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8 Things I Didn't Expect When I Was Expecting—And Running
Many women look forward to running throughout their pregnancies, sporting a "Running for Two" tank and flaunting a growing bump. But running while pregnant is different for everyone. Here are eight things that surprised these moms-to-be.
I Was Surprised By How Difficult It Was For Me
"I had these visions of running like a beautiful pregnant gazelle right up until my due date," says mom-of-one Kristan Dietz from Jersey City, NJ. "In reality, that could not have been further from the truth. I refused to accept my limitations and would start out at a pace I couldn't reasonably sustain. On top of that, the movement of running only served to make my constant morning sickness worse, so after a mile, I was typically hunched over, trying not to lose my lunch. After 20 weeks, I called it quits to focus on lower-impact activities like spinning, barre classes, and yoga. It ended up being a good mental break after years of competitive running, but part of me did feel like I failed to live up to this crazy image I had originally pictured for myself. When I'm pregnant again, I'll put aside any expectations about pace, mileage, or the duration of running throughout the pregnancy so I can just have fun with it."
I Didn't Expect To Care So Little About Running
"I've been a devoted runner for 26 years, and I've run nine marathons," says Abby Bales, a New York City-based mom of a two-year-old boy. "But when I was pregnant, I couldn't give a hoot about getting a run in. If it felt good and I had the energy, cool. If I ended up on the couch with pizza watching Game of Thrones with my husband, I considered that downtime as important as any run. I ran until I was 32 weeks pregnant, when I went for a run and stopped after a mile. I just stopped and stood still, and that was it. I walked home and didn't run for three months. I knew I'd get back to it when I was ready." (Rest is key, whether you're pregnant or not! Here's why you should embrace the rest day.)
I Was Convinced I'd Feel Terrible—But I Didn't
"Running during the first half of my pregnancy was actually really enjoyable," says new mom Megan Harrington from Cambridge, NY. "Before I got pregnant, I was convinced I'd feel terrible, but I was super lucky and only had a tiny bit of nausea during those first few months. I was definitely more tired than usual, but I felt more or less normal for the first six months of my pregnancy. I'd been running around 20 miles a week when I found out I was expecting, so I just decided to keep that up for as long as I could. It was kind of nice to have no expectations or race goals for once. I was able to just run for fun."
I Didn't Realize How Much It Would Change In The Third Trimester
"Once I hit 28 weeks, I was shocked at how quickly things went downhill," says Harrington. "I went from being able to comfortably run seven miles to needing walk breaks during a three-mile run. Some days, even two miles was a struggle. I knew things would change, but I didn't realize how much I'd need to slow down and scale back during my third trimester."
I Thought I'd Love It More Than I Did
"I've been a runner for most of my life," says Lauren Conkey, mom of one (with another on the way!) from Worcester, MA. "Staying active is incredibly important to me. I thought running during pregnancy would be a magical, zen-like experience to share with my future daughter from the very beginning. But pregnant running for me was anything but magical. How I felt changed so much from day to day, moment to moment. Some runs felt effortless, while the next would end in defeat after half a mile due to some weird pain or cramp or exhaustion. Plus, I found it nearly impossible to zone out on a run and get into the groove I was used to pre-pregnancy. I was expending so much mental energy, focusing on how every aspect of my body was reacting to the run—my breathing, my stride, how the baby seemed to be handling it. It was a huge mental workout, as well as a physical one. But running through pregnancy definitely led to an increased mental toughness—as well as an appreciation for all my body can do."
I Was Amazed By How It Let Me Bond With My Baby
"There are some days—for me, particularly in the early second trimester—where everything clicks, and you suddenly get that feeling of floating," says Conkey. "For a brief period of time, running allowed me to be fully myself. Not just Pregnant Lauren or Mom Lauren, but Lauren the athlete, the individual. Those are the amazing runs, and the ones that keep you coming back for me. Plus, it's an incredible feeling to share a sport you love so much with this little human you already love so much, all while doing something to make you both healthier. I was surprised by how much running during pregnancy helped me bond with my baby."
I Expected To Be Like All the Instagram Moms
"I expected to be like all of the pregnant women I saw on social media, running right up until their due dates," says Ashley Fizzarotti, a mom of two from New Providence, NJ. "Reality: I had to stop at the end of my second trimester because there was no reason to push myself when the pain was unbearable. It was definitely a hit to my ego." (Instagram can be your best running friend—or the ultimate frenemy. Here's what to know about using social media as a runner.)
Erica Sara Reese
Everything Surprised Me
"So much about running while pregnant came as a huge shock to me," says Erica Sara Reese, a mom of one from Lehigh Valley, PA. "I didn't realize how difficult it would be. I didn't realize how slow I would feel, how out of breath I would be, or how tired I'd feel all the time. I didn't realize my bladder would feel tiny, and the moment I headed out on a run, I'd feel like I was about to pee my shorts. It took me a while to accept my new running reality. Before I was pregnant, all of these beautiful, graceful pregnant runners filled my social media timelines, and I assumed that would be me, too. But my body had other plans. I learned to only run when my body was really up to it, and to not push myself. I became grateful for whatever I could get done. It was humbling."