In my 1st trimester post I discussed the finer points of morning sickness, extreme exhaustion and adapting to running during pregnancy. In the second trimester post I talked about how relatively great you’ll feel. As I finish writing this last installment about the third trimester I’m 39.5 weeks pregnant … and feel like it! And what does that feel like? Read on!
Weeks 27 – 30 (Large, but Still in Charge)
At the beginning of the third trimester, if you’ve run pretty consistently from the beginning of your pregnancy you’re probably still feeling pretty good when running. Hopefully you might be one of the lucky few who manages to squeeze in a run on her babe’s birth day.
But by this, the seventh month of your pregnancy, things start changing fast. Your baby is growing like crazy now, getting bigger and bigger by the day. As the baby starts her rapid growth spurt your energy levels might head south. It might get harder to get out of bed early for your morning run dates and it might become more difficult to muster up the energy to run when you have lots of other things going on during the same day. I found I had to scrap my plans for running on days I worked at the farmer’s market or went to the zoo with the kids or other things like that. On top of that the weight gain, and effects from the hormone relaxin might start making runs less comfortable. You may also feel weird achiness in your hips, groin and feet, or notice your calves and shins burn more at the start of your runs. There may be stabbing pains in your belly caused by the strain of the weight of the baby and your growing uterus on your round ligaments…joy!
But in general, the first month of the third trimester, I bet you still feel pretty darn good – pretty much the same as most of the second trimester. I was able to keep up with one longer run a week (10-13+ miles) most of this month. I noticed my pace declining a bit, but it wasn’t particularly drastic. I still enjoyed running a lot and although I didn’t have quite the energy I did during the second trimester and couldn’t get back to 40-50+ miles per week, I was able to run 30+ miles each week during this month.
My training logs for the 7th month of my 3rd pregnancy:
Weeks 31 – 35 (Waddling On)
This is the month when things start going south for many pregnant runners. You’ve put on a lot of weight and so has baby. Your round ligaments might be overtaxed, you might have problems with blood flow from the internal pressure of the baby and running might start to feel no fun. The key to enjoying running in your third trimester is to be consistent with running throughout your pregnancy.
Caveat: every pregnancy is different and even running consistently throughout most of your pregnancy does not mean you’ll be able to run to the end. There are so many variables that can affect how running feels and how running affects the health of your pregnancy that are (largely) out of your control: weight gain; how the baby sits in your uterus, etc. You may need to cut back, stop running and switch to a lower impact workout routine or quit working out all together. And don’t feel bad about it! Cut yourself some slack–you’re not a wuss, you’re smart!
That doesn’t mean making the call to stop running is easy–it never is–but you won’t be alone. I quit running at 33 weeks with my first. After anchoring a 5-person all pregnant lady relay at the Akron Marathon in 2008 at 31 weeks pregnant (I ran an 8 mile leg!) I had a hard time continuing with running. The blood flow in my legs seemed impaired and my shins would burn when I ran after about 32 weeks. I couldn’t take it anymore and switched to the elliptical and walking for the rest of my pregnancy. During my second pregnancy I managed to keep up about 10-15 miles per week through this month, but with a lot of walk breaks. This time I managed 20-30 most weeks, even running 30 miles during my 35th week capped off with a 2nd place finish in a local 5k! I think the difference was that this time I’ve run more throughout the whole pregnancy and I’ve gained about 7-10 less lbs. than the other two times (mostly due to being so sick during the first trimester!!)
The other very very serious issue you will likely encounter if you’re still running during your 8th month of pregnancy is finding running clothes that fit and make you feel good about the way you look. If you’re looking for a maternity running outfit or two, I highly recommend For Two Fitness. It’s nice to have at least one outfit that fits and that you feel looks good.
To fill in the wardrobe gaps, improvise! Luckily, I was able to wear most of my running shorts through the 8th month. I rolled down the top and wore them under my belly. After about 34 weeks or so I switched to mostly spandex – longer boy shorts and capris. I also bit the bullet and bought some larger-sized looser cut running shorts after I had my daughter that I found super cheap and wear those frequently as well. Shirts are harder. These last couple of months I’ve been mostly wearing my husband’s tech t-shirts. They’re men’s size large and cover everything and the loose fit feels good. I roll up the sleeves and I’m good to go. Lastly, this is a great time to wear those race shirts you got when you showed up late to packet pick-up and only XL was left! If you don’t have any of those look for men’s tech shirts on clearance at your local running store to save.
My training logs for the 8th month of my 3rd pregnancy:
Weeks 36 – 42 (Tapering for Birth)
Now this is where things get really interesting. Your body is likely gearing up to deliver your baby and all kinds of weird things start happening. You might experience a return of nausea along with your frequent heartburn and many many more aches and pains. Common complaints are calf cramps and cramps or pain near your groin or inner thighs and low backaches. That’s for all pregnant women, not just those continuing to run!
Most women, even the most hardcore runners, have a hard time keeping up the running routine once they venture into the 9th month. And those that do most often have to scale back significantly. The main thing that limits us at this point is our energy level. Our bodies want us to conserve some energy for the big birthday, so they will really let us have it if we overdo it now! Also, the relaxin, the hormone that allows your joints to expand to allow for the delivery of your baby, will likely make your hips and other joints feel particularly wonky when running. This can range from not bugging you at all to causing severe hip, groin or lower back pain. If running is causing you pain in these joints it’s probably time to switch to walking, swimming or some other lower impact exercise. The other main limiting factors are having to pee frequently and more frequent and uncomfortable Braxton-Hicks contractions brought on by exercise. Basically, everything and anything that’s been bugging you for the past few months is magnified in the 9th month.
Another thing that needs to be discussed is the attention a 9 month pregnant woman gets when she runs! On one hand it’s nice when people tell you how inspiring you are. That always makes me happy. But the side-eye and the guffaws and the whispers behind your back can be rough when all you really want to do is get your run in in peace. There is no sneaking into the gym or anonymously running through your neighborhood or favorite park. I often joke that I’m the local circus freak because every time I run I attract so much attention and curiosity. I’m “that crazy pregnant runner lady” everywhere I go. It’s worth the minor discomfort I feel of drawing so much attention to myself to stay in shape and continue doing what I love and what makes me feel good.
Lastly, I’ve found to continue running comfortably I’ve needed to add in walk breaks periodically, especially the last weeks of the ninth month. A walk break here or a walk break there is often just enough to allow me to get through a run without needing to take a pee break or deal with annoying round ligament pain. For example, during the 38th week I began alternating a moderate walk for 2:00 with a run for 3:00 and this allowed me to get in an hour workout without hurting, straining or needing to find a bathroom. And I still managed to break 5 miles for the hour each time I did this. I can usually go longer without breaks outside, but I still take them. Also, there have been times when I’ve had to quit my planned run early or that I stayed home and didn’t head out because I was too tired. That’s life in the 9th month! It’s very day-to-day.
My training logs for the 9th month of my 3rd pregnancy:
Have you run through your third trimester? Tell us about your experience. Are you pregnant and running now? Do you have any questions or concerns about running in the third trimester? Anything we missed?