Monday, November 23, 2015

Running and Exercising in the 3rd Trimester

Before I talk about running in the 3rd trimester, I need to give a recap of my running during the 1st and 2nd trimester.

From the beginning, it was my goal to run as far into the pregnancy as I was able.  This involved listening to my body at every stage and not doing anything stupid with something to prove!  As early as 5-6 weeks (before anyone even knew I was pregnant), my pace started to slow. I did some online research and found out that as blood volume increases during pregnancy, the heart  begins to work harder.  The extra strain on the cardiovascular system affects exercise.  It would take a much higher level of exertion to match my pre-pregnancy results.  Once I understood this, I felt the pressure melt away.  I determined to run for pleasure and health, not speed or results.

During the first trimester, I found that running every day, or almost every day, curbed my morning sickness.  I averaged about 25 miles a week.  I continued that routine through the 2nd trimester because it felt good to run, not always while I was running but always afterward! It kept my energy level up, controlled weight gain, and inspired me to eat healthier.  I ran a 5K during the 2nd trimester, too. 

Enter the 3rd trimester...

Two weeks ago, I was out for a Saturday morning run, and all I wanted to do was quit.  My motivation was a zero (well, maybe a two since I was putting in the effort), and I started getting a sharp pulling pain on the underside of my belly.  It continued to get sharper until I had to slow to a walk.  After it eased, I started running again with renewed energy and completed the run at a faster pace that normal.  That day was a turning point, though.  I knew that my body was requiring changes for the third trimester. 

I am focusing on three areas: routine, fueling, and belly support.

Brian suggested that I run fewer days to give my body a chance to recover, mentally and physically.   I'm loosely following this Exercising Through Pregnancy chart.  On the 3 days when it recommends 20-30 minutes of cardio, I still run 4 miles (which takes me considerable longer than 30 minutes!).  I also run every Saturday instead of the prescribed exercises. The remaining 2 days, I work through the suggested exercises (which take about 10 minutes) and then do portions of  Tracy Anderson: The Pregnancy Project.  Every Sunday, I rest completely.

Fueling:  I consistently eat something before exercise every morning, even if I don't feel hungry.  I keep a batch of granola energy balls in the refrigerator. (I make mine about the size of a ping pong ball and each batch yields at least 2 dozen.) The combination of oats, peanut butter, unsweetened coconut, honey, and ground flax seed gives me a needed energy kick without over-filling my stomach.  I prefer to leave out the chocolate and double the cinnamon for best flavor. I also drink 6-8 ounces of water before exercise.  If I drink more, my bladder rebels.

Belly Support:  The under-belly pain is a result of my growing tummy and the ligaments straining to support it.  Now when I run, I wear a maternity belly support belt.  (This is the same belt that professional runner Paula Radcliffe wore while running during her pregnancy.)  The belt supports the extra weight in front and keeps my belly from shifting back and forth while I'm moving. The lift is just enough to keep my belly up off of my bladder, too.  I feel a noticeable difference on days I wear the belt, evidenced by the pain I felt when I forgot to wear it during one run last week.

With about nine weeks to go in this pregnancy, I'm listening to my body and hopeful that I can keep active until Baby is born!

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