Barberry’s Blissful First Trimester Running Experience

Okay, maybe the word “blissful” is not the best way to describe how I felt running in the earliest weeks of my pregnancy. In fact, I fluctuated between joy and pure anxiety about my lack of control over my body. This is my first pregnancy, so I have no prior experiences to compare with the way I feel right now.

I didn’t have the worst first trimester experience, but I definitely was not experiencing that pregnancy glow. In fact, I wanted to punch anyone who told me pregnancy was a beautiful thing, a feeling I attribute to the hormone surges. A lot of changes were going on in my body, and it definitely changed my running routines, as well. I had good runs and not-so-good runs.  Slower paces and more frequent walk breaks became the norm.

It wasn’t easy adjusting to this change. Running has always been my stress relief, my therapy. When it felt like it became much more difficult, it was frustrating. Being pregnant has already made many things more difficult; why does my running have to be so hard, too?

So here it is, in all of its glory … my experiences running in the first trimester!

The Beginning (Weeks 3-6)


I found out that I was pregnant fairly early on, about 4.5 weeks into this new life marathon. I wasn’t surprised, my breasts were starting to get sore and I noticed a little more fatigue than usual. In fact, baby Barberry ran her (yes … it’s a girl!) first half marathon the week before … when she was barely a few cells. If you remember my training log or my Carmel Half Marathon report, I wrote that I was so tired at the end of it, I had to take a 2 hour nap! I am not someone who really naps, especially for that long. Apparently my body was already revving up its baby making engine and wearing me out! I did not really have too many symptoms  over these first few weeks, except some bone-crushing fatigue that started around week 6.

I am used to fatigue because of my autoimmune issues, so a little baseline fatigue has always been tolerable for me.  Running has been a great way to keep it in check! This was different, very different. I could do very little before needing to sit or lay down and rest. If I ran in the morning, I would have to pace myself for the rest of the day. My easy running pace did not slow down much, but I must admit, I was afraid of really pushing it once I found out I was pregnant. I had not been really training to run fast half marathons, so I had not been doing lots of speedwork. Whatever speedwork that I had been doing, I stopped doing. I am looking forward to eventually getting back to this … after baby is born!

Another glorious side effect of pregnancy that occurred during the first few weeks? Constipation. I would have a day or two without a bowel movement, then we would play catch up the next day or so. Running really seemed to get things moving, so I had to make sure bathrooms were not too far out of reach! So overall, I managed to get through the first few weeks and I was able to maintain running about 15-25 miles during those weeks.



The Middle Weeks (of Hell, Weeks 7-10)


Holy nausea. Oh my goodness. Morning sickness reared its ugly head … at all hours of the day. I forced down Wheat Thins to keep myself from feeling too nauseated. And I was so tired. It took everything I had to get through the work day, and people definitely tested my patience at this time. Too bad I hadn’t really told too many people about the pregnancy at this point … I just seemed grumpy and tired to them! Okay, maybe I really was grumpy and tired. Thanks, hormones! On my days off, I just wanted to sleep. It was really hard to get motivated to run more often than not. Walk breaks became more frequent.

One good thing about running is that it did seem to help keep nausea at bay for a short period of time, meaning I could usually eat something within a window of time after I was done running. A silver lining, if you will. One particular bright spot during this time was running the 500 Festival Mini Marathon. I knew going into the race that I was just going to have some fun and take my time with it. I was able to run the whole thing (except for a Shalane Flanagan worthy pee-stop of 20 seconds and a stop to kiss the bricks). It turned out to be a pretty fun run, and the longest run I would do for the rest of this pregnancy. I took a week and a half off of running after this and spent some time biking and walking. I was still able to do yoga classes and toning classes (I could still lay on my back at this time!), so that helped keep me from getting too antsy. The temperatures started to rise drastically after this break, so the heat and my continued fatigue started to slow my pace down further. Survival was really what it was about at this time. I also did a fun run, called the Taco Run 5K. I had a decent run, and can’t complain about getting some delicious tacos at the finish! At this point, I was not showing at all (see photo!), but the effects of pregnancy were being felt.


Where’s The Finish … of this Trimester (Weeks 11-14)


I just had to get through these final first trimester weeks. I was still super nauseated. I was not throwing up … much. It seemed like my gag reflex was so bad at that time, though. If I pushed my toothbrush too far back on my tongue … up came breakfast! So many bananas came back up to the surface. I needed to keep brushing my tongue, though, because I constantly had an AWFUL taste in my mouth! It tasted like I literally licked a bag full of pennies. Disgusting. I have heard this is pretty common with pregnancy, called dysgeusia, but it is extremely unpleasant. I had to chew gum, mints, and jolly ranchers like it was my job. Also, my complexion got worse. I was a glorious sight to behold (where’s that pregnancy glow?!).

My pace continued to slow. Easy runs about a minute per mile slower than pre-pregnancy easy pace were all I did. Every few runs, I might feel good enough to go a little bit faster, but the hot summer weather didn’t help the pace, either! At this point, I was starting to have some more indigestion, as well. I had a bottle of extra strength tums in my general vicinity most of the day. I didn’t have much heartburn, but, yes, all of those other intestinal symptoms were continuing and were a real joy. I also woke up to pee in the middle of the night, pretty much every night. I was not really showing during this trimester. I could tell a difference in my body (hello boobs I have never had before!), but most people would not have noticed much at this time. I had to double up on my sports bras during runs, which I have definitely NEVER had to worry about before! It has been difficult keeping them under control! My pants got tighter, and I began contemplating all the varieties of maternity pants. (Do I go with side panels? Full panels? Belly bands? Criss-cross panels? My head hurts. Good thing I have a lot of those comfortable race t-shirts. You will find me in those and sweatpants any given day.)


It wasn’t easy, but somehow I got through it. I know there are many women who have had much worse first trimester experiences, and they have soldiered on. It was hard not being able to run “normally,” at least what I consider to be my normal. I am happy I was able to continue running, and I am happy that baby Barberry was healthy and let me soldier on.

I can say that the second trimester was kinder to me, with that awful nausea disappearing just after that 15 week point. The heat and gradual weight gain slowed me down, and I walked more frequently, but I appreciated every run I got! My hope was to continue running as long as possible! There did come a time where I had to stop running all together later in my pregnancy. My poor pelvis and bladder could not take any more abuse. Stay tuned (or you can cheat and look at my training logs) for when this occurred. I am now well into the third trimester and baby Barberry continues to grow and grow. As the weeks went on, I also felt a little more comfortable, mentally, with the changes in my body. Seeing the ultrasounds and feeling baby move around made me realize just how crazy and amazing and challenging it is being pregnant.


I do still wish it was easier to tie my shoes, though.

What was your first trimester running experience like?

A born and raised Hoosier running to stay sane. I've done 5Ks to marathons, but am currently running to enjoy running. I'm an orthopedic physical therapist, with clinical specialization in treating people with vestibular disorders. Other things I specialize in? Knowing the lyrics to every Backstreet Boys song and being an awesome cat mom! Living with Crohn's disease, but trying to show it who really is the boss.

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