Last month, the findings of the largest ever study of running in pregnancy were published thanks to the contribution of 1,293 women parkrunners from around the world.
While the majority of US parkruns didn’t exist at the time of the study, we decided to reach out to a few new mothers who ran before, during and after their pregnancies for their thoughts on running while expecting.
The results appeared in the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, an open access journal covering all aspects of sport and exercise medicine, and are good news for pregnant women. The study concluded that there were no ill effects related to intensity or frequency of running, and continuing throughout pregnancy was also safe.
After seeking approvals, all women with a prior pregnancy were invited to respond via the parkrun newsletter in November 2014. Women parkrunners from around the world responded, making the study truly global. Details of previous pregnancies were collated, including gestation of delivery, birthweight and pregnancy complications. These were related to expected baby size by taking into account the mothers’ ethnicity, height, weight, and baby’s gender, allowing an accurate assessment of running impact on pregnancy.
Professor Andy Shennan, an academic obstetrician from Kings College London who led the study said: “With more than 2.8 million parkrunners across the globe, many will be of reproductive age. With parkrun’s assistance, in the biggest ever study of running in pregnancy, we have determined that this is safe. Women can continue accustomed exercise during pregnancy and we would encourage this to ensure a healthy outcome for both her and her baby.”
“One woman ran a marathon the day before she delivered at term, while others ran regular half marathons throughout pregnancy. Even women with triplets enjoyed parkrun regularly. Of course, some women had problems, but these were no more likely to occur than in women who stopped running. Exercise is recommended in pregnancy, which provides excellent preparation for birth and accustomed exercise can continue throughout pregnancy. It is good to know that this advice is applicable to running.”
You can read the full report here.
US parkrun Moms Share Their Experiences
Stephanie Coomes is a parkrunner from Maryland who has made the rounds of the events in the DC area, but now calls Kensington parkrun home. She and her husband, Ian Ross, welcomed baby Henry in September last year. Henry was destined to be a parkrun baby, since his mother has participated in 25 different parkruns around the world for a total of 177 parkruns to date. Additionally, she has over 100 volunteer occasions, and now when she volunteers she has a cute little helper.
Jessie Kotarski is an avid runner and got involved with Renton parkrun when the volunteer team was holding trial events. She and her husband Jason welcomed their son, Canaan, in November, just a few weeks before the launch of Renton parkrun, but they came back as soon as Jessie was able to run again. Now they share stroller duty during parkrun, and they do it well.
We asked Stephanie and Jessie about their experiences running while pregnant.
How often and how far did you run while expecting?
Stephanie: I ran two or three times a week until I was 33 weeks pregnant. I hurt my hip at 33 weeks and had to walk all my parkruns after that.
Jessie: I ran right up until the day before I gave birth. Typically, I ran 5 to 6 days a week anywhere from 8 to 4 miles a day … and competed in a few 10ks and a half marathon.
How do you think running while pregnant helped you?
Stephanie: Running, pregnant or not, is a great outlet for me. It’s my stress reliever. I think running while I was pregnant definitely helped me both mentally and physically.
Jessie: Running was the best thing for me! Mentally, it made me feel like I was still in control of my health and gave me the time to focus on myself and bonding with my baby over each mile. Physically, it helped keep me strong and my midwives are convinced the running is what made my labor so quick and easy. Running helped prepare me mentally and physically for labor.
Did you get feedback from your baby (movement) while running?
Stephanie: Yes!! The first time I felt Henry kick, I was running in Rock Creek Park! It was so amazing. At first, I wasn’t sure what the feeling was. I remember stopping to walk, then starting running again, and I felt him kick again! It was really awesome, and a good motivator to go running!!
Jessie: The baby was always calmed by the movement of running. I noticed he would get very still running, almost as if he was napping. And following a run, movement would pick up.
Do you have any other thoughts about running while pregnant that you’d like to share?
Stephanie: I remember in the first trimester getting frustrated at how quickly my pace was slowing. I decided to drop my Garmin when I was three months pregnant, and I haven’t turned it back on since!
Jessie: Running is what made the pregnancy experience so enjoyable for me. Being tuned in to your body while running is only heightened while carrying a child and made it easier for me to identify changes and to have the confidence that everything was progressing as it should.
Do you think you’ve passed on your love of running to your child?
Stephanie: I hope so! Little Henry has been attending parkrun since he was three weeks old. He’s eight months old now.
Jessie: I sure hope so! He certainly prefers to be on the go, and loves the running stroller! He has already completed several races including his first half marathon on our first Mother’s Day.
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