A few weeks ago there was an article on the New York Times website that grabbed my attention; the title: How Pregnancy Changes a Runner’s Body. I’ve written extensively here about my experience running (and racing) through my second pregnancy and my return to running postpartum. My experience has been a mix of early issues and disappointments, slow-going and physical therapy to correct the issues and finally a return to high intensity training. And I’ve written about it all here, I even wrote about how I wished I’d never run during pregnancy (I was having a particular bad day). So I was intrigued to see the issue brought up on the New York Times Well Blog.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the article, here’s the “Cliff Notes” version:
- Pregnancy changes a woman’s body both during pregnancy and postpartum. Do these changes affect the way a woman run’s during and after pregnancy?
- Bryan Heiderscheit, professor orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin has conducted a study on a small sample of women who are pregnant and have run through and after pregnancy.
- Their study showed that the pelvis moves during pregnancy (in one case continued to tilt forward as pregnancy progressed) causing the stride to change.
- For some of the women in the study the physical changes that occurred due to pregnancy caused pain when they ran.
- It is possible that as a runner you will feel different for a while, it is important to focus on strengthening the pelvis (which was weakened and made lax during pregnancy).
The article did not offer any specific advice for women who wish to run during and after pregancy, other than a vague reference to a kegel: “[Dr. Heiderscheit] suggests pulling the belly up and in multiple times and also “imagining that you’re trying to cut off the flow of urine.” But it does present some valuable information in regards to running’s affect on the pregnant body that seems to be lacking. It is information that I wish I’d had three and half years ago at the start of my first pregnancy. I had to learn the hard way through this second pregnancy (albeit I never had prolapse or pain) that my pelvis was too weak to go back to running as soon as I did. Maybe if this kind of information was readily available I would have made different choices about how often I ran during pregnancy and how soon I returned to running after? (Or maybe I’m just the supper stubborn kind of person that has to find everything out the hard way:) If anything the article should, hopefully cause women to look deeper and become more knowledgeable about the topic of pelvic floor health and the impact (quite literally) that running has.
I know that pregnancy has changed me as a runner. There have been physical changes, of which I don’t know the extent: I don’t have any “before” video of what my form used to look like, but chances are if I did it is probably better than the way I run now. But I don’t think I can completely blame pregnancy. In the years before I had kids I spent much more time at the gym doing core exercises and strength training than I do now. Now as a mom of two kids, if I have time to workout chances are I’m going to run and often the strengthening exercises that I need get neglected. But when I do strength train I focus on the most effective exercises that target the little muscles of the pelvic floor, so perhaps in someways the core work and strength training I am doing now is more effective. I’m doing what my body needs.
But beyond the physical changes there has been a mental shift. Running isn’t just about me anymore, it isn’t a method of weight loss, yes it is still my “get away” the place I go when I need quiet and solitude, but it is more than that now. Running is something I share with my kids when I push them in the stroller, or when my daughter comes with me to track. And it is also something I do for them, like running for Jack at the CHaD Half Marathon. And perhaps this shift to running “with” and “for” has had a bigger impact than the physical changes caused by pregnancy…my recent training times would suggest so.
Did you run through pregnancy? Did you feel informed about it’s potential impact on your health? How soon did you return to running after pregnancy?
You can find more information about running during pregnancy and postpartum on the tab at the top of the page titled Running & Pregnancy
And the winner of the Nuun Giveaway is Anna from Endorphins Junkie! Congrats Anna! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today.
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