My Running and Pregnancy Experience: First 20 Weeks

Well, here I am, already halfway through this pregnancy. I remember when I first discovered I was pregnant, I frantically googled and researched “pregnancy” to learn all the things I should expect. I was trying to figure out how other women felt at different points in their pregnancies so I could compare that to how I felt. I wanted to know everything. Was my belly showing more than normal? When should I start wearing maternity pants? When would my boobs stop hurting?

Looking back, I was nervous and wanted some reassurance, and I devoured Salty’s What to Expect From Running series. But, knowing how much I enjoy reading about other expectant mom’s experiences, I thought I’d add a footnote to Salty’s more general posts about running and pregnancy, to add a little more context. 

At the halfway point, I have learned that every pregnancy is truly very different, especially when it comes to running. Even within the Salty ranks, there’s a wide variation in how those of us who’ve been pregnant have approached running. Barley chose to back off from her training dramatically, while Salty averaged between 40 and 50 miles per week during the second trimester of her last pregnancy. Meanwhile, Olympic triathlete, Gwen Jorgenson, now pregnant with her first, announced she is running 60 miles per week during her pregnancy leading into the second trimester.

There is not a fool-proof right or wrong way to go about running that will work for every pregnant runner. While looking at how other people felt or approached their pregnancies has been reassuring, I’ve had to learn to not compare and to go with my instincts.

Weeks 4 – 6: Blissfully Naive

I remember texting Barley, “I’m not nauseous yet! Should I be worried?” I was feeling good. A little out of breath, bloated, tired, but for the most part, pretty normal. But was everything okay? I wasn’t sick like I had been during my last pregnancy. I backed down my mileage to the 30 miles per week range because I didn’t want to over-do it.

A word of adviceBe patient and try to relax and enjoy feeling semi-normal while you can!

Weeks 6 – 11: Survival Mode

Oh boy, did I regret wondering where the nausea was. A few days into week six, and “morning” sickness hit me like a ton of bricks. I dry heaved during almost every activity. During a hilly and winding road trip, I had to make several pit-stops. Sweating through my shirt and breathing deeply the whole way, I tried to keep myself from throwing up in the car.

During the seventh week, my dog got skunked, and thanks to my pregnancy-induced super-human sense of smell, I couldn’t even sit next to the poor guy. Working in a hospital dealing with body fluids and gross smells all night long? That was fun too. The only time I really didn’t feel gaggy was when I was running or eating.

But then came another issue: nothing sounded good to eat. My favorite foods made me nauseous just thinking about them. Our pantry was filled with food because I bought so much stuff thinking it would be ok, only to be completely turned off when I actually went to eat it. I pretty much lived on anything ginger and anything cheesy and now I don’t think I could stand eating either of those things ever again. How on Earth could this pepper-corn sized monster be doing this to me?

As for running, it was virtually nonexistent. I was so exhausted, the only thing that got me out the door was the idea of not feeling sick for half an hour.

A word of advice: My doctor recommended Vitamin B6 three times a day to ease the nausea, and it seemed to help. If you’re struggling with nausea, consider asking your doctor about this or other options available to you. Also, keeping snacks at the ready is helpful. Crackers, hard candy, even mints to take the smells away can help. If you’re too tired or nauseous to run, it’s ok not to, but also know running may actually bring you a short reprieve.

Weeks 10 – 16: Better

I can’t really pinpoint the day, but I remember feeling a little better one day, and a little better the next. By week 13, the last week of the first trimester, I felt pretty darn good. By then my nausea only returned if I overdid it.

As I felt better, I ran more. I even got in an hour long run more than once! I was having some discomfort running at times, but after a few miles, it would resolve. I didn’t have a true belly yet and still just looked like I ate a really big lunch most days. I probably did since my appetite finally returned. I was feeling like a human again.

A word of adviceIf you’re still struggling with bouts of nausea, it may be a sign you need to back off and rest a little more. Also, remember to hydrate way more than you normally need to!

Weeks 16 – 20: Feeling Pregnant and Proud

Hey look! I can stand next to my stinky dog again!

I started looking more like a pregnant person and less like someone who ate a big meal around 16 weeks. I was hungry almost all of the time, and my energy levels continue to increase greatly, which means I’m running more.

I have been averaging around 20 to 30 miles per week, running about 30-60 minutes each run. I run about a minute per mile slower than I did before my pregnancy for my easy runs. It took a while to adjust to that, but I am perfectly okay with it now.

Some days, running feels incredible, and I barely notice I am pregnant. Today, at 20 weeks, I did seven miles at 8:45 pace and felt great! Other days, though, finishing three miles feels like a marathon.

A word of advice: Be patient with yourself and your body. About once a week, I tell my husband I am having a “pregnant day”. These are the days I can’t seem to keep my eyes open or accomplish much of anything, let alone run. It’s okay! Your body is telling you to rest. Take advantage of this time. When else will you have the okay to sit on the couch for hours and eat a bowl of ice cream with no interruptions?

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Now that I’m halfway through this pregnancy, I am so grateful to feel as good as I do and to be able to run! I plan to continue running as long as my body allows, and listen to it when it tells me to stay home and take a nap instead.

If you’ve been there, how did you feel during the first half of your pregnancy? Did first trimester nausea and fatigue impact your ability to run as much as you hoped to?

I am a full-time critical care nurse, who, in my spare time, loves to pound the pavement around the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. I am originally from Wisconsin, and ran for the University of Minnesota where I learned how to run smart, healthy, and happy. I enjoy writing about my adventures in running and what I have learned from racing. I hope to be an inspiration to other women to reach high!

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3 comments

  1. I think it’s so important to recognize how different every single person is when it comes to something like running and pregnancy. I love that you have been able to (and wanted to) keep up with running even at a more laid back level than before. For me, it was even less about the symptoms and more that pregnancy simply negated my desire to run. Last year when we first got pregnant, that was something I noticed when I looked back on the few weeks I didn’t know I was pregnant. I was in great shape, peaking for Boston- but had to force myself to run. I lost that desire. This time around it was very similar. It was like a switch flipped and my motivation and desire to run really just wasn’t there. Embracing that, and accepting it was the best thing I could do. BUT, I am happy that I still love following everyone else’s running- and it gives me something to look forward to doing when I get back to things after little lady is born!

    P.S. love that we are on this journey at the same time, so much fun being able to share stories, moments and text about all the ups and downs.

    1. I love it! I totally agree, that the motivation is definitely different. I think we both are pretty competitive runners, and it’s hard to look in the mirror with a big ol’ belly and say “I am a runner” and feel how we used to feel when we were fit and fast. I am also looking forward to getting back out there, with less weight to worry about and maybe instead just worrying about a baby jogger ahead of me! I’m so glad you are with me on this journey 🙂

  2. I just love reading this:). I love following you along this journey. Every pregnancy was so different for me with running. With my first, I didn’t run much at all because I had a miscarriage prior to her and I was overboard with anxiety, so I just did the elliptical. With my second I ran until about 24 weeks with him and then I hated the having to pee every 5 seconds feeling. With my twins, I couldn’t run much at all past 12 weeks. With my 5th I embraced that pregnancy – raced a total of 13 races with him on board and I ran until 30 weeks. I would have ran longer, but I had really bad plantar fasciitis and it just wasn’t worth it. The one common thread, though, with all of my pregnancies was that staying active really helped with recovery after the birth. I was pretty much able to get right back in to working out a week or two after birth. Not so much running, but I was able to run at least 2-3 weeks after each birth….ever so slowly.