Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finding Balance Between Running and Pregnancy

This morning I decided today would not be a run day.  After racing Saturday, running Sunday and Monday, I started feeling a little tight and creaky.  I think I'm having some running/pregnancy balance issues.  I'm not one of those women who believe now that I'm pregnant I shouldn't do anything I did before, but I also don't believe I should do everything I did before (even if I physically can).  And there's the rub.  What is too much?  What is enough?  Where is the balance between what I used to do and what I should do now?

What I used to do:
  • Get up most weekday mornings between 4:30-4:45 and run 6-10 miles with my girls.
  • Saturdays were usually races or long runs.
  • Sundays were whatever I wanted them to be.  
  • Total weekly mileage was usually 40-50 miles per week unless training for a marathon or ultra.
  • I also went through weight training phases and gym class phases and during the summers I did triathlons of sprint and olympic distances.
What I do now:
  • Get up some weekday mornings around 5:40-6:00 and run 3-5 miles solo.
  • If I don't run in the morning, I run 3-5 miles in the afternoon.
  • I do weights and pilates 3 times a week for 35 minutes.
  • Saturdays could possibly be a race, but are usually 5-6 miles.
  • Sundays I pick weights and pilates or running.
  • Total weekly mileage is usually 20-25 miles.  
  • I take my dog for more walks and usually count that mileage in my weekly total.
So what I do now is not all that bad.  It is less than what I was doing by about half, although I am much more consistent with my weights and pilates (usually) than I was before pregnancy.  I probably wouldn't call my 15 minute full body weight workout or my 20 minute pilates workout strenuous, but I do think it benefits this pregnant body immensely.

I said before that the goal was 30 minutes a day, but I really prefer an hour.  An hour of planned exercise a day (that doesn't include walking to the campus cafe or two/from my car, working in my flower beds, cleaning house, etc.) would be perfect.  I think that would put me in the exercise range to receive all those lovely benefits to pregnancy, labor and delivery while also not overdoing it or harming myself or my growing baby girl.

Still, I read blogs of all these pregnant women doing things like running 8 miles at sub 8 minute pace at 18 weeks pregnant or running 10 miles at 33 weeks pregnant (without a pit stop to boot!) and I wonder if I've been too cautious.  Still, if what I'm doing feels good and seems to be enough, why would I need or want to run 8-10 miles while I'm pregnant?  Six miles is usually pretty exciting to me these days and constitutes a really good workout that I can recover from fairly quickly.  My goal for now is to get in 1 six miler a week just to stay trained for any 10ks I want to do, and to keep up my cardiovascular fitness levels for labor and after.

While I do enjoy my 4 and 5 milers during the week and even feel like I've had a good workout after 3, part of me remembers when 6 miles was an easy day and 10 miles did not constitute a long run.  And then I wonder if at the end of 9 months I will remember those things.  Will I remember what it is like to run 10 miles and not need a pit stop (or 3)?  Will 6 miles go back to being an easy day?  Will 40-50 mile weeks happen naturally and will I be able to get out of bed and rejoin my running crew after being away for so long?

Jason says yes, I will remember and go back to doing all of that.  Mom seems to think I'll be half-marathon ready by October (due in Aug, possibly July).  They say it so matter-of-factually like I just asked if it will continue to rain once we have a baby.  But add my questions onto what I read other pregnant women are doing onto remembering what I used to do and then when I feel tired after 5 miles it can get to a girl!  Then I try to go back to doing what I was doing before and things get creaky, achy and begin to complain...

And I must once again remember that I am doing okay.  I'm still running (HUGE blessing).  I feel great (GIANT blessing).  I am healthy and happy with seemingly endless gorgeous spring days to enjoy.  My weight gain is right in the middle of the parameters for my BMI and previous weight. This baby girl is kicking and wiggling like crazy in my tummy which is fun to feel and watch, and my main goal is to take care of her.  That includes eating right, resting enough, exercising an appropriate amount, remembering that this body is doing more these days than serving me and my interests, and being kind to it.

Remembering these things and finding balance these days sometimes seems just as tricky as standing on one foot with your eyes closed!


  1. I think the best thing you can do when running during pregnancy (but the hardest) is to learn to listen to your body and let go of the way you used to do things. Just by running you're already doing so much more than the avg pregnant lady and that is a huge accomplishment. It took me awhile to get used to it, but once I felt peace with running less and slower and just appreciating the running itself, it was magical. And yes, you'll get back to it again no problem. GOod luck!

  2. Well, Jane. you have all the thoughts that any first-time runner mom has during her pregnancy. Balance is tricky. I think you are taking a cautious approach to maintaining a very solid fitness/running base.

    1. Raina, that is good to know. And most of the time I have peace about what I'm doing and I'm usually pretty excited that it still feels great. Never having been pregnant, I have no idea what to expect from week to week (except for what I read and most things don't mention how one's running might feel). ;)

  3. I think you have the perfect attitude for your pregnancy and running. Some days will feel great but you're guaranteed to have some harder days. Throwing pace and distance out the window is the most important thing you can do as a pregnant runner. It's hard to not live by those numbers but a run is a run and your body is working much harder right now to make those runs happen. You'll definitely bounce back to your pre pregnant running self but don't get frustrated if it takes longer than you want it to. Every woman (and every pregnancy) is different. I think you're awesome for doing what you're doing. Keep up the great work!

  4. Thank you for what you said, Laurie! I know those things to be very true but sometimes you just forget. I've been trying to remember this week and it has felt really nice to run when I want and to do something else when my body seems less inclined. :)