There’s never a time when you’ll need your running fitness more than pregnancy. But how do you keep it up while you’re keeping baby safe? Elite long-distance runner Jo Pavey – who won the European 10,000m Championships when her youngest child Emily was just 10 months old – has a few tips to help you out.
Measure your effort
Jo usually runs by feel when she’s training hard, but turned to a heart-rate monitor to measure her effort when she was pregnant. “It’s really important,” she says. “I kept my heart rate below 140 beats per minute. For me the health of the baby is more important than anything, so from someone who didn’t monitor my runs, I became someone who monitored every run.”
Take it easy
Even if you’re a very fit runner – as Jo obviously is – you should forget about pushing yourself during pregnancy. “I didn’t do any ‘sessions’ during pregnancy,” says Jo. “I just did easy running.” That means no intervals, no super-long runs and if you race, keep that heart-rate monitor on to check you’re not getting carried away – this isn’t the time for PBs.
Jo’s approach to fitness changed from her first pregnancy (with Jacob, born in 2009) to her second. “With my first pregnancy I did more actual exercise because I had nothing else to think about! I was a full-time athlete and then suddenly, I was just pregnant. In my second pregnancy I already had a child and wanted to spend time with him, and I didn’t want to spend my time driving to a swimming pool, so some days I would do 40 minutes jogging but other days I would do nothing.”
Talk to your team
Even if you’re fit, it’s worth mentioning to your midwife or doctor that you plan to keep running, and listen to what they say. “Get good medical advice,” says Jo – whose stay-well guidelines included “making sure I was well hydrated, making sure you don’t overheat, and making sure you run at cool times of day.”
Get ready for a surprise
We’re not just talking about the shock of motherhood here – you might find that taking it easy for 40 weeks will do you good, as Jo did. During her first pregnancy, Jo used aqua running and a stationary bike to supplement her running, but she took things at a gentler pace second time round, with just a few easy jogs each week. “Interestingly, I had a more successful comeback [the second time],” she says. “I wasn’t trying to keep high fitness levels, I was just trying to keep a bit of conditioning in my joints and muscles, and I wasn’t suffering injuries from the fact I hadn’t had any impact for a year.”
Jo Pavey is supporting ‘Run It,’ a campaign from charity Join In to put more volunteers into grassroots running. For more information visit joininuk.org/run-it.