Most moms who enjoyed exercising before they got pregnant will continue to want to do so throughout their pregnancy. Exercising while pregnant can be a great way to keep your weight gain under control and stay in good physical shape for the demands of delivery and your post-partum recovery. However, while running is a popular way to exercise, many moms continue to wonder: Is it safe to run while you are pregnant?
Most experts agree that the short answer is a qualified “yes” – as long as you abide by a few key rules:
Get the all-important OK: Your doctor knows your body, your pregnancy, and any special risks you might face. Don’t pursue any exercise program until you have the OK from your doctor to go forward. Many women who have high-risk situations are advised not to run for the duration of the pregnancy. If you are one of those women, and you still want to pursue that kind of exercise, try walking or swimming (again, with the approval of your health-care practitioner).
Know what you’re doing: If you’re already a runner, your body is familiar with the demands of running and you know how much you can take. If you haven’t been a runner before, this is not a good time to take up the sport.
Take it down a notch: Now is not the time to do interval training, train for a race, run a race, or strive for your best time. Protecting and nourishing your baby is your body’s most important job right now, and if you ask it to do too much besides that, it might not be able to do its primary job as well. There will be plenty of time to set records after your little one is born; for now, take it easy.
Listen to your body: If you’re feeling aches, pains, or any unusual cramps – stop. If you are feeling overheated – stop. Don’t keep pressing on because when your body is stressed, your baby will be too.
Understand your changing physical needs: When you are pregnant, you need to be extra-vigilant about staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Also, make sure that your changing body has the support it needs, whether it means a more supportive bra or even more stable or larger shoes.
Watch the road: Pregnancy is not the time to be running off-road, on steep mountain trails, or even on bumpy roads and pavements. You need to be extra-cautious because of the risk of falling and hurting yourself. By the second trimester, some moms switch over to running on a treadmill exclusively. It may not be as exciting, but at least the terrain is smooth and predictable.
Know when to call it quits: More likely than not, your body will tell you when you’ve passed the point of being able to run comfortably. Even the most dedicated runners reach this point by about the middle of the third trimester, if not earlier. At this point, keep on walking if it feels good and if you have your doctor’s OK.
The beauty of running is that you can decide on the distance, the speed, the intensity, the time of day, and the location, depending on how you feel. So take it easy, keep running as long as you feel comfortable, and congratulate yourself for keeping your body in good shape. After the baby is born and your body has recovered, you will most likely bounce back and hit the ground running as soon as you feel ready.