Running during pregnancy has been a learning curve since my experience changes each trimester and often from week to week. (And now, in the third trimester, I just have to take it day by day!)
It’s been especially interesting since I got pregnant at the same time I was recovering from a running injury. My running was in a weird spot in the first place. When I found out I was pregnant in January, I was going to physical therapy three times a week for a torn tendon in my ankle and not running at all. I didn’t get cleared to start running until mid-February, right around the time my pregnancy nausea kicked into full gear.
When I did start running again, it was doubly hard not to compare my training to where I was a year ago, training for Boston Marathon. I was running 50-70 miles a week, felt strong and loved working with a coach for the first time. It’s one thing to start running again after an injury and it’s another thing to keep running once you get pregnant. So the combination of both was especially difficult, physically and mentally.
I explained the situation to my OBGYN (who, coincidentally is married to my sports ortho) and she felt given that I’d still been active in other ways and that I had such a long history with running (20+ years), it was fine if I continued to build my mileage back up and ran throughout my pregnancy. Typically you don’t want to start anything new when you get pregnant, but running wasn’t exactly “new” to me. I’d just had a little break.
Running While Pregnant
All that to say, it’s critical that you have a conversation with your doctor if you’re expecting and want to keep running. When I talked to a fertility specialist about how running impacts fertility, the two biggest takeaways I had were (1) be your own advocate and (2) share in detail what your background, goals and concerns are so they can give you the best guidance. And that’s true when you’re pregnant as well!
I’ll share in this post what running has been like in the first and second trimester and I’ll update it again as I get further along in my third. (I’m currently 28 weeks pregnant.) There have certainly been dramatic shifts in each trimester and how it’s impacted my running.
I also included at the bottom of the post the questions I’ve received on Instagram about running in pregnancy. So feel free to leave a comment with any questions you have or shoot me an email ([email protected]) or DM and I can address it at the next post update!
If you need pregnancy workout outfits and gear recommendations, read this post! Most things are not maternity-specific, so you can use them before and after pregnancy.
First Trimester Running: Weeks 1-13
In my first trimester, I ran anywhere from 0 to 15 miles a week. I was recovering from an injury and rebuilding mileage with a lot of run-walk outings!
I was extremely nauseous almost immediately in my first trimester. (Read this post for what I did to help with that.) I felt sick from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. But I quickly learned that I felt a LOT worse if I didn’t workout. The challenge was getting myself to start my workout since it sounded absolutely miserable to run when I was that nauseous. But I just had to force myself to do something. (Read this post for tips to get motivated, in general!)
To help me get going, I’d tell myself to start my workout as easy as possible. If I was running, I’d walk first. If I was riding the Peloton, I’d take a five minute warm-up class first. I usually felt better with the easy warm-up and ramped up the intensity just a little once I got going. Other days, a warm-up ride or 30 minute walk was my workout and I called it good. But doing something to sweat helped ease my nausea for at least a few hours so I could get some work done.
Less running, more biking
In the first month, I spent a lot of time on the Peloton since I still wasn’t cleared to run given my ankle injury. But around 4-5 weeks, I started adding run-walk outings, at the guidance of my PT. (My PT knew I was expecting very early on given that we had to adjust my treatment plan and stop dry needling).
I also typically do strength training 2-3x a week, but I found that walking, running or the Peloton helped quell the nausea more than strength training alone. So if I wanted to strength train, I’d ride the Peloton for just 15 minutes and then did a short strength session. (And the weight was light – my heaviest dumbbells are home at 8lbs.)
Very sore chest + very large chest
I noticed my chest was sore even before I knew I was pregnant. (That’s one of the reasons I took a test a week before my expected period, and it came up positive even then.) And, within the first month, my chest went from a B/C cup to a D cup. So, buying new sports bras was necessary almost immediately. I needed a lot more support for running to even be an option! The Brooks Juno has been my favorite.
I had severe sacrum pain in my first trimester, so much so that I could barely walk at times. I’ve had issues with my sacrum for years, and my OBGYN told me that it was far too early to have sacrum pain related to pregnancy. She also said it was too early for the relaxin hormone to be impacting it to that level.
But, when I explained that I felt something slip out of place while doing a PT exercises for my ankle, she suggested doing to PT specifically to address my sacrum. So, I started going to PT for both my sacrum AND ankle. We worked on strengthening the whole pelvic/hip area and also on loosening up my piriformis. By the start of my second trimester, my sacrum pain improved drastically.
Another thing I noticed right away was a feeling of breathlessness. Since I hadn’t been running consistently due to my injury, I wasn’t sure if it was pregnancy-related or just a result of lack of running! But, I’m pretty sure it was pregnancy related since one of my running friends told me she experienced the exactly same thing early in her pregnancy. Plus, I had still been doing cardio with the PEloton. I especially noticed breathlessness any time I tried to run up a hill (which happens a lot where I live!), far more than typical hill challenges. So, I just took a lot of walk breaks.
I really struggled with running being so hard so early on since I didn’t look pregnant. Plus, so many of my aches and pains didn’t have anything to do with pregnancy! I felt like I should still be able to run normally. But looking back on it, the fatigue and nausea impacted me a lot more than I realized. (I took naps most afternoons and I’m NOT typically someone who naps!) I should have been kinder to myself.
Second Trimester Running: Weeks 14-27
In my second trimester, I ran anywhere from 5 to 30 miles a week. Most weeks averaged around 20 miles. Lower weeks were related to a fall while running that required some time off.
Chest grew even more
While the soreness from my first trimester went away, my chest got even larger. I had to buy yet MORE sports bras, this time in an E cup.
Urgent need to pee almost immediately & constantly
Early in my second trimester, my bladder became a major issue. Immediately after I started running, I needed to pee. And that feeling lasted the entire run, even if I went back to the house or peed in the woods mid-run (yep, that happened). I still needed to pee again as soon as I started running again! I talked to my doctor and she said there wasn’t really anything I could do about it. But, miraculously, this lasted only about 4-5 weeks. I still feel like I have to pee at some point during most runs, but the instant and chronic urge has improved a LOT.
When I started having the pee problems, I switched my runs to only start from home so I could empty my bladder right before, i.e. typically 3 times before I headed out the door. I used to drive to run somewhere else but since the bathrooms are closed due to COVID, that’s no longer an option. I have to pee immediately before starting a run in order to make it through 4-6 miles!
Round ligament pain + pelvic pressure
Oh boy, this one has been frustrating! My round ligaments really started to hurt halfway through my second trimester. It felt like the worst side cramp you can imagine…on both sides. Then, eventually my right side bothered me a lot more and I wasn’t sure why.
I also felt a LOT of pressure in my pelvis area, sometimes accompanied with the need to pee, other times not. It felt like there was a cinderblock sitting at the top of my pelvis.
It was at this point that I bought a maternity workout support band – the Recore Maternity FitSplit. I didn’t really know if it helped at first, but I’ve stuck with it and my runs have certainly been better, with less round ligament pain and less pelvic pressure. So I think it must help. And, I’m not willing to try a run without it to test so I guess that says something!
Sacrum pain returned
My sacrum pain returned with a vengeance about midway through my second trimester. I found a chiropractor in Winston-Salem who specializes in prenatal work and that has made a WORLD of difference. I rarely struggle with sacrum pain now! And my round ligament pain has even improved. She explained that the sacrum tilting the way mine was can make round ligament pain even worse than it normally would be in pregnancy.
I think the adjustments have helped with the pelvic pressure, round ligament pain and sacrum issues even more than the FitSplint. But again, I’m not willing to give up the FitSplint to test it out! And I’m definitely not willing to try the FitSplint without also getting the help of the chiropractor.
I fell while running
At 20 weeks, I fell while running in an attempt to social distance from another runner. (Full story here.) I was terrified and called my OBGYN immediately, who got me in for an appointment that afternoon to check on the baby. Thankfully everything was okay, but I was still VERY nervous to run again.
But, my knees were so banged up that I couldn’t straighten my legs easily, let alone run. So, I went to my sports ortho just to be safe. (I ignored my ankle injury for 3+ months last year and learned my lesson!) He determined nothing was broken and I hadn’t torn an ACL, but that I had a very inflamed bursa. He had me take about a week off before I tried running again to let the inflammation go down.
Aside from letting my body heal, it also gave me time mentally to reset and shake off the nerves. When I went back to running, I definitely slowed down my pace compared to what I’d been doing before just so I could be more cautious about where I stepped.
More accepting of the state of my running
While I certainly have days that I get frustrated when a run feels just plain miserable, I’m much more accepting of where my running is at these days. I run 2-3 minutes per mile slower than my normal pace. But hey, when I log 11 minute miles, it makes it even better when I log miles in the 9s! (Most of my runs used to be in the 7s and 8s previously.) I also found that not stopping my watch for walk breaks, i.e. letting walking roll into my average pace, helped me mentally.
I could leave my watch at home, but I like tracking my progress on Strava, through all phases of running! And I know I’ll want to look back on this phase someday. I already regret not making my Strava private in my first trimester so I could add notes about what I was experiencing. Since I didn’t share online that I was pregnant until nearly 23 weeks, I didn’t write much in Strava either. And now I wish I had.
Third Trimester Running: Weeks 28-40+
I’m only a few days into my third trimester so I’ll provide an update on this in a few weeks! But right now, I’m averaging about 20 miles a week.
But so far, I’m still experiencing round ligament pain and running just feels harder in general! I know the heat and humidity play into that so I’m taking my own advice for summer running. And I know that it’s normal for running to feel harder as I get bigger. So I’m trying to be patient with myself and always always always listen to my body.
Running While Pregnant: Q&A
Here are the questions I got on Instagram with my responses below. The moral of the story on all of these is to check with your doctor about YOUR situation. I’m not a doctor and I’m just sharing my experience in this post!
Have you experienced any pelvic pain thus far? I’m 22 weeks and struggling!
Yes! I think the chiropractor helped the most with this. Or, maybe just a different phase of pregnancy. Things change so much from week to week! Give it time. It may improve… or it may not. Everyone is different and pregnancy is definitely a journey in patience.
Is there a certain heart rate to stay under while running?
My doctor didn’t give me a heart rate threshold, but every pregnancy is so different. Ask your doctor for guidance specific to your situation.
How did you change your training once you found out you were pregnant?
I listened to my body a LOT more than normal (good lesson to learn!) and took a LOT more walk breaks. I also nixed workouts much longer than an hour just because I didn’t have the energy or desire.
Did you have any spotting early on? If so, were you told running easy was ok?
I didn’t. That’s something I would ask your doctor about.
Round ligament pain – is it safe to run through it or is it a sign you should stop?
My doctor told me I can run through it as tolerated. But, again, I’d ask your doctor since every pregnancy is different and it may be something different in your situation than in mine.
What low impact cross-training can you do instead of running?
Swimming, biking and walking are all great options! This post talks about cross-training options and the benefits. Just be sure to check with your doctor before you start anything new.
How do you protect your joints (e.g. ankles rolling, knees buckling) as your joints loosen?
I’m just VERY careful about where I step (I look at the ground a LOT more) and I take more steps to keep my feet right under me. That helps keep your center of gravity under you — and that’s good practice for running form in general!
If you haven’t run much before getting pregnant, is it a bad idea to pick it up while pregnant?
Most doctors will advise NOT to start anything new once you get pregnant. But, talk to your doctor about your particular situation.
Did you run at all during your first trimester? I’m so tired!
Yes! See above! I didn’t run much, but mostly because I was still recovering from a torn tendon.
Can it ever increase risk of miscarriage?
If you were running prior to getting pregnant, running — in most cases — shouldn’t increase your risk of miscarriage. However, make sure you talk to your doctor early on about your workouts. Every pregnancy is different and in some high-risk situations, they may have you modify your workouts. You may find this post helpful too.
Are you using a belly band? Is there one you recommend?
I bought this one.
Did you cut back on running or slow your pace while TTC?
I wasn’t running due to a torn tendon when we were trying to conceive. But my doctors had no concerns with my level of running when I talked to them last summer when making some plans. Read this post about running while trying to conceive and also talk to your doctor!
Are you still doing speed work? Are intervals okay?
I did some speed work and strides in the first trimester, but it was really my ankle recovery that limited me more than anything. In the second trimester, I did some tempo work and hill repeats. But as my round ligament pain acted up, I didn’t really have to desire, so I haven’t in about 4-6 weeks and don’t really plan to add any back in at this point.
If you were doing speed work consistently before getting pregnant, you should be able to keep doing it. Just double check with your doctor.
What supportive sports bras have you used for increasingly huge tatas?
I love the Brooks Juno!
If you ran during pregnancy, what is your number one tip you’d give other women going through it?
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