Running has always been my one true love when it comes to fitness. Even when I dabble in other areas of fitness focus, I always come back to my tried and true – running. However, pregnancy has presented some challenges when it comes to running and as I approach 31 weeks pregnant, I’m coming to the realization that my running days are numbered. I wanted to recap how running was for me in the 2nd trimester (and I’ll do an update on the 3rd trimester later) to help other pregnant runners know what they might expect. Every pregnancy and person is different and I’ve seen women run races up til their due date or chose not to run at all during pregnancy, so of course my experience is just one of many and yours won’t be exactly the same.
To give any non-regular readers some background on my running background pre-pregnancy, I started running/racing long distances (half marathons) in 2010, ran my first full marathon in 2011, my first (and only) Ironman in 2012 and then ran 3 more marathons from 2013-2014 trying to qualify for Boston. My last marathon was CIM in December 2014 and I trained at a range of 45-55 miles per week for the majority of the fall and winter. I ran a 3:35:26 at CIM so my “easy” pace was in the mid 8s/low 9s and my race pace for a half marathon was about 7:45. I got pregnant less than 1 month after CIM so I was in peak running shape at the start of my pregnancy.
2nd Trimester Running Mileage and Paces:
April (~Weeks 14-18 of pregnancy): 56 Miles, average pace/mile ~10-11 min/mile
May (~Weeks 19-23): 73 miles, average pace/mile ~11-12 min/mile
June (~Weeks 24-28): 20 miles average pace/mile ~12-15 min/mile
Running in the 2nd Trimester
I started the 2nd trimester still feeling pretty good while running. I had run a half marathon at both 6 weeks and 12 weeks and then started to train to run the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon (which I planned to run at 23 weeks). I ran 5 5ks (3 timed runs plus the 5k during Wanderlust and the Girls on the Run 5k) during the 2nd trimester, all of which were right around 28-30 minutes, which I considered pretty good since my training runs were in the 10-11 minute range at the time. I put in several runs over 8 miles and two runs over 10 miles between weeks 14-21 of pregnancy in order to train for the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon.
The first 10+ mile run felt really good and the 2nd one felt pretty bad. The first 10 miler was on the trails and I took my time and walked up hills. I ran with my cousin for part of it and enjoyed new scenery on the trails and took my time. The 2nd 10 mile run run was on the familiar coast path/street (concrete/asphalt) and I was alone. It was a struggle and there were definitely moments when I questioned how fun it would be to run the Rock n’ Roll San Diego half marathon in two weeks. I ended up getting a 24 hour stomach flu the day before the race and decided not to run it at all, my first ever DNS! I think I could have finished the race and overall it would have been a positive experience, but I also think it would have been quite uncomfortable! There was a part of me that was relieved when I had to back out of the race, but another big part of me was really sad to miss out on the experience since I love racing and I knew it would be my last of pregnancy and possibly even the year!
After missing RnR SD, I cut back on my running since I no longer had something to train for (for the first time in 5 years!). I focused on other things (yoga, barre, spin, hiking, walking, squatting) but still ran occasionally with friends or on my own. I stopped running more than 4.5 miles at a time and walk breaks started to be more of the norm. I also started using a “belly bra” to help support my growing belly and found that although it helped, I still felt some discomfort while running. The bathroom breaks started to get even more frequent (I think my record was 3 bathroom breaks during a 4 mile run).
My interest in running started to wane toward the end of the trimester due to the fact that I rarely had a friend to run with (I can’t keep up anymore and/or their schedules just didn’t fit with mine anymore), I had to plan run routes around bathrooms, my belly hurt and I there wasn’t a lot of variety in my running anymore (I missed tempo runs, long runs,and track workouts). My pace was now in the 11-12 min/mile range while actually running but I often stopped to walk so it I found it took me about 40-45 minutes to run the 3.2 mile rail loop near by house (which requires a lot of walking since it has about 1,000 feet of climbing!). I also noticed that my body took longer to recover from runs than from other, lower impact exercises. However, I still loved to run enough to continue occasionally through end of the 2nd trimester.
At 31 weeks, I am still running! But it’s getting slower and slower. I think I keep hanging on because it’s hard for me to imagine NOT running for months which is the reality if I give up now (2 months til due date + likely at least 1 month postpartum). I just love the fresh air, views and the way that running makes me feel a little too much!!!
If you’ve been pregnant, what was your experience with running? How far into pregnancy did you run and what was your primary motivation?
You have done so well to keep going this far into your pregnancy! I did an 8k race in week 19 and then just a few more really short runs up to about week 23. At that point I just wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to enjoy it any more, I got a little sore during and afterwards in the small muscles that stabilize the pelvis. Walking is still feeling great at week 31 – luckily I have a dog who needs the exercise, so it motivates me to stay active too. I’m doing about 2 miles a day off-road and trying to power-walk the hills to retain a bit of extra fitness. I’m also doing a weekly pregnancy-specific exercise class, which combines stretching, aerobics and pilates (particularly targeting the pelvic floor). It has felt so weird not running for so long – since I started running in 2006 I’ve never taken a break of longer than 2-3 weeks. I miss my running club buddies too! I know I will be back running once baby is here and I’ve recovered, but at the moment I’m a bit worried about how it’s going to feel post-pregnancy!
You’re doing great! I totally know what you mean about being worried about how it’ll feel post-pregnancy. We just have to focus on the day to day and not on pace for a while and we’ll get it back. I get inspired by pro runners and triathletes who have bounced back and won races and had PRs in the year after they delivered a baby. Makes me think if they can bounce back and get stronger that quickly, we can at least regain our fitness in that time! But who knows, maybe that whole “baby doping” theory about having increased blood volume which benefits your VO2Max in the year following pregnancy is legit! 🙂 We can hope.
Ha ha I am really hoping to feel that post-pregnancy fitness boost! Athletes like Beth Gerdes and Jo Pavey are my inspiration – both have come back so strong after becoming mothers.
Kristen @ Glitter and Dust
We have had very similar experiences running in the second and into the third trimester. The first part of the second trimester felt fine (albeit slower) and I was getting in good mileage, but these past few weeks have been more unpredictable. Running feels ok one day and horrible the next. A lot of my runs now turn into walks, which is fine, but time consuming.
I am having a hard time hanging up my running shoes too. I just can’t say “no more” yet. Three-four months without running seems like a long time – and even if I am just doing a short 2-3 mile run 1-2 times per week, as least it is something. Way to hang in there and thanks for sharing your experience… it’s nice to relate to others going through similar things.
So hard to say no more knowing it’ll be MONTHS! I guess we’ll be that much more inspired/excited/motivated to get back into it?! Although I’m scared to get back into it after so much time off. I plan to not use a garmin for at least a month…maybe more! Right now I feel like I have the excuse that I’m pregnant for my slow times but postpartum I may just beat myself up about it if I don’t bounce back as fast as I’d like (which is pretty much guaranteed since I’d love to bounce back immediately!).
After about half way through the second trimester I really started to slow my pace a lot more. Most runs were feeling good, but my pace started to get closer to 10:30s. I was able to run a speedy (for me lately) 5k at the beginning of July though! And now, getting into the third trimester, I’m just starting to feel muh more uncomfortable. Specifically this week I have really had to do some more walki and felt increased pelvic pressure. But it still seems to be day to day. I’m also not ready to say goodbye to my running shoes. And I’m nervous about a long time away from running. I figure, I’ll just try to keep things going as long as I can. 🙂 we do our best, right? And there are always other activities to keep our bodies moving.
I’ve had a similar experience, pace and feeling/distance included, but it sounds like you’ve kept going whereas I’ve pretty much stopped running as of this week (31 weeks). The multiple bathroom breaks and the discomfort have left me preferring walking at this point, which makes my dogs very happy since they get to go with me! Thanks for the continued inspiration!
31 weeks is a still a huge accomplishment! I’m not sure how many more weeks I have in me and really it’s just 1-2 3 mile sad run/walks at this point!
Just out of curiosity, what week did you start wearing a “belly bra”? And did it help? I’m 20 weeks now and have just started feeling the heavy belly during my runs!
I think I started around week 24 – game changer for sure! I definitely recommend, it makes a big difference. I started showing late, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the average person would find it useful before 20 weeks.
Looking back at my calendar, my last run was at 31 weeks. And it included many walk breaks. I do miss running (walking is not the same) but the break is making me really look forward to running again! I also had a harder time with not running at first- but now I just really enjoy walking because it feels good (not uncomfortable like running did) and I can still get my fresh air fix. I had hoped to be one of those who could run up until my due date, but that didn’t work for me and that’s ok 🙂
You’re doing so awesome, Nicole. That was an incredible May!
You know how running ended up going for me in pregnancy. I thought I’d have to be more upset when I stopped, but my body felt much better so it wasn’t too bad.
I think I said this before, too, but I was surprised to be ok with not running after baby. It’s like my body knew it needed to recover and rest, so I didn’t get the itch right away!
Hope you’re feeling good!!