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Walking and running when pregnant

Active for 2

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Running or walking during pregnancy can help with weight management and may speed up your post-birth recovery time1. Running Coach Mel believes that running and brisk walking also brings mental benefits, giving you the time and headspace to reconnect with your body and process the physical changes that take place during pregnancy.

Meet your coach

coach

Mel Bound

@thismumruns

Mel is a qualified Running Coach, mum and founder of the running community This Mum Runs. Watch the video to find out why Mel is passionate about helping pregnant women stay connected to their bodies throughout pregnancy and beyond, teaching them how to get Active for 2 through running. 

running

Exercising safely during pregnancy

 Pregnancy exercise

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Running or brisk walking during pregnancy requires very little equipment, and can be done anywhere at any time, making it an easy activity to fit into your usual routine. With just a few basics, you’ll be ready to go. Start with:

  • Well-fitting trainers. In pregnancy, if you’re taking part in any load-bearing exercise, cushioned shoes will help prevent injury. Visit a specialist running store and they will recommend the best trainers for you based on how you run.
  • A supportive, non-wired sports bra.
  • Think about buying an expandable belt to carry your water bottle for a hands-free way to stay hydrated.
  • Loose, comfortable layers that can be taken off once you’ve warmed up.

Warm up and cool down

During pregnancy your body produces the hormone relaxin, which can make you more flexible and prone to injury, so it’s essential to prepare your body for any activity.

Before you begin to exercise, start with a short walk followed by a range of dynamic stretches to gently loosen-up your legs, hips, back, chest and arms.

When you’ve finished, cool down by reducing your pace to a slow walk, until your breathing goes back to normal. This will help your muscles to return to their pre-exercise state. Finish with static stretches of the calves, thighs, chest, back, shoulders and arms, using a wall or tree for support.

Watch Mel demonstrate.

Safety advice

To avoid overexerting yourself, exercise at an intensity which will still allow you to easily hold a conversation. If you’re out of breath, slow down.

Read more safety advice

Your running programme

Choose your trimester:

Choose your level:

Beginner

I’m new to running or ran a little before pregnancy - once or twice a week, up to 30 minutes at a time.

If you’ve never run before or you didn’t run regularly before pregnancy, stick to walking but vary the intensity depending on how you feel.

Begin gradually with walks of 10–15 minutes two or three times per week, then increase gradually to 30-minute sessions up to four times a week. Aim to increase the intensity to a brisk walk, but stick to a pace that allows you to maintain a conversation.

Intermediate

I ran regularly (at least twice a week, for between 30 minutes and an hour) for at least three months before pregnancy.

If you were running at least twice a week for 3 months or more before becoming pregnant, it’s safe to continue with your usual routine – unless your midwife or doctor advises you otherwise.

If you ran regularly for around 30 minutes before pregnancy, try running for 15 minutes twice a week to start with. If you can run for longer or more frequently without feeling breathless or uncomfortable, gradually increase your run to 30 minutes, or mix running with brisk walking, depending on how you feel.

Incorporate a rest day between each running session, and if your previous route included hills or sprints, these should now be avoided. Instead, stick to flat terrain and maintain an even pace.

Experienced

I ran regularly (at least twice a week, with sessions ranging in duration from 30 to 90 minutes) for at least six months before pregnancy.

If you were running at least twice a week for 6 months or more before pregnancy, it’s safe to continue with your usual routine, provided you’ve informed your midwife or doctor.

Pregnancy can make you feel short of breath, so listen to your body and be prepared to scale down your usual pace and time and avoid high-intensity running. If your previous route included hills or sprints, these should now be avoided. Instead, stick to flat terrain and maintain an even pace.

Avoid racing or high-intensity sessions unless you are working with a professional Running Coach and are under medical guidance.

Choose your level:

Beginner

I’m new to running or ran a little before pregnancy - once or twice a week, up to 30 minutes at a time.

If you’ve never run before or you didn’t run regularly before pregnancy, stick to walking but vary the intensity depending on how you feel.

Begin gradually with walks of 10–15 minutes two or three times per week, then increase gradually to 30-minute sessions up to four times a week. Aim to increase the intensity to a brisk walk, but stick to a pace that allows you to maintain a conversation.

Intermediate

I ran regularly (at least twice a week, with sessions ranging in duration from 30 to 90 minutes) for at least six months before pregnancy.

If you’ve been running regularly, it’s safe to keep going, but you may have to modify your intensity, duration and frequency, depending on how you feel.

Aim to run for up to 45 minutes, up to three times a week, but walk whenever you feel the need.

Listen to your body and pay attention to your breathing. You should still be able to hold a conversation. Try not to monitor the distance covered; you’ll probably find your pace will start to slow down. Focus on maintaining a steady pace and run for as long as you feel comfortable.

As with before pregnancy, aim to run two to three times a week, but if you only manage one run, you’re still doing brilliantly. If on some days you feel like walking instead, you’ll still feel the benefits.

As your bump gets bigger, your centre of gravity starts to shift. Stick to a route that covers flat, even terrain. If you’re running at night or in the early morning, run with a friend and in well-lit areas that will allow you to spot any potholes, bumps or obstacles in your path.

Experienced

I ran regularly (at least twice a week, with sessions ranging in duration from 30 to 90 minutes) for at least six months before pregnancy.

If you’ve been running regularly and consider yourself an experienced runner, continue to run as often as feels comfortable, but with a rest day every couple of days.

Experienced runners can sometimes struggle with the idea of running at a slower pace for shorter distances and less time, but consider your pregnancy more of a time to maintain running fitness rather than improve it.

Pay close attention to your breathing and comfort levels, and also your energy levels after a run. If you’re feeling overly tired, consider Swimming or Yoga for 2.

Choose your level:

Beginner

I’m new to running or ran little before pregnancy - once or twice a week, up to 30 minutes at a time.

If you’ve never run before or you didn’t run regularly before pregnancy, stick to walking but vary the intensity depending on how you feel.

Begin gradually with walks of 10–15 minutes two or three times per week, then increase gradually to 30-minute sessions up to four times a week. Aim to increase the intensity to a brisk walk, but stick to a pace that allows you to maintain a conversation.

Intermediate

I ran regularly (at least twice a week, for between 30 minutes and an hour) for at least three months before pregnancy.

In your last trimester, while it’s safe to continue with your usual routine, you may start to find things more challenging.

Pay close attention to your body and your breathing. Slow your pace right down if necessary, decrease the time you run for or use run-walk intervals instead. Ensure you incorporate rest days between running days.

Running for a minimum of 15 minutes one to two times a week is manageable for some at this stage. But if you simply feel too tired or unstable, rest, walk or try Swimming or Yoga for 2.

Experienced

I ran regularly (at least twice a week, with sessions ranging in duration from 30 to 90 minutes) for at least six months before pregnancy.

In your last trimester, running as frequently or for as long as you did before may start to feel too tiring or uncomfortable.

Pay close attention to your body and your breathing. Slow your pace if necessary or try run-walk intervals. If you feel too tired or unstable, rest, walk or try Swimming or Yoga for 2.

Try not to feel disheartened if you’re no longer able to run at the pace or for the duration you used to, or if you lack motivation on some days. Give yourself permission to take it easy. All of your efforts now, no matter how small, will pay off when it comes to getting back into a running routine after the birth.

Choose your trimester:

Can you run when pregnant: safe running tips

Always inform your midwife or doctor of your intention to exercise during pregnancy. Certain medical conditions can make it unsafe to begin or continue with exercising once you become pregnant.

  • If you’re new to running, stick with walking, then build up your time or quicken your pace
  • Stop if you experience pain, fever, bleeding, dizziness, faintness, pubic pain, persistent headache, sudden swelling, difficulty walking, lack of normal foetal movement or an abnormally rapid heartbeat. Seek immediate medical advice.
  • Always warm up and cool down with running-specific stretches – the pregnancy hormone relaxin can make you more stretchy, and so more prone to injury.
  • Maintain a steady pace and try to focus on time rather than distance. Avoid hills, intervals or sprints throughout pregnancy.
  • The pregnancy hormone progesterone can make you feel more out of breath, so listen to your body and slow down or walk if you need to.
  • Drink plenty of water regularly throughout the day, and take small sips during an activity to stay hydrated.
  • Take a rest day between running sessions to give your body time to recover.
  • Aim to eat carbs (such as toast, porridge or a banana) around two hours before you run - or whenever works best for you. If you’re suffering from morning sickness and eating is making you sick, it’s best to wait until the nausea has passed and you’re able to eat normally.
  • If you experience pelvic girdle pain (PGP) – pain in your hips and pelvis during pregnancy – running could make it worse. Speak to your midwife about what other types of activity may suit you.

View references

Hide references

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    1. ACOG. Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period [Online]. Available at: www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Physical-Activity-and-Exercise-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period#36 [Accessed: February 2017].

Last reviewed: 5th May 2017
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