When we posed our Reader To Reader question about running and pregnancy, we were particularly impressed by the detailed and well-informed answer from RW forum member Minks. Here's her answer in full.
"I recently found out that I'm pregnant, and have no idea how I should adapt my training. I love running and average 35-40 miles a week. I've trawled the web for advice, but I still feel confused about whether it's safe to continue. I definitely don’t want to give up!"
– Tracy Alderson
"I’m now five months pregnant and, like Tracy, averaged 35-40 miles per week before conceiving. My GP and midwife have both been supportive as far as continuing to run is concerned.
The only real concession I made in the early months was to reduce my mileage considerably during the very hot weather in July, as it's not recommended to overheat whilst pregnant. My pace remained more or less the same, although I was careful to listen to my body and ease back if I felt tired. Being well hydrated both before and during a run is also paramount.
Since then, I've found that my running has naturally adapted as my pregnancy has progressed. I am still running five times per week, but now averaging around 25 miles, and I’ve had to reduce my pace in the last couple of weeks. I've also had to slow down, as my runs were leaving me feeling more tired than they should have been.
By far the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is to my mindset. I have to remind myself that I’m no longer "training" but running, and that each day and week I can continue is a bonus. I have had to swallow my pride and accept that I will naturally get slower, and there may come a point at which I will have to or want to stop completely. I now aim to run at a pace that allows me to feel refreshed and rejuvenated at the end of a run, rather than as though I’ve done a hard session.
Stop competing unless you know that you can be self-disciplined enough to jog round at the back. I can't, so I haven't entered any races for the duration of my pregnancy. It will be fun to have something to aim for after the baby is born, though!
There's all sorts of information out there about exercising while pregnant, but most of it is aimed at women who do not already have a very high level of fitness. The recommendation to exercise only at 140 bpm heart rate or below, for example, may be over-cautious for many athletes.
If you're having an uncomplicated pregnancy and you were already running beforehand, then as long as everything is progressing as it should be and your doctor/midwife is happy, carry on. Exercise has been found to benefit both mother and baby if you already have a reasonable level of fitness. From the evidence on the pregnant runners' club thread, staying active seems to contribute positively to a shorter, less painful labour and a quicker physical recovery afterwards.
Listen to your body – it will tell you when to slow down or cut back. This can be hard to accept, depending on how competitive you are. I found having to slow down a rather bitter pill to swallow at first. Now I'm enjoying the fact that I'm still running at five months, and don't mind the slower pace. I've noticed things on my running routes that I've never noticed before when I've been tearing along firmly focused on my time goal. I look on each day and week that I can continue to run as a bonus, and I'm hoping to carry on for as long as possible. I will continue to modify my pace and distance to remain comfortable as things progress.
As long as you take sensible precautions and there are no complications with your pregnancy, there's no reason why you should not continue to run for as long as you feel able."
Click here to read all the best answers to Tracy's question.