1. Set a Goal for Each Run. Pick a mileage that works for you and your goals. Every morning, I tell myself I’m going to run three miles. This helps me focus, pace myself, and do what I need to do. There are days when I can’t make this goal. What do I do? I run as much as I can and then stop and walk (or do walk/run intervals) until I complete my three miles. For me, walking is extremely boring- so much so that knowing I’m going to have to stop and walk to reach my goal of three miles motivates me to run just a little bit more. But this brings me to my next tip…
2. Don’t Try to Push Your Limits. I think it’s safe to say that if you’ve been running long enough you have some sort of problem in your brain that makes you totally unaware of what your “limits” are. You’ve pushed past, “I can’t do this” so many times that you really have no clue what, “I can’t do this” really, truly means. This is a problem if you’re a pregnant runner because now you have two “I’s” to worry about. Cramps that were once something you’d put in the back of her mind while pounding the pavement are now something you have to take a bit more seriously. You have to worry about overheating, and not giving your baby enough oxygen if you’re too out of breath. It can be really, really difficult to tune in with your new body and figure out what the appropriate level is. Factor that in with your competitive nature and the problem becomes not only recognizing when you need to slow down, but also forcing yourself to slow down. I don’t have a whole lot of tips for dealing with this dilemma- just the old cliché, listen to your body. If you need to slow down, slow down. You’re pregnant… of course you’re not going to be able to run the same as you did before! Don’t beat yourself up about it. Do what you can. You’ll be able to get back to your pre-pregnancy pace in no time.
3. Don’t Give Up. I know I just said that now is not the time to push your limits, but it’s also not the time to quit. Just because you can’t run for a few days in a row, it doesn’t mean you’re out for the rest of your pregnancy. I’ve heard a lot of women say they could run up until a certain week and then they just couldn’t do it anymore. If there is anything I’ve learned through my two pregnancies, it’s that energy levels and endurance fluctuate throughout the pregnancy. For example, my runs during Week 22 might be total crap. I may have to stop running and stop walking every single day that week. Week 23 might be the same. But then, in Week 24, I get my energy back and have an amazing run that fuels my motivation for the rest of the week. My advice is to start each run with a psych up run. What does this mean? Try to run for at least 5 minutes with your most motivating music playing on your headphones. Once you’ve gotten in the swing of things you may find that you have more energy than you originally thought. No matter how tired/achy you are, at least try to run those first 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes or so you find that you’ve met the limits we discussed in #3, switch to walking or something else.
4. Run Near a Restroom. This is easy for me since I run on a treadmill, but if you run outdoors I’d seriously consider mapping your route along a series of public restrooms. Even if I empty my bladder before I run, there are times when I have to stop several times to pee (especially during my first trimester). When you’re pregnant the urge to pee seems to hit you like a ton of bricks, and lord knows it’s not easy to hold it (especially if this is your 2nd+ pregnancy).
5. Get Running Support. No, not mental support. Actual, physical support. When I’m pregnant everything seems to hurt more. Here are the things I use to deal with it.
a. A Good Sports Bra (or Three). I’m sporting 34G’s right now, and I don’t care how “high impact” your sports bra claims to be, one is not enough for me. At least I haven’t found one. So what do I do? I wear three. The first one I put on is ALWAYS a C9 by Champion Cami Bra from Target. These don’t have a lot of support, but they are super comfortable (I practically live in them even when I’m not pregnant), which is why I like them closest to my skin. The second one I put on is a “high impact” sports bra. I don’t really have a preference for this one, but if all my sports bras are clean I’ll usually reach for my Bebe one that is so old I can’t find it online anywhere to show you. It’s similar to this one but without the zipper. Most of my other “high impact” sports bras are from Nike. I’ve heard really, really good things about this Moving Comfort Juno Sports Bra (It has adjustable straps and apparently you don’t have to “double up” with it… I think it was Women’s Health bra of the year or something like that), but I can’t bring myself to spend $56 on sports bras when my experience with them has been that I need at least two (when I’m not pregnant) per day. Anyway, I always top the middle bra off with another low impact sports bra from Target. Why don’t I just wear two high impact bras? I’ve just found it to be less comfortable and not quite the support I need. One high impact and two low impacts are perfect for me.
b. A Maternity Support Belt. I use a black Gabrialla Elastic Maternity Belt. I used it throughout my first pregnancy and I just started using the same one again now. I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a difference it makes during runs. It’s basically a sports bra for your belly. It keeps everything tight and makes you feel like you’re not carrying as much weight out front. I didn’t think I needed it quite yet, but I just started using it this week and I wish I had started using it sooner. P.S.- I use it over my clothes, not under. I find it to be more comfortable that way.
c. Compression Pants. Every muscle seems to ache and fatigue more during pregnancy, and compression pants really seem to help in this regard. They support all your leg muscles and keep them warm and active throughout your run. I’m still wearing my pre-pregancy Under Armour Coldgear Compression Leggings (even though it’s never cold in Tanzania), but Old Navy makes a good, inexpensive pair of Maternity Compression Pants for when it’s time to switch over.
d. Long Shirts. There’s nothing more annoying than a shirt riding up your back/belly when you’re running. A growing belly can definitely create this problem if you’ve never had it before. A long shirt (especially with the maternity support belt over it) does the trick. I adore this “Running for Two” Tank Top but you can find cheaper plain ones at Target or Old Navy.
e. Supportive Shoes. During pregnancy, the extra weight you’re carrying likely takes a toll on your feet (and shoes!). I think that it’s a good idea to replace your running shoes at least once. (Plus, buying a new pair of shoes always adds a little extra motivation to runs, doesn’t it?) I would avoid “free” or “barefoot” types of shoes and go for ones with a lot of support. My favorite supportive running shoe is the Gel Nimbus by Asics.
f. Sole Inserts. I find that, especially during pregnancy, stock shoe inserts are not supportive enough. I like to put gel inserts in my shoes to absorb the extra shock to my feet. I use the Dr. Sholl’s Active Series Replacement Insole. My biggest issue is arch support, and I find that these help a lot with that.
g. Water. Staying hydrated is SUPER important for your baby. And it prevents stretchmarks. So don’t skimp on the water. I can’t stand carrying anything so if I was running outside I’d use a Camel Back hydration backpack. But since I’m running on a treadmill all I need is a cute water bottle.