Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Training During the First Trimester

Writer's note: These are my personal experiences with running while pregnant. My midwives/doctor know that I am a runner, and I have been cleared to exercise. I am a certified personal trainer but I am not issuing advice as a fitness professional. This is me, a mom, sharing what I did.

The kitchen. Mark, me. The laptop open. A calender marked. We counted backward. We counted forward. We studied. We stood. In silence.

The plan had been to get pregnant this year ... after the race. We were going to "try" when my body was in prime shape from hard training but my miles were down. We were going to pray for a summer baby.

But there we were, in the middle of this summer. In the middle of a tough training cycle. I was pregnant, and the race was seven weeks away. A positive test can bring so many unknowns, as can a training cycle. I didn't know how one would go, much less the other and putting them together ... well, it was a black hole.

We talked, though, Mark and I. We discussed whether I should keep following the training plan or just go with a less advanced schedule. We talked about still doing the half or dropping down to the 10K. We talked and talked and talked. But no matter how much we did, we came back around to the same answer:

I needed to try to do my best at Fort4Fitness. I wanted to give myself the chance.

When I found I was pregnant with Miles, I had just finished a 16-mile trail race. I was the fastest and fittest I had ever been. But, with the news, I dropped back my mileage - significantly. It wasn't that running felt bad. Oh, no. The decrease was just because I thought I had to. It's something I regretted since, and I knew I would change it the second time around.

Running what I could would one thing, but doing it at a more challenging level would be another.

Before I made the commitment, 100 percent, I wanted to know as much as I could about pregnancy and exercise. Even though I'm a certified personal trainer and the materials include information on special populations and pregnancy, it didn't feel like enough. It is generalized and focused on exercising for general fitness. I searched for studies about exercise during pregnancy, specifically those about intensity and duration. I was disappointed but not surprised that I could find few.
It’s understandable, however, why the medical community has been slow to endorse exercise, and running in particular, during pregnancy. Research in this area is inherently difficult. There are ethical concerns about research involving pregnant women, and much of the data comes from research on animals. Human studies have been difficult to compare because of differences in study design; maternal fitness levels; varied exercise activities, intensities, and duration; and the time during the pregnancy the exercise is performed. Despite these difficulties, when everything is evaluated together, clear maternal benefits can be gained from running during your pregnancy. 
 - Source
Much of what I found was in line with the adage: If you did it before you were pregnant, you could keep doing it. And I had been doing it. Other studies were so complicated, language-wise, that I found myself looking up every other word in the dictionary. The best thing I found was a summary of two case studies from 1989, grossly outdated by my standards.

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And so I decided that I would do what I could do: Take every run at a time. I would finish the training cycle and go into the race with adjusted expectations, knowing that I would need to continue to adjust as the weeks went by.

Save for a stomach bug during week 8, I felt surprisingly good until week 10. I didn't have real morning sickness. I had no cramping or pain. I didn't spot or leak. My recovery might have been slower and my easy runs easier, but I continued to run strong without feeling like I was jeopardizing my safety or that of the baby. It was only when I hit the double digits (pregnancy wise) that I just began to feel tired during the runs, though it could have been the cumulative effect of training. And, of course, there was an increased urge to go to the bathroom. I am, to this second, surprised that I didn't have to pull off during Fort4Fitness.

The one change that was unexpected was in the bosom area. While I could not pinpoint a particular threshold, there were times during a run when I would experience a stinging sensation - as if I was going to shoot two lasers through my sports bra. It does not hurt. Rather, it's just disconcerting. I spoke with my midwife and she said the increased sensation in the area combined with the fabric rubbing could create that feeling. It doesn't help that I have grown two cup sizes and my bras are a bit snug.

Heading into the second trimester, I have no expectations. I will run what I can, when I can and do it safely.


  1. this is all very interesting info! i had trouble finding anything useful about running when pregnant the first time around. however my body decides i'm going to rest like it's my job between the harsh bouts of nausea, so running at any level kind of took a back seat. i still feel like that's the case - and my baby's almost one. good for you - i'm so excited to hear how it goes for you!

  2. Nice job and good info! I had trouble running almost immediately when I was pregnant with Lucas but Eleanor let me run until 2 days before delivery. It was awesome and I felt great right after birth!