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  • Writer's pictureSophie Power

15wks - How to prepare not to run in pregnancy

This week my physio, Emma Brockwell (@physiomumuk) asked me to do an Insta live about my pregnancy. She is an amazing womens physio and co-authored the new return to running guidelines here:

This is the first pregnancy she has supported me through and I’m aware I’m a real challenge! I’m hoping my motivation to do what she says makes up for all the stress I cause in trying to keep training as much as I can

It was actually a real help to me to just talk through how I’m approaching this pregnancy – both for myself and how I’m trying to communicate it to others. For me its all about being focused on my goals – having a healthy active pregnancy and labour, being strong for motherhood and to get back running when I can. Saying this out loud felt like a new level of commitment to it – now its done I feel stronger in my motivation to achieve it. If you are waivering on your goals try talking them through with someone you trust (you don’t have to do an insta live to a bunch of strangers!) - it might just help as it did for me.

The second part is the help I hope sharing my pregnancy journey may have for others. Many of the questions were actually from physios asking about working with pregnant runners. And their continual struggle is with clients that just don’t want to stop running. That they feel like they won’t be a runner anymore if they stop for a few months – that an entire part of their identity will be stripped from them never to return. But continuing to run in later pregnancy can make recovery harder – a big bump is a lot of pounding on the pelvis and pelvic floor!

I’m sure this will sound familiar to many of you reading this. Our hobbies often become a way we define ourselves – we are surrounded on social media by people with the same ones and the thought of missing out is painful. There are a few things I am doing to prepare for it – and have the confidence to stop running when the time is right for my body.

1. Mental preparation – I know there will be the point where I can’t run anymore in pregnancy. Very few mums run into their third trimester. It is normal to take a break and build back afterwards. It will also accelerate my recovery from birth. By accepting this now, it will be easier when the time comes to stop.

2. Thinking about what I’ll do instead – what do I get from running and what can I replace it with? For me there is the fitness side but also the mental break side. For fitness I can hike on my treadmill at an incline or borrow my hubby’s Wattbike. Hopefully spin classes have reopened at my gym post Covid too! For the mental side I need to be in fresh air on my own – I can switch my outdoor runs to hikes in the forest which also covers the fitness side!

3. Delaying the inevitable – if I can look after my body through the start of pregnancy, the chances are I’ll be able to run longer. I’ve already switched 2/4 runs to the treadmill on incline to remove the impact, switched my shoes to more cushioning (more on that next blog post) and am doing my strength sets 2-3x per week. It’s not all in my control – but some of it is.

I wrote a recent Instagram post titled “Running less far doesn’t make you far less of a runner” (with apologies to my school English teacher). Also – not running for a while doesn’t stop you being a runner. Once we accept that making the right decision for our body – thinking of our long term goal - is much easier

Onto my week and the good news is my new office chair arrived so I can have proper lumbar support whilst working. It’s my birthday present to deal with my back pain (that’s how exciting I am now) and its just in time. I’m having big problems this week – one evening one side of my lower back starts aching painfully. I try to stretch it out but that doesn’t work and neither does lying on trigger balls (I use a hard lacrosse ball) which often “turns off” painful muscles. I’m brought back to labour – where both times I maxed out the settings on my electrocution machine (TENS) before getting into the birthing pool – which actually gave me even more pain relief. So I strap my 5 year olds microwaveable lavender penguin to it and that does the trick at relieving the pain. Hot water really has magic powers.

Thinking about it I had done a 30 min hike on the treadmill at 20% incline in the morning. This is the longest I’ve hiked at incline and I need to look at my posture and probably use my back support belt for hiking. Later in pregnancy I’ll be doing a lot more of this as I take the impact off so need to get it right now!

The day after the pain goes away – and I don’t have that achiness that a bad work set up was giving me either despite a late night finishing a project. The chair is clearly working. And I’ve already eaten all my posh birthday chocolates (artisan du chocolat salted caramels) so at least this is one present that will last.

But of course in pregnancy when one problem goes away, another comes. My long run this week is somewhat heartbreaking. Just an hour in (to a planned 2 hour run) it feels like my pelvic floor has completely disappeared. I’m having to dive into bushes every few minutes (thank goodness I was running in a dense forest) to avoid completely leaking. Pelvic floor weakness causes such emotions for me - I feel so out of control when it happens and even somewhat ashamed. No wonder women don’t seek help for it – who wants to admit they can’t control their bladder? I know this is temporary. I know it has come on in pregnancy – I’d done a lot of work to strengthen it after my last son was born and I know I can do it again. But it doesn’t make it any easier and to be honest I have a little cry.

So I’m doubling down on my pelvic floor exercises for now, and going to speak to Emma, my physio next week about what we can do to protect it even more whilst still keeping my training effective

I’m also starting to really “show” now. Here’s me at 8 weeks v me at 15. Which means the kit shakeup has to start. I can’t breathe properly in my smaller sports bras (the 32Ds) so I put them in the post pregnancy (PP) drawer I’ve created. To be honest I won’t see them for well over a year – my boobs are usually even bigger breastfeeding than they are in pregnancy! I’ve a couple of 34Ds that I bought when I was a bit heavier and I'll start rifling through boxes for my previous pregnancy bras.

Tops are still going over the bump – I have some longer length Arctery’x running tops which are really comfy and should last all of pregnancy – and this is one time where I don’t mind that race tshirts were sized for men! My smaller leggings are cutting in on my bump though so they hit the PP drawer too – and lots of others are placed on the “watch list”. As its lockdown I haven’t worn anything other than lycra on my bottom half for the whole pregnancy. Its a nice change from the smart office dresses I had to wear the last 2 times (mostly while trying to cover the fact I was pregnant in meetings which was no fun). I’ve now packed away everything that won’t fit until next year all at once. There’s nothing more annoying than having to try on multiple outfits in the morning when you realise bump has grown overnight.

Once bump properly expands I'm planning a maternity fit kit review! I have a few really good maternity designed things from my last 2 pregnancies which really helped, but I’ve also bought pieces over the last 2 pregnancies that I can wear all the time. Its really important to me to buy quality gear that will last for years and years – I have race gear that’s 10 years old and still going strong! On a cost per wear its far better for me and of course for the environment.

For now if you are upsizing on the bra you might want to look at some that are breastfeeding friendly so you don’t have to buy twice – for low impact there are lots on the market but for high impact the two I’ve found that work are the Juno and Fiona bras by Brooks/Moving Comfort. They’re not specifically designed for nursing but the way the straps work you can undo them at the front to feed 😉

In other good news it feels like my sickness is finally going away – ie I don’t have to jump out of bed in the morning to make porridge before eating gets hard. The tiredness is not though – I might be well into my second trimester but for the last two days I’m having a crash at 3pm just as I’ve picked up the older one from school and he wants to have a long chat! I just hope it goes away and I finally get a few wonderful weeks before it all heads south again….

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