Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Hello everyone! I’m Nikkei, and I’m new to the group. I recently saw this sculpture of a runner crossing the finish line in the lobby of KHQ-TV in Spokane. It resembles all of the dozens of runners I see in my neighborhood all of the time: stick thin and already fit! Spokane is full of runners, but I’ve never seen someone around here running that is obviously pregnant. I want to take a big black water balloon and tape it to the abdomen of this sculpture—now that would be motivating! The trouble I have with running while pregnant is that I can’t seem to reconcile finish lines and due dates. It is hard for me to be motivated to run while pregnant because of two reasons: 1…there is no chance for me to break a PR so using a race (trying to cross the finish line faster than before) as a training motivator doesn’t work for me…and…2…I worry about my heart rate and the efficiency of my placenta to deliver oxygen to the baby.

I know that if I don’t eat well enough, my body will steal nutrients from itself and give them to the baby first. I may suffer, but the baby won’t unless I’m seriously malnourished. However, I don’t know what will happen when I put myself in a state of oxygen deprivation. If I am in an anaerobic state, what happens to the placenta? Will the baby get the oxygen first? The medical community doesn’t have very many answers about what happens when women run while pregnant. My father-in-law is an ob-gyn, and he explained that it is difficult to study. Not many women are willing to run while pregnant. It seems to me that the members of this blog would be prime picking for a team of researchers that wanted to study this issue. Until the studies are done, I’ve decided to modify the standard suggestion of “don’t let your heart rate go above 140”—My goal is to keep my heart rate between 150 and 160. My resting heart rate is already at least 30 bpm more than it was just one year ago, so pregnancy alone really works my heart. If I stayed at 140 or below, I wouldn’t be running at all. But if I stay around 160, I’ll be below what I believe to be my anaerobic threshold. I’m about 22 weeks pregnant now, and I presume that my pace will increasingly diminish as I stay within my target zone, but that is okay. I need to focus on my due date rather than another finish line and a chance to set a PR. Marathons provide wonderful analogies for motherhood, but right now, more than halfway through a pregnancy, thinking about finish lines and timing chips is frustrating. I’m trying hard to think of my due date as the only finish line now, and I have to carefully pace myself so that I can cross it with a healthy baby in tow…even if that means that my pace will get slower and slower and I have to resist my desire to go faster and faster.

For those of you who are currently running and pregnant, or who have done so in the past, I would love to know about the guidelines that you set for yourself (heart rate zones, distances, etc.).


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted this and interested to see what others will have to say.

Everytime I read about pregnant women who run long distances, I cringe! I've noticed the trend to congratulate pregnant runners on their motivation and determination. While it is true that these women are definitely motivated individuals, I feel a deep concern for the baby.

Please understand where I am coming from. I have a 4-year old boy who was born with Cerebral Palsy due to oxygen deprivation. The placenta failed. I had a placental abruption. In my mind I blame myself for being more active than most pregnant women.

I'm so lucky that my baby is alive yet he struggles each day with mobility and communication. He is also deaf and suffers from seizures.

I'm glad to hear that you have an OB in the family. You are so smart to monitor your heart rate like you are. Keep us posted.

Bufflehead said...

I'm 10 weeks pregnant with my first and have the same questions you do. I also kind of set 160 as my threshold, which is about 80% of my max and still feels aerobic. I ran a marathon at 6 weeks (a week after I found out, we'd planned to wait until after the race!) and a 10k at 8 weeks. Both were slower, though I did push the 10k still. Read (if you haven't) the book "Exercising Through Your Pregnancy" by James Clapp, it is a few years old but still the only book that addresses more intense exercise in pregnancy (he's for it and says the research supports it in healthy pregnancies).

I've been lurking on this blog, I love it. You are all inspiring! Keep running!

amydear said...

Hi Nikkei,
First of all, I was born and raised in Spokane, so I hope you're enjoying it there! I haven't lived there in about 12 years, but I visit every year or two and my parents are still there. About running while pregnant:
I ran until week 26 with my most current pregnancy, but then I was put on bedrest for mild preeclampsia. I think every person and every pregnancy is different. I would just say, if it doesn't feel good to run, don't. If it does, than do! I would be especially careful of hot conditions. I jumped back into running two weeks after my baby was born (I was going stir crazy by that point) and didn't feel like I lost much fitness. Good luck to you.

Ang said...

I have no advice because I have yet to be pregnant and a runner at the same time. I started running after my last baby was born. But I did want to say welcome to another Washingtonian! I live on the other side of the mountains though.(Bellevue) And I'm moving to Utah in just a couple of months, but hey, for now we can represent Washington together!

Suzie Petunia said...

I would LOVE to see a serious and thorough study done on this topic. I've just seen so many women stay very active all the way to the end of their pregnancies and it was nothing but a huge benefit for their bodies and their babies. But of course I don't want to recommend "over doing it" if there is such a thing. We need a doctor and a definitive answer for all of our running mothers out there!

I understand your lack of motivation about running while pregnant. It sounds like you are very goal-driven. Looks like it is time to set different kinds of goals for this time while you are pregnant. Keep us posted!

JP said...

Wow...a lot of things I'd never thought of. Obviously, I've only just started my running adventure, but walking for me was even a challenge later in my pregnancies as my hips moved and changed so much with both pregnancies.

This is a very interesting topic, but one that I don't have any frame of reference. Good luck to whatever you decide.

marathon mom said...

I have run through this pregnancy- but before I ran one mile I made the promise to myself that I would stop when I felt I needed to and put my baby's needs first. So far I feel that has worked well for me. The day I found out I was pregnant I had run 20 miles, and 10 the day before. I was training for the Goofy Challenge in Disney (half and full marathon back to back days). I was in amazing shape (my expanding backside doesn't reflect it now, but I was). At that point, I could do 30 or 40 miles in a weekend as easy as blinking- after doing research I decided I would go to Florida and make my race distance decision there- and I ended up running both races. My times were not what I would have done not pregnant because I took it easy, ate more, drank more, and walked through the water stations. Since then I have run a 10K, 4 or 5 5Ks, a ten miler and 3 half marathons- all taking it easy compared to my non-pregnant running. Now I am finding myself a bit more tired at 26 weeks, so I don't do those distances now. I 100% listened to my body- I had the support of all of the doctors in my practice. The only reason I had the support was because of the shape I was in when I started and my determination to listen to my body and my willingness to stop or slow when necessary. I know that not everyone out there agrees with running while pregnant, but I did my research, consulted multiple doctors and was monitored by a very conservative practice throughout my running. When others ask me about running while pregnant, I give very strong advice about not increasing miles, listening to your body, and being monitored by an OB.

Anonymous said...

First off welcome! I am new also. I really have no advice on pregnancy and running..Sorry.

I never even knew women ran while pregnant (other than like 12 weeks or less) I feel huge at 22 weeks.. and with both pregnancies look like I am a least 30 weeks. I carry my babies up front. You can tell I am pregnant at 12 weeks!! It's terrible.

Good luck though!

Roxanne said...

Okay so I just wrote a huge reply and lost it due due to an error with the site. So here we go again...I am due in 4 weeks and ran up until 30 weeks. This was my first time trying to run through an entire pregnancy (I am on my fourth and I carry all out front...I am huge right now 44 1/2 inches). I noticed my breathing right away and just slowed down. I felt like I could get into a rythm that was not pushing my heart rate. I know this is because I was already in good running shape when I got pregnant (thus they always tell you not to pick up running as a new hobbie during pregnancy). I agree with many of the comments about listening to your body. I have noticed that everyone is so different. I have a friend who can run up to delivery with no pain or discomfort (she carries her babies more in her back). I on the other hand started felling some discomfort with my pubic bone and had to cut out long runs at 24 weeks...3 miles was my max up until 30 weeks. My body told me it was time to stop. I went into running during pregnancy as an open slate...taking it a day at a time. It was all unknown territory for me which required me to be flexible, which makes it hard to plan for any kind of race. Up to a point I felt so much better off due to running and staying active that it made the hard work so worth it. I wish you luck and would say just trust yourself. If you have a bad feeling or your body hurts then it is probably time to stop.

Anonymous said...

I don't know very many women at all who have run during pregnancy, but I do know two distance runners who ran during their pregnancies and both lost their babies at 5 months (they are not related, but coincidentally both lost their babies at 5 months).

My sample is too small to be statistically significant, but it was enough to convince me not to run during pregnancy. I did a good amount of walking and tried to remain active, but never felt it was worth it to subject my babies to any risk without better information.

I am not a physician, but have several in my extended family and have enough scientific training myself to know that the jury is still out on the safety of running in pregnancy.