Running while Pregnant + Postpartum
8 May 2020
Interview with Ellen Cline, Marathoner & Mother of Three
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your history with running? When did you get started? You have three beautiful children. Did you train through all three pregnancies?
Hi! My name is Ellen. I live in the Denver Metro area with my family. I have a 4 year old, 2 year old, and 3 month old. I started running in 2010. I was not an athlete growing up and am not a natural born runner. Over the last decade I've completed a dozen half marathons and I finished my first full marathon last year. I ran throughout all three of my pregnancies, which totals somewhere around 1,300 miles. I also love running with my kids in the stroller!
Running While Pregnant:
In your experience, what benefits did running provide during pregnancy?
I found running to be very beneficial to my physical and mental health when I was pregnant. Running always gave me a boost of energy during the day and helped me sleep better at night! I felt less achy when I ran too. It was a mood booster as well. I also used it as a little bit of mental and physical training for labor which is definitely an exercise in endurance!
What differences (emotional/physical) did you notice within your First Trimester? Second? Third? And, how did you adapt your training? Racing?
Doing anything during the first trimester is hard, especially running! You feel exhausted and sick and the last thing you want to do is run. I found that when I was able to get out for a run, it helped with both the fatigue and the nausea! Throughout my pregnancies I made sure to not push myself too hard. I focused less on paces and more on effort. I tried to keep a conversational pace for most of my runs. I've run a few 5ks while pregnant and then during my last pregnancy, I actually completed a half marathon at 16 weeks pregnant. Of course, I wasn't "racing" or going for any sort of PR. Finishing with a smile was always my goal and I'm proud to say I did that!
Did you find any discomfort while running? Is there anything you did to ease this discomfort?
Starting in the 2nd trimester, I would get ligament pain during/after my runs if I over did it. Wearing a support belt during my runs helped with that a ton! The extra support for the belly and low back helped keep me from being sore later. I also would walk anytime I felt like I needed a break. During my third trimester, I walked about a quarter mile for every mile I ran. Even if I was feeling great, I made sure do keep those walk breaks so I wouldn't overdo it and be sore later. My doctor was a great support and empowered me to feel like I could run while I was pregnant. She encouraged me to do only what felt good. If anything hurt or was uncomfortable, I would stop.
What did you learn about your fueling and hydration needs exercising while pregnant?
Staying hydrated was a priority for me! I have a big water bottle that I kept with me all day. I would make sure I drank at least 80-100 ounces of water each day even if I didn't run that day. During my runs I would carry my handheld water bottle. I made sure to drink most of that water bottle during my workout to make sure I wasn't going to be dehydrated. After, I would drink an electrolyte drink too. This also helped keep away any leg cramps that sometimes plague pregnant women. Another thing that changed when I was pregnant was that I couldn't go on a morning run fasted. I HAD to eat something before, otherwise I would struggle. My go-to breakfast before my morning runs was peanut butter toast and a banana.
In your experience, what was the greatest challenge of running while pregnant?
For me, it was always a challenge to watch my paces slow and my mileage drop. I felt this especially hard with my last pregnancy. A few months before getting pregnant, I finished my first full marathon. I was in the best shape of my life with a level of fitness that I had never been at before. I had to continually remind myself that it was just a short season and that I would be able to return to the level of fitness I was at pre-pregnancy.
Postpartum, how long did it take for you to recover and get back out the door to run? Any differences between pregnancies?
I have always waited at least the recommended 6 weeks after delivery before I ran. This was true after my c-section with my first child as well as my VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) deliveries with my 2nd and 3rd. Once I was cleared by my doctor at 6 weeks, I started out with some walk/runs. That was when I personally felt ready to get back out there. I never felt like I was in a rush.
Were you given any exercises to help with your transition back? Do you have any tips for those who may need them?
No! Not from my doctor. Can you believe that? After the birth of my second child, I went to a pelvic floor physical therapist to learn certain breathing techniques and exercises to help transition back to running safely. It was very helpful. With my last delivery, I was prepared with some gentle pelvic floor exercises that were safe to do right after delivery. I'd encourage all women to see a pelvic floor PT, especially postpartum. Give yourself the time to take it easy, enjoy your baby, and transition back to running slowly.
Were there any surprises you encountered?
Postpartum, my mindset around running shifted. Running isn't just a workout anymore. It's quiet time to myself, and all mothers know that's hard to come by! I'm able to appreciate and find joy in every mile now.
If you could tell a woman in your situation one thing, what would it be? What did you learn that maybe no one told you?
You are stronger than you think you are! There is a mental and physical toughness that comes along with pregnancy and motherhood. You watch your body go through this incredible journey over the course of a year and you learn just how strong you can be! You feel like a bit of a superhero.