A compact sports guide for expectant athletes
Exercise during pregnancy is equally beneficial for mother and child. Of course, when it comes to sports during pregnancy, expectant mothers must plan their training in a well-dosed and thought-out manner. In general, there is nothing wrong with exercise for pregnant women, as long as the amount is right. The most reliable "measuring tool" is your own body. It gives immediate feedback when there is a risk of overstraining. Running is also recommended during pregnancy, as what is good for the body and mind of the mom is also good for the baby.
Typically, I would divide my pregnancy into three trimesters. During the first trimester (until week 13 of the pregnancy), I was pretty unsure about trail running. I didn't want to do anything wrong and first had to get used to my new sense of body awareness as well as the signals my pregnant body sent out to get a good feel for exercise.
To this end, there were plenty of comments and advice from the outside, which often did not encourage running in a pregnancy, but rather fueled anxieties, such as:
- Running while pregnant applies "downward pressure"
- Any kind of over-exertion during pregnancy is harmful to the baby
- The jarring of the running motion is harmful
- Running leads to pain during pregnancy
In the beginning, it was mainly my mind that held me back when it came to exercising, instead of continuing to listen to my body and doing what was good for me. Even though one's intuition and trust in one's strengths are also important basic prerequisites for a complication-free birth. My gynaecologist always encouraged me to keep on running and was adamant that no sport at all is the worst thing you can do during pregnancy. His biggest reasons for exercising during pregnancy:
- Lack of exercise can lead to gestational diabetes
- Too much rest and a relieving posture can promote water retention in the limbs
- Sports stimulate blood flow and stabilize circulation
- Running (also during pregnancy) triggers feelings of happiness
- Regular exercise tones the tissue and keeps the muscular system strong
Tips for running during pregnancy: How to keep your training going
In general, there is nothing to be said against moderate trail running and running on gravel roads, but you can also move your running training to a tartan track. Advantage: The surface provides additional cushioning and you may not be too far from home, so you can stop your training at any time. You should also adapt your running shoes to the stage of your pregnancy, just as more comfortable running clothes will significantly increase your running comfort a few months in. Above all, you will need a different shoe size for running during the pregnancy months, because your feet get a little bigger during pregnancy. A more cushioned running shoe that is also more stable will reduce the stress on ligaments, tendons, and joints - and on the growing baby.
TIP: Aquajogging is also perfect for complimenting your running workouts. Running in the water with the help of an aqua jogger is highly demanding on your muscles. However, it takes a lot of pressure off the ligaments, tendons, and joints and, in the course of pregnancy, the load on the baby and the organs due to the buoyancy in the water. It has also been proven to be very calming for the growing baby in the womb.
My experiences and tips for sports during pregnancy
I always drank and ate enough before each run, which was very important to me, and I also replenished nutrients after the run. Very important: If it "pinches" in the abdominal area or doesn't feel good, then you should stop immediately. It's perfectly fine not to go running because you feel sick or just exhausted. After all, your body is working extra hard during pregnancy anyway. In the first trimester, I struggled with nausea and fatigue, but running did me good, brought routine into my daily life, and also helped with the discomfort.
During the second trimester, I had more energy and was able to assess my body better. However, I now felt more pressure on the bladder and took many "pee breaks" in the bushes. Especially in the second trimester of pregnancy, it makes sense to integrate intervals alternating running and walking phases into your training. This reduces the stress on your internal organs, the pelvis, and of course, the impact on the baby. This way you can also regulate your breathing and heart rate very well. I've had good experiences with running for one minute and walking for the next, then extending the running intervals up to four minutes each and sticking to the one-minute walking sessions. This is also a good way to get back into running after childbirth.
TIP: Another option is to choose a flatter terrain profile because where you go up, you have to go down. Especially running downhill has a high impact on ligaments, tendons, joints, and of course your muscles. Due to the increased body weight and volume in the abdominal cavity, each running step downhill naturally has an even more intense effect and pushes even harder on the bladder, which is already exposed to high pressure.
A well-thought-out training plan for running during pregnancy
If you start running without pregnancy, you usually first increase the number of weekly training sessions, then the length of the runs, and finally the intensity. If you want to adapt your training plan to pregnancy, the reverse order is recommended: intensity and altitude down, then reduce the distance, and finally the frequency.
In my case, it was very convenient that my husband joined in on the running sessions. Until the 29th week of pregnancy, that is, until the end of the second trimester, I could still run every day for between 30 minutes and two hours. From the 30th week of pregnancy, the pee breaks became so frequent and the pace so slow that I decided to trade in my running shoes for walking shoes. I took my last run down to the bakery five kilometers away, ending running training that way for the time being.
Instead, I switched to strength training, yoga, hiking, inline skating, or light cycling. This way, I had a versatile sports program, which I could structure in a way that served me well. I also enjoyed the periods of relaxation and regularly allowed myself to do nothing at all. What I kept up until the end was regular mental training, which I'm sure also helps when giving birth.
Nutrition during the "sporty" pregnancy: low carb and minerals
During pregnancy paying even better attention to nutrition can improve your well-being immensely; in everyday life and especially if you like to run. Then it is even more important to time your food intake, pay attention to the ingredients of your food, and how much you eat. Especially the quality and complexity of the nutrients are significant. For example, a low-carb diet can significantly reduce the risk of gestational diabetes or water retention. This is because carbohydrates bind water. This does not mean avoiding carbohydrates altogether, but rather eating lower amounts. Stick to unprocessed, complex carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels moderately. The lower amount of carbohydrates should then be balanced by protein-rich foods and healthy, unsaturated fats to meet personal, increased nutritional needs during pregnancy.
At the same time, regular running training during pregnancy requires keeping an even closer eye on blood levels. This way deficiencies in important minerals, trace elements, and enzymes can be avoided. Here, certain natural nutrients help as a preventive measure. Among other things, lentils, flax seeds, oatmeal, beetroot, or ginger can prevent an iron deficiency. The main function of iron in the body is primarily transporting blood oxygen and storing it in the muscles. A deficiency has a strong impact on performance but also the immune system.
Conclusion: Sport during pregnancy is a highly personal decision
I find it extremely difficult to generalize the topic because it is very individual and highly personal. On social media, you see a lot of people seemingly running until they give birth and then starting again right after that. This can put a woman under quite a bit of pressure and certainly has nothing to do with reality or truth. Also, our society portrays an image of always happy pregnancies and women in perfect bodies. Yet our bodies and our babies need time, patience, self-love, and joy to be healthy. Sport is only one of several building blocks for your well-being during pregnancy.
Running can be immensely enriching, but it is just as legitimate to go without it completely. And that goes for all other sports as well. It is important that you consult your gynaecologist and that you dose the training in such a way that it is good for you in every respect. The decision for or against it lies solely with you!