Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stop running.
Pregnancy can be a unique conundrum for active women—you’re still you, but different. Sensations may range from exhausted to energetic, famished to queasy and excited to apathetic all in the span of a day, or even a few minutes! Once you take into account swelling, the challenge of carrying around extra weight and frequent bathroom breaks, deciding whether or not to run may feel like an overwhelming decision.
The good news for moms in the making is that exercise is a mood booster, can help improve sleep and even helps to prevent preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
Mom, runner, specialist in women’s health and psychology and RRCA-certified running coach, Dr. Kristina Pinto co-authored the book Fit & Healthy Pregnancy: How to Stay Strong and in Shape for You & Your Baby to provide sound advice about using running to help weather the pregnancy roller coaster.
Read on for her top five pointers.
Start With A Walk
“I advocate starting each run with a 10-minute walk. It’ lets you recalibrate how you are feeling. It should feel good. If it does, keep moving.”
But Pinto emphasizes that each workout depends upon how you feel that day, and she reminds expectant mothers that they have nothing to prove when it comes to exercise.
Hydration, always important during exercise, becomes crucial for pregnant women during exercise, especially in the summer heat or above sea level.
“Expectant runners need to change their hydration approach. Instead of drinking before and after a run, you need to have it with you while you run and drink when thirsty. You also have to just deal with the fact that you’ll need more frequent bathroom breaks!”
Pinto’s method of choice is a handheld water bottle because waist belts can only fit for so long and a backpack adds extra weight. For what to drink, Pinto recommends water.
“Electrolytes are fine, but pregnant women need to be careful about their sugar intake. For those who want an electrolyte drink, focus on those with low calories.”
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Head To The Track Or Treadmill
“I recommend effort-based intervals for my clients. The track or the treadmill are easy places to do them and there is usually a bathroom close by!”
For effort-based intervals, distance and pace are removed from the equation. Some runs will feel more challenging than others and pregnant running won’t necessarily follow a predictable trajectory, which makes running by effort adaptable to all stages of pregnancy.
“Runners get to focused on pace with distance intervals and tend not to be as honest about exertion. Instead of running a 400, I have my athletes focus on two minutes of exertion without paying attention to pace. Their individual workout depends upon how they are feeling”
For a basic workout, Pinto suggests:
— 10-minute warm-up with a brisk walk or easy jog
— Repeat 8-12 sets of 2 minutes exertion at a comfortable pace/1 minute walking
— 5-minute cool down walk
Do The Talk Test
“While running, women should be able to speak without gasping between words. I want them to be at a level more energetic than a monologue, but less intense than sputtering three words and gasping.”
Pinto finds the talk test to be a more accurate gauge of exertion than heart rate training because there are such large number variations between women. If you can just carry on a conversation, that’s a good effort.
RELATED: The Talk Test
For those who want numbers, she suggests using the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. The scale goes from 6-20, with numbers correlating to how hard people feel they are exerting themselves. Pinto advises clients not go over 15. Moderate activities range from 11 to 14 on the scale.
“Always talk to your doctor first, but, generally, if you are healthy with a normal pregnancy, keep going as long as you pay attention to how you feel. However, if you’ve never run before, this may not be the best time to start.”
Pinto also stresses that if at any point you if you don’t feel well or start experiencing dizziness, difficulty breathing, contractions, chest pains, bleeding, faintness or muscle weakness, stop exercising and contact your health care provider.