Running while pregnant can be a great workout if you take a few precautions.
Whether you're an experienced marathoner or a newbie who only runs to catch the bus, running could be just the thing to keep you happy and healthy these nine months—if you do it right. "Being active while pregnant helps you stay feeling great and benefits your baby," says Chris Heuisler, a veteran marathoner, running coach and the National Run Concierge for Westin Hotels (and a dad of two!). "But you have to listen to your body, because it will begin to dictate how much you can and can't work out." Here's what you need to know to stay safe and healthy on the road:
Run, but don't race.
Pushing yourself to achieve a quicker time may give you a thrill and extra motivation, but now may not be the best time, unless you're such an experienced runner that you can take a fast pace without getting out of breath. "If your heart rate is spiking, so is your baby's. If you're struggling to breathe, so is your baby," Heuisler says. "So if you want to do a local 5K fun run, sure! Have fun, but don't put unnecessary stress on the baby."
If you're new, start small.
"If you haven't been active at all and you get pregnant, you shouldn't begin an intense exercise program, but adding activity is important," Heuisler says. "I'm a huge proponent of walking while pregnant—start there, and if you're feeling great and are interested in trying a gentle run/walk program, go for it." You might try the Run Walk Run program designed by running coach Jeff Galloway—learn more at jeffgalloway.com.
Pregnant or not, core strength is crucial to helping runners stay free of injury and pain—and when you're expecting, your changing center of gravity means you'll need all the stability you can get to avoid hurting yourself or tripping and falling, Heuisler says. (And it doesn't help that the hormone relaxin can loosen your joints during pregnancy, making you more prone to injury.) One of his favorite stability moves is Bird-Dog: Get on all fours, with knees directly under hips and wrists directly under elbows. Engage core as you lift right arm and lift left leg until both are parallel to floor. Hold briefly, then return arm and leg to floor and switch sides. Perform 1-3 sets of 10-12 reps. Bonus: A strong core may make labor easier.
Consider new gear.
"Women's feet tend to expand during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, and their regular shoes may become too tight, which leaves them susceptible to foot injuries and imbalance," Heuisler says. Many shoe brands offer "wide" sizes, so you may want to invest in a new pair to ease you through the final few months.