Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You Asked, I've Answered ~ My 10 Tips on Running {healhty and happy} During Pregnancy

There's nothing better than a country run!!
Yesterday the temps outside reached an incredible 56 degrees!! That's Kansas for ya! Last week, we barely peeked our noses outdoors with the temps in the teens, and this week, thanks to the crazy warm-up, the kids are whizzing through their school work just so they can get out and play.
Let's go!
I am incredibly grateful for these gorgeous days, because they allow me the opportunity to get out and run.  When I'm not pregnant, below freezing temps and snow cannot keep me indoors! However, I'm extra cautious with running when expecting, so days like today are perfect for me and my little running buddy to take on the miles.
14 weeks along with #6 and happily running for two!
A little "bump" in the road {hee, hee}.
I've had a few people ask me recently, via e-mail, since the announcement of our newest little wonder, how I'm able to keep up with the miles during pregnancy. So, I've decided to collect my thoughts and write a post answering their question.

Although there's been a great deal of scrutiny over the years on whether women should run or not while pregnant (because sitting on the couch is a wise alternative??), I am happy to report that medical experts all over the world are more supportive of that type of activity now than ever. You can read more about that here and here if you like.
Whether you run, walk, hike, swim, do Pilate's or any other work-out during your pregnancy, you will most certainly reap the benefits of your efforts throughout your 9 month journey, during labor, delivery and post pregnancy as well.  Here are a few of the top reasons to work-out while pregnant:

1. Energy Boost
Exercising during pregnancy is a great way to strengthen your cardiovascular system as well as your muscles, making your body more efficient to handle life's daily demands. Remember, fitness fights fatigue!

2.  Reduced Discomforts
Exercising while pregnant will naturally strengthen and tone your muscles, aids in circulation, and with proper stretching, can reduce muscle aches and pains that often accompany the strain of carrying an extra 15 pounds out in front.

3.  Better Sleep
Studies show that women who exercise regularly while pregnant experience deeper, more restful sleep.  For me, this is one of the greatest benefits!

4.  Mood Booster
Bring on the endorphins! Exercise is a natural mood booster, and, if you're like me, and often feel frustrated by fluctuating hormones during pregnancy, a natural remedy for the ups and downs is exercise.  Working out also keeps me feeling flirty rather than frumpy, which my husband loves (wink!).

5.  Preparation for Childbirth
Giving birth is the toughest work-out you'll ever experience.  The better shape you're in prior to heading to the hospital, the better equipped you'll be when it comes time to push!

6.  Faster Post-Birth Recovery
Bouncing back to your pre-baby shape after giving birth can be a long and difficult challenge.  However, if you were able to stick to your fitness goals during pregnancy, getting back into your favorite pair of jeans will happen sooner than later. More importantly, if you have other little ones at home keeping up with them, and the normal daily demands of life will also be less taxing!

Although I'm not a medical expert, in my 13 years (and 6 pregnancies!) of reading, research, and experience with maternal fitness, I can say with confidence that there are really only two reasons why you shouldn't run while pregnant: 1.  If you have any type of health concern that has held you back from any type of physical activity prior to pregnancy (and your doctor has given you strict instructions not to exercise).  2.  You have not been exercising prior to becoming pregnant.  If it's been a while since you've stepped foot in a gym or dug out the dreaded exercise DVD's, now is not the time to resolve to begin running. Walking, swimming or other forms of light activity are more appropriate options to begin with.

Just to recap, if  you had a regular exercise routine prior to getting pregnant and if your doctor has not cautioned you against running while pregnant, then please read on!  Here's a list of my top tips to consider throughout your months of running ahead:
Proof that PR's don't matter when pregnant. I ran this 5 mile race nauseous and 8 weeks pregnant well over my typical race pace. I found joy in just being out there, knowing races in the upcoming year would be few and far between.
Now is not the time to set PR's.  Speed and distance records should not even be on your mind at this point, even if you're a seasoned, competitive runner.  Right now, your goals should be focused on a running schedule that will help you achieve the benefits listed above.

Out with the old, in with the new. In the past, the standard recommendation from the ACOG for woman who exercised during pregnancy was that she should not let her heart rate exceed 140 beats/minute during activity.  Recent reports from the academy now place stronger emphasis on a woman's rate of perceived exertion over heart rate when it comes to exercising safely. (Here's a brief summary.)

Talk to me. Given the information in #2, using the "talk test," which is the ability to carry on a conversation while working out, and the comfort test (no physical pain or discomfort) while exercising are two very important guides that will help you to know if you're working out at the proper level during exercise.

Stay Hydrated.  This isn't just important during the warmer months, but at any time of the year you are pregnant.  Drinking plenty of water before and after during working out will ensure that your body stays cool and will help ward of muscle cramps. If you are able to carry a hand held water bottle during longer runs/walks, I highly recommend it. (This is my favorite brand!) Don't underestimate the importance of this one!

Watch your step. If you are a fan of the treadmill or trail running, please reconsider these options during pregnancy. A woman's balance, particularly during the latter months, is naturally off-center, which makes climbing over uneven surfaces or maintaining balance on a treadmill while running or walking even more difficult.  Please be cautious! Remember, you won't be pregnant forever, and this time of modification will be over before you know it.

Dress for success. Invest in proper shoes and proper attire.  Shoes are definitely the most important accessory you can invest in as a runner.  Make sure you choose the shoe that fits properly and provides the much needed cushion and support your joints need during this time.  You can read more about finding the right shoe in this article.  Don't forget to dress for the weather.  Layers are perfect for colder climates, and moisture wicking, breathable fabrics are essential for warm days.  If you're in search of athletic wear designed for pregnancy here's a no budget and a low budget option.

Say "yes" to support. No matter what your fitness goals or fitness level, consider wearing a support belt.  This belt has been my go-to throughout 5 pregnancies, and I'm wearing it now!  It's adjustable, and will give your tummy the much needed lift your muscles need not only during exercise, but also throughout the day while working around the house.  During the last two months of my pregnancy, I rarely take it off!

Slow down, sister! Don't feel defeated if you have to walk.  It's true, runners tend to have pretty big egos when it comes to distance, time and frequency of activity.  I speak from experience, when I say that I have yet to run for a full 9 months of pregnancy, and it's difficult to put the brakes on every time.  Around month 7, I slow to a jog/walk combo.  The eighth and ninth month I surrender to a walk, and rely on my favorite pregnancy videos (Pilate's and aerobics) to help me finish the baby race. My heart wants to run, but my abdominal and pelvic muscles are clearly telling me to walk.  Running simply becomes uncomfortable, and I know it's important to listen to my body at this point.

Pick a partner. Consider finding a running/walking buddy.  Hitting the road as a pair is not only safer than going out alone, it also offers an added opportunity to de-stress and to gain that much needed support and motivation that only another pregnant friend (or at least one who has been through it too) can give!

Cave to the crave. I know you might be thinking "really??" about this last one, but it is important to keep your body properly, healthfully fueled before and after working out.  If you're like me, keeping your caloric intake up during pregnancy is NOT a problem! Even though you may feel like you've earned a pint of Ben and Jerry's, choosing the right post-workout snack is very important for muscle recovery and energy restoration. Look for a healthy protein/carb combo such as your favorite nut butter spread on whole grain toast with a banana, plain yogurt sprinkled with berries, nuts and a drizzle of agave, or a fruit smoothie with an added protein (just be sure that if you're adding a protein powder, that it doesn't contain any herbal supplements that aren't pregnancy approved).
Are you a reader/research buff like me?? Fit and healthy pregnancy by Christina Pinto is one of my favorites.  It's chocked full of exercise guidelines, dietary suggestions, and proper research to give you peace of mind and plenty of encouragement throughout your maternal fitness journey.

* P.S. I didn't mention in any of the tips above the vital importance of stretching.  Stretching for 10 - 15 minutes after any form of exercise will help you stay limber and ease muscle soreness. It's easy to skip this step, but the extra time you take to follow through with stretching will pay off down the road! *


  1. This is so great! I totally fell into the trap of "R&R" with my last pregnancy and I hope I'll be motivated to be more active next time. Thanks for the great advice!

  2. What kind of band do you like? I've never used one.

    1. I use the Gabriella support belt. It should be linked up above in #7 where it says "this belt." You can buy it on Amazon, but only in white. I like the black one, which you can find on the website I've linked up above. Hope you are feeling great!!

  3. Great tips!!!
    And - you look so very cute - love the little baby bump!!!

    1. Aww, thank you, Kim! I'm showing so early this time (I think I always say that)!

  4. When do you find the time to run outdoors in winter? It seems like it is dark when my husband is home and I have my children all day, so I can't ever seem to fit exercise in. Kudos to you for being active!

    1. Finding time to run outdoors in the winter is the toughest. My oldest son is able to watch the younger boys for the hour or so that I'm out, but I do have to be very flexible if he has activities/homework. I really want to get a treadmill, so I can run at anytime! I always look forward to the warmer, longer days, when I can head out at 5 a.m. and be back before the crew is up.

  5. Great post for mom-to-be! I wasn't a runner when I was pregnant but I walked every day. So not the same but at least I kept moving :)

  6. I think I'm stalking..I mean following you everywhere now :)

    BTW, your link to follow you on Pinterest isn't working. Have a great day!

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog and for the heads up on the Pinterest button. Looking forward to keeping up with you! :)

  7. LOVE this, I can't have children but in the upcoming year my sister will be my carrier and that was a concern she had! Can't wait to share this blog with her- running can be something we share throughout this unique pregnancy


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