If you’ve recently discovered you’re pregnant, congratulations! Entering the weird and wonderful world of impending motherhood can bring with it a whole host of emotions, from joy and excitement to fear. Don’t panic... this is all perfectly normal. There is no right way to feel.
As a runner, you may also wonder whether you can (or should) still head out to run. Rest assured, if you still feel like running, you absolutely can (yay!) A massive review commissioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has concluded that exercise during pregnancy (even if you’re an elite athlete and exercising at a high intensity) does no damage to either mum or baby.
Want proof? Just look at Serena Williams, who recently won the Australian Open while in the early stages of pregnancy, proving just how strong, resilient and capable a woman’s body can be.
Here’s our round-up of how to exercise safely while pregnant, so you can reach your due date feeling fit and healthy.
Listen to your body
Other than avoiding scuba-diving or extreme weight-lifting, there really are no steadfast guidelines out there telling pregnant women what they should and shouldn’t do when it comes to exercise.
So, listen to your body. If you feel well and energised, and you’re used to doing regular exercise, head for a run and see how it goes. If you feel well, great! If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably best to ease off or stop.
In the first trimester (up to 12 weeks), it can be dangerous for the baby if you overheat. So don’t push yourself to extremes, always make sure you stay hydrated, and if it’s very hot outside, either skip your run that day or head to a gym where it will be air conditioned.
Don’t try a new high-intensity activity
If you’re a regular runner, it’s absolutely fine to continue. However, if you’ve never run before, pregnancy is probably not the best time to start, as it will put your body under strain it’s not used to. If you’re not a runner but want to stay or get fit, try a walking regime instead.
Take care of your joints
The hormone relaxin, which loosens your joints and ligaments in preparation for birth, is present early on in pregnancy, so take extra care when running. Don’t push too hard or fast, as you may be more prone to injury.
Try lower-intensity sports
As your pregnancy progresses, it’s fine to continue running as long as you’re comfortable. But if your bump starts to feel too heavy, you could switch to swimming or pregnancy yoga.
Watch your balance
As you get heavier and your body shape changes as your baby grows, your centre of gravity will change and you may find it easier to fall off balance. Take this into account while running, as you may have to adjust your speed or stride. Also, avoid rutted trail paths, instead sticking to flat, even surfaces – you don’t want to risk a fall.
Remember the benefits
There are so many amazing benefits for both you and baby if you stay active, so bear these in mind to keep yourself motivated: women who remain active are likely to have fewer pregnancy complications, a shorter labour, reduced chance of ante and postnatal depression, and it will also help your body remain strong, to better cope with birth.
Still not convinced? Read why running makes you a better parent
Don’t feel pressured
If you’re suffering with sickness or nausea, you have zero energy, the smell of the gym or your running kit makes your eyes water, or you just don't fancy it, you absolutely DON’T have to run while pregnant! Some women – even those who are regular, highly competent runners – just can’t face it, and this is FINE. There’s no pressure. Always remember, it’s your body and your baby, so handle pregnancy YOUR way.