15 Aug 2014

thoughts & facts on exercising during pregnancy

As you might know I have been running before and planning to continue running during my pregnancy. While I wasn't in a 'top-shape' certainly had a good base-condition. Since I didn't have major problems during the first few months (besides being exhausted, blown-up feeling in my belly and just about 2-3 weeks of morning sickness) I was able to run.
It was hard sometimes, feeling sick during the first km's, or being tired overall, but I'm glad I had the discipline to go! The last few months 'before' pregnancy I ran 9-11 km's in every 4-5 or 6 days. Now I still do the same, run even more frequently, but definitely getting slower.
I believe it is very important to stay active during the first months, since you are not gaining a lot of weight yet. Also, your body is increasing your blood volume which makes your heart work harder.
Believe me, if you stop during the first months you most likely won't be able to 'recharge' and restart later!!!

Note: Of course, this is not the time to start with any type of exercise which requires endurance, but if you were active before your pregnancy you should continue.

the facts:
  • There is proof that exercise during pregnancy, like running limits weight-gain (keeps you more mobile during pregnancy), helps to get rid of excess fluid in your body (no swollen legs), and increases the blood and oxygen transport to the placenta which makes your baby (and yourself) healthier. Apparently, babies of moms who exercise throughout pregnancy score higher, on average, on general intelligence tests by age five.
  • The blood-volume will be rising throughout your pregnancy which means your heart needs to work harder. You might notice elevated heart rates during the first months already. While in the past there were warnings about elevated heart rates during exercise nowadays there are no limits. The most recent ACOG guidelines (=American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) state that "30 minutes or more of moderate exericse on most, if not all, days of the week is acceptable for pregnant women without medical complications." Also, they dropped the guidelines on increased core temperature which in the past was thought to be harming the foetus.
  • However, they talk about a daily (!) 'moderate' exercise 30 minutes. Why? Because moderate exercise longer than 30 minutes could result in a decrease of oxygen transport to the placenta. But, no worries! Let me tell you, as soon as you are pregnant, you won't be able to do any 'moderate' or 'heavy' type exercise at all, unless you are an athlete, which most of us aren't... 
  • Generally, the best pace to run or exercise is one which is slightly tiring but you are still able to speak full sentences.
  • While I'm still able to run (jog?) the same distance, my speed dropped right away, and that's okay. I don't care, because I'm glad I'm still able to exercise, and that is my goal right now. There is no use of doing hill-training or intervals anyway, because the next moths only will be slower and slower. The most important thing is to listen to your body and do what feels good to do! I start with a small round within a few km's from the house and if it feels good I run further.
  • I would strongly suggest to invest in a pair of good fitting (and expensive) running shoes! Your joints and tendons get weaker due to hormonal changes, so I pulled out my unused pair of running shoes which have a better cushioned sole than my worn out pair which I like to wear when running in the woods. (I use the Asics Gel Nimbus shoes since about 2000. Unfortunately every new Nimbus version has slight changes in fit, and while I loved the Nimbus 6, I hated the 11 which had a very hard heelcap. Currently I use the Nimbus 12 which I loved so much that I thoughtfully bought a second pair just on time before version 13 came out. It is light weight, softly cushioned, has an offset lacing and enough room for my wide feet.)
  • Since I tend to look like stuffed sausage right now instead of a pregnant woman with a well-defined baby-bump, I use the few wider running tops instead of my tight ones (which is about 90% of the stuff I own). I might take a look in my BF's closet...
  • I also noticed I'm only able to wear a few of my running tights, which have a wide elastic waist casing instead of a narrow one.

Above: athlete Alysia Montano 34 weeks pregnant running an 800 m race at the US Championships this year

why you shouldn't run (so they say...)
  • You've probably heard you shouldn't exercise during the first months because it can lead to miscarriage, but that has absolutely no scientific background. Of course, ideally you don't start with running when you are pregnant. Ideally you already an exercised runner, so your body is used to it. My idea is that if the baby is healthy exercise doesn't hurt. (Most of miscarriages have an internal, or genetic cause)
  • I don't know about you but I have actually never seen a pregnant woman running...though I see a lot of of people running nowadays. I might be the first one in the area. We'll see how it goes! For now, running the yearly, easy 5 km city run in october is still an option. (25 weeks pregnant by that time) Participating is more important than winning, right? 
  • It's sad, but prepare that people can be very judgmental! Here is an interesting article about that.
  • There are women who experience 'leaking' of urine during and/or after they pregnancy. This is caused by weakening of the pelvic floor muscles and it is not related to exercising during pregnancy! It has many different causes, like the strength of the pelvic floor muscles before pregnancy, amount of weight gain during pregnancy, size and position of the baby, how the delivery was and it also can be hereditary. 
  • There are stories of Paula Radcliff (marathon runner), who has had a stress-fracture of the pubic bone after giving birth and because training so hard... Well, I think we just shouldn't compare our training routines to those of world class athletes, like Paula Radcliff...
  • Luckily, there are enough bloggers who run pregnant and share a lot positive stories, tips and tricks online.

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