Last week, one of my readers asked me to share my thoughts on fitness and pregnancy when I posted a more intense Tabata-style workout. Being more than halfway into my pregnancy & a runner, I think it’s about time I address that topic too!
I’ve been meaning to, but just haven’t. I’ll warn you, this is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee & stay a while
At first, fitness was a huge struggle for me. I was in the midst of training for my 4th half-marathon when I realized I was 4 weeks pregnant. I ran a 9 mile long run before I realized I was pregnant and couldn’t figure out why I felt like I was dragging 100 pounds with me. The next week, I knew I was pregnant but still proceeded to run a 12 mile long run because I really felt pretty normal. It went much better knowing that I would be slower, but it was still not fun.
Running my marathon in May 2014
I took a little bit of time off because I was getting so exhausted. I went out for an 8 mile cut back run and had to walk almost half of it on the way back home. I came home crying and very upset that I couldn’t run. I remember telling my husband, “I can’t do this” with tears in my eyes and just feeling totally defeated. Running has been a constant in my life, something that’s held me together & helped me stay motivated. It was honestly a total shock to me that my body so quickly decided for me that I was no longer capable of running comfortably or with even close to the same energy.
Mentally, I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to running for a while, but I did. It was a little devastating, but ultimately, I decided to give it a rest because nothing about running felt right. And obviously, I really didn’t care about what I wanted right then & wanted to do what my body was clearly telling me was best for me and the baby inside me. I didn’t run that half-marathon and took 2+ months off of running altogether because that’s what felt right.
Even more discouragingly, in my very first prenatal appointment while my doctor was taking all my medical history, she – in not so many words – told me to stop running. When she asked about physical fitness, I made it clear that I had just completed my first marathon earlier that year and had been running a few years prior & was very active. She said, “Okay, so you were a runner? Right?” Meaning that because I am pregnant, she didn’t view it appropriate to run anymore. My blood pressure and cholesterol are low & nothing about my pregnancy signaled that I am high risk, so this seriously confused me.
14 weeks doing a strength workout
I of course Googled the crap out of if having your heart rate above 140 bpm is unhealthy for you or the baby, if running is okay in pregnancy, etc. There are still two sides to the argument. Plenty of doctors hold to the statement that you should not raise your heart rate above 140 bpm or more than 10 minutes because they believe it can reduce oxygen & blood flow to the baby.
Plenty of other reputable sources also claim this is total garbage, because how can one heart rate criteria be the same for all pregnant women despite their physical fitness, weight, etc? And clearly, there are tons of pregnant moms who not only run but complete races and give birth to perfectly healthy babies. Overall, I just couldn’t find anything that proved that running was going to do anything harmful to my baby. It’s my favorite form of fitness and if I don’t over do it (which, I am way too exhausted to do anyway), then I think it’s fine.
In that two month timeframe that I didn’t run, I was doing the elliptical, walking a lot, and doing some light strength. Some weeks, my workouts really didn’t exist because I was just plain exhausted like I never understood before. In the first trimester, I was sleeping like it was my job! Right now, at 21 weeks, I have just gotten back to running in the past month or so, but running is not my priority in this pregnancy. I’ve been able to workout more often & with a little more intensity lately, but I definitely have to go slower, really make sure my form is good, and take more breaks to catch my breath if needed.
First run after a 2 month break
I’ve also had to shift my understanding of what fitness is for. Fitness is now for keeping me in shape for delivery, providing stress relief, growing a healthy baby, and reducing excess weight gain. It’s no longer for losing weight, getting really toned, or seeing how far I can push myself. I never realized how weird it would be to make that mental shift, as for so long, fitness has been a huge motivator in my life to make change. It’s still motivating, just for very different reasons now!
My goals for this pregnancy are to simply stay active doing whatever feels right. At first I was really into walks, now I am more into strength training with running maybe 2 days week. So far, I see myself keeping my runs to about 1 to 3 miles. And if I don’t feel like running, I’m definitely not going to! Eventually I think yoga will make a bigger appearance to ease my aches and pains. I want to be active 4-5 days a week for a half an hour if I can, even if that activity is very light.
Fitness and energy levels during pregnancy vary greatly for every woman. It’s been hard for me to see some women run up until the day they deliver – something I thought I would probably be able to do, but my body is most likely going to say no to. I’ve just accepted that my pregnancy is my own and it doesn’t need to be compared to anyone else’s. The fact that I have been able to get any running in at all makes me happy. I am just going to go with what feels good and keep as active as I can for how good I feel.
Questions for You:
- Would a lack of fitness be a shock to you?
- If you’re pregnant/a mom, how did fitness go for your pregnancy?
Please note: this is not intended as medical advice. This is just my opinion & how fitness in my pregnancy is working for me. Always consult a health professional during pregnancy to understand what fitness is appropriate for you.