This is the second time I have run during pregnancy, and I am still learning new lessons every single day. Every run is different, and I am incredibly grateful that this time around I have been able to keep up with a few shorter runs a week. Now that I have hit nearly the end of my pregnancy (at 37 weeks), I’m reflecting on a few things that I never heard mother runners share or discuss. Some things are TMI. Some things are not particularly flattering. But they are all things that I wish I knew about running while pregnant…..before learning some lessons the hard way. Here is the tea on running while pregnant.
What I Wish I knew About Running While Pregnant
- Bathroom Breaks are Different – So you probably expect that you’ll be stopping more frequently to pee during runs, and that’s certainly true. And realistically, most runners have no qualms about finding interesting places to go. However, something you may not fully anticipate is the fact that later in pregnancy, it’s not just your bladder that will have a harder time mid-run. There’s a lot of stress on the GI system, and that can result in more…..urgent bathroom breaks. So plan ahead, and if you’re not a fan pooping in a port-a-potty, make sure your running route includes places where you can borrow a bathroom.
- You Will Chafe in New Places – I have long been a fan of Squirrels Nut Butter. As an ultrarunner, I am no stranger to the horrors of chafing. And after 10 years, I’ve generally learned how to avoid particularly bad chafing experiences. However, as your body changes, you might find yourself chaffing in brand new places. For me, I had never chaffed along my sports bra line, but as my belly grew, I noticed my sports bra’s digging in more than they previously had. So pay attention, and adjust your strategies accordingly.
- Every Day is Different – I can’t tell you the number of times I ran a 10 miler thinking it was definitely the last double digit run I would take on. However, two weeks later, my body would feel different, and I’d decide to give it a shot, only to find that 10 miles felt easy. Some days, 4 miles feel like a struggle, and other days 6 feels absolutely perfect. So hold things loosely and let your body dictate how you adjust. You can expect that over the course of your pregnancy, you will generally run slower and shorter distances. But keep in mind that the changes are not always linear.
- Fueling May be Challenging – When I returned to running after the first trimester morning sickness subsided, I was surprised how much more I needed to fuel for my runs. I usually do not like to eat too much before a run (long runs excluded), but I found that my energy levels just tanked so much faster. Later in my pregnancy, I really struggled with being able to fuel my longer runs appropriately. These days my stomach feels like it is the size of a pea, and I have to eat much smaller meals both during and outside of my running. It is something I’ve had to be a lot more mindful of as I get further along, and something I recommend being aware of as you move through pregnancy.
- The Difference a Setting Makes – As much as the treadmill has been a lifesaver for making sure my runs are able to happen, I feel so much better after a run outside. Being outside just changes my mood for the entire day, and I notice that my pace is usually a little more efficient outside. I will say that while I used to LOVE taking on challenging hills, running uphill while pregnant is more than hard, it’s almost impossible for me. So while I love priotizing outdoor runs, I also have to be a little more cognizant about the hill profile than I was pre-pregnancy.
- People Have (Strong) Reactions – So this may not actually be a surprise, since it seems like people react to just about everything these days. However, I was a little surprised during my first pregnancy at the amount of comments I received while running. For the most part, my friends and family were very supportive, but absolute strangers often let me know that they didn’t approve. I didn’t particularly care. This pregnancy, however, has been better. I’ve still received some very concerned and strange looks, especially while on the trails during my earlier weeks of pregnancy. But I’ve also had a lot more strangers say things like “you’re amazing” or “stay strong mama” while I’m running. It seems that most people are either amazed and incredibly kind and encouraging….or they think I’m an idiot whose taking unnecessary risks. There doesn’t seem to be much in between. Fortunately, I’m stubborn and generally unbothered by anyone else’s opinions.
Running has been an absolute lifeline for me throughout my pregnancy. It has helped me to feel slightly more sane, has allowed me to feel strong, and has given me some small semblance of normalcy during a very abnormal period of time. It has not always been easy, and there’s been some surprises along the way, but it has absolutely been worth the learning experience.