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When Should A Pregnant Woman Stop Running?

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If you are an avid runner who is looking to grow your family, you may find yourself wondering if you will have to sacrifice your running while pregnant. Is it safe to exercise while pregnant? Can I do high-impact activities? Will it hurt the baby? How will I know when to stop or start taking it easy?

Running while pregnant can be an enjoyable experience and can also be done safely. There are, however, some basic guidelines you should know and follow.

Pre-Pregnancy Activity Level

The first thing to ask yourself when contemplating how much physical activity is okay while you are pregnant is how high your activity level was before getting pregnant. Most doctors will tell you that if you are very active before getting pregnant you likely can continue your activity while pregnant.

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. Once you learn you are pregnant you should always have a conversation with your physician to be sure your activity of choice is safe.

Pregnancy is not the time to suddenly start getting into a higher level of fitness; however, you can certainly focus on maintaining what you already have achieved. If you have been running, keep running! The same is true for biking, swimming, cycling and other activities.

What To Expect

The first trimester is difficult for many women for various reasons. First, nausea often plagues women during that period. Coupled with first-trimester fatigue, you may find yourself too tired to work out. If that happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. While it is certainly true that exercising is good for you, sometimes the best thing you can do for your body is to listen to it.

During those challenging first weeks of pregnancy, it is okay to just rest more if that is what your body is asking of you.

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You will notice that you heat up quickly once you are pregnant. Because of that, you should use caution when exercising to be sure you do not overheat. Be sure to hydrate properly and not overdo it when it is hot and/or humid.  Many women experience some breast tenderness and find they need a larger, more supportive sports bra.

It is also advised that you wear clothing that is loose as you run while pregnant as restrictive clothing can prove less than comfortable.

Second Trimester

As you hit your second trimester, you may find yourself getting bigger and losing your balance a bit more frequently. Some women choose to run more on the track at this stage in the game. If you are an avid trail runner, be very cognizant of your footing and try to stick to flat paths as you move along in the pregnancy.

Although the nausea of the first trimester may go away, there are a host of new experiences that may crop up. Some women experience lower back pain if they exercise while pregnant. You may find yourself having to stick very close to a bathroom.

Once your belly starts to grow and become uncomfortable, a belly band can help hold things in place (and prevent some of that uncomfortable jostling). These bands offer support without overkill on the pressure.

You need to realize that you will likely have to slow things down a bit if you plan to continue running. Don’t focus on far or fast. Just keep your body moving as well and as long as it seems to feel good for you!

First, Second, Third Trimester!

The third trimester is where things could get really interesting and uncomfortable for women trying to run through the pregnancy. As you can imagine, the bigger your belly gets the harder it could get to navigate running.

For most runners, this is where you have to be increasingly more patient with yourself. Running may include more walk breaks. It is probable that you need to plan your routes around frequent bathroom breaks. Some days you might not feel like you have the energy for much more than a brisk walk.

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Other women will keep up the easy running right up until they give birth, and that is okay too! Whatever you do please don’t compare your pregnancy fitness journey to anyone else’s. Certainly, it is okay to seek advice. It is also okay to be hopeful that your pregnancy looks exactly like the friend down the road.

However, it is even more important to offer yourself grace if you suddenly find yourself unable to run. Whether you are too sore, too tired, too bulky, or just not feeling it, it is okay to listen to your body.

Adjusting Your Expectations

One thing you have probably figured out is that you should adjust your expectations while pregnancy. I mean, in regards to your running and exercise, not about how awesome motherhood will be!

No matter how long or far you were running pre-pregnancy, don’t expect your pregnant self to live up to that standard. Maybe for a while, you will, but it is equally as okay if you don’t. If you start to struggle some ways to switch up your running include:

  • Interval running (2:00 minutes running x 2:00 minutes walking, for example)
  • Slower pace
  • Lower weekly mileage
  • Significantly shorter runs
  • Switch to brisk walking
  • Try a non-impact cross-training substitute

When Should A Pregnant Woman Stop Running?

You should stop running if and when your doctor recommends you stop. That is the first absolute in running while pregnant. If you start to feel cramping, you should also either stop running or stop for that day and see if things improve the next day.

When your belly starts to get bigger, if you feel uncomfortable when you move, it may be time to stop running and switch to walking. Also, if running starts to cause back pain, you might need to stop.

It goes without saying that if you get any type of bleeding or spotting you should stop and seek a physician’s advice.

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Some women are able to run right up until they give birth, and others quit much earlier than that. The average woman can run for a while during pregnancy, but then they quit somewhere between the 5th and 7th month of pregnancy. That does not mean you need to push yourself to feel “normal.”

Trust me when I say this: each woman’s pregnancy is unique to her. That rings true whether this is your first baby or your fifth. Experience tells us that each pregnancy may be as individual as the beautiful baby the mother is carrying.

Don’t spend too much time fretting if you are exercising enough or not enough. If it feels good, keep doing it. When it stops feeling good, switch to something else. Listening to your body is never a smarter decision than when you are expecting.