You held out as long as you could, but that last run was just…painful. Your hips hurt while running and ached for hours afterwards. You can’t see your feet but you can safely assume they are swollen. Your normal sports bra seems to have shrunk—a lot. What’s a pregnant runner to do?
Not every pregnant runner experiences enough discomfort to need to stop running at some point in her pregnancy, but a lot—dare I say the majority?—of us do. It’s not a fun day when you have to put your running shoes in the closet and kiss them goodbye for a few weeks or months, but it doesn’t have to mean running can’t still be part of your daily life. There is plenty you can do to keep your body and mind in running shape, greatly aiding your sanity during pregnancy as well as speeding up your recovery and return to running postpartum.
Don’t Eat for Two Adults!
It’s no small secret these days that the old adage of “eating for two” is a bit off target. Yes, you’ll need some additional nutrition to grow a healthy baby and keep your own energy up, but that certainly does not constitute doubling your calories. An active, healthy woman within her recommended BMI (Body Mass Index) only needs approximately 300–400 more calories a day during pregnancy. That’s a Clif Bar and some strawberries—not a third dinner or a gallon of ice cream.
Okay, so you feel huge, awkward, and unbalanced, so running really isn’t a safe option right now. Fair enough. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still be active and keep those running-related muscles strong. Walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga are three great alternatives that are very safe to practice while pregnant and are quite beneficial to runners.
If you have to stop running at some point in the pregnancy, which many women do, try not to focus on how much you miss running, but focus on what you CAN do. You can exercise in other ways (see above); you can cook a healthy and scrumptious meal for your family; you can read too many parenting manuals; you can finish your holiday shopping, wrapping, and mailing early for the first time ever; you can finally take the time to learn how to crochet; you can create a human being inside your body. You’re freakin’ amazing. And don’t you forget it.
Revamp Your Motivation
Pregnancy is one of the best times in a runner’s life to stoke a fire under your butt. There’s nothing like a forced break away from something you enjoy to make you really appreciate and miss it. Whether you take just the last few weeks off, or the whole 9 months and then some, dedicate some of that gained time to finally reading some of those running-related books you’ve had on your list for years; organize your running gear—as there’s nothing quite like a well-folded and arranged corner of running clothes and accessories greeting you every time you open your closet; or line up your first postpartum race, providing yourself with the perfect goal to help you regain your running strength and confidence after Junior arrives.
Relax and Enjoy This Time
Sure, medals, shirts, and various expo knick-knacks are fun rewards of running, but they aren’t even on the same plane as the beautiful reward you’ll gain at the end of your pregnancy. You have your entire life to run, but approximately just one year (including post partum healing time and adjusting to life as a parent) to be pregnant and experience the miracle of a human growing inside you. Enjoy it as much as you can. You won’t remember much of the aches, pains, and nausea, but you will remember how special the little kicks, summersaults, and hiccups felt.