The first trimester, while exhausting, is exciting; enjoy it now before the weight of the pregnancy literally and figuratively, start to show!
Congratulations! You have just learned you are pregnant and you have a big race coming up next month.
Go for it!
The nice thing about your first trimester is that chances are, you won’t put on more than 10 pounds. In fact, if many of you have morning sickness, it’s probable you won’t put on any weight at all. Therefore, if you were like me and became pregnant while training for a marathon, keep going; especially if the race occurs while you are in your first trimester.
I say these words with caution, however. If you become pregnant and you are experiencing any vaginal bleeding stop running and consult your doctor. I cannot be more serious about this. When I became pregnant with my first son, I was six weeks away from the San Diego Marathon; I was training with a group and was in great shape. My doctor told me I was healthy and since I’ve been a runner most of my life, he actually encouraged me to keep training. It was my doctor’s sense of calm and encouragement that was a real boon to me. It made being a pregnant runner not such a big deal.
Training in Months 1-3
I was fatigued like most of us are in the first trimester, but fortunate that I did not have any morning sickness. My real issue was that the smell of honey suckles along the running path made me want to throw up but it’s not like I couldn’t focus on something else; like my sore chest or the fact that nine months was a long, long, long time. My running partner was the best part of my training. I don’t think I would have survived my long distance days if Chenoa were not with me. Her encouragement was important; as well as her presence. I do admit I was nervous about being alone on my distance runs. What if something happened to me? I immediately became protective of my baby even if it was only about as big as my thumb. I figured, pregnancy is serious business and I’m not going to mess it up by running alone or by training poorly. I read that in the first trimester, fatigue, dizziness, and a whole host of things can happen. Ichose to stay hydrated and well-rested. During training runs I kept a mental tab on how I felt every step of the way and was not afraid to stop if I needed to.
Fortunately, none of these things happened and training continued without a hitch. I bore down and kept on schedule; logging the traditional 18, 20, and 22 mile runs I needed to complete in the weeks before my race. Come race day, I was moody- full of hormones, race jitters, and two double D’s!
I admit I was conforted by the fact that I would not have a round bump during my race because for some reason, that did not seem very marathon-like – I guess I was afraid I’d be judged for being pregnant. Besides, you don’t see many pregnant runners run marathons and I wasn’t sure what other people thought about that. While toeing the line I was grateful I looked like everyone else. It made the fact that I was pregnant easier to handle.
Besides, I had other issues. I wasn’t enthralled by the fact that my chest was so sore (and huge) that I needed to wear two running bras just to keep my new friends in place. A few miles into the race, however, the competitive spirit took me and off I went with a goal to finish the distance. Durning the race, the fact that I was pregnant didn’t mean much to me either other than it would be the first thing my running partner would tell a medic should I faint or fall down. Fortunately, neither happened despite the 85 degree heat as many runners dropped that day due to dehydration. I figured I’d play it safe. The baby was more important than my time so I hydrated and took my time.
The accomplishment of finishing this particular was special despite my horrible time. My son to be ran a marathon with me in utero which was kind of cool. So despite not running a fast race; I ran a marathon pregnant in blistering heat and was still standing. I thought that was a major achievement; one I’d remember for a lifetime. To other runners it may not seem a big deal that a woman runs when pregnant but to everyone else I still enjoy the look I get from people when I tell them I ran a marathon pregnant with my first son.
NOTE: more and more pregnant women do run and compete in races like this woman from the Web site, maternityrunningskirts.com. She is 6.5 months pregnant and doing just great! Unfortunately I don’t think I would have had the guts to run a race this pregnant.
Dealing with the Weight Gain
Putting on my first few pounds scared me at first. When I stepped on the scale at my second doctor’s appointment a few days after the marathon, I expressed my concern. I could not believe that after running a marathon that I had gained two pounds.
“Honey, you are pregnant, you are going to put on weight” the nurse said, looking at me like I was a sad case for even complaining.
My friend, Lisa, who knew that I was a stickler for body image asked me straight out if I was able to handle the weight gain that comes with pregnancy. I told her I’d need to get over it; and I did after the nurse stated the obvious. I needed to give in and let my body do what it was supposed to. From that moment I got over being a skinny runner and decided to be a mother.
What Did Running Pregnant Do the Rest of Me?
On thing I never put too much thought into while I was pregnant was what running would do to my body. I didn’t think about how my hips were spreading and that my running form would alter when my baby started to show. I was unaware of the strain on my knees and hips; I merely kept running. In the first trimester, the human body undergoes a whole bunch of changes. Your ligamets become loser and depending on how much weight you gain and where, you balance can be off – but that’s more in the second trimester. When the weight starts to come, whether it’s one pound or ten, the extra weight does put a strain on everything and this could cause problems after baby. It’s just one of those things pregnant runners should think about, but often don’t – particularly the first time around!
I stopped running about half way through my pregnancy because my jostling belly really bugged me but I kept walking and doing other low impact exercise. I kept up the stretching and in my mind, I was just living out my pregnancy and not taking a break from running. I did not consider it taking a break if I found it uncomfortable and I certainly was not going to run just to run. I figured, there is no time like right now, to enjoy taking time off from running and to embrace my new life. The nice thing about running is that you can always start up again. Running great, Paula Radcliffe, gave birth and a year later won a marathon; proof that having a baby won’t slow you down, but that taking the time off is important and probably good for your running career!