Like any major life decision, deciding when to become pregnant can be difficult. Besides the fact that timing it perfectly isn’t always possible, there never seems like an ideal time. This is true even if you know it’s something you really want and even if, on paper, it seems like the logical next step in your life. But unlike other life-altering events, such as moving, changing jobs, or getting married, pregnancy doesn’t just change your life, it literally physically changes you.
For a runner, even one who’s not a pro, this can be a scary prospect. A pregnancy doesn’t mean the end of your running career, but it certainly will disrupt it and likely leave you fearful you’ll never get it back. How will your body respond to trading in your abs for a basketball with a side of spare tire? Will you ever regain your speed? And will you be able to train and be an effective parent?
Obviously, there are many other factors that you will consider before trying to start a family. But if running is a big part of your life and being a runner is how you define yourself, considering pregnancy’s impact on all that is going to a big one.
I decided I was ready to try to have a baby after the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. Even though I did not have a chance at actually making the Olympic team, this was a huge race for me, the culmination of years of training. I knew for a long time beforehand that I wanted to have a family, but I intentionally waited to try until after this race. Yet when the Trials came and went and it was time to actually go for it, part of me still had doubts. I was in the best shape of my life and running PRs and a part of me wanted to continue racing and running PRs. I ultimately stuck with my life plan. Truly, there never is a perfect time, after all. I reminded myself there would be more races waiting on the calendar and that many runners before me had babies and regained their fitness. Fortunately, this turned out to be true for me too.
I’ll admit I dealt with some self-identity issues the first time I became pregnant. Though I looked forward to becoming a mom, being runner, a competitive runner, was such a big part of me, that I felt like I was becoming an entirely different person. However, timing my pregnancies around running helped ease the adjustment from athlete to mom-to-be.
If you want to time your pregnancy around your running schedule, here are a few recommendations. Of course just because you’re ready doesn’t mean you will get pregnant exactly when you want to. Although I have been very fortunate in this regard, it isn’t true for everyone. Your family-starting plans might not go the way you expect or hope. However, even with that in mind, many women can and do time their pregnancies and it’s ok to consider your running when making those plans.
Time a Try After a Big Race
Professional runners often try to time their pregnancies around the Olympic or World Championship schedule. For the rest of us, many of us time our pregnancies around a marathon or other big race. This works well because it allows us to have a final hurrah before a year long break. That break is slightly longer than the break you’d take otherwise, but a year off from hard training and worrying about PRs can be refreshing and give you a new goal to focus on! It’s no coincidence that I had a baby roughly nine months after the 2012 Olympic Trials and that my third is due about nine months after the 2016 Trials!
Time a Try During an Injury Lay-off
If you become injured, take advantage of this down time when you won’t be running anyway, and then the recovery time to ease back into running when you may not feel great during early pregnancy. New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith had a baby last year, planning her pregnancy when she had major foot surgery.
Time it So You Can Avoid Training During a Rough Time of Year
Not a warm weather runner? Try to get pregnant and switch to swimming instead during the hot summer months. Don’t like running in the winter? Might be a good time to snuggle in with a newborn while you recovery from labor and delivery.
Pregnancy doesn’t have to be the end of your running career even if you’re not a pro. You can run during your pregnancy and even if you do take a break from it, it’s always there when you’re ready to come back and start racing again. Plus, afterwards you’ll have an extra fan to cheer you along!
What about you? Did or will running factor into your decision to start trying to get pregnant?