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Monday, October 21, 2019

Lessons learned from my 2nd trimester running

Well, here we are, already well into the third trimester, what do you know! Time flies when you're running really slowly. Just kidding, it doesn't fly at all! Here are some lessons I learned from second trimester running.

1. You will slow down. Period. Sorry.
2. But everyone is different. There are other pregnant runners out there cheerily holding paces you can't even remember seeing on your watch. For me, the second trimester brought a massive slow down, adding about 2 minutes per mile to my easy pace and similar slow downs to other paces, like about a minute to my 5k pace. But some pregnant Instagram runners I follow didn't see nearly so much of a slow down. It's totally individual.
3. It's not just about the weight gain. I gained 18 pounds in my first and second trimesters, which, sure - that will slow a girl down! But not two-minute-per-mile down. There's more to it than that. There's both decreased and increased flexibility, joint instability, lack of ability to use the core, increased blood volume, anemia, edema, fatigue, change in center of gravity, round ligament pain, and activity-induced Braxton-Hicks contractions. A lot of changes just make running more difficult! For me, I felt like I had to re-learn how to run every single day. I especially noticed that I no longer had the ability to use my core to propel forward. Apparently, I'm a big core runner, and rely a lot on hips, abs, back, and glutes. Well, forget abs, and without abs to tighten up front, it's hard to engage glutes. On a related note, I also have a lot of pelvic pain from osteitis pubis: a symptom I expected, since I have had it before. It often shows back up in pregnancy! This case is more severe than last time, and where my pectineus muscle attaches on the bone I've been getting pain and pretty severe swelling. I do think running exacerbates this...and I don't care.
4. Warming up helps. For me, the first steps feel terrible, like a completely foreign movement, and I have to stop and stretch every mile for the first few miles. It's very tough at first, and I don't "remember" how to run until about 5 miles in. I do better if I do some dynamic warm ups pre-run. I think this is mostly related to fluid retention; warming up gets some of that lymph and blood flowing.
5. You'll need new clothes! There are only very specific shorts I can fit in - they have to fit under the belly - and I sized up in bras right away. This made me feel pretty bad for low-income pregnant women. We want women to stay active during pregnancy, yet on top of all the other expenses pregnancy brings (not to mention having a child!), they would have to buy activewear, some of the most costly types of clothing. It's no wonder that low income is a predictor of excess gestational weight gain.
6. You will have to rely on feel. As my pace rose almost daily, I could forget pre-planned paces for workouts. It's all by feel. And the good thing is, I easily adjusted. You kind of know what level of effort "5k pace" is, even if it's nowhere near your "normal" 5k pace.
7. New aches, pains, and injuries are possible. I grew up going barefoot almost all of the time, and I have really high arches and strong foot muscles (case in point: a foot exercise is picking up a pen with your feet. I picked it up, turned it on, and wrote my name the first time...this is not a problem for me!). Yet pregnancy brings the hormone relaxin, and suddenly none of those key connections are as strong as they used to be. As my arches grew lax, I developed a bad case of achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. Because my muscles were already strong, these were particularly hard to treat: this wasn't a case of strengthening solving everything (what did work: rest and an arch wrap).
8. You might actually start to feel better. I didn't actually stop having debilitating fatigue and nausea until the very end of my second trimester, and I started the third trimester feeling a lot better. Part of this could be that my hemoglobin made the superhuman effort to get up to 11.9 recently! Sooooo close to 12! And I can tell. I run most of my long runs in the 9-11 minute range, but if I get below that, it's a good day. I've run a lot more high 8's and low 9's since my anemia improved.
9. People think you're super human. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for any encouragement as I plod around the park, but it kind of amuses me that NOW I get cheers. Not when I was finally able to put all the pieces together and actually run some PRs: now, when I'm trundling around with clearly no object other than my own enjoyment!


  1. Well I am glad you are getting cheers and not rude comments from people for running. I have heard from other women that people will say something to them when they see them running. Eye roll.

    I'm glad you've been able to keep exercising and feel pretty good overall. I was really nauseated and ridiculously tired during weeks 6-8 of pregnancy. I felt worst in the evening - didn't even feel well enough to go for a walk with Phil and Paul. So kudos to you for pushing through the nausea and continuing to run!

  2. Thanks for sharing all this. I don't plan to ever get pregnant but I think it sums it up pretty well in terms of what to expect. I think it is admirable that you are still getting out there and running to the best of your ability.

  3. I'm enjoying these pregnancy running posts as a newly pregnant runner whose friends question how much longer I will be running; um hopefully through this whole pregnancy if I can! So far I'm feeling great, except being somewhat out of breath and having leg fatigue, so slowing down and checking my ego is already at play. :) - Kim K.