Friday, June 28, 2013

Running and Pregnancy

Today's Workout:
8.5 mile run

Hello friends and TGIF! You may be wondering if I'm still running as vigorously as I used to. The answer is NO, but I AM still running. Let me give you a brief synopsis of my first conversation with the OB-GYN:

Me: Nice to meet you Dr.

Dr.: Nice to meet you Erika.

Me: Can I still run?

Dr.: Of course you can!

Me: THANK GOD! *sigh*

I must admit that I was frightened he might say no. Since I had zero plans on having a baby, I didn't know the exercising do's and don'ts for pregnant women. However, when I began my research, I was both shocked and thrilled. I thought I would have to kiss my Newton sneakers good-bye. Admittedly, I was bothered by the fact that I was thrown this curve ball (pregnancy) because I am the ultimate planner. Milo and I had future (way in the future) plans on having a baby, but I wanted to work on my running goals first. Selfish? Yes. Has pregnancy put a damper on my running career? Absolutely not!

When I first found out I was pregnant my thoughts were clouded by the shocking news. I thought that would be the end of my running days, but then I realized that pregnancy isn't a detrimental health condition. On the contrary, pregnancy has many positive effects on female athletes. I quickly began researching the topic of running while pregnant and I endlessly watched interviews of elite marathoner Kara Goucher. Goucher is a USA marathon Olympian and probably the most bad-a$$ runner in the world, so naturally I was curious to read her pregnancy story. Not only did she continue to train while she was pregnant, but she also continues to be one of the best female marathoners in the US after having a baby (Totally inspiring!).

So what has changed about my training? Pace and intensity. Naturally I am running slower because of my weight gain but also because of the weather conditions in Miami. Added weight has definitely slowed me down because there's more to carry and the nasty heat and humidity doesn't help either. As far as intensity, the doctor recommended to run at a conversational pace. The rule that a pregnant woman should not exceed a heart rate of 140bmp is totally a myth. You can't compare a sedentary woman's heart rate to a woman who's been an endurance athlete for a few years. Naturally, the athlete's heart is in better shape, so the rule to follow is perceived effort. I basically run at a comfortable pace. By no means is it fast, but it's not too slow either (it's at a moderate level). I have begun incorporating strides into my runs to add some speed work into my running sessions. Next up: track sessions with 200 meter sprints (perceived effort). So to sum it up, I run 6 days a week for a total of about 40-45 miles. I also do about 2-3 HIIT sessions a week. I'm feeling great and thankfully not sick =).

I am excited and somewhat relieved to be pregnant because I am taking this time to thoroughly enjoy my runs. Not that I didn't enjoy my hard runs before, but I am enjoying them differently these days. I'm taking pleasure of running on new routes and marveling at the scenery. My goal is to maintain my fitness until I give birth and of course, to keep my sanity. Running has calmed my nerves about the weight gain and it just makes me feel good. The book Running Through your Pregnancy has given me wonderful insight about running while pregnant. Stay tuned for the cool stuff that I have learned...

Did you run while you were pregnant? How did you feel?
I'm grateful to be experiencing the blessing
of pregnancy and running at the same time.
It's a humbling experience.
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  1. I did not run while I was pregnant. I did a lot of strength training though with my patients :) I wish I had kept up my running though. Good luck!

    1. I've read that strength training is just as good! ;) Thank you.

  2. Hi Erika,

    I was glad I found your blog!

    I am 9 weeks pregnant. I still run about 45-50mpw, 6 days a week, like I did before. I noticed that ligaments in my legs and feet are softer than before, so I have to be careful and keep a good form. Well, that's not the problem. Problem I have is that I breathe heavier than before. I hate it! I had to slow down so I wouldn't sound like I am fighting for breath. So, I don't even try to do speed training. Does this heavy breathing ever go away? I have heard it gets better after first trimester, but I find it hard to believe since I would have to carry some extra weight on the front. Did you feel better as the pregnancy progressed?

    Pregnancy related nausea comes and goes; one day I am fine, then next I hurt after every meal. I believe that running helps with nausea, but I am still surprised how slow my digestion now that I am pregnant and still running.

    Good luck with running and pregnancy!

    1. Hello! First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! This is going to be a unique experience for you. I'm 6 months now and from my experiences the breathing doesn't get any better. Like you said, because I am heavier now, the heavy breathing has increased even more and I have slowed down my pace as well. But don't worry, the endurance somewhat stays. I still run about 45 miles a week and I have separated my runs into short, medium and long runs. My short runs are about 5 miles in length, my medium runs are about 8 miles and my long runs vary from 12-15 miles. It's totally doable if one has endurance part established from pre-pregnancy. My humble recommendation is to not fight it. Listen to your body. If it's telling you to rest, then rest. If it tells you it could run more, then run. You're in your first trimester right now, so you're probably feeling really tired. The tiredness should subside by the 3rd month. My second trimester has been awesome. I have energy and I've been able to run as much as I want. I'm not sure what will await me on the next one though. As far as nausea, I believe you're right. The more we exercise and eat healthy, I believe that will make us feel better. Luckily, I haven't gotten sick at all. No vomiting or nausea, thank God! I wish you tons of luck and remember to embrace this experience because your body will surprise you! ;)