Running Preggers: When you have to go, go!

Running can have some interesting challenges relating to using the bathroom. If you’re a trail runner, this isn’t so much of a problem, although you should be burying or packing out solid waste. In the woods, you can just duck behind a tree. Looking up and down trail before, of course. As a road runner, depending on the time of day when you run, bathroom access is also pretty simple.

When you’re running for two, it’s not that simple. Why would it be? Every bodily system you can think of is altered when you’re pregnant (although I haven’t heard anything about your perception of sound…). It’s very important that you don’t wait to go to the bathroom, number one or number two.

Holding your urine is not just uncomfortable when you’re running, but it can cause infections, even in non-pregnant people. The real problem is the frequency of needing to go pee. Even in early pregnancy, when the baby is smaller than a pea, women will need to go more often. This is because your body increases the amount of blood it pumps and your blood volume, so you’re drinking more water and your kidneys and bladder are working overtime.

Blood volume increases until the third trimester and making sure you’re hydrated throughout the day will continue this pattern of needing to go all the time. And then there’s the baby. As baby grows he/she puts pressure on your bladder making you feel like you have to go even when you don’t have that much in there.

You can be running along enjoying the beautiful day and then bam, you have to go right now. You think, “but I went 15 minutes ago!” doesn’t matter, you have two choices: stop to pee again, or pee your pants. This can make running frustrating at times because jumping into the bushes to pee in a neighborhood is frowned upon. Getting off the treadmill all the time is also frustrating. So, for the potty problems, trails are your best option, in my opinion.

As for number twos, unfortunately, pregnant women don’t have to worry too much about those while they’re running. In fact, most pregnant women wish they had to worry about that when running. Constipation is another lovely side effect of being pregnant. The hormones in our body slows digestion down to a crawl, so the baby can suck as much nutrients out of the food we eat as possible. And then there’s the baby. As baby grows he/she compresses your intestines and shoves most of your organs up into your ribcage further complicating your ability to digest food and move it through your body. All in the name of love.

A maternity belt can help alleviate some of the pressure on your bladder and hopefully you won’t have to go pee, so much. Don’t restrict your water intake to prevent the frequent bathroom stops as tempting as that may be. You could wear very absorbent panties, but they would likely chafe something awful.

Weekly miles: 30 miles this week!

Running Preggers: Healthy Mama; Healthy Baby

The default recommendation for pregnant women is to exercise while pregnant, at least three days a week for 30 minutes. Basically, the same recommendation for everyone. There are many benefits to mom if she begins exercising and if she continues exercising while pregnant. Yes, the experts agree it if you haven’t been exercising starting during pregnancy is just fine. You do need to listen to your body and if you have a high-risk pregnancy make sure and check in with your doctor before you start anything.
Many of the benefits are what you would expect because they are the same benefits for everyone: better sleep, better mood, cardiovascular health, decreased levels of stress, weight control, respiratory health, and on.
Mom’s to be also improve their circulation, which helps to prevent constipation (big win). Preventing constipation, of course, reduces your chances of getting hemorrhoids. It also helps with swelling in ankles, varicose veins and leg cramps (ah the joys of pregnancy). Doing some core strengthening can reduce and prevent back pain as well.
But another big benefit for mom’s who exercise throughout their pregnancy is a shorter labor and less likely to have a perineum tear, if you do tear it’s not as bad. Unfortunately, it’s not going to reduce the pain you may experience.
Alright so exercise is good for mama, but that’s not enough to get you off the couch when you are tired, don’t feel good, and moody. Well we can through in a healthy dose of parental guilt then.
An exercise physiologist and anatomist at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Linda May, conducted a study with 66 moms to be and their fetuses. She measured fetal heart rates at 28, 32, and 36 weeks of pregnancy after splitting the women into two groups: those who exercised at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes and those who didn’t.
Linda May was measuring the babies’ heartrate and the heart rate variability. Variability is the span between beats. Increased heart rate variability means a healthier heart and better overall health because the heart functions more efficiently.
In babies whose moms were exercising, Linda May found by 32 weeks there were differences between the two groups and by 36 weeks there was a “big, significant change”—lower heart rate and increased heart rate variability. The moms who exercised more had babies with lower fetal heart rate and increased heart rate variability.
Those benefits to baby didn’t stop after the baby was born either. The benefits continued to be seen when the babies were brought back in at one month of age. So if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your growing baby.

Weekly Miles: I’m back running from the knee issue this week and started with 18 miles. I’ve found consistent rolling of  my shins is dong the trick, which I don’t normally roll. I plan on running outside more next week. I also picked up a maternity support belt to take some of the pressure of the baby off my bladder.

Running Preggers: Trail, road, or treadmill?

Sometimes we don’t have much of a choice about where to run, but some of us are lucky and have many options. Over the last few years, close to 100% of my running has been on trails. It has been amazing, but now I have to adjust back to being more flexible about where I run. I hate having to run anywhere other than in the mountains. I really do. But in reality, I know that there are actually few runners who are able to run exclusively on the trails.

Running while pregnant makes you take a lot more into consideration when you are choosing your running routes. Safety and listening to your body become even more important when you’re pregnant. I’m not saying we runners throw caution to the wind when we’re not pregnant, but when it’s just you, you’re more willing to deal with uncomfortable conditions and slightly higher risks.

During the first trimester, and longer for some women, you must contend with being tired and not feeling well (morning sickness). Both of these can put a huge damper on running, especially, if you have the option of sleeping in later and just running on the treadmill or road instead of driving to the mountains.

Throwing up while running is not something unusual in the ultrarunning world, but it’s also not something we want to deal with during every run either. Choosing a short loop route closer to home or a treadmill when morning sickness is lurking around every corner is more appealing. Then if something goes wrong, you have the option of stopping right away and getting home or at least somewhere more comfortable quickly.

The trails are ideal for the increased urination problem, at least for those who have no qualms about peeing in the woods. Roads make it difficult because you have to plan routes with bathrooms at regular intervals. However, that may not solve the problem. In my experience, there is no predictability to when you will need to go. Sometimes it’s every thirty minutes; sometimes it’s every ten. I can’t seem to make it longer than 45 minutes when running. What’s worse is you may not realize you need to go until you bounce just right and then you have to go RIGHT NOW.

Falling is something you want to think about too. When I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t like falling, but the chance of falling never stopped me from bombing down the side of a mountain. Now, I think a lot more about the risk of falling a route poses. Early in pregnancy falling is really unlikely to harm the baby. Even into the second trimester, baby has a lot of room to move and is protected by muscles and amniotic fluid. As baby gets bigger, they don’t have anywhere to go to get out of the way of an impact making the risk of falling increase throughout pregnancy. The shift in your center of gravity adds to the likelihood of falling too. As does the instability of your joints because of the hormone relaxin (more on this in another post).

Weather is another thing that plays a bigger roll in deciding on a running route when you’re pregnant. I’ve always said there’s no bad weather, only bad gear, but when you’re pregnant, that’s different. Extreme high and low temperatures have a bigger impact on you when you’re pregnant and ice. Rain shouldn’t be too problematic as long as you stay warm. Ice and snow are another problem entirely (see previous paragraph).

As far as calories go, they get used up quicker the further along you are in your pregnancy. In the first trimester you shouldn’t need to adjust calorie intake. Starting with the second and then throughout the third (and if breastfeeding) you’re going to need more calories, 300-500 extra per day. This could mean taking something small on shorter runs. A two-hour run was no problem without calories for me, now that I’m just past twenty weeks pregnant I’m starting to feel the drag in the last 30 minutes.

Air quality is the one thing runners, along with everyone else, pregnant or not, should take into consideration when deciding where to run. You need your lungs and heart. Running when pollution is thick in the air will increase your risks for health problems in the present and in the future. One thing that the ULTRA research study has uncovered is a higher rate of allergies and exercise induced asthma in endurance runners and one of the hypothesizes is because we’re out in the pollution more than the average person, we develop these types of problems more than others.  When you’re breathing for two, it’s even more important for you bite the bullet and run indoors on a track or treadmill.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Years!

My running update: I’ve developed a bit of pain in my left knee, which I think is begin caused by all the treadmill running and lack of foam rolling. I’ve backed off my miles this week, but plan to bump them back to the 36 miles as soon as my knee is feeling better.

Running Preggers: Lots of Snot

This is my first post about running while pregnant. I don’t plan on making all my posts about running while pregnant, even as I get further a long in my pregnancy. But, I do plan on throwing them in here every so often.

I know from searching online there’s a lot of personal stories about running while pregnant and what women were running and not running while pregnant. And while all of this is very encouraging and useful, I find that it’s also a little lacking because it doesn’t go into the changes that occur in your body when you’re pregnant and how those change running. So, that’s what I’m hoping to do with my pregnancy posts.

One of the things that began to plague me from early in my pregnancy is the congestion. At first it was only at night. Now at 19 weeks, it’s all the time. The increased congestion is caused by a couple of things. The increased blood volume and hormones. The increased blood volume and estrogen cause swelling in the lining of the nasal passages and that causes more snot. The extra blood also causes the tiny blood vessels in your nose to swell. All of this leads to what has been coined pregnancy rhinitis.

Being congested while you run can be interesting. As your body temperature increases, the snot clogging your noes gets runny, which means you can breathe again, but there’s a cost. It can make your throat sore and irritated because its running down that way or it can make it, so you want to snot rocket all over what ever happens to be to your right or left. For me, that’s another person since I’m running on the treadmill (too much pollution outside). Another pleasant result of the snot beginning to run is then it makes you cough or sneeze.

Pregnancy Rhinitis can begin around eight weeks of pregnancy (yep) and then continue until you deliver the baby. After the baby, it should stop within a few weeks. Having allergies makes things worse of course and the constant stuffy nose can lead to sinus infections.

So what can you do about it? If you start your run all stuffed up, it’s going to make things more interesting when you get going. Using a humidifier at night will keep the drainage action going and help you start your run with clear nasal passages (you have to buy one for the baby anyway, might as well make sure you chose a good one and see how it works). Use saline drops or spray to clear your noes before your run or inhale steam.

If it gets to be too much, contact your doctor or the mother to baby hotline 1 (800) 822-2229 or email them expertinfo@mothertobaby.org They are the experts of what goes through mom’s system and into baby’s. They have tons of research on hand on what medication, vitamins and all sorts of other stuff can be harmful to a baby growing in utero.

I know knowing how much you can run while you’re pregnant is a challenge and it’s all subjective. Let your body tell you how much is okay and be prepared to listen. I’ll post how much I’m running each week at the end of my pregnancy posts, but again how much you should run while pregnant depends on many factors. Make choices best for YOU and YOUR BABY.

Weekly miles: 36, running three days a week.

Rising from the Dead

I really must apologize for my serious lack of posting over the last month or so. I had to take my own advice and let one of the juggling balls fall while I kept others in the air. As some of you know, I’m a full-time attorney by day and an ultrarunner by night (and day). I’m also the program director for the Homeless Youth Legal Clinic here in Utah. I sneak in writing when I can (I was hoping to publish another novel this year, but that doesn’t look like it will happen). Oh, and I’m a mom of two amazing sons and now a third little one is coming in May 2018!

Needless to say, between being pregnant and everything else, sleep became more necessary than writing my weekly blog posts. But the first trimester is behind us and the energy is supposed to come back soon…zzzzzz

Here is another confession. I chose not to run after I was five weeks pregnant. I’ve been hating on the elliptical and the stair master for the past eight weeks. However, I will be starting back running now that the first trimester is complete.

Running during pregnancy is a personal choice for each mother and child. And subsequent pregnancies can be treated very differently. It is completely possible for a healthy pregnant woman to run throughout her pregnancy. However, running is not a sport a woman should take up during pregnancy. Other, non-impact, activities are totally fine and should be pursued by pregnant women.

Here is why I chose to back off my running during the first trimester. The first trimester is the time with the highest risk of miscarriage. My chances of miscarriage started at 20% and slowly decreased during the first trimester. There is some research out there that says running can increase the chances of miscarriage during the first trimester.

A research study done with 90,000 pregnant women in Denmark, which found women who exercise more than seven hours a week during the first trimester increase their chances of miscarriage four times. And women who participate in running or ball sports during their first trimester increase their chances of miscarriage by four times.

I don’t think this study says women shouldn’t run during their first trimester. I think it says be smart and know your limits and know your body. I wasn’t willing to increase my risk of miscarriage since it was already higher than average because I’m over 35.

After the first trimester the risk of miscarriage is below 2% and all of the baby’s major systems are established and the placenta is fully functioning. Miscarriages happen for many reasons and most of them are out of the control of the mother-to-be.

Reverting to less impact forms of exercise for the eight weeks after we found out I was pregnant was a sacrifice I was willing to make to increase our chances of a healthy full-term pregnancy. Plus, I’ve come back from low impact training to full running many times and know it’s not as hard as grieving after a miscarriage and wondering if it could have been prevented.

Looking forward to running this new adventure!