12 Ways Running Trained Me for Pregnancy

Even though I’m not running much these days, I’m a runner at heart. I still find a way to relate running to life. As I progress through this pregnancy, I find myself noticing more and more how similar pregnancy is to training for a race. I know Parsley covered the marathon versus birth debate and Caraway just made fun of comparing marathons to birth on Friday, but too bad. It’s so true! And it goes so much further than wanting to eat everything and being tired all of the time.

So while I’m taking a break from training myself, and as my friends ramp up their own, we still have so much we can commiserate and laugh about with each other. Here’s my list of twelve ways that pregnancy is just like training for a race.

Dietary Changes

The most obvious similarity, it’s far more than just the quantity aspect of your diet that shifts. As athletes we do eat more during training, sometimes at odd hours, and I’ve certainly had my share of weird cravings mid long run. There is also the point in marathon training and pregnancy that what you eat changes just as much as how much you are eating. You find foods that don’t sit well and foods that always work and you even sometimes completely abstain from things like alcohol and other foods that could be detrimental to the baby or your training.

Body Changes

A changing body is certainly something we see and feel as both pregnancy and training process goes on. Granted, your changing shape goes in different directions, but your body is still doing something amazing in each instance. During training you start hitting paces and doing things you never thought you could do. During pregnancy you start doing unimaginable things as well, particularly amplified when you can feel and SEE those changes moving around inside of you. Late at night, you may wake up after a hard workout from muscle twitches, and in pregnancy you wake up when your daughter thinks your cervix is a trampoline. Muscle cramps and fatigue are very common signs of both training and pregnancy; your body is doing a LOT of work and you will feel it accordingly!

Mood Changes

Whether it’s hunger, fatigue, bad training week blues, or post-race blues, we get moody during training. During pregnancy, you may get moody from the hunger and fatigue or, afterward,  even the postpartum blues. You might also find yourself crying on the couch for no reason, #thankshormones, thankfully all of the above pass in time.

Mind Consuming

Both training and pregnancy are incredibly all-consuming. I’m not just talking about the time, but how much they consume our lives and our thoughts. In the midst of marathon training, you make many if not all of your decisions with that in mind. Pregnancy is no different. Non-runners often think all runners do is run because of the way they talk during training. During pregnancy I have found it hard to go long without thinking about, and hence talking about, something regarding the baby, pregnancy, or the impending labor. This probably elicits the same eye rolls from people that I get when I go on marathon training topic tangents.

Planning Required

Marathons and babies require a lot of planning on your part. Long runs, workouts, races, taper, cutback weeks, avoiding crazy adventures at certain times, avoiding late night social events the nights before big runs and races, even down to your race plan for the big day; the list could go on and on. Pregnancy is filled with scheduling doctors appointments, more doctors appointments, baby showers, ultrasounds, doctors appointments, no big plans in the month before the “big event” and of course the birth plan for the big day. In training we make scheduling choices around our running and bathroom schedule. In pregnancy you make scheduling choices around your doctor’s schedule and your bathroom schedule.

Plans A to Z 

You have a plan, but understand things might not go according to plan. You have a training plan but know unforeseen hurdles might changes things along the way. Similarly, you have a pregnancy plan, but sometimes things change. You develop a race plan and a birth plan, but you never know how everything will come together on the big day, causing you to abandon the plan on the fly.

It’s a Big Goal

The fact is that in training and pregnancy you are working towards a big goal that you really, really want. Both take dedication, time, choices, and it might take you a few tries to reach that big goal.

Financial Investment

The similarity here is pretty big, especially when you think about your first baby or first marathon. You spend way more on things, buying the latest and greatest gear you think you need to help you get through your marathon or sleepless newborn nights.  The initial investment into new clothing and gear is a big one, but even the subsequent investments into coaching and medical fees, increase in food costs, race fees and updated gear can cost a small fortune.

Unsolicited Advice

Coming from people you know and complete strangers, advice on marathon training, parenting and pregnancy is never short in supply. I’ve been picked out of a crowd before because of my running shoes or race shirt and given advice on what I should do next for my training. I’ve also learned that people feel A-OK touching my belly these days without even knowing my name, but proceeding to tell me what to name my unborn baby girl or telling me how to breastfeed or giving me labor advice. 

Google Is the Enemy

Whether you’re looking up a random pain in your foot or if you should worry about the baby because you accidentally ate a moldy cheese stick (true story) you’re going to essentially become a worry wort and hypochondriac for a few months. You might spend nights convincing yourself you have every running injury or random rare pregnancy complication and then convincing yourself you actually don’t. This problem triples in intensity if you’ve ever actually had a running injuries or pregnancy complication in the past. 

The Human Bubble

I know I cannot be the only one who attempts to put myself in a bubble! Limiting exposure to sickness, taking less unnecessary risks (no skiing or crazy adventures where you might get hurt!), overloading the immune system, looking 10 times before crossing a street or intersection… all modes of self preservation to avoid a race derailing injury or risk to the baby!

Expanding Community

This is such an important part of both pregnancy and training: having people who understand what you are going through can really help keep you going. From running groups, social media, new parenting classes to something as simple as connecting with someone who is training for the same race, or who is due around the same time as you.

As it goes, those worlds can even collide. Dill connected me with her friend and now Saltine Turmeric because we had both experienced the unimaginable loss of miscarriage last year. We became friends sharing our very personal experiences but having the running connection as well. As luck would have it we are both pregnant again and due just four weeks apart!

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As I approach my third trimester, I love hearing about my friends’ workouts, relating to their tales of tired and sore bodies, and laughing over plates and plates of food together. It’s fun to share stories about our slave driver coaches and doctors, and exchange “OMGs” about new mileage numbers, paces, how big the baby is this week and just how fast time really is going, because, in so many ways, we’re going through the same thing.

Do you think pregnancy and training are alike? 

An Upstate, NY resident who loves the marathon, a good beer, and all of the numbers/nerdy things. I write about my journey to a sub-3:00 marathon, training tweaks for improvement, and finding that "running/life balance" unicorn. On tap Next: Training to be a first time mom, time for 3rd trimester...ready or not!

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6 comments

  1. I love this!!! I totally see where you’re coming from. I feel like this journey is both fun, exhausting, hungry-ing, overwhelming, patience-testing, and terrifying! So much like marathon training. I am so glad to share this journey with you. I think Baby Turmeric takes MORE out of me some days than a 20 mile long run :) but it’s totally worth it!

  2. I’ve been pregnant and trained for a marathon. To me the main similarity is that I was completely over it by the end!

    1. Ha! I cannot comment completely on that yet as I’ve still got a ways to go but I can totally get that. Some of my best training cycles ended with me being SO ready for it to be done by the time taper rolled around. I always feel like that meant I worked hard enough throughout and then could use taper to revive myself and focus on the race itself. I don’t imagine I get a taper for this pregnancy though, I mean…I don’t even know when the “race” will officially be!

  3. Ha! I’ve had this conversation with pregnant friends, both runners and non-runners. Not having been pregnant, it does seem to me like there are similarities. You found some that I hadn’t thought of, though, like schedules revolving around bathroom breaks!