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Accepting That I Am Not A Pregnant Runner

I had always hoped to be a pregnant runner.

I have always thought that I would be a pregnant runner.  I’ve been running consistently for almost four years now, and have completed five full marathons in addition to many other races.  Running has become a huge part of my life, and so in turn, I thought it would be a huge part of my pregnancies as well.  Boy was I wrong!

As someone who would consider herself a relatively serious runner, it has been very hard for me to accept that I will not be gracefully jogging through my pregnancy as I had expected.  I feel jealous when I see and hear about others running through pregnancies, but for a number of reasons, it’s just not going to happen for me…

For the first few weeks after finding out I was pregnant, I continued to lift weights and run on the treadmill just as before.  But somewhere around week 6 I started to feel very crampy and uncomfortable, and I found that running was causing some unpleasant pressure in my lower abdomen.  Couple that with first-trimester nerves and anxiety, and I was too scared to keep going.  It didn’t really matter though, because the next week I was hit with raging morning sickness.

From weeks 7 to around 17, I threw up multiple times a day and existed almost entirely on carbs and citrus.  Things like walking up the stairs and showering became feats of strength, and exercise of any sort was entirely out of the question.  Finally just before the half-way point, my energy came back and the constant nausea subsided.  My return to feeling human was celebrated with a return to the gym to get back into my fitness routine and start feeling like my old self again.

But I quickly learned that my “old self” wasn’t there anymore, and that pregnancy exercise would be much different from pre-pregnancy fitness.  I felt like after so much time off, I would need to work back up to my former level of fitness rather than jumping right back into my old running shoes.

Last weekend was beautiful here in Seattle, and I have been feeling great for weeks and weeks – so great that sometimes I even forget I am pregnant!  I laced up my running shoes and headed to a beautiful trail by the lake, excited to give running another try now that my energy and fitness levels were back.  My husband supportively plodded next to me at the world’s slowest running pace, while I tried to re-discover my stride and figure out what felt best.  I felt sharp pains in my abdomen and intense pressure in places that just didn’t feel right.  It only took about a half-mile for me to realize that what felt best was actually walking.

At 22 weeks pregnant, my body has changed too much for me to suddenly think I can pick up my running routine again.  Had I been able to continue running from the beginning, I have no doubt that I would still be able to lightly jog through most of my pregnancy.  But the unfortunate sickness that sidelined me for so long through the early weeks has made it so that, along with drippy eggs and blue cheese, running will have to wait until October.

There is a part of me that feels guilty for not running.  That as a runner, I have somehow failed by giving up too quickly when the going got rough.  I have several friends who are successfully running through their pregnancies, and I’m trying my hardest to not compare myself to them, and am reminding myself that both our bodies and our pregnancies are very different.

But while I may feel like I have failed as a runner, I console myself by thinking that I have succeeded as a mother.  Selfishly, I want to run.  But realistically, I know that my body’s reaction to running does not feel safe or appropriate.  I am taking lots of long walks and trying to stay fit and healthy.  It’s true what they say that even before birth, you would do anything for your children.  In this case, it’s a small sacrifice to make for a safe and healthy arrival in October.

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