Tips for Pregnant Runners

If lounging with your feet up while eating pickles and ice cream isn't your idea of a dream pregnancy, you're in luck.

As long as you have a doctor's okay, know the warning signs of over-exertion, carry plenty of water and use common sense, you can run safely while you are trying to conceive and throughout your pregnancy.

Assess Your Condition
For runners, you must have a discussion with an OB/GYN about your overall health, your baby's health and your fitness goals. Once you are cleared for running, proceed with caution and pay attention to your body. Stop exercising immediately if you have spotting, cramping or other pains. Revisit the discussion at monthly check-ups to ensure all is well.

"As long as moms are feeling good, amniotic fluid levels are normal and the baby's growth is proceeding at a healthy rate, I tell my patients it is fine to continue doing what exercise feels good to them," says Dr. Robin Barrett, an OB/GYN from Portland, Ore., runner, mother of two, and doctor to Kara Goucher. "Tracking heart rate can be misleading, so I suggest using whether or not you can carry on a conversation (you should be able to) as a gauge to judge exertion and pay attention to perceived effort."

Sari Anderson, a professional adventure racer and mother of two from Glenwood Springs, Colo., used this method during pregnancy. "I would sing or talk to my dog when I was pregnant and running alone to make sure I didn't go too hard," she says.

"For patients starting with a good base level of fitness, I tell them that moderate exercise is not only fine, but also helps to keep blood pressure in check, staves off gestational diabetes, and even helps women deliver closer to their due dates, often with somewhat easier deliveries," Barrett says.

That being said, Barrett doesn't encourage non-runners to begin running when they are pregnant. She does encourage all of her healthy patients to maintain a fitness program. Walking, pool workouts, stationary cycles and elliptical trainers are good options to stay fit if you don't feel like running. Anderson preferred biking and hiking toward the end of her pregnancy. "I still had the benefits of cardiovascular workouts and fresh air without the pounding," she explains.

Realistic Expectations
"Pregnancy is not the time for runners to expect to PR, go as fast or as far," Barrett says. Christine Hinton, a runner, mother of two, coach, Women's Running contributor and creator of the pregnantrunner.com and therunningcoach.com, adds, "Pregnant runners should aim to run for the emotional and physical benefits and to see their healthy body in a new light."

Hinton's best advice for expectant runners is to be flexible with workouts. Even though you may want to go on a five-mile run, your body may be saying  a one-mile walk is plenty. "This is the time to maintain fitness, do what feels right for your body, and not make gains," Hinton says.

"The length of your pregnancy is really not a long time to have a modified work-out plan," Anderson says.

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