I come from a running background. I started athletics before I started school, and competed twice a week until I was 18. In young adulthood, running was my go to form of exercise, infact, I didn’t really know how to do anything else.
However, I have also been pregnant twice. And I can honestly say that running was one of the last things I wanted to do for exercise. In saying that, there are some women who have even run marathons during pregnancy, and if you google “running and pregnancy” mostly you will find answers like: “Running is okay during pregnancy if you were regularly running before you got pregnant and you feel good”. So if you are a pregnant runner right now, or are thinking of becoming pregnant, there are a few things to consider first.
#1. During pregnancy the pelvic floor tissues or pelvic floor muscle group (PFM) soften in preparation for childbirth. They are also placed under strain from the mother’s increasing body weight and the weight of the growing baby which at full term is around 3.3kg, amniotic fluid is approx 800g, the placenta 700g and maternal weight gain 5-10kg. Imagine combining this weight (15kg approx) and carrying it around in a stretchy balloon for nine months. The pelvic floor is very vulnerable at this time and by the time your baby has been born, your PFM group has taken quite a beating. Literally.
#2. Running is a high impact exercise (which are generally inadvisable during pregnancy). When the heel strikes the ground during running, the physical force associated with landing passes down through the pelvic floor and then to the ground via the lower limbs. This impact can have the effect of stretching the pelvic floor muscles and when repeated over time the pelvic floor can become progressively stretched and weakened.
#3. A weak pelvic floor can mean this- leaking urine, leaking or not being able to hold in bowel movements, pelvic organ prolapse (if you do not know what this is, Google it! Not pretty), lower back, hip or pelvic pain, weak or dysfunctional core abdominal system, constipation and urinary tract infections. Not all women experience these symptoms. Most do in some way or another. Running may just make these symptoms worse.
Now I know it’s nearly impossible to prevent a runner to stop running unless they lose a leg. And as I said, maybe not all pregnant runners will experience pelvic floor dysfunction during or post pregnancy. And since running is not harmful to the baby in utero, you may be determined to keep it up. Well that is your choice and I commend you for staying active! So here a few ways you can reduce the likelihood and severity of PFM dysfunction.
– reduce the length of your strides
– practice your pelvic floor exercises daily
– avoid running on tar, concrete or treadmills or downhill
– wear supportive footwear
– reduce the distance
– manage your body weight
And finally, mix up your workouts. Strengthening your body by lifting weights is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise and is even more beneficial for pregnancy and post partum. Unlike running which breaks down muscle tissue, lifting weights builds muscle tissue, thereby supporting your joints and ligaments, increasing metabolism, reducing the effects of ageing, increasing muscle tone, bone density, strength and improves muscle power and endurance (side benefit to improve your running when you do return to it!) Love your cardio? No problem! Turn your weights routine into a circuit and feel your heart rate soar! There are so many more benefits to weight lifting for women! So why not give it a go?
Programs for pre and post pregnancy available from my site http://www.fitlypt.com
You can train anywhere, anytime!
“You never fail anything until you stop trying”.