As promised, your favorite pregnant runner is back with our second installment of What to Expect from Running when You’re Expecting. This time I’m here to tell you of all the wonderful, and perhaps not so wonderful, things you might experience while running during your second trimester.
While the first trimester was all about surviving fatigue, nausea, constipation and other fabulous hormonal effects, the second trimester is often a blissful three months of enjoying the attention that comes with being pregnant, while feeling pretty awesome. Enjoy it while you can, because then comes the third trimester. But I digress.
Weeks 14 – 17 (Feeling SO Much Better!)
This is when things get downright good! As a lean runner you might start showing already. This is nice when you’re passing people out on the trails. You’re almost cerrtainly slower than you were before you were pregnant, but you could definitely push the pace a bit now and then if you felt like it. Running is generally way more enjoyable now that the risk of miscarriage has plummeted and you’re likely feeling a whole heck of a lot better physically too.
What got in my way the most this month all three times was the beginning of my Braxton-Hicks contractions during about the middle of this month. During the 16th week of my first pregnancy I actually went in to see the midwives about them because they were freaking me out. The good news is that I seem to get them a bit stronger and earlier than most, so you might not even notice them until weeks or months later than me.
This pregnancy the BH contractions started about 15-16 weeks and were particularly bad on some of my runs in hotter weather. I had one run, that I particularly remember, at 17 weeks. It was an evening run and it was really hot. I got a contraction as I started out, which wasn’t unusual, but it would not let up! I ran a mile before resorting to walking. I was really worried about it. But I drank my handheld full of gatorade and within a few minutes I was fine. I just kept drinking and refilling my bottle. From then on, if it was over 70 I brought my handheld and drank throughout my runs. I realized I not only had to drink on runs during which I would never have thought to stop when not pregnant, but I had to drink A LOT! If I didn’t, I’d become very crampy even long after the run was over.
So, even if you are not noticing contractions, I would recommend drinking a lot more than you normally would when running, particularly in the heat. The pregnant body abhors dehydration and is also more heat sensitive. The other thing you will need to remember, even during the relative awesomeness of the second trimester, is that you will have an increased need for sleep that you’ll take with you throughout your pregnancy. This might cut into the time available for running.
It is worth mentioning that a lot of women have a hard time ramping the miles back up after having to cutback so much during the first trimester. Don’t beat yourself up about running way fewer miles per week than you had hoped you would before you got pregnant. Remember, it’s temporary! You’ll get the fire back again when you have your body back to yourself!
Weeks 18 – 22 (Halfway There!)
Now you’re probably really looking pregnant AND feeling great. These are the best weeks of pregnancy! If you’re finding out the gender, you’ll found out during this time which just adds to the awesomeness of this month. Plus, you’re halfway there!
I talked about the beginning of Braxton-Hicks above. Another issue with hydration is headaches. My second trimester fell squarely in the summer the first time and this third time and besides being hot it was often very sunny. Between the heat and the bright lights, I suffered from some severe headaches if I wasn’t careful. But once I started drinking much more heavily during my runs (water, silly!) and remembering my shades, I nipped this issue in the bud.
As for actual running, I made it 6 weeks or so running 45-50+ miles per week and felt pretty darn good! I capped off this period running my favorite race. It’s a local and competitive 5-miler put on by our area newspaper. Every year I’ve run it, my photo appeared in the paper the next day, 4 times as an age-group winner and, when I was pregnant the first time, a photo of me running in the middle of the pack. I thought for sure this would be the year I didn’t make the paper. I was wrong! Somehow, I ran a 36:21 and won my age group! Sure it wasn’t the most competitive year for 35 – 39 year olds, but heck, I’ll take it!
But like me, you might find you can still bust out some decent performances. I pushed myself in that race, but wasn’t close to redlining, and still far exceeded my expectations for myself. I will say, that I took it very easy for the few days after the race. I noticed that I needed a little extra time to recover from harder efforts while pregnant. The relaxin that allows your joints, etc. to stretch to make room for baby can do weird things to your hips, lower back and other joints, so it’s important to rest and recover as needed. This is NOT the time to get injured!
Weeks 22 – 26 (Mostly Feeling Good, but Very Pregnant!)
As you enter the last month of the second trimester you will likely still feel good most of the time. You might even have lofty ambitions to keep the miles up and maybe jump in a race or throw down a speedy mile here or there. But despite your best intentions, and sometimes much to your surprise, you’ll find you just can’t do what you want to do. I went to a family reunion during this month of my pregnancy. I had babysitters aplenty and a beautiful new place to explore, but with all the other activities of the week I was way too pooped to run anywhere close to the miles I had hoped. I also realized around this time that I could no longer do things like work at our farmers market stand for 3-4 hours shilling veggies on my feet and also run in the same day. If I overdid it one day, I’d pay the next day. I’d feel heavy and exhausted and sluggy.
That being said, when I did have the energy and the time, I was able to get in some good milage and some good runs. I ran my longest training run of this pregnancy at 25.5 weeks: 13.58 miles in about 2 hours and felt really good. During the last week of the second trimester, I had an opportunity to hit up the track with my teammates and I took it! It was mile time trial week so I thought it might be fun to see what I can do. Much to my surprise I ran a 6:32 and was even able to do the rest of the workout with the group!
I’d sum up my discussion of the second trimester with the advice to not fear a little ambition as far as running goes, but also to expect the need for extra recovery time. Also, know that when you’re non-running life demands more out of you than normal, you might have to shelf the plans to run. And as always, listen to your body!
What was your experience running through the second trimester? Were you able to do as much as you wanted to? Do you have any questions or concerns about running during the second trimester?