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Training Tips

How to keep on running safely with a bump: Tips on exercising when pregnant

17-03-2016

Last November my husband and I were delighted to welcome a second daughter into our family.

My second pregnancy was one I was immensely grateful for and that I truly enjoyed. The miracle of growing a new life has never failed to astound me and it is a privilege I know I have been fortunate to experience.

However, in the last trimester I did look forward to getting my body back as tying my shoe laces became a real challenge, as did picking anything up off the floor, while sleeping required an array of stragecially arranged pillows. God forbid if I needed to turn over!

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Amy out for an easy run nearly five months pregnant

As a professional athlete, pregnancy can seem an even longer and drawn out affair. While in most jobs, you can begin maternity leave a few weeks ahead of the birth, as an elite athlete it can mean more than a year off. Firstly, in order to maximise your chance of getting pregnant, you may have to back off the intensity and duration of your training and stop racing altogether.

For me, this provided the opportunity to do some extra coaching work. I enjoyed cheering others on and assisting them with their training goals and even being the bag carrier for a change while my husband raced!

That said, I am now looking forward to getting back into my own running again and am grateful that I was again to keep doing some exercise into third trimester of my pregnancy. I was able to exercise more consistently than in my first pregnancy, though with real caution under a monthly check from my physio and regular check-ups on the baby.IMG 0072

As any pregnancy progresses, you must adjust your approach to keeping fit and slow down! I know as an athlete that can be hard to do but during this time, forget about working hard or achieving goals and focus on staying happy and healthy.

You can also expect to receive some odd looks while in the gym or out for an easy run with a baby bump but don’t let that stop you.

As long as you are being very vigilant about how you feel and operating within yourself, exercising when pregnant has numerous benefits from alleviating morning sickness to boosting your mood.

Don’t just take my word for it, the NHS state: ‘The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth.’  

So, here are my tips for keeping running while pregnant should you wish to do so:

  • Only exercise if you have been advised that is safe to do so by your doctor. If there are complications in your pregnancy you may be advised not to exercise, but in the majority of cases, some gentle exercise will bring mother and baby numerous health benefits.

  • If you are ready a runner having an uncomplicated pregnancy then it is fine to carry on running but there should be a significant drop in the intensity and duration of your training, now is not the time to take up running for the first time or train for a marathon! I stopped doing any hard sessions as soon as I knew I was pregnant and didn’t run for longer than an hour.

  • Wear a heart rate monitor as this is a good way to ensure you are not overdoing it. Keeping your heart rate to 130-140 beats per minute is a safe and advised guideline to stick to while pregnant.

  • Keep your energy levels up by eating little and often.

  • Sleep! You will feel more exhausted than you may have ever before in the first trimester. Rest up when you can and particularly after exercising. With many women the intensity of your morning sickness can also be influenced by how tired you are so do bank as much sleep as you can and back off running if necessary.

  • DRINK, drink, drink…water that is! Carry a water bottle around like your life depends on it to keep hydrated, particularly if exercising. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

  • Be flexible: As your bump grows, reduce and alternate your choice of exercise. Even if your bump is small, it is best to introduce more cross training, swimming and pilates and to ensure you have more days where you just rest and your body has a break from repeated impact work.

  • Stop running when it becomes uncomfortable or you are advised not to! Most women know when this is but do consult a physio if you feel your body is not responding well to the form of exercise you are doing.

  • In the final trimester, take it easy and rest up while you can! Your body will begin producing the hormone relaxin to prepare for the birth. This loosens ligaments and tendons and can make you at far higher risk of injury. My running in the last few weeks was replaced by some light cross training, swimming, core work and pilates sessions at my local David Lloyd…my second home! The pilates in particularreally helped alleviate my back tightness which will also increase as your bump grows.

  • Acupuncture: I am so grateful to have discovered this during this pregnancy. I found it help reduced back pain and restoredmy energy levels.

  • Eat well, clean and as healthy as you can. I won’t lie, I did indulge in a sausage roll, some crisps or chocolate when the urge has called during pregnancy! However overall I have tried to eat as healthy as I could with fresh, unprocessed food. The Nutribullet became my best friend in the final weeks. A blast of spinach, strawberries, banana, almond or coconut milk with chia or flax seed gave me so much extra energy this month! I loved James Duigan’s ‘The Clean and Lean Guide to Pregnancy’ which has some great recipies for meals and smoothies and exercises that are specific to each trimester.

    I am slowing getting back into running so next time I will share my tips on resuming exercise after childbirth and how I have managed it whilst breastfeeding.