If you are wondering if running is safe during pregnancy, you are not alone! Questions about exercise – particularly running – are very normal during pregnancy. Exercise can help with depression, anxiety, sleep, and even heartburn! The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise a week, even if you are pregnant.So, yes, keep running but read this blog post first.
Sometimes with pregnancy, we feel like we want to keep going, work out the way we always have, and keep lifting the same weight or running the same number of miles – maybe to prove to someone or even ourselves just how strong we are. But pregnancy is not the time to hit a personal record or your fastest mile or push yourself too hard for too long. Yes, it’s okay to keep exercising, lifting, running, and doing yoga, but as pregnancy progresses, modify your fitness routine to accommodate the changes in your body. The challenge is knowing HOW to exercise during pregnancy: how to modify and engage the abdominals and pelvic floor, prevent injury and prepare for birth. If you want safe, specific workouts for every stage of pregnancy, consider joining the V-Hive!
Let’s dive in. As you care for yourself and a growing baby, here are a few insights into how running can play a role in a healthy pregnancy.
If I was not running before pregnancy, can I begin now?
Running during pregnancy can be incredibly beneficial for both mom and baby. But, of course, your doctor or your pelvic floor physical therapist should first clear any new workouts or exercise regimes.
If I was running before I became pregnant, can I keep running through pregnancy?
Yes, you can continue to run safely, provided you MODIFY as your pregnancy progresses. Your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles (significant players in your core) lengthen and stretch and can get all jacked up if you pushing yourself too hard. I promise you; it’s not worth it. I promise you. You can return to your old fitness routine (eventually) after childbirth. But I also promise you that you will do your body better if you modify it. So stay fit, stay healthy, and put your pride in the parking lot for a while. You only get one pelvic floor. Take care of it.
Pay attention to your heart rate as you run and keep in mind it’s normal for heart rate to increase during pregnancy due to the increase in blood being pumped.
Running in the first trimester
During pregnancy, your body has an increased amount of the hormone Relaxin that causes all your joints to get loosey-goosey. This is good because it allows your pelvic bones to spread with a growing fetus. Your center of gravity may be off! However, it can lead to instability and pain in your pubic bone, sacroiliac joints, and ankle joints, which could lead to falls. Running on a smooth surface, avoiding trails with uneven surfaces, obtaining the proper footwear, and ensuring you have appropriate core stability and balance will minimize your risk of falling.
You have to build your foundations (your pelvic floor and core) before you make your house (put a load of high-impact exercise on your pelvic floor). The exercises may feel slow, simple, and even boring at times. But learning the basics (engaging your pelvic floor, using your breath to manage your intra-abdominal pressure) and incorporating it into activity will take you so far in your workouts and running.
Exercises to prepare your core
I recommend breath work and core work in various positions to engage your pelvic floor and deep abs to help maintain stability while running. In addition, strength training is an excellent complement to running. Still, you need to ensure that you are breathing in a way that will limit excess pressure on your abdominal wall and pelvic floor, limiting the risk of diastasis recti orpelvic organ prolapse.
Take a squat, for example. We typically breath-hold on the way down into the squat and then use an explosive exhale back up to standing. While this breathing technique might seem beneficial, it can be detrimental to an expecting mom. This breath holds significantly increases intra-abdominal pressure. We want to always exhale with exertion to ensure proper pressure management and activation of the pelvic floor with lifting. So engage your pelvic floor and deep abdominals before you squat and exhale on the way down and up. This goes for lifting kiddos, groceries, pushing furniture, or lifting weights at the gym. This will not only decrease the pressure in our abdomen, but it will also cue our pelvic floor and transversus abdominis (deep core) to activate. This will help stabilize our trunk and pelvis and limit any unwanted strain on our pelvic floor or abdomen. Ultimately, it will reduce the risk of pelvic organ prolapse or diastasis recti.
Running in the second trimester
Remember, you’ll want to modify your running routine as pregnancy progresses. Below are some tips to consider as you make it to your second trimester!
- Lean forward. This is one of the most fabulous tips I’ve learned! Lean forward (nose over toes) when running. This feels a little like you are falling forward at first, but you’ll adjust. You can also increase your incline on a treadmill or run uphill to get that natural forward lean.
- Take shorter strides. Shorter strides can decrease your speed and lessen the impact and force on your pelvic floor. Start with shorter strides, and as you increase strength and pelvic floor support, you can increase stride length.
- Modify as needed including a slower pace, less mileage, or alternating with runs and then walks. Pregnancy is not ideal for training for a major race or up the intensity. Instead, try lower-intensity workouts as pregnancy progresses. Walking is always a great alternative.
Running in the third trimester
The most important thing to consider when running in the third trimester is knowing when to stop. If you experience leakage, pelvic floor pressure, abdominal coning, have to hold your breath or cannot perform without comprising your form, scale back. That’s a sign your body and your tissues can’t support the load you are asking them to carry. You want to be able to “hold a conversation” or talk when exercising. Take a break, alternate walking with running, or slow down if you are breathless. You can run up until you give birth as long as you do so safely and comfortably. If you experience pain,urinary leakage, vaginal bleeding, pressure or heaviness in the vagina, or a loss of balance, it’s time to scale back. The best thing you can do is work with aPelvic Floor PT.
How to make running more comfortable during pregnancy
- Get pelvic support.Compressioncan be key to comfortable movement during pregnancy, such as running. If you have prolapse orvulvar varicosities or feel you need to lift your belly when working out, I recommend using compressive pelvic support. This may be an external support (a jockstrap for your vagina) or an internal support like a pessary, Poise Impressa Bladder Support, or inserting a tampon to support your bladder and urethra while running.
- If you haveDiastasis Recti, do not use a waist trainer. Usecompression leggings or gentle supports. You want to ensure they are not too restrictive and you can breathe adequately. You may also consider Kinesio Tape to help support your belly or your Diastasis Recti when running.
- Invest in some good running shoes (and get new ones when you’ve logged too many miles on your old ones) and suitable attire – including a bra that keeps the girls in check.
- Warm-up! This will help prepare your body for the activity it is about to do and make you more stable on your run. Warm up with exercises like jogging and jumping jacks instead of static stretches.
- Hydrate! You have a lot more blood volume during pregnancy so you need a lot more water to stay hydrated. Drink up!
Your running shoes and your pelvic floor
Did you know your running shoes can affect your pelvic floor? Remember to periodically switch up your shoes and switch up what side of the street you run on. Most roads have a slight slope, and putting in several miles along that same path cause lead to some hip muscles being too tight on one side. Your hip muscles affect your pelvic floor muscles and can lead to low back pain, hip pain, and pelvic floor issues. So, remember to swap sides periodically and choose a track or flat running trail for your outdoor training.
What to know about vaginal farting
Farting from your vagina can happen while running when air comes out of your vagina unexpectedly. Pelvic floor tissues and muscles being weak cause the vagina farts when air gets in, and the air gets out. We feel embarrassed, start avoiding the activities we love, and worry it might happen again (when no one else will be around to blame). Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and supporting tissues may help prevent these inconvenient queefs and get you back to being active, busy, and confident.
When to call a pelvic floor physical therapist
Suppose you feel any sign of pelvic organ prolapse (heaviness, pressure, or bulging in the low pelvis), pelvic and low back pain, urinary incontinence, vaginal bleeding, orsexual dysfunction. In that case, you should stop or modify the activity and check in with your medical provider. Running is a high-impact activity that can commonly elicit urinary leakage (aka peeing your pants). You may avoid running or just powering through with wet pants, but it’s a sign that your pelvic floor may need a tune-up if you experience this while pregnant due to the increased pressure on your bladder. Your pelvic health physical therapist can assess the presence of these signs, symptoms, and risk factors and work with you to develop a plan so that you can meet your running goals.
Pregnancy is not the time to PR
While pregnancy is not the time to set a personal best, running can have incredible benefits for mom and baby as long as you do so comfortably and safely. Balancing risk and reward towards your running fitness goals wisely is key. Keep exercising, but listen to your body! For more fitness and pelvic floor tips during pregnancy, check out the V-Hive!
Wondering if you can use your bike during pregnancy? Check out this post where we discuss the Peloton!
Are you currently pregnant or planning to conceive? If so, make sure todownload my FREE resource — How to Prepare Your Pelvic Floor & Core for Childbirth + 8 Must-Dos for C-Section and Vaginal Deliveries.
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