Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Running when Pregnant

I want to document my efforts to exercise during pregnancy now at 17 weeks, and then revisit as things get more difficult.  I know people safely do it, but I still wonder if I can run while pregnant.  I used to love running (but not marathons or even anything more than 5k), and I really want to be a pregnant runner!

DS has recently entered a clingy phase. It's cute, but it's so bad he can no longer be left in the childcare center at the gym. This has really put a limit on my gym time, but I'm determined not to let anything stop me. If he won't be left at the gym, we go for a walk in the stroller no matter how hot it is.  DH only gets home before the gym closes two days a week, but at least that's something. I'm determined to stay in shape! Why? It's not entirely about the weight gain. It's true I don't want to gain 55lbs like I did last time, but when I came home after my son's birth I was so fat with so little muscle. I'd been in shape and then did nothing but walk my whole pregnancy. The three weeks before the birth I sometimes walked 7 to 9 miles a day, and when I got on the elliptical for the first time afterwards I couldn't even stay on the machine for twenty minutes. I was horribly out of shape despite the walking. Walking wasn't enough, and it was a full year before my body completely recovered. Even once it did recover, it was only January of this year that I returned to running, lost that last 5lbs and was back in pre-baby running shape. That's why it's important to me to run while pregnant. Of course I don't want to gain as much and I want a quicker birth, but I don't want to let my body go as much as I did last time. I don't think it was healthy.

Some things I've learned about running while pregnant. First, I think it's actually good for round ligament pain. You'd think it'd make it worse, and it does hurt towards the end of my workout, but the rest of the time it's better than before I started. Secondly, it's important to wear good shoes. You can tell I'm not really a runner because runners would say this is obvious.  I figured since I was only running a few minutes that my old everyday shoes would be fine. They're not. I had foot pain on the days after I didn't wear my good quality running shoes. Third, people don't think you're a terrible person for running while pregnant. I've heard some bad stories, and was concerned about what strangers at the gym would think about it since a lot of people think pregnant women should rest all the time. If anything, I think they're impressed. People either ignore me or give me a supportive 'you go girl!' look.

So here's the details on my exercise journey this pregnancy.  I was happily running 30min 5k's on the treadmill at the gym until I got my bfp.  I decided to stop until my first scan at 8 weeks (only a month away) since it was so soon after my miscarriage and I didn't want a repeat.  Unfortunately at my 8 week scan it became a moderate risk pregnancy instead of low risk.  Walking was allowed, but running was not.  By 12 weeks my issues had resolved.  I was declared a normal, low risk pregnant woman, but because I'd had bleeding due to resolving issues only 2 weeks previous, the doc decided another month before anything more than walking, just to be safe. I'd been out of the gym this whole time, but at 14 weeks I decided to go back, even if it was just to walk on the treadmill at a fair clip.  By 16 weeks I was dying to try running again. I felt that second trimester burst of energy and really wanted to see what I could do.  It was the first question I asked at my 16 week appt. Can I start running again? My doctor said yes! But that since I'd gone 3 months without, she wanted my heart rate to stay under 150bpm.  She said if I'd been running the whole time it would be fine to continue, but now it would be like doing a new activity and the advice has always been to only continue exercising while pregnant, not to begin a new program.

At first I was very happy, and thought the restriction wouldn't be a problem at all.  I was wrong.  The more I walked, the more I wanted to run, but even 2 minutes at a slow pace would put me over the limit.  It was especially frustrating because when I walked I was only in the 120's, so I really felt I could be doing more, but even the slowest jog put me over.  I finally got on the elliptical and through experimentation, found the exact speed and level of difficulty that put me at 145bpm.  I also continued walking 2.5 miles of hills in town with my son in the stroller several times a week.  In a matter of days I was able to run 4.5mph at 0% incline for 2 minutes without going over 150bpm.  Last week I was able to do three 4min intervals of running at the same speed without going over 150 although it increased each time.  After completing the intervals, I walked my heart rate back down to 119, and then tried running for 8 minutes instead of 4.  Heart rate was 168! Oops. 

Clearly this is going to be a process.  But there have been, and continue to be milestones along the way.  I was SO excited about that 12 minutes of running! Technically it was 20 minutes although 8 of it was 'illegal'.  I'm kind of torn because a lot of the advice on the Internet says the 150bpm restriction is outdated advice, and that as long as you can carry on a conversation while running that it's not too much.  It's funny, while running the 8minute interval this lady came in and had all sorts of trouble working the gym TVs.  I was giving her instructions the whole time without needing to catch my breath at all.  According to that advice, I'd probably be fine jogging for 30min or more.  I'm seeing a different doctor at the same practice on the 17th, and will get a second opinion, but I'm really not prepared to ignore my doctors advice at this point.  Especially since I make more progress each training session.  I'm usually on the treadmill for an hour.  Last time, I was doing 4min walking, 4 min running, but after the 3rd 4 min running interval I was too close to 150, and even at a walk my heart rate was in the 120s. It got higher after each running interval and didn't have time to go down all the way.  I'm thinking if I did 5minutes between intervals I'd be able to alternate 5 walking, 4 running, the whole hour.  Or if not that exact ratio, I think I'll be able to figure this out through experimentation.  My point is, last time I ran a total of 12 minutes out of an hour.  I bet I can at least double that number the next chance I get, and who knows what my limit is!  I'll update again in a few months with my progress.  Feel free to send me advice in the comments or on twitter.  I really want to be a pregnant runner!

UPDATE: After spending 15min soothing DS in the childcare center this morning I was able to breakaway and get on the treadmill. During the 45min I was on the treadmill I was able to run for 20min broken up in 5 intervals. I'm happy with that! Even got on the stairmaster for a bit afterwards. I hope to continue to see improvements!

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