I’ve been asked to write a bit about running during pregnancy and after. I have only my own experience to draw on, as always, and I hope that it is helpful to those who are interested. Today I’ll focus on running through pregnancy, tomorrow I’ll write about running after childbirth.
One gift I have been given is to be physically able to run through both of my pregnancies. I know that not a lot of women are able to do that, and I count myself lucky to be one of them. I didn’t really plan to run through my first pregnancy. The doctor who delivered Manchild said that I could run until it was no longer comfortable, which, she said, would probably take me up to 4 or 5 months. But at 8 1/2 months I was still doing 3-4 miles at about a 9 minute pace and feeling pretty good about it. Occasionally I’d get a side cramp, and then I’d walk until I felt better, and then I’d start running again. It helped to have shorts that had a wide, supportive elastic in the waist to take some of the pressure off my ligaments and tendons.
Being physically capable of running and being motivated to do it are two different things. My motivation to keep running with Manchild was, basically, fear. I really wanted to have a natural birth, but I was afraid that I would not be strong enough. Running was my way of combating that fear. I thought if I ran, my body would be strong, my mind would be practiced in focusing (or zoning out), and I would have nothing to be afraid of. Thankfully, Manchild’s birth was uneventful and both my body and my mind performed as well as I could have expected them to. But that fear was a really powerful motivator for me. If ever I felt like I was getting too big to be running, or I was feeling too lazy to get my big belly into some running clothes, I would imagine my body being too weak to handle the labor and that was enough to get me out the door at least a couple of times a week. With Manchild I also swam up to 7 months, and with both of them I did The Perfect Pregnancy Workout and some yoga/meditation to help prepare my body and mind for labor and delivery.
There were other factors that kept me running as well. My time on the road became a time to bond with the baby. As I was running, I would often talk to the baby, think about him, wonder if he was okay, imagine holding him and rocking him. It felt like one of the few times that I could really focus on him because even though I was running, I didn’t need to think about running; my body would run and my mind could turn to the baby.
And then, of course, I hated the thought of losing all the fitness that I’d gained before I got pregnant. It was really important to me that I didn’t have to “get back in shape.” I just wanted to stay in shape. I figured that the longer I ran, the less time I would have to take off, the longer I would be in shape, and the less time it would take to be back at my pre-pregnancy fitness level. The result of that was that I was probably in better shape after my pregnancies than I was before. My legs were stronger from carrying more weight, my heart was stronger from pumping more blood, and my lungs were stronger from yelling through two hours of pushing . . . breathing more? Um, I’m going to assume my lungs were stronger, too.
The second time around the motivation came much more easily. Even though I was not as afraid of childbirth, I still wanted my body to be in the best shape it could be since that seemed to work well the first time around. And with Squish I loved running so much more. It was less of a chore and more of a joy to put on my shoes and go for a run a couple of times a week. With Squish I also had a scare that I wouldn’t be able to run through the pregnancy. At 16 weeks I was diagnosed with a complete previa and told to lay off the running and anything else that might cause a rupture. (The placenta was entirely covering the cervix.) Miraculously, 5 weeks later the placenta was completely out of the way and I was given the green light to resume running. Those 5 weeks of not running, of thinking I was going to have to have a c-section, of feeling like I wasn’t able to take care of myself or my baby were really hard. But it made every run after the previa something to be thankful for.