© copyright 27.Jan.2009 by Dena Harris.
Whether man or woman, it was hard not to feel inspired watching runner Paula Radcliffe capture the 2007 New York marathon victory just nine months after giving birth.
Radcliffe's impressive 2:23:09 win began a buzz both in and outside the running world on the benefits of running while pregnant. Radcliffe ran throughout her pregnancy, averaging 75 minutes in the morning and another 30-40 minutes in the afternoon. But Radcliffe is an elite athlete, a marathon world record holder. Is running while pregnant safe for the average or beginning runner?
If you've never run before, beginning a training program after discovering you're pregnant is probably not the best idea. But for women who have already incorporated running into their lives, most will be able to continue to run while pregnant.
The key is to listen to and respect the body. This can be challenging for runners accustomed to challenging themselves and pushing through the pain. It's imperative pregnant runners discuss and monitor their exercise routine with their doctor. Radcliffe has noted that her baby's health—not her training—was her number one priority. She worked closely with her Ob-Gyn and specialists and scaled back her running as her pregnancy progressed.
One of the biggest challenges for pregnant runners is the mindshift that must occur. Running necessarily becomes less about "training" and more about having fun and staying healthy. If you can't resist going for a PR in a 5K, avoid racing while pregnant. If you're tired one day, walk or skip your run. (It's okay—Radcliffe skipped days too.) Other commonsense guidelines include:
As the pregnancy progresses, training should be modified. Near the end of term, it's common to experience shortness of breath (due to a crowded diaphragm) and an increased resting heart rate. A woman's center of gravity will also change as the belly expands, so many doctors recommend avoiding uneven surfaces (such as trail runs) and working out on a treadmill in the later months.
The good news is there are numerous benefits to running while pregnant. No small one is holding onto your identity as a runner. This can be calming in a time of stress and uncertainty over how roles may change. Running also elevates mood and helps control weight gain. While a runner's mileage will drop, it needn't be drastically reduced. And most women can resume regular running within 8 weeks of delivery — important alone time for new mommies.
Bottom line — the days of advising no exercise for pregnant women are long gone. This is good news for all women runners ... who had no intention of sitting still anyway.
Daily Runs is collection of motivational articles, tips & advice about the sport of running, written by authors who run for fun.
Writer and author Dena Harris ran her first marathon in 2007. After declaring at the finish line that she would "never, ever, do that again," she's continued to run at least two marathons a year and recently qualified to run Boston.
Visit www.denaharris.com for information on her writing, books, running, and cats.