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  • Rob Mullen

A different challenge: Running When Pregnant

I've found it really interesting logging the challenges and achievements through my training plan so far, but my partner Sophie has been realising her own running difficulties (and resilience!) on quite a different journey: pregnancy. We're so looking forward to welcoming another member of the family at the start of October but in the meantime, here's Sophie to talk about how she's packing in the miles with a baby on board...

When I fell pregnant in January, I likely reacted how many women do: abject fear diluted in overwhelming happiness, shortly followed by a sense of "right, how do I take care of myself and this tiny baby?". Obviously there's all the nutrition advice, the 'do's' and 'don'ts' (bye bye wine) and a lot of gumph thrown your way from all and sundry about the ideal birth, stroller suggestions, something called a Sleepyhead and a Buga-who?! But exercise was the big one for me: how do I keep my body and mind healthy through this crazy period of pregnancy in a pandemic?

Running was my solution - plenty of fresh air, you can control your own pace and easily listen to your body - something so important in pregnancy. BUT: there were some shocks to the system. Worth saying at this point that I'm not a medical professional and of course if you are pregnant it is critical to take your midwife's advice, but here are some of my tips to maximise bump brilliance whilst running:

1. Don't be hard on yourself: start when you feel ready

Let's be honest, the first trimester for many mums-to-be is a time we'd all like to forget. I was lucky, I didn't have the terrible sickness or exhaustion that some of my friends had, but this was generally a period of anxiety, shock, getting used to the idea and all other associated emotions. You're desperately awaiting the assurance of the 12 week scan and it can feel daunting to exercise during this period; for me, I waited until around 9 or 10 weeks before I established a regular running routine - frankly, it wasn't worth the nerves beforehand, so I let myself off the hook! I stuck to low impact exercise - yoga, some strength training etc and felt all the better for it.

2. Be prepared for your bladder to become baby's trampoline: get a bump band

This was quite a shock to the system - your body suddenly feels like someone else's, even when just doing a light jog and before you're even 'showing'. Before your baby moves out of your pelvis in the second trimester, it can feel like an awful amount of pressure is resting on your bladder when you run. My tip would be to start slowly, with plenty of walking gaps initially and to consider investing in a bump band, or support. I use this one and it made the world of difference. And, to prevent embarrassing leakages....

3. Pelvic.Floor.Exercises

Do them, running or not!

4. Watch your heart rate

During pregnancy, the amount of blood pumped to the heart increases by 30% to 50%. I was amazed to discover my pre-pregnancy resting heart rate of around 55bpm had spiked up to 70bpm and was a little relieved that my almost instantaneous breathlessness when running was a side-effect of pregnancy, not a rapid decline in fitness! There's no official line on heart rate 'limits' when exercising pregnant these days, but it is advised to only exercise moderately - a good guide for this is to ensure you can maintain conversation - anything more strenuous than that, slow down.

5. Invest in maternity leggings

I was stubborn to begin with, "surely my stretchy running pants will fit over a bump". I mean yes, they do (just), but it's really not worth the discomfort. Explore the mecca of maternity wear - H&M - for some inexpensive options.

6. Stay strong

As with any running training, a great idea is to dedicate time to strength building exercises. This is even more relevant in pregnancy with the increase in relaxin preparing our ligaments for birth. There are some great pre-natal programmes on YouTube - try BodyFit By Amy as a starter for ten.

7. When you can't concentrate, re-hydrate

Common sense really - keep supping!

8. Consider your options when it's time to hang up the trainers

Many pregnant women can run right up to term - I'm not sure that will be me! I'm already looking at ways I can maintain my fitness when running becomes too much. Once again, it's a matter of listening to your body, but I'm looking forward to swimming pools opening up...

That's all from me - thanks for reading!

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