If you are wondering if running is safe during pregnancy, you are not alone! Questions about exercise – particularly running – are very normal during pregnancy. Exercise can help with depression, anxiety, sleep, and even heartburn! The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise a week, even if you are pregnant. So, yes, it is safe to run while pregnant, but read this blog post first.
Running while pregnant
Pregnancy is not the time to hit a personal record or your fastest mile or push yourself too hard for too long. It’s okay to keep exercising, lifting, running, and doing yoga, but as pregnancy progresses, modify your fitness routine to accommodate the changes in your body.
As you care for yourself and a growing baby, here are a few insights into how you can make sure you are running safely during pregnancy. Let’s dive in.
If I was not running before pregnancy, can I begin now?
Running during pregnancy can be beneficial for both mom and baby. Before starting any new workouts or exercise regimes, first get clearance from your doctor or pelvic floor therapist.
If I was running before I became pregnant, can I keep running through pregnancy?
Yes, you can continue to run, provided you MODIFY as your pregnancy progresses. During pregnancy, your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles lengthen and stretch. Pushing yourself too hard can negatively impact these muscles.
You can return to your old fitness routine (slowly) after childbirth. So stay fit, stay healthy, and put your pride in the parking lot for a while. You only get one pelvic floor. Take care of it.
Pay attention to your heart rate as you run. Keep in mind it’s normal for heart rate to increase during pregnancy due to the increase in blood pumped.
Running in the first trimester
During pregnancy, your body has an increased amount of the hormone Relaxin that causes all your joints to get loosey-goosey. This is good because it allows your pelvic bones to spread with a growing fetus.
Relaxin can lead to instability and pain in your pubic bone, sacroiliac joints, and ankle joints. This instability can lead to falls. Lower your fall risk by running on smooth surfaces, avoiding trails with uneven surfaces, and make sure you have proper footwear.
Core stability and balance will lower your risk of falling. You have to build your foundations (your pelvic floor and core) before you make your house (put a load of high-impact exercise on your pelvic floor). The exercises may feel slow, simple, and even boring at times. Learning the basics will take you far in meeting your running goals.
Exercises to prepare your core
I recommend breath work and core work to engage your pelvic floor and deep abs to help maintain stability while running. Strength training is an excellent complement to running. You still need to ensure that you are breathing in a way that will limit excess pressure on your abdominal wall and pelvic floor. This will limit the risk of diastasis recti or prolapse.
Take a squat, for example. We typically breath-hold on the way down into the squat and then use an explosive exhale back up to standing. While this breathing technique might seem beneficial, it significantly increases intra-abdominal pressure.
We want to always exhale with exertion to ensure proper pressure management and activation of the pelvic floor with lifting.
Engage your pelvic floor and deep abdominals before you squat and exhale on the way down and up. This goes for lifting kiddos, groceries, pushing furniture, or lifting weights at the gym. This will not only decrease the pressure in our abdomen, but it will also cue our pelvic floor and transversus abdominis (deep core) to activate. This will help stabilize our trunk and pelvis and limit any unwanted strain on our pelvic floor or abdomen.
Running in the second trimester
Remember, you’ll want to modify your running routine as pregnancy progresses. Below are some tips to consider as you make it to your second trimester!
- Lean forward. This is one of the most fabulous tips I’ve learned! Lean forward (nose over toes) when running. This feels a little like you are falling forward at first, but you’ll adjust. You can also increase your incline on a treadmill or run uphill to get that natural forward lean.
- Take shorter strides. Shorter strides can decrease your speed and lessen the impact and force on your pelvic floor. Start shorter, and as you increase strength you can increase stride length.
- Modify as needed including a slower pace, less mileage, or alternating with runs and walks. Pregnancy is not ideal for training for a major race or up the intensity. Instead, try lower-intensity workouts as pregnancy progresses. Walking is always a great alternative.
Running in the third trimester
The most important thing to consider when running in the third trimester is knowing when to stop.
Scale back if you experience leakage, pressure, abdominal coning, or have to hold your breath. Scale back if you cannot perform without comprising your form.
These are signs your body and your tissues can’t support the load you are asking them to carry. You want to be able to “hold a conversation” or talk when exercising.
Take a break, alternate walking with running, or slow down if you are breathless. You can run up until you give birth as long as you do so safely and comfortably.
If you experience pain, urinary leakage, vaginal bleeding, pressure or heaviness in the vagina, or a loss of balance, it’s time to scale back. The best thing you can do is work with a Pelvic Floor PT.
How to make running more comfortable during pregnancy
- Get support. Compression can be key to comfortable movement during pregnancy, such as running. We recommend using compressive pelvic support if you have prolapse, pressure, or vulvar varicosities. This may be an external support (a jockstrap for your vagina) or an internal support like a pessary, Poise Impressa Bladder Support. You can also insert a tampon to support your bladder and urethra while running.
- If you have Diastasis Recti, do not use a waist trainer. Use compression leggings or gentle supports. You want to ensure they are not too restrictive and you can breathe adequately. You may also consider Kinesio Tape to help support your belly or your Diastasis Recti when running.
- Invest in god running shoes (and get new ones when you’ve logged too many miles on your old ones).
- Warm-up! This will help prepare your body for the activity it is about to do and make you more stable on your run. Warm up with exercises like jogging and jumping jacks instead of static stretches.
- Hydrate! You have a lot more blood volume during pregnancy so you need a lot more water to stay hydrated. Drink up!
Proper running shoes and running surface
Did you know your running shoes can affect your pelvic floor? Remember to switch up your shoes and switch up what side of the street you run on. Most roads have a slight slope.
Putting in several miles along that same path cause lead to some hip muscles being too tight on one side. Your hip muscles affect your pelvic floor muscles and can lead to low back pain, hip pain, and pelvic floor issues. So, remember to swap sides periodically and choose a track or flat running trail for your outdoor training.
What to know about vaginal farting
Farting from your vagina (queefing) can happen while running when air comes out of your vagina. Pelvic floor tissues and muscles being weak cause queefing when air gets in, then air goes out.
We may feel embarrassed, start avoiding the activities we love, and worry it might happen again (when no one else will be around to blame).
Strengthening your muscles and supporting tissues may help prevent these inconvenient queefs and get you back to being active, busy, and confident.
When to call a pelvic floor physical therapist
If you feel any sign of prolapse (heaviness, pressure, or bulging in the low pelvis), pelvic and low back pain, urinary incontinence, vaginal bleeding, or sexual dysfunction, stop or change the activity and check in with your medical provider.
Running is a high-impact activity that can elicit urinary leakage (aka peeing your pants). And pregnancy increases pressure on your bladder. Leakage while running is a sign your pelvic floor may need a tune up.
A pelvic health physical therapist can assess the presence of these signs, symptoms, and risk factors and work with you to develop a plan so that you can meet your running goals.
Pregnancy is not the time to PR
While pregnancy is not the time to set a personal best, running can have incredible benefits for mom and baby as long as you do so comfortably and safely. Keep exercising, but listen to your body! For more fitness and pelvic floor tips during pregnancy, check out the V-Hive!
Wondering if you can use your bike during pregnancy? Check out this post where we discuss the Peloton!
Are you currently pregnant or planning to conceive? If so, make sure to download my FREE resource — How to Prepare Your Pelvic Floor & Core for Childbirth + 8 Must-Dos for C-Section and Vaginal Deliveries.
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