way… be sure to check it out!
Are You a Regular Runner?
If you aren’t someone who runs regularly then I would suggest now is not a good time to take it up… with blood volume increasing in Trimester 1 as much as 40 percent (and more than 50% in Trimester 3). Your resting output increases by up to 50% during pregnancy, therefore increasing the load on your heart and lungs (cardiovascular and respiratory systems).
Those of you who were already running before pregnancy are more likely to accommodate these changes due to a more efficient system… those who weren’t running the adaptations that your body will now need to make to be able to run may cause excessive breathlessness and fatigue.
The muscles and bones (musculoskeletal) of those of you who have already been running should be able to cope better with the increased load especially on the muscles/joints and on the pelvic floor and abdominal musculature as the weights of the baby, placenta, fluid and breasts increase.
With no studies performed on previous sedentary women and made to run through their pregnancy to see what happens… now is not a good time to test this out and we don’t know what the results will be!
Do You Know What Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For If You Decide to Run Whilst Pregnant?
If you have been given the green light and you know you will be running in pregnancy and continue to do so throughout… I have provided some Top Tips to help you continue to do so:
Don’t be afraid to slow down and reduce your milage as pregnancy progresses: Please read that again! I know you runners are a stubborn lot and extremely competitive…
Ditch the pacing and definitely don’t use heart rate… just focus on how you feel and if it still feels good… great news.
The reality is that most women stop running when it doesn’t feel good anymore. Some of these symptoms you may feel when it doesn’t feel great anymore are:
· Lower Back, Knee and Pelvic Pain
· Leaking of Blood or Clear Fluid (If this happens contact your Midwife/GP immediately)
· Dizziness, Headaches, Shortness of Breath, Chest Pain – These all need to be checkout by Midwife/GP
· Straining or Bulging along the linea alba, the connective tissues that connect two sides of your abdominals (rectus abdominis)
If you are reading this and an elite athlete… you should consider using a heart rate monitor at higher intensities and consider keeping heart rate below 90 percent of your maximum.
Are You Following a Strength and Conditioning Programme to Supplement Your Running?
The most important part of the health and fitness equation… strength underpins movement. Did you know that not performing strength training increases the risk of injury and limits optimal endurance?
If we look at running as a skill – all we do every day if we run is train running. Strength training we are able to break down specific movement patterns and develop strength qualities that are integral to running, allowing you to increase force, giving you a greater stride length and frequency which will increase your speed. With pregnancy comes added weight, therefore having a strong base to work from will allow you to meet the added demands that come with running whilst pregnant and postpartum.
Strength training during pregnancy will help combat injuries related to repetitive movement by preventing muscular imbalances, improve joint alignment and positioning, along with improved ligament and tendon strength to enhance joint control. Specifically, a well-rounded strength training programme helps keep the knees, ankles, feet, hips, back, core and pelvic floor functioning properly throughout the duration of the run.
There is plenty more to talk about when it comes to strength training and running, and we will look to cover this at a later date.
p.s. have you checked out Midwife Pips Courses
The Author: Coach James
James is an Exercise and Nutrition Scientist with a specialist interest in pregnancy and postpartum health and fitness. He has a Sports Science degree and is a fully qualified Pregnancy Personal Trainer. James believes that pregnancy is a powerful time to optimise your own health as well as your child and family's health for the future.
James has an extensive portfolio having worked within elite sports for many years from Premier League Football to Olympic and Commonwealth athletes and within leading independent schools. Being NSCA 'CSCS' accredited ensures that you can guarantee your pregnancy exercises and workouts designed by James will be both safe and effective.
Understanding that pregnancy and parenthood are precious times that can also encompass many challenges James's vision is to ensure that exercise and nutrition need not be one of those challenges for you.
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