When I became pregnant I planned to run throughout my pregnancy. I was addicted to running, had a low-risk pregnancy, and knew women were training through all nine months. I was sure I could manage to go out and jog a few miles each day.
But after five months of pregnancy, my legs ached after running a half-mile and I had to introduce walking breaks. Then came the social pressure. By month seven I was tired of being asked, "You're NOT still running, ARE YOU?" I had trouble getting motivated, since I was too slow to run with my usual crowd. By the last couple months my mileage was practically nonexistent.
What had I done wrong? If other women were maintaining their fitness through pregnancy, what did they know that I didn't? Had pregnant running come more easily to them? Or had I just given up too soon? To find out, I sent out questionnaires to other running mothers.
Just one woman wrote who had maintained the same mileage throughout her pregnancy. She claimed to enjoy running as much, if not more, when she was pregnant. The only adjustments she made were running more slowly (she doesn't know how much because she doesn't wear a watch), running on a track for the last four months (because she felt safer) and planning bathroom breaks every 2 or 3 miles. But she ran 7 -- 10 miles a day and had no complaints.
Other women ran throughout pregnancy, but gradually reduced their mileage to half of their prepregnancy mileage. While enthusiastic about having run during their pregnancies, they didn't claim it was easy or pain free. Physical difficulties mentioned were pelvic discomfort, the constant urge to urinate and pain in abductor/upper hamstring.
"If you choose to run through a pregnancy," one woman wrote, "you are going to have some pain. Be willing to accept that and set a limit on the amount of pain you will tolerate. Running until the last moment is only for those of us who find running to be very important."
"Expect problems," another advised, "Do as much as you can or want to. Running was less enjoyable, but I run ninety percent for weight control. I was concerned with my weight gain while pregnant, so I still needed my running. I ran the day I went into labor with all three kids! I never let myself give it up!"
The majority of women I heard from did not run through all nine months. These women were certainly no back-of-the-pack joggers either. They had impressive PR's (sub-40 minute 10K's, a 3:21 marathon, etc.) Their prepregnancy weekly mileage ranged from 15 to 70 miles a week. Most were surprised by their difficulties.
One woman wrote, "Although running should help ease/avoid this problem, I developed varicose veins. I couldn't believe it because I'm rather small and gained little weight. I just want active people to know it can still happen to them. Extremely tight-fitting medical stockings were needed to alleviate the pain."
Other problems mentioned were difficulty recovering from "the simplest workout", increased nausea during warm weather, extreme soreness inside the pelvic region after a run, pains in the buttocks, stiff legs, sore knees, sore feet, and again "constantly feeling like I had to go to the bathroom!"
Not surprisingly, these women reported that they found running less enjoyable and had trouble getting motivated to run. "It was pure work," one woman wrote, "and not enjoyable at all. I was motivated only by knowing it would be easier to get back into shape afterwards."
Women who stopped running generally did so by their seventh or eighth month. Some gradually switched from running, to running and walking, to walking. Others had a particular run where they felt they'd had enough. "I went out for a run," said one, "about six weeks before I was due and I had such intense pain and pressure that I stopped within five minutes. After that I only went hiking."
I asked everyone for advice to other pregnant runners.
"It helps to have supportive people around. Seek out other pregnant women who are exercise-oriented."
"Drink, drink. Stay hydrated and keep plugging along at whatever level or speed feels good."
"Buy a good jog bra and a pair of running shorts that are two sizes too big and a little longer than usual. Be ready to destroy them later!"
One woman wrote. "If you're uncomfortable, don't run. There are many other ways of keeping in shape that are less stressful to the body. Don't do it because you feel you have to run. You'll be back to running before you know it."
She was right. I am.
Anne Emerick has written several articles and books. Unfortunately, only a few of them are published. Discouraged by the difficulty of matching written work to an editor's tastes, she has taken to publishing through ezine's and independent publishing. Anne formed Aboon Books, the online home of Who's Who in Independent Children's Book Publishing and the Children's Book Publishing Grapevine. Most recently she has authored an ebook, Could You, Should You Self-Publish A Picture Book?