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A journal of a pregnant runner: to run or not to run? (2) 

A journal of a pregnant runner: to run or not to run? (2) 

As a runner, the first thing I searched online after knowing I am pregnant was stories of women who continued running during their pregnancy or did even more. I was not only googling for runners who worked out, but also those who did  races. But there is not too much related content online. Yet, I still found hugely encouraging stories which gave me extra courage to continue running on a daily basis and joining virtual races until today, even though I am 6 months pregnant. 

The fact that this is my second time experiencing running during pregnancy also helps. I am driven by my curiosity to search for my own limits within this compromised but also beautiful situation, rather than listening to the often intimidating mainstream opinion. An important note to this is that so far I have not had any complication in my pregnancy. Also, whenever I want to run for longer distances,  I always ask for consent from my trainer and obstetrician.

Erin Drasler who completed Leadville Trail Series while she was 18-week pregnant said, “I feel like when I found out that I was pregnant, I searched on the internet to try to find stories of other women that have done similar things and had good experiences with it. There’s really very minimal out there and I mean, it’s not for everyone. I think one thing that I found is that obviously, you’re heavier and you’re not as fast.”

Indeed, I was not looking for stories of women who did races for the sake of winning but those who did it because they felt good. Sometimes, what matters to them is not even completion but the feeling of participation. Of course, completion will naturally follows when one feels good to keep running. A competition is more enjoyable when you are in a state of pure enjoyment. It is certainly not about BP, or obtaining medals but belonging to a community and following routes and regulations set up by the organizers.

Besides the running community, your immediate surrounding is also decisive. It is a question of whether your closest ones support you or not. For example, before I go for a long run or virtual races during these months, my husband always calls his doctor friend and asks him if I will be fine. Although he never tells me, I usually find it out later. His constant kind inquiry of my feelings before I go for a long run also makes me feel supported. The above of course also reflect that he is a worrying husband, but I am grateful that he always respects me and my final call of the decision to running. After all, it is my body. And as runners, we tend to know our bodies better as we have developed to listen to the positive and negative signals from them. 

Just as Amber Miller explained who gave birth after a few hours finishing her marathon: “Everybody was supportive of my decision; no one tried to dissuade me or questioned whether I should do it so near my due date. I knew my body: if anything hadn’t felt right, I wouldn’t have gone ahead. I was full term, so I knew if I were to go into labour, it was a healthy time for that to happen.”

The stories of pregnant runners are encouraging; however, it is obvious that there is a lack of information available for aspiring pregnant runners. What is the weekly milage at each months of the pregnancy a trained body can handle?  How do the hormonal changes affect our exposure to injury and recovery?  How is our heartbeat affected?  How to handle the change in body balance due to the growing tummy during exercise? How do our fitness level and performance change during pregnancy? How long does it take to recover? And finally, how tempos and intervals are affected, positively or negatively during these months? 

These are just a few questions in my mind that I think should be further discussed. But I believe the lack of records on pregnant women’s achievements only means that they have achieved without recording it. Perhaps only their kids know how amazing their mothers did during pregnancy. Therefore, it is important that pregnant women should be encouraged to explore their limits and to talk about their explorations. Pregnancy should not be “naturally” associated with inactivity. It should not be a taboo to talk about the capabilities of pregnant women. 

More studies should be done on the capabilities of pregnant women so that trainers can be equipped with the knowledge to advise their pregnant clients. Only when there is more scientific support and knowledge, women will feel more secure and confident to continue running without guilt and worries. Without widely shared knowledge and support systems, women will be more likely to surrender to the traditional and dominant but not testified public opinion of “safe pregnancy is inactivity” and lower their training routine to three times a week for thirty minutes and eventually to none. 

Changes do not happen naturally by sitting and waiting. I do believe the benefits of continuous work-out and training with care during pregnancy are far more than that of the harms to the babies and the mothers. This is the mindset and attitude I have while running these days. I hope one day we will know more about the benefits of training during pregnancy so that “to run or not to run?” will be an easy decision for any pregnant woman.

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