Here is a public answer to one of the most frequent questions that people have been asking me since I announced my pregnancy. Right after “will you find out if it’s a boy or a girl?” (no) comes: “Are you still running?”
Sometimes its not even a question. Its a statement: “I bet you’re not running anymore!” To which I reply, “Yes, I am still running 4 or 5 days per week.”
I am still running and I plan to run as long as I can through this pregnancy. I have the blessing of my physician. As I proved during my 424km injury-free run across The Gambia, I am very good at listening to and managing my body. The running that I do now will help me regain my running fitness after Baby Poirier is born in April.
I am lucky to run for a coach that is comfortable coaching me through my pregnancy. As I wrote in this blog, running with a coach whom you trust 100% makes training easy. My coach tells me what to do and I do it. It takes the wishy-washy out of decisions about how to train, even during pregnancy. I am fortunate for this because even members of the medical community remain wishy-washy and confused about running and pregnancy despite solid supporting evidence.
Sports-minded medical professionals have dispelled any myths about running and pregnancy with scientific proof of the benefits and safety of running while pregnant.
Here is the solid evidence:
A 2002 study in the medical journal, Epidemiology, suggests that women who vigorously exercise during a healthy pregnancy can actually decrease the risk of preterm birth
According to a 2000 study in The Journal of OBGYN and Neonatal Nursing, participating in prenatal exercise makes women less likely to deliver by cesarean section
“Running does not cause pre-term labor, miscarriage or any other such problems,” says Bridson. “In fact, weight-bearing [on your feet] aerobic exercise in pregnancy has actually been linked to lower rates of pre-term labor and miscarriage. Running and that perceived ‘jarring action’ will not cause any harm to the baby.”
Here is some wishy-washy.
Numerous studies have shown that, in low-risk pregnancies, neither moderate nor very vigorous exercise harms the fetus, but you still need to take it easy.
Why would you have to “take it easy” if vigorous exercise does not harm the fetus or increase risk of miscarriage? Website author, don’t you see how contradictory this statement is? Why are you publishing this crap?
And some more:
Whether you’re pregnant or not, running can be hard on your knees. During pregnancy, your joints loosen, which makes you more prone to injury. So unless you’re an avid runner, you should probably steer clear of this form of workout at least until after your baby arrives.
At least Baby Center offers some correct information about running and pregnancy in relation to your joints loosening. A well-established runner can continue running through her pregnancy and this running will benefit, not harm, the fetus. True, pregnancy is not the time for a non-runner to begin a running program. But come on Baby Center, the notion that running ruins your knees is a myth that has been disproved by evidence multiple times.
As I waded through the online crap about running and pregnancy, I chose reliable sources, bought Runner’s World Guide to Running and Pregnancy and listened to my physician. After an initial disagreement with my physician, she asked me to take it easy during the first trimester, meaning no track workouts. I ran easy about 3 days per week. When she saw me at 11 weeks and we heard our baby’s strong and healthy heart beat. She gave me permission to double my weekly mileage to 50 or 60 kilometers.
My return to the track during the 11th week of my pregnancy was glorious. During the month of September, I ran easy and solo. When I ran my first lap at the track in October, I felt like I had reclaimed some of my runner’s identity. For me, running with a track group, on the track, makes my running week complete and happy. I love the track. I love training. I love being surrounded by runners and by my coach.
Training during pregnancy is incredibly relative and what works for me will be different for what works for another pregnant runner. My coach trains runners using very specific paces for very specific track workouts. Everything is done with a purpose. Anyone running for him can tell you their current VDOT value and their pacing associated with varied workouts from easy, threshold, long run, to vo2max. When I returned, he and I recalculated my VDOT value and how I would train.
I set out to do my first 1km interval. When I ran by coach at 400m, he said, “Too fast!”
I protested that it felt so slow. He ordered me to stick to the pace he demanded: “It’s all relative.”
So although I am still running and training at the track, it’s relative. My weekly mileage remains about half of my pre-Boston Marathon, pre-Gambia, pre-pregnancy mileage. I’ve slowed down considerably. I used to run long runs at 5:15/km; I now run them around 5:40/km. I used to alternate long runs between 2 hours and 2.5 hours. I now run 12-16km. My threshold pace used to be 4:15/km. It’s now 4:40/km.
Often a track practice involves doing eight of something. My second week back at the track, I did do eight of something: 150s. I used to do 8-10 x 1000m. Now I do 8 x 150. Coach had me measure my heartrate after one of these intervals. As soon as I crossed the line it was 170. Twenty seconds later, down to 120. I used to be very fit and I’m still fit. I used to love the track. I still love the track.
The track also provides me with two of the most unlikely people who are by far the most interested people in my pregnancy in all of Halifax. They are 2 university sprinters, 22 years old, and they love my pregnancy.
While warming up together and on rest intervals, these sweet and funny young guys have asked me every question possible about my pregnancy: boy or girl? What do you want? Natural labour or epidural? What are you craving? Do you eat pickles with peanut butter? Will you circumcise the boy? How long did it take you to get pregnant? How did you know you where pregnant? Was it on purpose? Did you have a knocked-up moment? Are you going to run a marathon? Are you carrying high or low? Is it kicking? Can it kick? Can I feel? When can it kick? How big is it?
They continuously bug me to use their names as the baby’s name and argue over whose name will be the first name and whose will be the middle name. They want to be godfathers and argue over who gets to the executive godfather and who gets to be the assistant or vice. They want to bet money on whether or not I have a natural labour.
Next day at the track, when I said “shit,” one of them told me to watch my mouth in front of the baby, didn’t I want to be a good mother?
They believe that I still run well because I have 2 sets of lungs inside me. They think that my baby is going to come out with a six-pack (abs, not beer). They are highly entertaining twice a week.
You’ll find me at the track on Tuesdays and Thursdays, enjoying my running and my running partners and my pregnancy for as long as possible.