A runner's guide to pregnancy - Women's Running

A runner’s guide to pregnancy

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  August 25, 2021

We all know that pregnancy does not mean the end of your running career: but it needn’t mean a long pause either. Sophie Power tells us what we need to know about running during pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting time in our lives. But it also brings with it huge change and uncertainty – especially regarding running. Is it safe to run? How should I change my training? When should I stop? What should I wear?

Every runner is different and so is every pregnancy; my three certainly have been. Whenever you decide to stop running – or if you run until the baby comes – there are many factors to bear in mind. In this article, I’ll introduce you to the kit and tips I found most helpful, and get advice from experts on how to manage running and pregnancy.

Myth-busting

As runners, as soon as we announce our pregnancy, there’s likely to be someone piping up that we’ll have to give up running. But are they right? I asked Dr Marlize de Vivo, CEO and co-founder of the Active Pregnancy Foundation for her view. “There are still misconceptions out there. But evidence has found no adverse maternal or infant outcomes for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies resulting from their engagement in moderate intensity physical activities during pregnancy.” The evidence is so strong for the benefits of exercise in pregnancy that the UK’s chief medical officers recommend accumulating 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every week plus strength training two days a week.

Dr De Vivo added: “Healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies who are already enjoying and benefitting from an active lifestyle, should aim to maintain their physical activity levels, although adaptation may be required as pregnancy progresses.”

It’s important to note that these recommendations are for women with low-risk pregnancies, so have this discussion with your healthcare professional if you’re unsure.

How hard can I go?

‘Moderate intensity’ means different things to different people but can be defined as being active at a level where you can still hold a conversation but can’t quite sing.

The World Health Organisation (2020) recommends that women who, before pregnancy, habitually engaged in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, can continue these activities during pregnancy. I quickly found that my body just put the brakes on at a certain heartrate, which I then used to plan my interval training. As Dr Stacey Sims, an expert in female sports physiology, explains, “Your body does not let you go anaerobic when pregnant.”

Fuelling and nutrition

We don’t need to ‘eat for two’, but fuelling our bodies well during pregnancy is very important. “During pregnancy, our bodies have higher metabolic requirements from the start, which means we need to increase our food intake and hydration,” explains explains specialist sports dietician, Renée McGregor. “I don’t recommend fasted runs in general, but especially not during pregnancy, where keeping blood sugar stable can improve energy and reduce nausea.”

Before a run she recommends taking on 30-50g of carbohydrate, such as a hot cross bun or banana with a glass of orange juice. “After runs, ensure you have a recovery snack or meal within 30 minutes, such as a milkshake or eggs on toast. This should include around 0.4g/ kg bodyweight of protein and 1-1.2g/kg carbohydrate.” As your weight increases, your food intake will also then increase.

McGregor explains that national nutrition guidelines are not relevant to every woman, especially active ones.

“Pregnancy is a great opportunity to reconnect with your body and its needs. Every woman is different and the best guide is always to listen to your body and follow your appetite.”

Want to know more? Check out our Trimester-by-Trimester Guide or our Pregnancy Running Facts.

About the author

Sophie is an ultrarunner and mother of three. In 2018, a picture of her breastfeeding her three-month-old son during the 106-mile UTMB mountain race went viral around the world. Since then she has become a passionate advocate for women in sport.

Sophie recently released a short documentary following her third pregnancy and return to running afterwards. Pregnancy to Performance can be found on the Hoka One One YouTube channel. She also wrote a full account of her pregnancy training which can be found on sophiepower.com/blog and on Instagram @ultra_sophie

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

Meet the team

We use cookies to give you a better experience on womensrunning.co.uk. By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our Cookie Policy.

OK, got it