1st Trimester: What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting

Salty

Salty

Salty has written 339 posts on Salty Running.

Mommy, lawyer, runner, writer. Competitive runner working on coming back after baby #3. Legal career on hiatus while staying home with the kids (ages 5, 4 and 1.5). Salty Running boss.

As I write this I’m just weeks away from delivering my third child. I’ve run through all of my pregnancies to varying degrees and because I know how hard it can be to find reliable information on running while pregnant I want to share with you what I’ve learned over the 26 months of my pregnancies.

So today I bring you the first of three installments of my guide to running while pregnant. This post chronicles the first trimester and tells you what you might experience with your running during that period.

Because every woman’s pregnancy experience is different, I know I can’t cover everything and might miss something important to you. I encourage you to ask questions and offer suggestions for other topics to cover. And as always, if you experienced something different or disagree let us know that too!

Now on to The First Trimester!

Weeks 1 – 4 (Blissful Ignorance)

3 weeks pregnant with my second and on my way to winning a marathon, albeit with a much slower time than I expected!

The first two weeks, you’re technically not pregnant. You are getting ready to ovulate and then ovulating. But around 2 weeks in, fertilization occurs and the little zygote starts burrowing into the uterine lining and starts to release some exciting hormones. You probably won’t notice anything different, unless perhaps you race or do a really hard effort during this time.

I ran a marathon when I was unknowingly 3 weeks pregnant with my second child. I could not for the life of me understand why I was running so much slower than the pace felt. I thought for sure I was running around 7:15, but was running more like 7:30+ over the last 10 miles.  When I was about 4 weeks pregnant this time, I did a speed workout and my lungs burned at a pace that should have been more than doable. I thought I was just out of shape from taking time off to nurse an injury. I was wrong!

Once implantation occurs, those hormones trigger your body to make more blood, which in turn taxes your cardiovascular system more than normal. But it’s a subtle difference in those early weeks and probably only detectable when we’re really pushing ourselves.

My training logs for my first month of my 3rd pregnancy:

Week 3

Week 4

Weeks 5-9 (OMG! I’m Gonna Die!)

You might not look that pregnant at 7 weeks, but if you’re like me you’ll sure feel pregnant!

This is when the fun really starts! At 5 weeks you might feel a little extra breathless on the run – it might be hard to hold a conversation with your running buddies as you huff and puff.

If you are one of the lucky ones who experiences morning sickness, (which is in reality all day and night sickness), it will likely hit you between weeks 6 and 8. If you make it to week 8 and still feel pretty good, consider yourself one lucky lady! Morning sickness is no joke. Besides the constant nausea and bizarre food aversions (I seriously ate next to no fruits or vegetables for 3 weeks this time. Gross!) you might also suffer from very severe exhaustion.

While the baby is a mere speck at this point, the hormones are wreaking havoc on your body.Your body could probably run pretty close to your PRs right now, if somehow you felt like doing it. But it is really hard to muster up the energy to get out of bed, let alone get out the door for a run, let alone run hard!

And there’s something else that makes running difficult during these weeks:  you might be experiencing anxiety about miscarriage or something going wrong with the pregnancy. It can feel scary to push yourself physically when you know such a fragile process is going on inside your body, and it’s hard to justify that track workout when the speck inside you is so dependent on you taking care of yourself.  No matter what any doctor or book says, no matter how many friends-of-friends ran 10k prs at 6 weeks pregnant or continued to run megamiles, it’s all different when it’s your health and the health of your baby at stake.

For me, all physical signals said STOP. LAY IN BED! And it was hard to ignore them with motherhood on the line.  That being said, all scientific evidence points to exercise as being not only not harmful to the developing embryo, but also downright good for both of you.

Every day is different. One day you might not be able to get out of bed and the next you might feel like busting out a track workout. Take each day for what it brings you and roll with it!

How much you do during these weeks is up to you and your doctor. You needn’t worry about overheating (unless you’re running in some crazy hot weather) or how high your heart rate is. The main thing is to stay hydrated and stay within an effort level that feels comfortable. That doesn’t mean you have to run easy 24/7, but when you do push it you probably want to avoid running so hard you get out of breath, nauseous or need to bend over with your hands on your knees after intervals. I felt good keeping things at about a tempo effort when I did workouts and races during this time and throughout my pregnancy. I did several track workouts during the first trimester and was about 1:00/mile slower on 800’s, etc. and I also felt like 2 – 2.5 miles of intervals was about all I could handle, when I usually did 3 – 5 miles of intervals when not pregnant.

Especially during this month, every day is different. One day you might not be able to get out of bed and the  next you might feel like busting out a track workout in between going to work and cleaning the house. It’s weird how bad one day can be and the next day is not so bad. Take each day for what it brings you and roll with it!

My training logs for my second month of my 3rd pregnancy:

Week 5 (no log, but according to daily mile I ran 50 miles before finding out I was pregnant at the end of the week!)

Week 6 (no log again, but managed 47 miles)

Week 7 (no log. Fell off the cliff: 35 miles)

Week 8

Week 9

Weeks 10 – 13 (Feeling Alive Again)

Getting ready to head out for a 5k while 10.5 weeks pregnant with my third. I ran 20:47, 2:32 slower than my PR but it felt good and I was happy with it.

As the first trimester winds down you will one day feel sudden relief from the morning sickness and the fatigue. For me, I typically felt one level better around 10 weeks. During this pregnancy I had a horrible puke-filled day at 10w3d, but on 10w4d I felt good enough for a 4th place finish in a local 5k and haven’t puked since.

By week 12, I felt good enough to start running a little more all three times. This third time I ramped all the way back up to 45-50 miles per week around week 13 and held steady until about 20 weeks! Also, the risk of miscarriage goes way down once a heartbeat is detected after 10 weeks. As a result, your anxiety will probably ease up and make running more enjoyable in that regard as well.

This is the beginning of the good times of the pregnancy when running usually feels pretty great.

My training logs for my third month of my 3rd pregnancy:

Week 10

Week 11

Week 12

Week 13

 

Want more? Read our 2nd Trimester: What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting

What was your experience running through the first trimester? Did you experience morning sickness? Do you have any questions or concerns about running during the first trimester?

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24 Responses to “1st Trimester: What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting”

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  1. Marie says:

    GREAT article! I love that you are bringing attention to this topic as there isn’t a lot of good information out there about it. I ran during both of my pregnancies, and I feel very passionately about doing the best you can to stay active during pregnancy. I was fortunate to have healthy pregnancies and get the green light from my doctor to continue running. I believe that it helped me to feel good during pregnancy and get back into running fairly easily afterwards.

    I had similar experience during my first trimester. I remember going out for a 10 mile run before I knew I was pregnant with my first and just feeling sluggish for no good reason. When I found out I was pregnant it all made sense. I had bad morning sickness both pregnancies, so running during the first trimester was difficult. What I did find though was that I generally felt better while I was running – the key was that I just had to motivate myself to get going. It also helped me to drink water every mile (not something I usually do, but I found more frequent small drinks worked better). My morning sickness subsided around 11 weeks, so I was able to return to a somewhat normal running schedule at that point.

    I can’t wait to read the other installments of this article!! One other topic that is specifically of interest to me is breastfeeding and running. There isn’t a lot of information out there on this either, and I’ve especially found it challenging to try to fit in long runs while nursing my six month-old.

    And how awesome is it that you are able to say that you WON a marathon while you were pregnant?! Amazing.

    • Salty Salty says:

      Thanks, Marie! That’s such a good point about how, even on the worst morning sickness days, you feel remarkably better once up and running. And we’ll be getting to breastfeeding! My friends all think I’m a hippie because I’ve nursed both of my kids until 2 years old, but after all that experience I like to think I know at least something about training and nursing :) Thanks again!!!

  2. Rosemary says:

    Love this article and all the pics!

  3. Mel says:

    This is a great article, but I must ask a personal question. How the hell did you manage to get a monthly period while training for marathons? I’ve been running marathons for the past 5 years, at a respectable pace (3:32 marathon), though not as fast as yours, and I did not have a monthly cycle for 3 1/2 years. I had to recently give up running in order to try to conceive, per my doctor’s orders; my body simply would not produce a cycle. Only now in the past few months have I started to get cycles again. I’m just perplexed, because this is often the case for women who log many miles, and your definitely meet that qualification.

    • Salty Salty says:

      Everyone is different in what their bodies will tolerate before shutting down the reproductive system. It might be the training or you could have some other underlying menstrual/ovulatory disfunction, so it’s really hard to say. I have never lost my period from training, even running as many as 80-90 high quality miles in a week. I will say that I have signs of a luteal phase deficiency during peak training – my cycles get shorter and I have intermittent spotting after ovulation, but I’ve never stopped ovulating or menstruating from training. In fact, I was running 50 miles a week and nursing my infant and got my period back at 3.5 months post-partum! UGH! My cycle seems to be pretty hardy :) I will say that all three times I’ve gotten pregnant, I was 1) in a down-phase from training and running minimal mileage; 2) tapering or 3) injured and not running. I was up 3-7 pounds from my low “race weight” all three times and I’d bet it’s not a coincidence.

      Anyway, this is just my experience. I think not getting a period is the exception and not the rule. I haven’t done a formal survey, but just based on my training partners and friends I know very few people (if any, actually!) who do not get their period even running 100+ mile weeks. Something’s going on in your body that either makes it very sensitive to your energy output or there’s something else going on. We’ve written about amenorrhea here: http://www.saltyrunning.com/2012/08/27/completing-the-female-athlete-triad-spotlight-on-amenorrhea/

      We definitely plan to post a series on training and trying to conceive as it’s a really tricky subject. There’s not a lot of good information out there and it seems like when a woman is having trouble conceiving and she’s a runner, the running is almost always blamed. However, it might not be the running at all! Clove wrote about this a bit here: http://www.saltyrunning.com/2012/05/31/stroller-jealousy-the-life-of-the-infertile-runner/

      I wish you all the best on your TTC journey and do hope you’ll keep us updated! Thanks so much for the great question!!!!

      • Melissa says:

        Thank you so much for your response, as well as the links to the other blog posts.

        I’ve been to a few doctors and fortunately my hormones check out normal, but as you suggested, my body uses a ton of energy when I run; thus, resulting in a cycle shut down. I have to admit, it’s great not having a cycle when I’m training for marathons, however, I realized there are some downsides to it. I am taking a year long break from running (*sigh*) and put on 10 pounds (*double sigh*), but oddly enough, I’m happy to have Aunt Flo again (though I forgot how incredibly annoying and painful they were). As you also noted, I now noticed that I have a one week long luteal phase, which is also a problem. It’s all about tweaking things at this point.

        I really miss running, but have substitute it with other things, like elliptical and weight training.

        We’re giving it one year, and then will give up. If it’s meant to be, then it will happen, if not, then so be it. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Thanks again!!

  4. Ginkgo Ginkgo says:

    Hi Salty! Thanks so much for posting about this. My oldest sister had a miscarriage a few years ago and the doctor restricted her from running when she got pregnant the second time. This time, the result was a healthy, happy baby girl – Mollie! It’s hard to say if running contributed to the miscarriage or if the body just didn’t take, but I think this is a very pertinent topic among female runners! I’m thinking of you as you get SO close to delivering the babe!!!

    • Salty Salty says:

      From what I understand, almost all miscarriages have nothing to do with what a mother does. They’re usually something that will happen no matter what the mother does – e.g. something happened when cells were dividing, chromosomal abnormalities, etc. At the same time, as I said in the post, I think once you go through a miscarriage or anything that reminds you of how fragile the process of making a baby is it’s really hard to do anything that might even have an extremely remote chance of jeopardizing the pregnancy. It’s easy to say running won’t have any affect on the pregnancy, but another to actually go out and do it when we’re worried about the pregnancy! I am so glad your sister had a healthy baby!!!

  5. Lisa says:

    Great article. Your attention to detail is terrific. I only started running 6 months ago, and now I’m 5 weeks pregnant. The week by week breakdown is seriously comforting. Thanks again!

  6. Liz says:

    Thank you for posting this information . I have just found out I am pregnant again after a miscarriage this past Jan and plan on continuing to run albeit at a relaxed pace. There is scant info out there from actual runners who have trained throughout their pregnancy. Like you said running does not cause a miscarriage. It is usually caused by genetic abnormalities which you have no control over. Sometimes there are maternal blood clotting issues or immunity problems but please don’t think it can be cause by running and listening to your body.

  7. Kim says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am 4 weeks pregnant and was planning to run a half-marathon at about 10 weeks. One of the few people I have told is super anti-exercise and is making me second guess myself. Running feels really great right now, and I am enjoying running while I can extra because I know I will have to stop at some point. I guess I will just keep listening to my body and see what insight it has instead of captain anti-exercise.

  8. Natalia says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for your experience with running during pregnancy. I am 11 weeks today and still worry so much that I have not been running regularly :( too hard when working all day then the dreaded afternoon evening sickness kicks in. I was wondering about your thoughts on not letting your heart rate get above 140 during exercise? Everything I read says to keep it below 140. This seems crazy as I am running at such a slow pace to keep it under. Just wondering how you monitored your heart rate, or if you did at all?
    Thank you :)

    • Great question! The 140 bpm limit is old news. Most obs recommend going by effort. If it feels easy, then it’s fine. You can even do moderate intensity from time to time like a moderate uptempo run. I sometimes did a faster mile here or there and even did some track workouts during my last pregnancy. I also raced a few times. I wrote about racing while pregnant and this post talks about running at a higher intensity than easy during pregnancy and might be helpful to you to feel better about disregarding the 140 bpm nonsense. http://www.saltyrunning.com/2012/05/10/racing-while-pregnant/

      Anyway, congrats! Keep us posted on how things go!

  9. Natalia says:

    Thank you for your prompt response :) I think I am going to go with my gut from now on, if I feel that I am pushing too hard I will back off. I am worried that I may have already lost some of my fitness from not exercising regularly and not running my normal pace for the past 6 weeks due to the sickness and fatigue :( but I will see how I go I guess. Thank you again :)

  10. Danielle says:

    love the site. Planning to run in the broad street 10mile in Philadelphia May 4th. I will be around 9 wks. My only concern which I have already spoken to my ob about is has anyone felt more lightheaded or faint due to the workouts more the day after a longer run?

  11. Amy says:

    Question: I’m 11 weeks and just started feeling like getting back into a running routine again! However, my group runs at 5:30am just aren’t happening since I’m so exhausted! So I started running. Pushing my twin 4 year olds and am feeling great! I missed running! All was well until I took my temp after today’s run- (72 degrees and beautiful at the start of 3 miles) it was 101! I freaked and it took all my running joy away! Did you track your temps while you were pregnant? When do I start worrying – it’s just going to get hotter! Is it possible is overdid it without feeling it?

  12. Love this post! I’m 8 weeks pregnant with my second and feel a bit of relief knowing that I’m not the only one who feels like I’m going to die in this first trimester! It’s been a rough week, but I’ve been feeling much better as of yesterday and more hopeful to increase my mileage again or at least my pace! I’ve kept running through these rough weeks, but they are “survival” miles rather than enjoyable miles :)

    I raced a half marathon at 4 weeks pregnant with this baby, in my blissful ignorance phase. I gave that race all I could, yet I finished a few minutes short of my goal time – then I found out we were pregnant. Growing a baby sure takes it out of your body!!!

    Amy @ http://www.livinglifetruth.com/

  13. Ashley says:

    I am an a competitive marathon runner as well. I was 5 weeks pregnant and I was told by my doctor that I didn’t need to do anything differently in regards to running as long as I listen to my body and felt ok. However, I ran 10 miles this past weekend and felt ok during the run, but as soon as I got back home I experienced bad cramping and bleeding and I miscarried. I am not sure if it had to do with the run, but since it happened right when I got done with a longer run, it seemed like it may have contributed. I don’t think I will be running more than about 5-6 miles in my first trimester if I get pregnant again.

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