When it Comes to Running in the 2nd Trimester, Not All Pregnancies Are the Same

Over halfway there!

I’m well into my second trimester now (21 weeks) and felt the inspiration to share some updates about my attempt to continue running while pregnant. If you read the second trimester installment of Salty’s What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting, you’d think that in the second trimester you’ll completely forget you’re pregnant; everyday will be a good day; you’ll be able to get your mileage back up to where you were before your first trimester; you can continue racing well into your second trimester; your hormones will be back in whack and you’ll feel completely stable; and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. Well, I can’t say I completely agree with this glass half full, rose-colored glasses perspective. Now, don’t get me wrong, the fatigue of the first trimester: GONE! The nausea and extreme aversions to certain smells: GONE! The strange cravings for only plain mashed potatoes and cheetos: GONE!

But, I can’t say I forget I’m pregnant. Not even close. Especially when it comes to lacing up my shoes.

In the literature that is out there, running during the second trimester seems to be the ‘easiest’ and when you feel most ‘normal.’  I wish that were true for me. Instead, I’ve been feeling pretty inadequate when it comes to the whole running while pregnant thing. The once passion I had to get out of bed in the morning and go on a brisk 5 miler just isn’t there anymore. Running is starting to feel like a chore, which is something I never want it to be. Two miles is enough most days. I’m trying to decide whether or not continuing daily jogs is something my body really wants to do, or just feels like it should do because it’s all I’ve ever known.

Research has shown that exercise during the second trimester of pregnancy can be crucial in keeping up your energy level and helping you sleep well at night. It can also help prepare your body for labor  (Mayo Clinic, 2010). The key to exercise during pregnancy is to take it “slow and steady.” Problem is, I think I’ve begun to focus too much on the feelings of inadequacy that come along with that whole “slow” part.

Photo of a Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carol...
They say slow and steady wins the race. All I feel is slow these days. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t want to complain about being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong. I have many close friends who have endured endless fertility treatments which sound like a real treat (including our very own Clove) and close family members who have cried through three or four of the most dreaded thing out there, miscarriages. I can feel empathy but can’t even come close to truly feeling that type of pain. If my pain is only round ligament pain, bloated belly, and heartburn, well…I really shouldn’t be complaining at all. If it means a healthy baby, I’m game. So, please take my little ventilation session with a grain of salt (y)! Even if I don’t enjoy running right now, I know I’ll be overjoyed with a human being in just a few short months.

Now, it may be the fact that it’s been frigid and the streets around my neighborhood have been covered in ice and snow for the past, oh, million months. I’m not a fan of the treadmill AT ALL, and I’ve considered sticking needles in my eyes before stepping foot on one for another day. My favorite part of running is the fresh air and scenery, and the treadmill can provide none of that. But, when it comes down to it, I feel like I’ve lost my gumption…my ‘mo jo’…my passion… for all things running since becoming prego. And, it kinda stinks.

I’m the type that still feels like exercise is a necessity most days, so I’ve continued to at least jog 2-3 miles per day. As an alternative, I’ve resorted to in-house videos of prenatal pilates and yoga. My hubs and I have considered joining back up at the gym or YMCA, but we’re really trying to hunker down and penny-pinch in anticipation of our new arrival and all the necessary expenses that will entail. So, I feel pretty limited in my exercise options, at least until it warms up in Ohio, which may not happen until AFTER baby is born the rate this winter is going.

I will admit that I get a little jealous when I see friends posting about their 20-milers and others chatting about how awesome their spin class was last night. I do miss the ‘high’ feeling that comes around with intense work-outs and exhilarating long runs. I miss the running and racing community and feel a little out-of-the-loop. My Garmin has been collecting dust and my cute Brooks tanks don’t look so cute anymore. Mentally, I feel better after I run, but physically, it’s just not the same. I have to pee about 5 minutes into the run, and my belly usually cramps regardless of time of day or what I eat.

The other day, I was fortunate enough to run a 5k with my mom. She’s a walker (a very FAST, competitive walker) who can hold a 12 minute – 12:30 pace (for an entire marathon, nonetheless). I decided I’d jog alongside her. We averaged 12:36 minute miles (again, she was walking and I was running… just to keep up!), and I felt like that was just about all my body could handle. When a 6:30 pace used to feel pretty effortless for a 5k just a few months ago, I do have to admit that my ego is also taking a blow.

Tips for Handling a Pregnancy Running Slump

With all of this said, I’d like to offer my 2 cents on what has worked for me in terms of not over-analyzing or focusing on the negatives of running setbacks during this, my second trimester:

1.) Run for time. On most runs these days, I just run in ‘time’ units, not miles. For example, instead of doing 3 miles, I’ll just run/jog for 30 minutes and call it a day. That way, I can’t obsess about how ‘slow’ I’m getting.

2. Go with the flow. I’ve realized that I may need to shorten or simplify  workouts over time as this belly expands. Some days are just not going to be good exercise/running days, and that’s okay. Most women can comfortably manage 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as walking or swimming) three to seven days each week without difficulty, but we are each our own person and should listen to our own bodies.

3.) No comparing! Comparing my weekly mileage or paces with other runners, at this point, just isn’t a good idea. It seems to be a trigger to me and makes me feel inadequate, so I simply don’t look at facebook as much and I even don’t look at the other salty’s training posts (still rooting for you, ladies!).

4.) Cross-train. On days where a run just doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to get in ‘exercise’ in a non-traditional manner. Breaking a sweat can happen in every day activities. Here are some suggestions: housework (sweeping, vacuuming, gardening, window-washing); dancing; simply making it a point to walk around the office more.

Miracle Onsie
When I’m feeling down and gross/bloated, I remember the reason behind it all. Then, it’s not so bad.  (Photo credit: Wandering Eyre)

Maybe once the sunshine comes, the ice melts and the birds start chirping, I’ll get a little running mojo back into my blood. In the meantime, I feel pretty lethargic with running. I’m already thinking about races I’d like to enter once I pop this babe out!! Maybe this little break from racing will be the best thing for me in the long run.

So, for you veteran pregnant runners, here are my questions for you:

Did you have any feelings of inadequacy in running while pregnant?

How many weeks pregnant were you until you stopped running (or did you run up until the day you gave birth)?

Did your second trimester feel the best? How about third? How long did it take you post-partum to get back to the times you were running pre-pregnancy? 

I'm a new momma, full-time non-profiter, and coffee lover. I write about healthy body image, half marathon training, and recovery from eating disorders. I'm currently training to maintain fitness throughout the winter and break 1:27:00 in my next half marathon.

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  1. I stopped running while pregnant because I am having twins. But I didn’t stop going to the gym, doing lighter weights and elliptical or treadmill. Speed will come back–think about how many ladies you have seen holding their babies while picking up their age group medals! I know I’ve seen a few. 🙂
    I know how you might feel about running–what is the point if you aren’t training for anything? But as long as you feel ok, it’s really good for the baby and it’s even better for you to stay active.
    And right now you are in the comfortable stage and running isn’t necessarily uncomfortable yet, or at least it didn’t sound that way. I am 29.5 weeks and starting to deal with discomfort in my pelvis that results in a struggle to motivate myself to get to the gym. It hurts to walk, but fortunately the elliptical is relatively pain free!
    So I would say keep going until you can’t do it any more. There will be a time when you’ll not be able to get out there because your body won’t be allowed to. That’s my motivation and approach for the moment…

  2. Creating a baby is hard work, I guess. Thanks, JoJo! (Also, loved reading your snarky post about thinspiration in fitness media. Couldn’t agree more).

    Hey Suzanne – twins! Wow…your body is doing double-time and it sounds like you are keeping really active. Good for you! Like you said, I think the elliptical is a very viable option that is relatively low impact but gets the heartrate up, so I’ll keep that in mind once I get into that third trimester. I can’t say running has become ‘uncomfortable’ yet, minus the urge to pee all the time, so I do think that I will keep up with putting in a few miles everyday until I feel I can’t anymore. I’m in the clear to keep going at this point, which might not be the case forever!

    I think my struggle has become more of a mental thing. My body changes are starting to bring a self-consciousness that demotivates me from going to the gym or signing up for group prenatal classes. I feel like I sound like an elephant on that treadmill! I know these thoughts do me no good and try to shun them away!

    1. Oh Ginkgo! I feel sad that you’re feeling self conscious. Just do what you want. If it helps, I really WAS an elephant and running on the treadmill! Haha. Me and all my extra 50 pounds still got down on the treadmill, so I’m sure it’s not nearly as bad as you think. I really liked mixing walking and running – it helped me get by without needing to pee constantly – I think it’s the constant pressure on the bladder from the bouncing from running and taking breaks can relieve it just enough to get another 10-15 minutes in before needing to stop. NO SHAME in walking now and then!

  3. – Did you have any feelings of inadequacy in running while pregnant?

    Heck yeah! ESPECIALLY when I was due in the summer like you. Running in the winter was really a struggle. I was lucky to get out 4 times a week for 4-5 miles, max. Once the weather improved, I ran more. I ran a lot my first pregnancy because I worked and ran with my lunch crowd most days – the company helped a lot! I was really nervous the first pregnancy and second-guessing myself and running every which way!

    – How many weeks pregnant were you until you stopped running (or did you run up until the day you gave birth)?

    I stopped at 33 weeks with my first and about 39 with the last two. I couldn’t run those last days – my pelvis felt like it could break and I had a TON of false labor. I really didn’t think it was advisable to run when I thought I was in labor!

    Did your second trimester feel the best? How about third? How long did it take you post-partum to get back to the times you were running pre-pregnancy?

    I felt the best from about 17 weeks until about 34 weeks. Before that – blerg. After that, UGH!

    – YOU are doing great. Everyone and every pregnancy is different. Go with the flow and enjoy it and have faith that mojo will return in due time.

    1. Thank you, thank you, Salty! Haha…I wish I had you as a partner in crime treading along on the treadmill as a preggo! I think it’s just a mental thing I have to work on; I know in reality no one is concerned with anyone at the gym but themselves! I’ve started the running/jogging/walking combo over the past week or so. I’ll run a mile, then speedwalk and do some light weights, then jog another mile or so. Like you said, it alleviates some of the annoying pressure on the bladder and “mixes” things up….as much as one can on a freaking machine!

      This winter weather is REALLY getting old! It just seems so limiting. I’d love to just take a long walk with the dog and breath FRESH AIR! I guess once Spring hits and I get into the third trimester, I’ll finally be able to take advantage of that. That could be one of the main reasons why I seem so negative lately….my poor hubs.

  4. This is a great post and I really like the Tips you posted. “Running for time” is such a great idea that I wish I had tried…it’s far too easy to focus on the distance and your speed, and then feel disappointed when you can meet those goals. When pregnant you definitely need to set different expectations, and for me that was a big learning.

    Shifting to “cross-training” was hard at first for me as I just enjoy running so much more than other activities. I’ve found that having an attitude of “any exercise is better than none” and “I’ll do what I can” helps (again on the point of managing your expectations). I’m 40 weeks now and even just doing one or two 10-min pilates videos, or a 30-min walk to do errands, makes me feel great and like I’ve accomplished something.

    As for your questions, I wouldn’t say I felt “inadequate” when running until when I did, just sometimes disappointed when a run doesn’t go as planned. Once during my first trimester I got really dizzy after 3K so just had to stop, chill out a bit, and walk home. It just wasn’t realistic that day to continue the run. Other days went swimmingly.

    I ran until 20 weeks, at which point the pelvic pain became unbearable. (My last was a fantastic “short” 5K run along the coast in San Diego, after which I was hobbling around in pain for 3 days.) When I first found out I was pregnant I said “I’ll be one of those runners who runs right up until giving birth!”, but that just didn’t work out for me. I’m really looking forward to getting back into it very soon, just in time for spring. Like you, I’ve already started planning post-partum races!

    Again, great post and good luck with the rest of your pregnancy!

  5. Ginkgo, sending you hugs! I’m not a mama, but I did want to offer my two cents in the form of a suggestion 🙂 My town has a chapter of the national group Moms Run this Town. Is there maybe a mama-to-be equivalent? Or do you know any preggo runner friends of friends? Again, never been there, but it might help to have training buddies who are going through the same things you are.

  6. I was lucky enough to run my entire pregnancy (except for a month of knee injury rehab in the second trimester). I felt fierce! I always ran in “running for two” or other tops that made it clear I was prego which made me feel good. Like I needed people to know I wasn’t fat, I was impressive – but it worked for me. I proudly waddled past slower runners (walkers really, I was slogging pretty slowly at the end). I got high fives and cheers from other runners. I got an occasional look or comment about my running while prego that was negative, but I just laughed it off knowing I was on the right side of the science it felt good! Running was one of the few times while prego that i felt like me! Even though it was slow, short, and occasionally sprinkled with walks… I was outside and moving! I was excited to tell my daughter about all the miles and races we ran together. She even earned her first marathon medal! 🙂 and my husband and I ran our first family 10k.

    Now that I’m 6 weeks postpartum, I wish there was an “I just had a baby” shirt I could wear to explain why I’m still slow and jiggly in the middle… Oh and my boobs leak! Oh well… I know I have a fierce little baby at home awaiting my speedy arrival.

  7. Hannah – best of luck to you…sounds like you’re ready to go any day now, if you haven’t already! I have been trying out the 10 minute pilates videos, too! They are small and palatable and don’t seem too overwhelming right now.

    Sass- I’m going to google your suggestion right after this comment! I know there are postpartum groups – stroller moms or something to that degree – but I’m not sure about Moms Run this Town.

    Too cool about how you can tell your daughter that she’s already run all these races and miles before she even learned to walk.

  8. Great journaling and very positive attitude/suggestions! I especially like ‘go with the flow’. I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant and have been fortunate enough to maintain my running throughout pregnancy and I believe that ‘keep the habit’ is another important piece of the exercising-while-pregnant puzzle. Staying in the habit is as important as the actual exercise (IMO).

    I’ll continue to run up until the day I give birth, if conditions allow (go with the flow, right? 😉

    Thanks a bunch!


  9. With my first son I ran the whole pregnancy…I did miss a few dayd the first months with morning sickness but I had even run on the treadmill the day my water broke. With my second I can totally empathize with you. I had no morning sickness, but running with a jogging stroller felt like a chore and I cramped up so often that yoga and pilates became my backups. This time is hit or miss I am jyst finishing my first trimester and I have been feeling so slow and inadequate. I will keep trying on the good days especially because my boys love going on runs in the stroller.

  10. Great post. I took up running to stay in shape ahead of my wedding last year. I made it up to a half-marathon distance. Even though I didn’t maintain that training, I was determined to be able to do 30 minute runs every other day through out my pregnancy. First trimester was rough for nausea and fatigue. I ended up alternating with other cardio sessions.
    For a month, I missed my cardio workouts (instead walking 3 miles a day). Now I am trying to get back into running. I hit 2.5 miles in 30 minutes this morning and was ecstatic (24 weeks pregnant). Doesn’t seem like much, but the first mile was in 13 minutes even with a short segment of walking. It all counts, right?
    It’s reassuring to see others who find 2-3 miles is about it. It inspires me to keep it up as long as I can.

  11. After reading through the blog and comments, I feel sooo relieved that I am not alone! Earlier this year, I had been recovering from plantar fasciitis though training with a physical therapist, and this summer I found out I was pregnant. It was almost as if the day I found out, my pace and stamina took a nose dive. It was disheartening.

    Over the months – I’m currently 21 weeks – I’ve come to terms with myself as a pregnant runner, but I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one struggling to get through 2 miles at an excruciatingly slow 12min/mile pace. Once upon a time, I would have looked at a 2 mile run as if it was a joke. Not that I’m a marathoner or anything, but I never felt satisfied with a run if it wasn’t AT LEAST 3 miles.

    I recently read Runner’s World guide to running while pregnant. One woman decided that for every 10 minutes of jogging counted as one pregnant mile. I’d say that feels about right!

  12. I know this is an old post, but thank you for this! I am 17.5 weeks and keep waiting for this “magical” second trimester feeling to set in (it hasn’t). While I am still able to keep up my mileage, my pace has slowed considerably and my body is certainly aware that it is pregnant! I’m glad that others felt this way too, it’s SO HARD not to compare (both with myself pre-pregnancy and others who are pregnant). I just keep reminding myself that I am lucky to be able to do what I am doing and that the ultimate goal right now is a healthy pregnancy.

  13. Thanks for this. I know it’s old, but I came across it and I am almost in tears (pregnancy, am I right?) because I really needed it. Running lately has been really, really difficult. I’m debating quitting, but I just can’t seem to do it. I love it so much. And, oh man, have I been beating myself up about slowing down (considerably) and walking (often). But this isn’t about just me anymore. It’s about this little baby girl who I get to meet in July.

  14. I loved this post! I’m a competitive runner who always loved my runs . I kept looking forward to second trimester and I didn’t feel the pep to my step everyone said. It has turned into a chore as well and an ego hit. I kept comparing myself to other runners and feeling like I’m just not as strong.I love that we all have different journeys through pregnancy and yours definitely made me feel not alone .