Running is a great way to stay in shape while pregnant as long as you’re cleared by your doctor. Even with your doctor’s approval, it’s important that you listen to your body and make sure not to overexert yourself. This is true year round but especially important when running in warmer weather. Here are a few tips to stay active yet safe.
TIP #1: RUN WHEN IT’S COOL OUT
Aim to run in the cooler times of the day (usually morning or evening) and as always, make sure someone knows your route. Avoid running in the heat of the day (middle of the day) and don’t risk running when it’s extremely hot. Choose the treadmill where you can run in cooler temps.
TIP #2: HYDRATE
Carry water or know where water stops are along your route. Even though you may be running in the cooler part of the day, even the cooler hours can be warm enough to make a pregnant woman risk dehydration so make sure to carry a water bottle or know where water fountains are along your route. If you carry a water bottle make sure it is not too heavy.
Hydration following your run is also very important. Always drink at least 16 ounces of water immediately after your run followed by as many 8 ounce cups of fluids every hour that you feel you need. Keep in mind that once you’re thirsty, you’re already moving toward dehydration, so make sure to drink continuously throughout the day. It’s important to note that hydrating with sports drinks after a run is okay as long as they are watered down or are less sugary options. The electrolytes are great, but the added calories from fast acting sugars are not ideal so stick with water most often (mixed with some of the great electrolyte tablets now available to supplement your water) and have the occasional watered down sports drink.
Another great way to monitor hydration is to weigh yourself before and after your run. You can see how much fluid you’ve lost based on how many pounds you lost during the course of the run. Let’s say you lose 3 pounds while running. It is a good idea to replace 8 ounces of fluid for every pound lost. That means you should drink 24 ounces of fluid after your run. When pregnant this need is in even higher demand; the suggestion is to add one extra 8 ounce cup on top of that so for a 3 pound loss you should drink 32 ounces of water to replace fluids! You can also look into hydration sticks, which offer an easy way to get fluid replacement started while you are running.
You’ll know you are optimally hydrated when your urine is light straw-colored and you have to urinate every hour or two. Of course, frequent urination is usually not a problem when pregnant!
Tip #3: PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PERCEIVED EXERTION
Last, but certainly not least, always pay attention to your perceived exertion. You know your paces will be slower than when you weren’t pregnant so make sure you aren’t chasing paces. Instead, respect your body, your baby and the heat and run solely by feel. If you ever feel your effort is greater than it should be or you are overheating, feeling faint, fatigued or stressed, stop running and walk home (or call someone to get a ride). Running while pregnant will always feel tougher than non-pregnancy running, but you should know if your effort is greater than it should be. Listen to your inner coach and make sure you never get overheated or overstressed.
Heart rate monitors are a great tool to use when running any time but especially while pregnant and running while pregnant in the heat. Most doctors advise not getting your heart rate over 140-160 when pregnant. For most women that means keeping your effort quite low. The benefit of wearing a heart rate monitor is that you won’t need to guess, you will know exactly what your effort is and if you need to slow down. Some days just walking while pregnant in warm weather is enough to bring your heart rate up!
Follow these three tips and you’ll enjoy some healthy activity while pregnant, even when it’s warm outside. Just listen to your body, hydrate well and know your routes.