Pregnant Running: What I'll Change

>> Thursday, June 26, 2014

So, it's not secret that I'm having second thoughts about my marathon training. Blame in on the move (which is insane right now -- our sellers was $500 to use their garage for one day before closing!), blame it on the weather (so hot and humid -- can't imagine 20-milers in mid-August), or blame on it (crazy) baby fever . . . but I go back and forth. As of this moment, I am still all signed up and embarking on the whole plan as if I'm going to lace up in October and attack the course with gusto.

Still, the whole impending second pregnancy has me thinking a lot about how I want to approach running and exercise in my next with-child phase. I feel like the first time when I was pregnant, I felt I had something to prove to myself. How I didn't want to lose my identity and ability as a runner. At the time, I didn't feel much external pressure, but over the years it seems like the world and women expect much from their pregnant selves -- especially when it comes to staying fit and active.

I've written somewhat extensively about the irritable uterus issue I experienced with Ada's pregnancy. About how it's actually delayed our own child spacing out of fear I might be bed-bound the next time around and -- regardless -- faced with near-constant contractions from week 17 onward. Anyway, a comment I often got online and from family/friends concern running + irritable uterus and the possible link. My midwife didn't see much correlation since even when I would spend a week on the couch, I'd get the same issue with as much frequency and intensity.

This is all a (too) long introduction to how I plan to approach fitness in my next pregnancy. I read blogs and see women everyday who are kicking major butt, lifting gigantic weights, running marathons, and doing all sorts of impressive feats. Some of these women are supervised and going about it in a smart way. Others, honestly, not so much. But I've decided all I can do is take care of my body and my baby -- so I try to filter out what others are doing and just do me.

If I am straight with myself, I also know I was worried about gaining too much weight during pregnancy and holding onto it after pregnancy. Here's the cruel joke: I never lost all my baby weight despite all the exercise and healthy eating I did. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but breastfeeding made me hold onto weight and with all my training, I am still up a good 7 pounds from where I started all those years ago.

With all this in mind, here's what I'll likely change the next time around:

#1: I won't race:

I didn't do lots of races while I was pregnant (a half marathon, a self-timed 15K, and a couple 5Ks), and I never actually pushed to get PRs. Still, in retrospect -- I don't see a point to participating in racing events if I can't go all out. I know some OBs and midwives say you can listen to your body and push to whatever feels comfortable, but "racing" is just that, and I don't see how it would benefit me the next go around. Also: All the crowds and adrenaline tend to trick my own body into going harder without realizing it. Even if my body is telling me something, it would likely be muffled by all that jazz.

#2: I won't wear a watch:

Yes. I still cared and fretted a bit about my pace in pregnancy. I didn't necessarily try to keep myself chugging along at a certain time . . . but if I could see myself slipping week by week, I would get frustrated. So, I refuse to wear a watch the next time around. Instead, I'll be sure to run naked. Well, at least with a naked wrist. Same goes for tracking distance, too. I'd rather keep a loose gauge on that and go with my energy levels on any given day. They can change so dramatically according to whatever is happening anyway!

#3: I won't just run:

I put way too much emphasis on running the last time I was pregnant. I was running at least 5 days a week for a long while and then slipped to 4, 3, 2, etc. I know I wanted to keep as much running up as long as possible so I could bounce back faster when Ada was born, but the next time around will be different for a number of factors. First of all, I don't run more than 4 days a week currently. I could see 3 days being a sweet spot punctuated with some at-home yoga, lots of walking, and maybe a day or two of my favorite prenatal workout DVD.

#4: I'll stop while I'm ahead:

Like I mention above, I ran a half marathon when I was around 13 weeks. I did the race slow and steady and felt fine afterward. But I was exhausted. I look back on that and think: WHY!?!? I know it was because I wanted to feel good about myself and my changing body, but I'd rather feel energized by exercise rather than have another bib to add to my collection. I don't think I'll run more than 6 miles at a time (probably around an hour) once a week. The other runs I'd like to keep between 2-4 miles in distance. If I have energy to spare -- awesome.

#5: I won't start again so soon:

After I gave birth to Ada I definitely started walk/running at like 3 weeks. I think I was slightly insane because -- though my midwife said to go with what felt good -- I certainly was exhausted and felt like the whole thing was draining me. I will likely wait until the 6 week mark to start jogging again and just walk a lot before that. I did bleed for a while after giving birth and I'm sure it's because I was doing too much. Looking back, I took SO much time off from running throughout pregnancy and postpartum . . . as well as at different times with injury, etc. -- and I'm still getting better race times each and every time I go out there.

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I think a lot is at play here, and I'm sorry to seem somewhat rambling. Pregnancy or even the mere idea of it tends to dominate my brain because I'm a huge planner. After my first experience with pregnancy was less than ideal, I definitely have decided that I want to go easier on myself and my body. And -- just to be crystal clear -- I'm not passing judgement on the choices of other women. We all do what we feel is best for our individual cases. It's impossible to say that what one woman does is right or wrong. I am simply pointing out some things I feel I could benefit from changing.

I feel fortunate to have experienced pregnancy once already and to, as a result, feel more confident and secure in my abilities as both an athlete and mother. I look back on that whole first year. I read my words, my worries, etc., and I sometimes just roll my eyes and think: "Why on EARTH were you so up in arms about that stuff?" Life moves on, and it's really just a blip on the radar.

In closing (because this piece feels like it needs a proper conclusion!): I suppose this is a message to those of you out there thinking that pregnant women need to be these amazing beasts. Growing a fetus, eating perfectly, exercising to the max, etc. Thing is -- you could have an AWESOME pregnancy and feel incredibly fantastic. Go for it. But if you're like me . . . don't get caught up in the shame game. It's not worth it, and you will return to yourself and get back into your normal (or "new normal") activities before you know it.

What are your thoughts on pregnancy and exercise? Second (third, etc.)-time moms: What did YOU change from pregnancy to pregnancy? And if you want to read about exercise in my first pregnancy, scroll down a bit on this page to find those posts.

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