Everything You Wanted To Know About Running Through Pregnancy

Cortney Riese Sloan completed nine races in nine months. A very particular nine months, as you can guess from the title of this post, the last of which was at 36 weeks. The RRCA-certified board member of the Montgomery County Road Runners (and mom to 4-year-old Elliot) also led a weekly run at a local running store and toward the end; her regulars agreed to do a two-mile loop that had a restroom option half way in case she needed it. Here, Cortney shares some of her wisdom and must-haves while running through pregnancy and what she wishes she had known post-partum.
From a coaching perspective, running or being active in general won't harm the baby, correct?
From my experience, if you are having a normal, low-risk pregnancy, running poses no risk to the baby or mother. If your body is used to running before pregnancy, by all means keep doing it as long as it works for you. Listening to your body is important when you are an athlete but it is even more important as a pregnant athlete. And each athlete and each pregnancy is different. So pay attention and don't compare yourself to people you know or even what worked last time. And of course, let your doctor know what activities you are doing. During my first visit I told my OB/GYN my plan to keep running. She was very supportive of my running, which was great. I would say, you aren't asking your doctor's permission to run, just let them know so as they monitor you and the baby during pregnancy they are aware.


Any necessary gear to make it easier? Or nice-to-haves?
A REALLY good, supportive sports bra. Your breasts can be much more sensitive during pregnancy so make sure you keep your girls happy. I would also tell people to pay attention to their shoes. You are gaining weight so your center of gravity is adjusting. You might need to switch your shoes to work better with your pregnant body.

I didn't have a maternity support belt, however, my BRF is currently pregnant with her first and when I asked her about this she said she put it up there with running without a bra. That just shows that everybody is different and you need to do what works for you. For women who think they just can't, what words of motivation can you offer?

For women who think they just can't, what words of motivation can you offer?
Listen to your body and do what feels right. If it is a pace so slow your husband can walk next to you then you are doing great. If it is run/walk intervals then go for it. If it is just walking then awesome. If you swim laps, ride a bike, chill out with some prenatal yoga then you do you! It is a unique journey you are on with your body, let it be.


Which was easier for you: running first trimester or third?
Wow, both had their own bumps (HA!) but I would take third trimester. During my first trimester I would often get nauseous on runs, especially in the morning. I didn't get morning sickness much otherwise but I did toss my cookies on a few front lawns…sorry! I also hadn't told people yet but my pace was slowing and I needed more walk breaks. It was hard to explain what was going on without letting the cat out of the bag. My third trimester came with a smaller bladder, which just requires strategic route planning. My hips got a little wobbly toward the end but I had more energy than early on in my pregnancy. At that point, while my pace was SLOW I was happy to just be moving.


The strangest comment you received while running/racing throughout the pregnancy:
I don't recall a lot of comments, most people were super supportive or inspired. At least to my face. I am sure I got a few "you are crazies" but I get that anyway. The one moment that stands out in my mind was the very last race I did. I was 36 weeks, plodding along slowly. My dear, sweet, fast husband tried to fake run next to me when he could have walked my speed. We were at the final turn before the finish, a course marshal was there doing the pity clap and weak "You can do it." Then I started to turn and he could see I wasn't just slow, I was HUGELY pregnant. And his jaw literally dropped. I am sure I had a few choice words for him in my head.

Did you change your expectations further along in the pregnancy in terms of pace and times? How can women adjust?
Boy did they ever. My last 5K at 36 weeks took nearly as long as it takes me to run a 10K now. I was SUPER pregnant, of course I was going to run slow-for-me but I also have a competitive streak. I remember thinking during that race that I wanted to beat all the other pregnant ladies running and how there should be a separate category like Athenas in triathlons. My husband, who insisted on running with me, thought this was funny. But a lot of runners are competitive and being pregnant takes away a runner's normal competitive channels such as paces and finish times. What worked for me was setting a non-time goal. I wanted to complete 9 races over the course of 9 months. To start and finish, that kept me moving no matter the pace.Pregnancy isn't a time to worry about paces or distance or any of that stuff. Day to day I often felt my body wasn't fully my own; I was sharing it with someone else. And there were all these rules you have to follow. It was frustrating at times because I am an independent, headstrong person. Going out for a run let me connect back to my body and to the little guy growing inside of me. I would tell women to take it day by day. Listen to their body, respect their body, and if they can't let the numbers go then leave the watch at home.How soon post-partum did you start running again? How did you know you were ready?
I had a C-section and was told to wait 5-6 weeks to start running again; I waited 5 weeks. I started too soon and it ended up causing all sorts of niggles that I am still dealing with.

As a pregnant runner it is super obvious that you don't have 100% control of your body and that you need to work with what you have on that day. But after giving birth, it is easy to want to jump back in. I made the mistake of thinking that I could run three miles when I was about to pop so I thought I could do the same right after giving birth.

A C-section is major surgery and it is hard to realize that you are pretty much starting from a whole new place. Things are not the same. And I really struggled. All of the Relaxin that helps let your body go through childbirth is still in your system. Your core is in total disarray. I am not sure why women, including me, think that they can just get back out there and start running like nothing happened. I wish I had slowed down, gradually increase my miles using a run/walk program and pair it with a lot of core, stability, and overall strengthening work. Getting all those muscles that have been stretched and pulled for 10 months back in shape is so important to staying healthy long term as a runner. We think it is just about getting the miles and speed back. Really the focus should be on letting your body heal, core stability, and building a solid base.


Tell us how you stayed active throughout your pregnancy below!

6 responses to “Everything You Wanted To Know About Running Through Pregnancy

  1. I’m currently 31 weeks and still running! I just bought a maternity support belt which has helped the slightly achy feeling I started having during runs. I’ve been consistently running 3 days a week and taking a bootcamp class at the Y. I try to do 3 to 5 miles and definitely have to take some walk breaks.

  2. I think what’s so important is to figure out what works for you and not compare. I didn’t run a step during my first pregnancy because of the fertility treatments I was going through and I ran right up to the end with my second. Both times, I went on to run a marathon PB about 1 year post partum, building up gradually. I was lucky that running felt mostly ok to the end, but I have other speedy friends who had to pack it in much earlier – and that’s ok!

  3. This is so perfectly timed! I’m just now attempting to run through a (ahem) somewhat unexpected fourth pregnancy. I attempted to run through 1-3, but for different reasons, it didn’t pan out. During this awful 1st trimester, I need all the inspiration I can get!

  4. I ran through pregnancy too (until about 7.5 months, then I had to walk)! Ran a half marathon at about 27 weeks preggo. A maternity support belt SAVED me, but I wore it mostly after running, not during as I felt like it was too restricting for me. I also had a c-section and it took me longer than I thought it would to get back in the game. I also worked up my core strength again to help, but I was frustrated with what I felt was slow progress (two steps forward, one step back…or sometimes one step forward, two steps back!).

  5. My first pregnancy, I did aerobics at the YMCA with a lovely group of ladies who ended up throwing me a baby shower. For number two, I did Jane Fonda tapes at home because it was easier with a toddler around. By number three, I belonged to a gym and started doing step aerobics while the older two played in the gym’s child care. By the time number four was on the way, I was a runner and I ran up to and including the day my labor started. I kept my total time of running (about 70 min/day) the same but ended up slowing down so the mileage dropped (from about 8 to 5 miles) over the 40 weeks. With number five, I kept the distance of my runs consistent but it just took longer and longer with each trimester. (8 miles in 70 minutes now took 85 t0 90 minutes.) I had just run 8 miles on the day my water broke! My smallest baby was #3 at 7 lbs 12 oz and #5 was 9 lbs 2 oz. The other three were 8 lbs 7 oz, 8 lbs 11 oz and 8 lbs 15 oz. Big, healthy and now ages 11-25 and all doing great! Good luck to all the expectant mamas out there!

  6. This is great! I so especially agree with the last point about building back up post-pregnancy and working the core. Think about – if you are injured and off for six weeks, you are generally advised to run-walk and start slow. After giving birth, six weeks later is is just like – okay, go! So crazy.

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