Interested in running while pregnant? Ali Rose, Jessica Ennis-Hill’s physiotherapist, tells us everything you need to know to run safely when you're expecting a baby...
When it comes to running when you're pregnant, there's a whole load of misinformation out on the internet, so it’s understandable that you might have a lot of questions. To help you cut through it all, we’ve put your most burning running-related questions to Ali Rose, Jessica Ennis-Hill’s physio
Q) So Ali, there’s lots of conflicting information about whether you should keep running when pregnant. What’s the reality?
As a general rule, women should achieve the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity when pregnant. When it comes to whether running should form part of that activity, it’s very much a personal preference.
If you’re used to running, you’re not experiencing any discomfort and you haven’t been told to stop by your health professional, you can keep it up, and many women are able to run until the later stages of their pregnancy.
The main consideration is that with any running you do, the aim should be to maintain fitness, particularly aerobic fitness (i.e. steady running, not fast repetitions), and not to attempt to become fitter through your pregnancy.
How long you keep running for will depend on the size of your bump and be personal to you. If you are experiencing issues with incontinence, especially if it is more than a slight leak, then this might suggest the weight of the baby and the bump is stressing your pelvic floor and it might be time to back off to avoid problems in the future.
Q) Should you make any adaptations to your running through pregnancy?
Because your body is changing significantly through your pregnancy, there are a number of things you need to be mindful of. First up, you need to be diligent with your calf and foot strength, especially as the joints in your feet and hips become looser. There are lots of calf strength, foot strength and balance exercises in the Read Your Body list in the app, and also within the workouts themselves to help you with this, but you should probably pay extra attention to doing these. Because of changes to your centre of gravity, it’s important to do additional balance work, too. Yet again, we cover these off in the Jennis Pregnancy app.
You will probably need to reduce the length of the runs the bigger you get. You may also need to reduce the frequency of them, interspersing them with the stability and core sessions featured within the Jennis app that work on areas of your body that will be changing and therefore need extra work.
It is also important to keep an eye on your heart rate and body temperature to ensure that you are not working too hard or getting too hot.
How long you keep running for will depend on the size of your bump and be personal to you
Q) Does your approach to running change through your trimesters?
As you move through the trimesters, you’ll find that there will be a day when you decide that the bump is just too uncomfortable to run with, or that it is just too hard.
This is perfectly normal and is due to a number of natural factors. As the baby gets bigger, there is less space for the diaphragm to move, so you’ll get more out of breath and fatigue more quickly. In addition, as your spine gets less mobile – again because of the bump – you may experience other aches and pains and running won’t be quite as enjoyable!
Q) If running feels uncomfortable, are there any alternative ways of getting my cardio in that I should consider?
Yes, definitely. There are lots of alternatives, but it’s important to do what you enjoy and what feels comfortable to you. A good option is cycling, whether that’s on a bike, an exercise bike in the gym or a turbo trainer. Unless you're really experienced on a bike, an exercise bike or a turbo trainer is a better option as there is less risk of falling off.
Swimming, elliptical trainers, climbing machines and walking are also really useful, as are the Pregnacise workouts in the Jennis Pregnancy app, which are designed to help you maintain or gain fitness, and help you gain strength at the same time.
Q) Did Jessica Ennis-Hill run through her pregnancies?
Jess did run through her pregnancies, although she reduced the volume and speed of the running she was doing. She also got to a point in the third trimester when running became too uncomfortable, so she stopped and did her more challenging activity either on a bike or by doing a Jennis pregnancy circuit.
You will probably need to reduce the length of the runs the bigger you get. You may also need to reduce the frequency of them, interspersing them with stability and core sessions
Q) How can the Read Your Body exercises within the Jennis Pregnancy programme help?
The Read Your Body exercises and tests are ideal for runners, in particular, as they help you maintain a level of strength, stability and mobility needed to be able to move well. They will also tell you if you are becoming tight in certain areas. As an example, the quad stretches are perfect, as they help to maintain the position of the pelvis, so you can exercise more safely and the calf strength work is ideal, as it helps these muscles cope with the extra work your feet and lower legs have to do with the increased weight gain through the pregnancy.
Q) Finally, what about if you never ran before you got pregnant. Should you start?
At a time when your body is changing, increasing in weight and becoming more lax, starting to run with little background strength work could put you at increased risk of injury, so I would suggest not starting in pregnancy. If you want other, gentler methods of maintaining fitness which are safer, going out and walking quickly and incorporating hills is a great way to stay fit.
Find out more about Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Pregnancy exercise app